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Where Should Independent Real Estate Photographers Host Their Video?

In: 
Published: 28/02/2011
By: larry

I've been talking to several real estate photographers doing video that are looking for the best place to host their video.

Of coarse everyone starts with YouTube. YouTube is clearly the default place to host video but everyone seems to be looking for a little more professional look than you get with YouTube. Many like hosting sites like Vimeo and ExposureRoom and similar hosting sites the majority of these are not appropriate for real estate video because their terms of service prohibit commercial use. Trust me on this, I had my Vimeo account canceled without warning for posting real estate video on Vimeo.

I don't think hosting your own video is a viable solution for the majority of real estate photographers because of the challenging, changing state of web video. You want to be visible on all platforms and the technical approach for doing that is technically challenging and changes almost weekly. In the process of researching this subject I ran across a pretty good description of the challenge you are up against in hosting video in a white paper at brightcove.com. Of course this white paper is a pitch on why you should use brightcove hosting but I find  the paper to be one of the best summaries of the challenge for video hosting I've seen.

All of the hosting sites that allow commercial use have a pretty serious monthly charges (from $80/mo to $195/month). For the last several weeks I've been researching video hosting alternatives. I'll be honest, I don't have the answer at this point. Here are a few of the I've found:

  1. Smugmug - $40-$150/year
  2. Brightcove - $99/mo
  3. Wellcomemat - $25/mo
  4. Bitgravity - $195/mo

There seems to be some evidence that the services that provide support for streaming video provide a better viewing experience for the widest number of viewers because it adaptively adjusts to the viewers bandwidth.

What other commercial video hosting alternatives are people using?

21 comments on “Where Should Independent Real Estate Photographers Host Their Video?”

  1. I've been using (and very happy with) iPlayerHD.com

    There plans start at a reasonable $30/ mo. Of course, it all depends on your bandwidth and storage, etc. As a frame of reference, I'm currently paying around $230/mo. which is mostly likely higher than most. Last month I used 413GB bandwidth and had 73 GB of storage.

    A couple of nice features.... all of my videos are fully compatible with every format, including mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. They have players which can play multiple videos as a playlist (which I haven't used yet, but will in the future). Full 1080p, automatic bandwidth detection, no length restrictions, and they fully embrace commercial videos such as real estate. Best of all, GREAT customer service, as in a real person who answers the phone, who will take care of you if you have questions or need help.

    So far, so good for me. You can see a sample here: http://bit.ly/fF7j5r

  2. I'm also using iPlayerHD (I think I got the recommendation from Fred) and I love them! For all of the reasons Fred mentioned and especially the customer service. I can't recommend them highly enough!

  3. I have been looking as well and it becomes really frustrating, and almost as if you have to create your own to meet both a professional standard for service delivery AND meet industry restrictions. Perfecting my video skills is a greater need than creating a web site though, and hoping I find a web solution in the meantime. Criteria I look for:
    1) Sub-account creation for client (or create an account in client's name they access and control)
    2) Back office features, edit and reports on traffic
    3) Multiple versions of the same video - branded and unbranded
    4) No advertising
    5) Cost
    6) Other - perhaps I have forgotten some as I type, as never put it to paper before.

    Realtor are use to a single package with virtual tours without ongoing cost. Worse, having them assume the rather steep monthly cost competes directly with you as they look at the total package. In this area, true video is VERY premium priced, around $800 - compared to still/virtual $135 and below, Avg $90 - so you can see my motivation. That is top quality video, not DIY flip cams or still pics set in video format.

    Youtube is out because most MLS will not allow the link because YouTube allow pushes other similar subject videos. Plus YouTube, vimeo, smugmug and others as seen as more informal consumer sites rather than professional. Most true video that I have seen are quite costly, and not certain if loading two videos - one with extra clips for branding - would increase the bandwidth, and the cost. Also, contact going back to the listing agent which creates a problem if they accessed the video from a property search from another agents website and the link takes them away from their agent to the listing agent.

    So much to think about. Almost think it would be easier to design your own site where have absolute control. Separate subaccount for each client and perhaps embedded Google analytics as backoffice for the specific pages. Just so much to do and so little time.

  4. No One has mentioned Amazon S3. I haven't used it myself but always imagined that if I needed to host a large amount of data that's what I would do. I see Larry hosts PRFE tours there. Has anyone looked at that.

  5. @David- Video hosting is a much bigger problem than just data storage. Amazon S3 is just a cheap place to put data. You want your video hosting service to be able to recognize what kind of device each viewer has and serve them high quality that works and looks good on their device. This part is not a trivial problem and it's much of what you pay for in video hosting in addition to bandwidth.

  6. I've had fantastic luck with SmugMug. It's a super-clean, super-high performance back end that delivers beautiful quality very cheaply. I created a simple 'white label' and a branded web page template to house the embed code for the player and I can either host that or deliver it to the agent for their own hosting (if that's what they prefer).

    If privacy is a concern, the directories in SmugMug can be hidden and password protected while still allowing links in (if necessary).

  7. Larry , yes sure but I just wanted to put it out there that there is also the option of rolling your own rather that paying for such hosting. Using a device detection script and serving up the appropriate format etc would not be that difficult but using a service such as iPlayerHD may be a lot more convenient.

