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Should You Use the Built-in WordPress Player?

Not long ago there was much rejoicing as WordPress release 3.6 added an HTML5 video and audio player to the core (meaning it’s built-in to the program). WordPress.org announced that users no longer need to add a plugin to have a player that is HTML5 based and cross platform compatible. The secret of this new WordPress player is mediaelement.js, a JavaScript that is able to handle the media and display it properly whatever browser is being used.

It all sounds great doesn’t it? After all, one out of six websites on the Internet use WordPress. That’s a huge number of sites looking to add video and audio to their content.

But is the new player the best choice for your streaming? Here’s a quick rundown of how we see the features.

The Good

The new player supports the most common file formats and codecs used today.

And it is fairly easy to use. A user creating a post can simply drag and drop in the media they want to use, or click on the “add media” button, or type in the URL of the media. WordPress does the rest.

It also seems to work well for the right file types and codecs. Tests that we ran showed it did work across the most common browsers on a Windows based PC. The creators have tested it across mobile platforms as well.

[wpvideo UmhwbWJH]

The Bad

The look and feel of the player is controlled by the WordPress theme. It’s possible to change height and width using the shortcode parameters in WordPress. Of course if you don’t know how to do that, you’ll have to look it up or get some help. Beyond the basic parameter control, the player uses the CSS defined by the theme. Again, that’s ok if you’re into editing CSS files, not so much if you aren’t. There is so far some uncertainty about whether the settings in the CSS will “stick” after updates as well.

This lack of easy customisability has led to some grumbling. Here’s a comment about the audio player from the user “singout” on a WordPress forum:

Bah. The new audio player is a huge downgrade from a whole range of far superior audio plugins that were available … almost all of which are shutting down or being deprecated because of this change. Making things simpler for the few who might post audio once in a blue moon (and don’t care about how the player appears or works), but crippling the function for any serious music related blog by creating a completely non-customisable function is poor planning and lousy short-sighted coding.

Over time there will undoubtedly be additional plugins or themes created that allow users to control both the audio and video player more easily. For now though, there aren’t many options for those that don’t want to get into coding.

While the player supports the most common formats and codecs, you won’t find them listed anywhere that’s easy to find. This could be confusing for a novice user that can’t understand why his or her .mov file isn’t working. In fact, the WordPress blog directs people to the code to see what formats are available and filterable. Here’s a summary of file formats:

  • Video: ‘mp4’, ‘m4v’, ‘webm’, ‘ogv’, ‘wmv’, ‘flv’
  • Audio: ‘mp3’, ‘ogg’, ‘wma’, ‘m4a’, ‘wav’

You can find the audio code here, and the video code here. To see the chart of codecs and compatibility you can visit the mediaelement.js website.

How does it compare to the PlanetStream Player?

html5-248x300So if you’re using our streaming services you can use the built in WordPress player by providing the HTTP URL. Customising how it looks and using advanced features like playlists and analytics though are not as easy (and may not be possible at all without coding) as using our Player Code Generator.

Simply click a few buttons and you can change how the player looks, turn on Google Analytics, and create playlists for multiple videos.

Once your options are selected, the Player Code Generator creates the code you simply cut and paste into your webpage. No coding required.

Our player also works across most platforms, including mobile, by supporting HTML5 and Flash.

If you’re interested in learning more about HTML5 and what it means for media, read our special report, “The Truth About HTML5 and Mobile Streaming:What HTML5 is, isn’t, and why it matters”. You can download it here.

Oliver Burt

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