I have searched the internet far and wide to find what you see here at The Distillery. So might I please offer anyone reconsidering their current online promotions, or an initial foray into online media and promotions, some advice about how best to deliver your content? (I am assuming you have answered, “Yes!”)
What is the best way to present your material? Without question, I find Adobe/Macromedia’s Flash and Flash player combination to be the most robust of the available options. It easily ranks first. It always works, given users have the properly installed Flash player (which is very easily accomplished). Also, it offers superb visual quality. Content is not fuzzy, blurry, or of such low resolution as to be almost not viewable. Instead, its video and audio deliveries are crisp, sharp, and typically without network congestion hiccups. There is nothing to configure on the user’s end after its installation, and that is a very important factor — clearly overlooked by many producers or retailers. Believe it or not, the majority of computer users still do not understand there are several competing medias and players, each different, none typically fully interchangeable, and all subject to another player stealing file associations. If you want a site that your grandmother can see and use without tearing out her white hair, then create your content around Flash and the Flash player.
Following, and not so very closely on Flash’s heels, are Windows Media and Windows Media Player. It, too, is fairly robust in that it works (i.e., delivers your content) in most situations. I do not frequently find links that will not launch the player and deliver the associated content. And when I do, it is because of the problem alluded to above, the “stealing” of its file associations by other players. That is, although Apple Quicktime is primarily designed for Apple Quicktime media, the player can [supposedly] play back other formats. However, and I am not saying only Quicktime is guilty of this practice, the “hacked” formats often play poorly in a “non-native” player. The video quality of Windows media is far from that offered by Flash, but it is passable. The audio quality ranges from poor to superb and can be negatively impacted by the end user’s computer and network congestion on the internet.
Apple’s Quicktime will be a format seen at many sites. Those sites were more than likely developed by Mac addicts and from my experiences, are seldom sufficiently tested across platforms and browsers to ensure they also work with other media players and Windows-based PCs. In fact, many Quicktime-oriented sites seem to do their best to offer content only in Quicktime. That is a major no-no. Why so? As much as some may not like it, it is indeed a Windows world out there. And, like it or not, Windows media and its player do nicely integrate with the Windows operating system. If I encounter a site that simply does not work or where I cannot view any offered video, a sizable percentage of the time it is a Quicktime-content site. I am not saying not to use Quicktime, but be certain to offer your content in Windows media format, too. I have departed many Quicktime-powered sites having not ever seen their content. (And given that, you also will never see it here.)
Last, and most definitely also least, are Real media and the Real player. They are the bottom-feeders of internet multimedia content delivery. There, too, I have left many sites not having seen their online promotions either because Real player simply would not deliver the content, or it delivered content of such poor quality as to be all but unviewable and a waste of my time. I strongly suggest you avoid using Real-formatted content designed for Real player like the plague. And should users find another content format does not work as it should (or once did), take a closer look at Real player’s file associations. It is notorious for stealing other file/content associations and then being entirely unable to properly deliver/play them. I will not recommend using Real-formatted content and Real player even as last resorts. (Find the extra dollars to hire someone excellent with Flash.) But, if you want your online video not to be seen by potential customers, then by all means do use it.
Order of recommendation:
1. Macromedia Flash and Flash player
2. Windows media and Windows Media Player
3. Apple Quicktime and Quicktime player
4. Real media and Real player (if you hate your customers)