Technical questions for porn site users

Posted at 22:28 on 8 Aug 2011 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: porn production, requesting assistance, Sites and studios

Work on my site is going well. My schedule has been extended by D getting some contract work for the next few weeks, so I'm currently looking at a launch date in November (nicely in time for Christmas). I'll be able to share more details with you very soon.

In the meantime, I'm running into a few questions relating to file formats and user experience. It would be useful to have some input from spanking site users as soon as possible so I can make informed decisions about these technical issues while preparing my content.

Video file format and file size

It seems to me that there are several overlapping considerations when selecting file formats for web content:

  • Operating system (Windows / Linux / Mac OS)
  • Internet connection (ADSL / mobile broadband / wifi / 3G / dial-up)
  • Usage pattern (streaming / download)

Slower internet connections and streaming users require smaller, compressed files. Users with faster broadband who are downloading prefer larger, higher-res files - but there are still upper limits on file size. As a user in the latter category, I would say that 100-300MB is a good download size for a web clip, with bigger file sizes forgiveable in longer clips. For a half hour clip I'd be happy with 500MB - for a full length feature film I'd want it to be somewhere between that and 900MB. I'd need a good reason to download a file over 1GB.

For streaming, file sizes need to be considerably lower; and viewing in a web browser rather than your desktop, it makes sense for films to be lower res too. The smaller version will double for streaming and for users with slower internet connections. I would say that in most cases these files should be under 100MB, but that up to 200MB is permissible for long films. Would you agree?

(I'm currently doing a series of experiments to work out how much impact different settings have on quality/file size. Reducing the video and audio bitrates seems to provide the most effective compression, but the question is how low you can go before the quality becomes substandard.)

Which file formats are essential if I want people to avoid having to spend ages installing codecs before they can view my content? Let's look at the most common/widely supported options:

  • .wmv - optimised for Windows users with relatively low file size. Some Windows-using site owners think this is all you need, but they're not straightforward to play on Linux or Macs.
  • .mov - optimised for Mac OS but playable on all systems with the right software installed.
  • .avi - good compression/quality balance. Most people can play .avi files (depending on the codec), and they're very easy to burn onto DVD.
  • .mp4/.m4a - playable on all operating systems, but relatively high file sizes.

Other factors: my editing software exports directly to .wmv and .mov, but not to .avi or .mp4 - I would need to convert the file after rendering. I think there's greater support for streaming .wmv and .mov, but I'm not sure.

So to cater to the highest number of users with the smallest number of files, I could offer one avi (low res) and one mp4 (high res); one large and one small .mov, one large and one small .wmv; or some other combination. I'd be very interested in hearing which file formats you, as a user, prefer.

Image size

I'm using a lightbox for my photogalleries, with each gallery also downloadable as a .zip file. I originally set up the lightbox with full-res images and a script to resize them to fit the browser window, but that's resulted in slow loading times. At around 300kb a piece my photos are quite chunky. That's 800x1200px jpgs, 72dpi, saved for web but with jpeg compression set to around 8/10, so still relatively high quality. I think that's a good size for downloading images, but I'm wondering if I should have smaller or more compressed versions for the web galleries.

When viewing photosets online, do you prefer to download a zip and view them using your desktop file browser? Or would you rather view the whole gallery in a browser, perhaps only downloading the images that catch your eye? If the latter, there's clearly a trade to be made between image size/quality and page loading speeds. It would be useful to collect some data on what size photos people prefer to look at, and the top file size that will load quickly on most connections.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give. I'm really excited about this project, and can't wait to share more with you!

1. I think all of this depends on the codec actually. I'm still operating somewhat in the dark when it comes to codecs.

Comments

I suppose, like many computer users, my choices of formats is dictated by the fact that I do not have that much time to spend in front of a computer, every day and so tend to stick to what works and that I already know about, as finding time to learn about other formats and finding appropriate downloads is too time consuming.

For video I prefer WMV and MP4. MOV is an annoying faf about and I refuse to use it.

For still pictures I normally prefer galleries but have found downloading zip files useful sometimes.

Prefectdt

Perhaps to late but... We use MP4/h264 with 1500 kbit/s. Bitrate depends on the resolution. This is fine for HD vidoe (from 720p to 1920 lines). However 4 years ago we have tested with our visitors. We had have more than 150.000 per month on the test site. With 1000kbits streaming nobody had have problems and for most people is 1500 the best solution. So we only offer 1 format now: mp4/h264, size 854*480, 1500kbits. With a small module for the apache webserver you can use the same file for download and streaming! I mean real http streaming, not progressiv download. To test our solution please try the previews at my site www.circus-sands.com

Encoding is an importand task. Please have in mind that mp4 is like a container that could have many encodings. I would suggest to export mpg with 6000kbits from your software. Than use Avidemux (http://avidemux.berlios.de/) to encode with MPEG4/AVC, to pass, 1500kbits and AAC (Faac) with default 128k for sound. The license problem with mp4 I know. But if do you sell more than 100.000 downloads per year you can for sure buy a license.

And if do you have technical questions please feel free to ask Thomas if you are visiting us again ;-)

For videos, your size limits sound about right to me. The high quality of 500mb+ is definitely worth a short wait. I'd never stream if a better quality is downloadable.

I'm not a fan of zip files full of photos. You never want to download all of them and I'd rather browse a gallery and open up the best few. Maybe 2-3 of the best in each gallery available in very high quality?