  8. This is a timely topic as I'm just now fooling around with video on the web.

    It would seem to me that the primary issue of hosting video yourself is not so much the storage space/bandwidth but the time consuming process and hassle of encoding video in to multiple formats/containers/codecs or whatever the hell you call them. If you want your video to be seen on all devices I'm pretty sure you would have to output to a minimum of 3 formats (mp4, webm, ogv, etc). Correct? And then have to do some pretty complex scripting if you want to give users the choice as to the size/resolution/playback qualities of the video. Correct?

    Even the "expensive" video hosting sites are only around $200 a month. If paying for hosting saves even a handful of hours a month then it would seem to be a worthwhile investment.

  9. The only thing that sucks about smugmug is there is no ipad/iphone support when embedding...you have to use their site to have this from what I have seen and tested (the embed codes are flash files)

  10. OK, but realtor.com doesn't link -- the showcase agent has to upload the completed video that you provide. Are we just talking about non-showcase agents? (I believe that most MLS's require upload also).

  11. Vzaar dot com looks interesting. $399 for 700GB of bandwidth. I wonder though, if that is enough? How do you know until you get far into it how much you will need? Could be an expensive lesson.

  12. I upload videos to Realtor.com two ways... the agent uploads the video directly if they have enhanced listings. I also upload the video (and a photo gallery) myself as I am a PicturePath Provider. So the video is actually on Realtor.com in two different places. Every MLS is different... many just require a link. Here, one MLS just requires a link which the agent inserts into the listing. In Massachusetts, they scan my server every 15 minutes... I just upload a text file with the MLS number and it's automatically put on the MLS - agent doesn't have to do a thing!

  13. The agents I work with just can't afford video and only a few are willing to pay the $150-$300 I ask. I have been hosting my own tours, but have started embedding the YouTube tour (you can deselect the option to show similar videos) with great success. Works great across different platforms, agents like that their clients can use their phones to view tours. The MLS here doesn't have a problem with that. The agents who have Realtor.com I upload the tours directly, they accept file sizes upto 100mb.

  14. Plus one vote for iplayerhd.com. My favorite part is that they encode your videos for you at 3 different bitrates. They also have bandwidth detection and deliver the video quality that best matches the viewer’s connection speed. Customer service is good, support emails are answered promptly, smartphone and tablet friendly. They had a few glitches when they put their new site up but everything seems to be running smoothly now.

  15. @Paul- Thanks for the link. Looks interesting. I'll watch it for a while... I've seen so many free sites come and go I'm skeptical that anyone that doesn't have as deep a pockets as Google can afford to give away bandwidth without having a business model that makes some money.

    Video quality is very marginal and can't be changed. I'm not sure why you wouldn't use YouTube instead of this site.

  16. Paul: Just a word of warning... I've been doing this real estate video gig since before YouTube, so ... 'been there done that'!

    Free is NEVER free. Bandwidth costs money - LOTS of money. And the more popular video is, the more bandwidth it uses and the more it costs. SOMEBODY has to pay for this - it's just simple economics. Even Google has spent 5 years struggling to make money with YouTube, but as Larry says, they have very deep pockets and are willing and able to subsidize their little venture. Most are not in the position.

    This is the reality: There are tons of "free" video sites out there. To offer a paid site that can generate income, they have to offer something else that people need or want that the free sites do not offer, or they have no business and no income, and end up shutting down. (Why would you pay for a service that offers exactly the same thing as a free service?). Viewers most certainly are not going to pay to view videos, and that is the conundrum facing video hosting sites right now. What do you offer that is of value to a client to make them want to pay for your services?

    I've been burned by a half dozen so called "free" services over the past 5-6 years. And one of two things happen: They shut down due to lack of funds and inability to attract VC money or they decide to start charging everyone in order to make money (the "gotcha" of the internet). Those charges have ranged from $30/mo to over $300 a month (Brightcove anyone?).

    If you have a lot of videos on one of these sites, you have a HUGE problem - either pay up, or move your videos somewhere else. If you have thousands of them online (like I do), it's a mammoth undertaking, as they're also all attached to MLS listings! So it's not just switching the videos to a new host, it's re-linking everything up again with a new URL, etc. (also been there, done that and I can tell you it's NOT pretty. Happened to me at the busiest time of year - a company was sold and they gave me exactly 4 weeks to move everything before they shut down!)

    Choosing a video hosting site is a necessity, but also a gamble as you are putting your business in someone else's hands. Choose VERY carefully, because in the end, if there is a problem, YOU are the one who will pay the price!

  17. Hi everyone, I'm new to the business of Real Estate Video/Photography, but I'm not new to video production, encoding and online video. For me this is an interesting and timely discussion.

    I just signed up for iPlayerHD as well, and I know that it's kind of a requirement of blogs to try and talk others to use and purchase the same products that I use [tongue firmly planted in cheek] but I agree with Fred Light, the value of good support can't be overstated. Especially if you want to deliver content to iPad, iPod etc., Apple changes, and breaks, iTunes every other week and staying compatible with all the different browsers and devices can be pretty challenging.

    There's also a saying "You can't be a chimp and do business with a gorilla." So for me not only are the larger sites, like Brightcove cost prohibitive but getting them to customize or fix a compression artifact for someone as small as me is not very likely. I pointed out something I thought could be improved to iPlayerHD and they implemented it before I even signed up. It was a lucky guess on my part...

    Anyway, as Fred said, nothing is free, its going to cost you money, time or both and I'd rather be producing than encoding -- not that any of you know who I am..

    Here's my first property video, its my baby, as close to childbirth as I'll ever get: http://www.vimeo.com/14686829

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