Motionbox, which is sort of an odd name though I guess it's motion (moving pictures) in a box (video player) and makes sense, is an online video sharing platform that allows you to upload, edit video and even share both online and offline. Let's take her out for a test drive shall we?
The Establishing Shot
MotionBox recently unveiled their Pro package for commercial use. It's $24.99 a month and offers 25GB storage and 25GB bandwidth. Along with that you get priority encoding (less wait time), priority customer service, HD video playback, unbranded players (no watermarks or logos), access to express uploads via the desktop uploader (Adobe Air-powered) and the ability to edit your videos online.
If I compare the price to some other places:
- Brightcove - $99/month 50 videos, 40GB playback/month
- BitsontheRun - content € 2.99 per GB-month if you buy between 10 and 25 GB-month ($101 for 25GB), traffic € 1.19 per GB if you buy between 10 and 25 GB ($40.17)
- Mig69 – Difficult to compare as they work on a credits system. See Pricing model.
So pricing seems quite good, relatively speaking, and you seem to get a lot for the money. The biggest advantages appear to be the speed of delivery/encoding/optimizing and the unbranded, customizable player.
But exactly how fast is it all? That's what I set out to check, after I give you the big list of MotionBox Pro features (I'm starting to sound like an infomercial):
- HD Playback (720p), AVCHD upload support
- Unbranded, customizable player
- Archival storage – CDN services and streaming from global server farms
- Ability to include logos, URLs and watermarks (prior to uploading)
- No random motionbox logos or ads popping up (on premium accounts)
- Three levels of security. Ability to upload to MotionBox but only view from embedded player on your website (premium)
- Express Uploads via the MotionBox Adobe Air desktop uploader (testing now, seems fairly fast).
- Online editing (very basic in-browser editor)
I uploaded 3 files of varying sizes totaling 137 MB, they took roughly an hour or so. Once the first was uploaded it was in the queue to be optimized and was done in a matter of two minutes (pretty quick actually, but we have a premium account).
I also uploaded 73MB in three files via the Adobe Air desktop uploader. I got about 20KBps steady. It transferred two files at a time and took about an hour. Some of these speed limitations are because of my connection (though I've seen upwards of 400Kbps recently) and I imagine the service.
Guardians of Gahoole – 10MB .MOV (encoding unknown as it was not my video)
I do like the ability to fiddle with the colors of the player and you can set it to any particular size you want.
On top of that you can edit your videos once you've uploaded them to the site. However, it's not as full featured as you might hope. It's simply the ability to splice multiple videos together. Not even to splice one inside of another but more just like tacking them together for a single playlist. You can't insert music or photos either. So basically, you might as well just do all your editing prior to uploading. What this really means is that the online editor/mixer is fairly useless since everything can be done quicker and easier locally on your desktop. It might be handy for splicing together videos while you were traveling etc, but it's still extremely limited. It's no different than creating a playlist of videos that seamlessly roll. What it does it takes the videos and combines them in the order you specify via the website. For some reason though, one of my three videos was unable to be incorporated into the mixer even though I had uploaded it days before meaning any optimization etc should have been done long before.
If you wanted to take scenes from one video and splice them into the middle of a second video it would be a two-step process. First, trim video A to where you want to insert the scene from video B. Then trim B to only the scene you want to insert. Save that as a new video. Then add that and video A back into the Mixer, trim video A to the piece you want to show after the new video and voila, scene-splicing. Crude, time-consuming, but effective I suppose.
I've been told by Greg Takayama, Business Development Manager at MotionBox, that they are working on updating the Mixer. Since it's mostly aimed at business users they didn't put a lot of time into it as they thought many of you would have your own editing suites already in place and not need an online editor, "It's enough functionality to trim out what you don't want or splice together several videos into one. Which then begs the question, why make it at all if you expect users won't use it?
In the Premium account feature list, it states that you can add URL, logos and watermarks. What they really mean is that your videos will not be removed if you place those items in them. There are absolutely no facilities via the service to do it. There are no video overlays that would be clickable from what I can see, no way to have a call to action right in the video and no way to add any sort of plugins that would allow for this. It's all very rudimentary and is akin to using a garden shears to trim actual film.
Three video clip mix (pieces of three separate videos mixed using the online editor).
The Cutting Room Floor
If you forget all about the mixer and editor what MotionBox boils down to is an inexpensive way to embed videos up to HD quality (up to 1080p accepted, then encoded up to 720p) with a player that you can color to fit your site. It gives you some decent amount of space and bandwidth for a very low cost as well as an easily customizable player without external branding. What it doesn't give you is true video editing capabilities, nor a way to transcode videos online as they are all encoded into whatever bit rate and format MotionBox is using (H.264 up to 1.8Mbps for 720p, lower for SD). Since it's H.264 the video could be HTML 5 compatible but they have offered no word on availability. They do offer iPhone support through an App to watch videos but their pages are using a Flash player, so no videos in the web browser. I went to check it out on my iPhone and got the standard pages which mean you can look through your account and email videos but not watch any.
I found pretty much no advantage to using the Adobe air desktop uploader and in fact think it was actually slower than doing it through my browser. 73MB uploaded in it took nearly as long as 137MB via the browser. There are numerous variables that could have affected this including my location, time of day, etc.
The archival storage is useful and the videos did load extremely fast for me once I had them uploaded. So there's certainly something to say about that. We, as Internet users, are impatient animals. I found this out this weekend when I tried to watch a YouTube video that just would not stream and I had to buffer the whole thing before viewing. If I hadn't really wanted to see the OK Go Rube Goldberg machine, I would have just forgotten it. Instead, I paused the video and walked away for an hour while it buffered.
Preventing that type of problem is certainly a high priority and from what I have seen of MotionBox's content delivery, it shouldn't happen.
Cut to the Quick
In the end, the feature list of the Premium account is really just bloat. Yes, you get a cool player but it's limited. Yes, you get the ability to splice videos, but it's also limited. You do get a fairly quick worldwide CDN and can embed your videos in up to 720p on your own website. Everything else is simply left on the cutting room floor.
That's a wrap!