Ask Amelia Rutherford what they do at restrained elegance - that's pretty much spot on...

Can't wait to see what you've got!

On broadband, prefer something I can play in VLC ( www.videolan.org - it's a multiplatform free player, handles avi and mp4 fine along with a boatload of others) and given the choice of formats I prefer to download the smaller one, not least because I don't tend to download them one at a time so download times are multiplied.

You can also encounter MKV format, for high definition movies, which is also supported by VLAN VLC player.

I don't know if I'm a typical user or not, but I rarely watch TV anymore and get most of my video entertainment over the Internet, so I have a broadband connection. When it comes to watching videos, I generally prefer to download rather than stream, even though my connection can usually handle any streams I come across.

So in downloading, I'm not real choosy about formats, because I can convert what I need to, but I tend to use the free Real Player, which will play .wmv, .avi, and .mp4. I'm not sure about .mov, but I have Quicktime (also free) for that.

I would suggest that because your "...software exports directly to .wmv and .mov" that you keep it simple and export to those, at least initially. You could offer a couple of quality/size choices on those and they'd be available for PC or Mac. I don't have much video experience in Linux, but I imagine something like VLC might be available for them.

Best Regards,
Quai

I agree with the file sizes.

As for video formats I'd not go for two formats: .rm und .mov.
The Real Player is not quite as widesprad as it once was, neither is Quicktime. As any piece of Apple software, QT is quite annoying in some respects, too. And there is really nothing that makes .mov a preferable format over other formats.

The positive thing about WMV is that it has a pretty good compression and almost anyone will be able to play it. Linux users will probably have the codec installed, too, or it is very simple to install.

Avi is not really a format, but just a container setting. The file contained may use various codecs, the most popular probably DivX and XVid.
XVid might be better to my mind, but some users might have to install the codec first to be able to view your files.

All in all, I'd probably go for .wmv which will be least likely to produce any problems.
Your software is able to create it directly, too, which is better than having to convert a file again (often results in problems, audio offsets etc.)

Download is definitely better than streaming. Even a mediocre video connection might mot be able to handle streams with a good quality without stuttering or pauses. Also, your server needs to be very good if it is to dish out constant on-demand-streams to a number of client at a high rate.

If your script doesn't produce thumbnails, but only resizes the pictures via HTML, loading times will just have to be slow.
Every sensible script will create thumbnails for the gallery previews to reduce loading times.
Your general picture settings are fine.
I suggest you offer both, a gallery where users can pick their favorite pictures and a zip file download options for those with less patience. This should not create a bandwidth problem these days.

Cheers
Chross

We pretty much use what you're planning to do and keep it simple for the members as I, of course, have been a member of many a website so know what I like.

We only use WMV and MP4 (MP4 is a beautiful format for clear resolution and I ran a poll on my spankingblogg a few months back to see what users wanted as playback and, surprise surprise... WMV was way ahead as so many Windows users are lazy and use the installed WM Player (which is crap). VLAN is great and my player of choice. RM format is popular with Americans and at least that format has had a better player update recently but it was a faff to edit RM WMV and MP4 so have kept it simple! We don't offer streaming as we offer shorter clips (up to a max of 100-120 Mb) as well as full sizes. I would try to avoid the 1Gb downloads for now but if you've got long long films, I'd understand and download it (eventually) :)

Photos: We have a gallery format with zips so give the members choice to choose what and how they want to download the pics and make sure it's no larger than 1600pixels wide.

I'm not a fan of streaming but if someone wants to try and stream our stuff they can but we don't offer web browser options, no one has ever asked or complained. Simplicity and ease of use/access for now is our aim as we are developing something exciting for the future but I can't say, of course...yet ;)

Oh, and please try to protect your stuff from piracy, as they will love a new site to feed off!!! I can give you some pointers on that when needed if you wanna contact me!

Thanks all for your in depth replies! This is really helpful. Sounds like WMV and MP4 are the preferred formats. I struggle to get really high quality with WMV, so I guess I'll use .MOV files to export high quality versions of the films and then convert them to .MP4.

I definitely want to offer both .zip and gallery format image sets if possible, and I'm veering towards lower resolution images for the galleries to reduce loading time, perhaps with a note saying that higher quality images are available in the zip.

I dont know why, but in some major sites when you click to save a photo from the photo galleries, you dont reach the jpg version, you get a huge bmp with no name. What you have to do then is to hit the reload button to re-open the pic - then you get the jpg. Takes some time though.
If you can avoid this, it would be nice.
I ususally dont chose the 'download gallery as a zip file' option, because they all have 99 nearly identical photo frames...

I'm glad you do not consider rm/ram formats!
I'm happy when a site turns out to have their videos in the wmv format. Why? Because it plays well in the (free) BSplayer. This player is the only one that allows adjusting the aspect ratio completely RIGHT. Other players give just a few options (like the VLC), and you may find that one gives a slightly too narrow image, the other too broad. With the BSplayer you can pull at the frame, no steps or intervals. And this is very important!! There are good sites that have formats I cant view with a correct aspect ratio.
Also the BSplayer has a one-click function to make a snapshot frame.
So please, do use wmv!
Realspankings now has an advanced site, that gives a streaming function in smaller format, that you can watch even while downloading a large file. A real luxury - I can stop the dl if I see the vid is too boring.

Assay, only just a analysis

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