Vzaar – Making Commercial Web Video Hosting Simple

Vzaar   Making Commercial Web Video Hosting Simple

Vzaar.com is a lot of things. First off, they're a sponsor here at ReelSEO. That  affects me not since I'm just a freelance contributor but because Mark wanted to make sure it was mentioned. Second, probably first to them, it's an online service that lets you upload videos and then display them on your eBay pages to sell your stuff or pretty much anywhere else that you can drop an embed code (like later in this article).

So I was asked to give you my thoughts on the service. Oddly, given my rude and ofttimes total harshing of the mellows of other services I was a bit shocked. I mean seriously, if you have an advertiser and you want to have an overview of their service, do you go to the guy with the acid tongue and a hefty consumer-rights lean? I believe the answer to that is 'only if you want to show the overview isn't biased.' What you all may not know is that I've done some other overviews for places that simply never materialized here. Not because Mark is an ego-maniacal censor but because there were no redeeming qualities of said services, so why give them some free press, right?

Now why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to believe what I have to say about Vzaar (you can ask Mark about the rest). I want you to know that I pull no punches and speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (the way I see it anyway). That means no preferential treatment for advertisers or whatever. Plus, really, who else can get away with telling you all this crap and not get fired right? See how cool my job is at times?!

Alright, enough with the preamble bull and on to Vzaar.

What exactly is Vzaar?

In March 2007 a group of people decided to build an online platform to help eBay sellers supercharge their business's with video. That service (it's Vzaar, follow along!) went live September the 4th of that same year. Eventually, due to user demand, the service was expanded to allow the videos to be used just about everywhere.

Vzaar 2.0 is now where the service stands and is used by eCommerce merchants running their own web stores, web app developers showing screen casts and support videos to churches and their weekly sermons. So that's what it is, now let's look at the details:

Price:

Vzaar offers 5 packages ranging from $15/5GB to $300/300GB of playback a month. OK, they have a free version with 1GB so you can test it out as well. Is it a good deal? Well $300 for 300GB is pretty hefty and a quick check of the GDN webhost showed me that I could have my own dedicated server with 1500GB of bandwidth for half the price. Now I don't even like them all that much so I won't tell you what webhost it is. I was just giving you that so you could compare prices.

What it Offers:

The three lowest packages offer a limit of 1GB per file while the upper ones limit it at 2GB, but none have limits on number of videos. How much viewing are those playback bandwidths? Well, this is from the Vzaar website:

Rough estimates based on an 1 min video at 20MB
Bronze $15Silver $30Gold $50Platinum $150Titanium $300
250 plays650 plays1,500 plays3,750 plays8,750 plays

Again, big prices, but then Brightcove is $499 a month for 250GB and a 500 video limit. So where is the value? Well with all but the free account you get an unbranded, customizable, embeddable video player. You can play SD or HD and even stream to iPhones (Woot!). With the paid accounts you can mass upload to ebay, get a search enhancer (more later), autoplay (Boo! I hate that) and get privacy controls (who can see your videos on Vzaar).

The Service:

Alright, it's time for the make or break portion of the show. Just after a word from our sponsor, oh wait, I haven't got a sponsor.

How easy is it to get a video ready?

  1. Login to your Vzaar account
  2. Click Upload Video (non-strategically placed in the upper right corner).
  3. Add a title, browse to video, click Upload
  4. Choose Player size (they actually tell you the sizes if you click the show the different video sizes button which was cool). It will decide 4:3 or 16:9 for you.
  5. Wait…while video uploads. Personally, I played the first ever Voltron game on my iPhone which I just got from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment because hey, it's frickin Voltron and the first game in 25 years of the show's existence. I know, you're jealous.
  6. Then wait while the site encodes it (still played Voltron). It was fairly quick really (you'll see why below).
  7. Copy the embed code and voila! Instantly embeddable video:

There are both a basic and a Flash uploader. I used the Flash one because it was the default and it worked, so why not.

Once the video is done uploading and encoding you can either add it to eBay or pull the embed code and drop it into your site (as I did here, sorry about the sound, I was on a bus going to Kruja, Albania when I took the video). Oh right, the search enhancer. It's a small form on the video page where you can drop a link to the page where the video will be hosted and give a brief description as well. This gives extra data about the video for the search engines to pick up on, bonus!

Here's a cool feature, say you re-shoot your video and need to replace it. With other services you might have to create all sorts of new URLs and embed codes. With Vzaar you just click 'replace' and upload your new video. Frickin Sweet!

Gee, I don't know what else to tell you about the service after all that. It uploaded quickly, it encoded quickly and you can edit the title and search enhancer info at will. You can't add any kind of subtitles or captions unfortunately which would be a massive bonus (a later service update?).

You do have the option to make a video public which means everyone on Vzaar will be able to see it. They're using Encoding.com (another site we talked about in the past) so that's the reason for the mega-fast encoding times. It also means they have the following options for input files.

