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What video hosting services should your church use?

By Darby Jones

Perhaps you have videos to share with a wider audience, but are unsure about which service to use. Maybe you have videos to share, but have specific needs for uploading and viewing. Here is a rundown of online video hosting services so you can make the best decision for your needs.

Decide the what and the why of video

Surely, you have already read why video is important to your website and church communications, but where should you start? First, decide the types of videos you will create and your goals. Will you put worship services, sermons, church news, educational videos, funny videos or a video series online? Do you need to protect all content you create or will the videos run under a creative-commons practice? Will you do the videos professionally or design them on the fly with an iPhone or another handheld device?

Jot down answers to some of these questions to help direct you to the video application best for you.

Video file formats of which you should be aware

You can save your video into multiple file types. Here is a quick cheat list on video file formats.

Preferable formats for distributing:

  • .MP4/M4V MPEG-4, the current de-facto standard format for distributable video files.
  • .MOV Apple's Quicktime file format. Often interchangable with MP4sufficient to upload onto most sites.
  • .WMV Windows Media Video. Becoming outdated, but still useful for embedding videos in older versions of PowerPoint, for example.

Formats to avoid if possible. Most of these formats are either old or obscure, and video quality sufers as a result:

  • .AVI is base video format useable across most platforms.
  • .MPG MPEG-1, an older version of the MPEG standard.
  • .FLV: is a Flash video that is a compressed, often poorer-quality video to use primarily online.
  • .3GP: is used by mobile "dumb phones" and could require conversion needs on a computer.

What video hosting services should you use?

YouTube: Most people are familiar with YouTube, the lion of the video site jungle. Some advantages of using YouTube for creating a “channel” and uploading videos are great audience, ease of use and price (it is free). It is the second largest search engine next to Google.

However, you may get advertisements, and you cannot control what related videos your viewers will be recommended (they are often based on the individual user's past viewing history). There is a 15 minute limit on video length for new channels, but keep uploading quality content of your own and you will quickly be granted the ability to upload videos of an hour or longer.

Vimeo is a pay service (with a free level) for hosting your videos, so there are no bothersome ads. The pay level is for those who would upload more than a certain file size limit each month or those that want HD quality videos. Vimeo also allows for download of your video in full quality from the page the video is on, which is a nice option.

But what else is there?

OneLoad allows you to upload once and distribute your video to the majority of popular video and social networking sites with a few clicks. Free for non-commercial use, but they reserve the right to decide what is non-commerical and what is not.

Blip.tv is geared for the “web series.” If you are developing an ongoing video series that has some entertainment value, you might want to consider this platform. It enables you to push across not just Internet platforms, but also some television platforms. It will also automatically generate video podcasts from your content.

Viddler, a paid hosting service, gives you the option to push your videos into your own Web pages, as well as a hosted channel. One cool function with this service is the ability to charge for sets of videos in a series. Even better is that the function to manage submitted contest videos.

Amazon CloudFront enables you to show off your videos for (almost) free. You pay for the bandwidth usage, so if no one views your videos, you pay nothing. It is a solid platform for protecting viewable content and/or content without time restrictions, but has a steeper learning curve and requires more technical knowledge than YouTube or Vimeo, for example.

Wistia is a good option if you want to post videos for special services or promotions for a period and analyze some of the analytics and special features. It has a free level to help get you decide if it is something in which you would further invest. (TIP: You should probably subscribe to their blog as they give good advice on recording videos.)

You can check many other video service providers on this Wikipedia video hosting list.

Now what?

Decide on the platform you consider best for distributing your videos. If you are unsure, try a few and see which platform is easiest to use. Try the platforms and note how seamlessly they help you accomplish your goals.

Have fun! “Quiet on the set!”