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With the launch of YouTube in early 2005, video services on the Internet changed dramatically. Online videos have become a new social networking medium, offering humor, current events, and creative endeavors.
While the initial success of YouTube may have been linked to viral videos and copyrighted materials, most of these services are now primarily focused on enticing the artists themselves to bring their works to the world. The draw of these sites is pretty clear: Budding directors and video bloggers get free instant exposure. Viewers get an abundance of free, fresh content in a broadband-friendly format.
In this roundup, I looked at the most popular video sites: AOL Uncut Video, Blip.tv, Google Video, Yahoo Video, and YouTube. All of the services use Macromedia Flash for formatting and displaying video content. Flash is perfect for this role, as it is cross-platform and eliminates any complications with video file types or having to install specific players or codecs. In most cases, some image and sound quality is sacrificed for the sake of quick load times, but most of the videos remain clear and easy to watch.
There is a downside, however. All but two of these services allow for online viewing only, so taking your favorite clips with you on your next trip might not be possible.
So which should you use? Well, since all of these services are free, you can actually use all of them if you want. But it's usually a good idea to identify yourself with a single video service if you want your videos to become popular. What follows are my impressions of what each video service brings to the table.
AOL UnCut Video
On the surface, AOL's UnCut Video, currently in beta, appeared to be a clone of the other video services. It wasn't until I started digging that the differences became clear. What I found was the easiest and most robust upload capability of all the services, as well as some room to grow in the future.
AOL UnCut Video Click image to enlarge.
Uploading your own video requires logging in as an AOL (or AIM) subscriber. I was impressed with the tools that the site offers for uploading videos. UnCut Video uses a software package from VideoEgg to handle the uploading process (which requires a small application to be installed on your machine). Like the other video sites, VideoEgg allows upload of MPEG, QuickTime, WMA, and AVI file formats. However, the AOL service also supports 3GPP files, a common video format used by the cameras built into phones.
The VideoEgg tool also allows AOL's service to go right to the video source. A digital camcorder or Web cam can be used to feed prerecorded or live video directly to the AOL site. As part of the upload process, you have the opportunity to trim portions from the beginning and end of the clip before the conversion process begins.
The only limitation is on the length of the video, currently set at seven minutes, rather than on the file size. For the average user, seven minutes is plenty, but aspiring filmmakers might have to look elsewhere to host anything larger.
Once uploaded to the UnCut Video server, your video is converted into a Flash format and made publicly accessible immediately. There is currently no way to limit access to your content once it has been pushed to the site, other than by deleting it. Viewers can post comments, rate the videos, and add their own keyword tags to your uploads.
AOL also makes it painless to post your favorite videos to a blog, a Web site, or as an e-mail link to your friends. One thing I didn't care for, however, was the "UnCut Video" watermark that was placed in the corner of the video when I posted it to my Web site, which I guess is the tradeoff for not viewing it directly from AOL's site.
Although it is a relative newcomer, AOL's Uncut Video has far and away the slickest interface to get content online
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