The service accepts the following formats:

  • asf – asf format
  • avi – avi format
  • flv – flv format
  • m4v – raw MPEG4 video format
  • mov,mp4,m4a,3gp,3g2,mj2 – QuickTime/MPEG4/Motion JPEG 2000 format
  • wmv – Windows Media Video format
  • mp3 audio files

The Dashboard

The main interface for your account offers a good deal of information including some summary statistics right on its main page. From here I went to settings and found quite possibly one of the coolest features of the whole thing. You can brand the video player with some text. That text is clickable, which means every video, in every video player has a clickable link to your site. So if you're sharing videos across multiple platforms and sites, you have direct links back to your site or wherever you want. The drawback is there is only one link per account so you can't have multiple places linked from the account if you perhaps do video distro for others. That means you'll need an account for each one.

One Drawback

There are no playlists, that means there's no way to drop pre,post-roll ads in to make money off of your content. That's a damned shame if you ask me because you could then offset the monthly cost of your account by the revenue generated. Note to Vzaar: Work on that please? Perhaps a rev share that helps pay the monthly account?

Something not so obvious

I work on my netbook regularly. Lately I have run into a slew of web services that simply aren't made for the 1024×600 pixel resolution. Popup windows that are larger than the screen, can't be closed, don't scroll with the page. Just generally poor web design. Vzaar has none of that. But I hate it so much when it does happen that I had to mention it here and the fact that their interface is crisp, clean and intuitive is yet another point for them. Something that certain services (which my overview of was so negative that it never made it to press) seem to forget to take into account.

Oh there's some other stuff on the site as well like a profile so people know who you are and an affiliate program where you make money on everyone that signs up from your link like this one right here, yes this link is an affiliate link for Vzaar. Why did I put that in? I'll tell you why.

That's a wrap

In a world of half-assed services, quick money grabs, flim-flams, grifters, consumer-oriented sucker punches and all sorts of broken promises, Vzaar shines as keeping true to what it is. A highly versatile, easy-to-use, quick and painless way to upload and share video for commerical purposes. That's something you can't do on YouTube, will pay an arm and a leg to do elsewhere and if you want the do-it-yourself route (something like Kaltura Community Edition with JWplayer) will end up putting far more time into than signing up for Vzaar and using them. Hell, you could do far worse than these guys who really seem to have their business goals in hand and are working on implementing them. And no, I am not getting money from those affiliate links (ReelSEO is, so if you like what you see here, keep me employed, I mean….give them some love).

The service certainly seems to get two thumbs up, a golden basket of popcorn and er…alright, I'm all out of awards, a little silver astronaut for being a stellar service? Hell, I almost wish they would give me an account because I would certainly use them at Gamers Daily News even though there's no way to monetize on the content…yet. Bravissimo, Bravissimo!

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Posted in Video Platforms & Solutions
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About the Author -
Christophor Rick is a freelance writer specializing in technology, new media, video games, IPTV, online video advertising and consumer electronics. His past work has included press releases, copy-writing, travel writing and journalism. He also writes novel-length and short fiction as part of Three-Faced Media . View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • matt abron

    Love Reel SEO …

    But, No, No, No…this is so not happening. This service is cumbersome, expensive and well, soon this pay-for-play business model will be outdated. Get a internet video web developer pay him once and reap the benefits.

    I set clients up all the time and they get 10 times more functionality, no monthly bills and best of all customization… and yes easy to replace the clips with updated video. I cannot believe i said that…

    Well, I agree if you are, hmm, a Video Retard; then this may be a viable solution…

    ….no playlists. Anyway I am done here.

    Sorry, I am a bit emotional tonight.

    Mr. Rick, thanks for all your great articles, you rock!

    Matt

    • Adrian_vzaar

      Hi Matt,

      I'm Adrian from vzaar and I hope you don't mind if I respond to some of your points here.

      It certainly possible to do all the functionality yourself and many people do. However with many of our customers (and they range in technical skill from very low to highly skilled developers) find it easier to off load the video aspect of what they do to us. There are many reasons for this including
      - Video served by a leading CDN
      - No need to worry about scaling your servers for popular videos
      - No need to worry about encoding your videos for the web
      - Cutting and pasting some embed code is easy than doing it yourself.

      Many web developers actually use for their clients. Often this is because once they are done with the client site, the client can just paste the vzaar embed into the CMS easily, and without needing the web developers support for additional videos.

      Regarding our business model. I don't think this will be outdated any time soon. Video consumes bandwidth, and storage and charging for the usage of that will always cost someone. If you have very small needs then many webhosts will cope, but many of our users don't have small needs, and want a system that can cope with spikes of hundreds of gigabytes or terabytes, without effecting the performance of the rest of their system.

      Playlists we recognise is a valuable feature and that is why it's currently in development. Of course that doesn't mean the many users who don't need this functionality aren't enjoying the service and value we bring to them.

      We feel the market has many players that serve different segments of the market. I notice you are an Internet Video Specialist according to your website, and so can see why you have your positions. The customers you get need or desire the value you can bring them. But equally we work with many video producers who do recommend us to their customers. So that they can focus on the video production, and their customers can focus on their particularly business and we can focus on the video grunt work for both.

