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:
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 $15||Silver $30||Gold $50||Platinum $150||Titanium $300|
|250 plays||650 plays||1,500 plays||3,750 plays||8,750 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).
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?
- Login to your Vzaar account
- Click Upload Video (non-strategically placed in the upper right corner).
- Add a title, browse to video, click Upload
- 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.
- 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.
- Then wait while the site encodes it (still played Voltron). It was fairly quick really (you'll see why below).
- 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 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.
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 1024x600 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!