Online (internet) distribution platforms vary in their nature, specifications and requirements. Some of the possibilities are:
Commercial or Non-commercial – is your video sharing service a commercial business which could be bought or sold? What is the motive of the owners or creators of the service? Can ads be placed next to your videos?
Video Time Limit – some sites limit the length of the video to a certain number of minutes. If you are posting a long video you should check this.
File Size Limit – most sites have limits on the size of the video file. If you are posting a large video file you should check this.
Videos Embeddable – Flashvideos can sometimes be embedded in external websites and blogs for instant playback.
Mobile Phone Uploads – some mobile handsets are capable of recording videos and sending them over the wireless phone network. The process varies greatly from handset to handset and from service provider to service provider. See the Mobilessection for more about how to do this (Read more).
Non-Flash Video Formats tolerated – is the user limited to watching the video in Flash video format? This can limit the distribution of your video.
Videos Downloadable – having the video file available to download from the site can give more flexible access to viewers who might want to watch offline, or who don't have the bandwidth to stream.
Open Content Licensing tolerated – Some sites make it easier to use alternative and open licenses.
RSS 2.0 with Enclosures – RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a tool for pushing your videos out to sites and viewers automatically.
RSS 2.0 Search Feeds available – this will let other sites pick up your videos based on tags and search terms.
Region and/or Issue Based – if you're working on a particular issue, you'll reach more of your core audience if you host your video on a site dedicated to that issue.
Commercial video-sharing Sites
There are hundreds of commercial sites which allow you to publish your video online. Below is an overview of five popular sites. Be aware of security issues when publishing on commercial platforms. One of the major disadvantages of many commercial platforms is that ads are placed next to your video. Many of these sites operate as online social networks.
YouTube is the biggest video sharing site in the world, so it's a fantastic way of reaching a large audience. Ensure that you have a promotional campaign to direct people to watch your video. Additionally, remember that as there are so many videos on YouTube, it might be harder to reach and engage an audience there than in other spaces.
Some of the problems with YouTube: it can be hard to link people back to your site, and YouTube have used their Terms of Service to remove campaigning videos like those of Wael Abbas in Egypt. In some places YouTube is often blocked.
Time Limit: 10 Minutes (with basic account)
File Size Limit: 100MB (1 Gig with multi-file software)
blip.tv is the most flexible of all the commercial platforms, and has the fewest limitations on how and where your videos are presented. It also presents your video at a much higher quality than YouTube.
Vimeo has a slick user interface and does a great job of streaming higher quality video. However, it falls severely short in terms of how the videos can be exported and displayed on external sites' aggregators, and of search-friendliness.
If you are already running a campaign usingFacebook, then sharing video on the site can be very powerful. The videos you post on Facebook are, however, largely limited in availability to the groups or campaigns you're connected with on the site.
There are a number of non-profit video sharing spaces focussed on social justice, environmental or human rights issues.
The WITNESS Hub
The WITNESS Hub is an online video community for human rights where you can upload, watch and share human rights-related videos, images and audio files in a variety of formats. With each media item you upload, you can provide detailed context and link to information resources, events and actions that users can take to protect and promote human rights. It is a free service designed to serve, connect and mobilise individuals, groups and organisations working to protect and promote human rights worldwide. WITNESS also offers training, support and resources, plus RSS feeds and a large and growing archive. In English, French and Spanish. The Hub also has atoolkit section that features video animations about how to incorporate video into your campaign work and best practice when filming and distributing your video.
Region and/or Issue Based: yes (Global, Human Rights)
Archive.org contains thousands of digital movies which range from classic full-length films, to daily alternative news broadcasts, to videos of every genre uploaded by Archive.org users. All of these movies are available for download, often in very high resolution, and are freely licensed, so it's also a great place to find footage for use in production.
Archive.org doesn't focus specifically on social change issues but it is a key space used by many advocates and free culture enthusiasts.
EngageMediais a non-profit collective providing media tools to activists, campaigners, communities and citizen journalists. You can upload and view videos about social justice and environmental issues. Their primary focus is on the Asia-Pacific region, but video from other places is also welcome. EngageMedia aims to create an online archive of independent video productions using open content licenses and to form a peer network of video makers, educators and screening organisations. Materials are mostly in English, with some in Asian languages.
Region and/or Issue Based: yes (Asia-Pacific, Social Justice and Environment)
Estudio Livre is a collaborative environment focussed on the production and distribution of media created independently with free software. Estudio Livre allows any user to create a live audio or video streaming channel.
v2v – A video syndication network of independent media from Germany.
Oneworld TV – A public platform for filmmakers, video journalists, NGOs and others interested in showcasing video content focussed on human rights and social change.
dotSUB – a site which allows users to translate your videos in different languages using subtitles
Preparing video for the internet
Once you've finished editing your video you'll need to compress it, or reduce its file size, and encode it into a format that is viewable online. Files from your editing application are far too large to transport on to the internet or to be placed on a DVD. It is necessary to compress these video files to make them smaller so they can easily be uploaded and downloaded.
Video files originating from mobile phones or digital stills cameras will be much smaller than video files from a DV camcorder, but for certain camera settings you may still need to compress the footage for distribution online.
On the Message in-a-Box website under Video we look at applications you can use to prepare your video for online distribution, specifically Avidemuxfor Windows and Linux and iSquintfor Mac (Read more about our video tools) You can also do simple exports to the internet using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie. Features to look for in these applications include 'batch encoding' so you can line up many files to encode at once, with settings you can save and re-use. The more support for various codecs and formats you are able to offer users, by encoding your video in different versions, the better. Here is a resource containing guides for encoding from videohelp.
Compression is always a compromise between the size of the file and the quality of the video. High quality = large file and vice versa. How you compress your video is really a question of who your audience is, how you intend them to watch it and what you hope they might do with it. If your audiences have good internet connections, you might choose to make a large, high-quality version available for download. If your audiences have more limited net access, you should probably consider making a lower-quality version that is easier to download or stream.
If you have multiple audiences, consider a variety of types of delivery; this will entail compressing your video in different ways: a large version for screenings, a Flash version for distributing online, another version for distribution as a DVD etc.