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Why you want the highest quality video possible for your viewers

high quality video is a mustHave you ever watched a TV or movie from a streaming service that also ran commercials? I have. Being forced to watch the adverts is usually fairly annoying, but I at least understand why they’re doing it. But lately I’ve become frustrated with the whole process. Here’s why.

I’m enjoying my HD quality show on my iPad when it breaks for a commercial. Of course, where the show breaks makes no sense – sometimes in the middle of a sentence. But I’m digressing. The problem comes when the commercial begins to play. The most recent one I’ve seen is for a car company. At least I think it is. There are two men who bump into each other, then the rest of the commercial shows one man searching for a wallet, another running up stairs, and another driving a car. It finishes with some text on the screen.

If the description is vague, it’s because the quality of the video was so poor that I could barely tell it was men that bumped into each other. Don’t ask me which man was doing what after the bump – they both were just fuzzy shapes on the screen. The text at the end was just as bad. It began with a D but that’s all I could make out before the commercial ended.

Another commercial I watched had similar problems, but at the end I could at least tell it was for Oreo biscuits. The logo was big and obvious since I already knew the company. But until I saw the logo at the end, I thought there were some sort of tyres or wheels floating about the clouds (turns out they were Oreos in milk!). Just thinking of Oreos usually makes me want to go eat them, but during this commercial? Not once did I want to eat anything – because I was looking at black wheels in clouds. None of it made any sense.

So what is all this rambling really about? Video quality, bitrates, and user experience.

After the commercials, my show resumed in beautiful HD. Clearly my connection was capable of viewing HD with no issues. So what happened with the commercials? Not knowing how it was all set up, I can’t tell you whether the ad companies created low quality videos, or if the streaming service they were using served up the video in low quality. Or if the high quality video was there, but my connection wasn’t detected properly – or any other number of things could have gone wrong.

When you are streaming videos online, the end user experience is everything. Especially when you’re creating commercials or other online video adverts. If the viewer can’t see the video, or clearly understand what is happening, then the whole marketing effort was a failure before it began. But even if you’re creating something more personal than an ad, if the viewers can’t make sense out of what they are seeing then you’ve wasted your time (and theirs).

Supporting every possible device and connection speed isn’t really feasible, but you can provide options to the viewer (or their player). Offer both HD and non-HD streams, or even a low bitrate stream for those with super slow connections. And use a player that has device detection, and a CDN for delivering the content as fast as the connection will allow. Streaming the best quality to a viewer doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take some preparation.

Oliver Burt

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