      Adrian (from vzaar)

    • http://harmonypark.net/ Andrew

      Will a standard web developer set you up with transcoding and a content distribution network? i very much doubt it.

      Anyone who is serious about delivering professional streaming video online for a business site or service that gets any notional volume of hits needs to have these things in place (and no, they don't come on the cheap either).

      We have used Akamai, Limelight, some Drupal affiliated CDNs with encoders such as On2Flix, as well as various open source and bespoke players and all said and done we prefer vzaar because it offers a a high quality end-to-end managed solution that our own clients can log into, understand and admin themselves. And did I mention that their support is second to none?

      Are we biased? yes, definitely. We worked with vzaar to help then get their prototype off the ground back in the day, but that was long long ago. Today we use the service just like everyone else and have leveraged it for clients such as Cadbury, Fallon, and even the BBC and they care only that they have a video solution in place that is easy to use, looks great and is reliable as hell.

      They have all been more than impressed with vzaar and continue to use it.

  • DW

    Real simple question (and I am being honest – not sarcastic). What do I get for paying Vzaar that I don't get for free with blip.tv?

    • Adrian_vzaar

      Hi DW,

      Blip is designed for a different market to vzaar. Blip is designed for TV shows, vzaar for businesses.

      Blip is, as defined by Blip themselves "Our service is designed for people who are making original Web shows."

      They explicitly say "We do not work with "viral" video (i.e. one-offs), we do not accept videos that are primarily intended to market a product or service (unless you are a paying advertiser) and we do not accept gameplay videos. We reserve the right to refuse or remove any content if it fails to match our mission."

      vzaar on the other hand accepts any type of business or professional video. We’re designed for users who _want_ to market products and services. Of course you can use vzaar for webshows as well if you chose to as well.

      I hope this explains the difference a little more clearly.

      Adrian (CTO at vzaar)

      • DW

        Thanks for your explanation, Adrian. However, I have been using Blip to host all marketing videos I produce for corporate clients as well as my own. I have a branded player and dish out embed codes to clients. Maybe I am small fries to them and if I ever got bigger they would boot me. But then again, if I was bigger I could afford fees. ;-)
        Anyway, I am in no way trying to flog vzaar. Paid services have a use in the market, and I may give you guys a try some day. So here's hoping I get big enough to get booted from Blip!

        • Adrian_vzaar

          DW,

          No problem and I understand you point of view. We’re happy to talk openly here at vzaar about what we do and what other competitors do, and understand we’re not right for everyone.

          We find we do get customers coming to us that have been booted off site that aren’t targeting marketing and commercial content. It’s often just a policing issue, and policing is a cost of doing business. If the costs of policing content, or a site has too much unprofitable content (all business need to have some profit structure around them), then they’ll start being more active at booting content. Many of our customers, especially ones with a lot of video just don’t want to take the chance of having all their content disappear because they were in breech of a site policy.

          We also find most of our user base likes the unbranded player we provide for paying users. Since our customers are businesses, having a brandless player is often more important to them.

          Very nice chatting for you good to get the perspective of a user of a different service.

          many thanks
          Adrian

  • http://www.sporkmarketing.com Jason Lancaster

    I'm a fan of Vzaar as well. I signed up (largely on the basis of what I read on this website), and now I use Vzaar for my own content + client projects. I think the key benefits are the CDN and the simplicity. I seriously considered setting up my own video server system, and the time and energy just didn't back out to me. Even when I got it exactly where I wanted it, the system would still be inferior to Vzaar in terms of performance…not to mention if and/or when a video gets popular.

    Vzaar isn't perfect, of course. Sometimes uploads don't work the first time. I'm not 100% happy with the system, but I would say I'm 90% happy, and it's very very easy to use. If you're looking for an inexpensive, quality, tool for commercial video hosting (that isn't branded), Vzaar is worth a look.

  • http://www.gamersdailynews.com Christophor Rick

    Mark loves me because I write like a knowledgeable yet care-free nutjob…and because I stimulate discussion (that means return readers heehee).

    All I have to say is "Expensive" is a relative term Matt…perhaps I might consider your services expensive. Especially if I have to pay you for tech support, which I wouldn't really need to do with Vzaar as they manage their own software.

    Also you never stated WHAT you set clients up with. Is it Kaltura Community Edition? Is it your own product which you're attempting to promote? Is it WordPress with plugins? Tell us, tell us! We're dying to know!

    Well you're all dying, but some might be dying to know.

    Wait a second, did you just call me a Video Retard? You say this might be a viable solution for that calibre of person. I thought it a viable solution, therefore you are, by association, calling me a Video Retard. I would be offended, but really, I don't care what you say, it's a good service and a decent price.

    Of course I say that just coming out of a 2000 word epic about Amazon Cloudfront which will be publishing soon on an online video marketing and advertising information website near you….or ReelSEO, depends who pays more ;)

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Ah crap, now I need to pay a "Video Retard" more money?

    • JTvideo2010

      Out of interest Christopher, what did you film your short clip on, was it a flip?

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