Sharing Your Videos

Sharing Your Videos

By: Chris Gamel

This article first appears in the 2012 Summer Issue of Currents, the quarterly publication of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA).

Once you’ve developed your story, filmed it, and spent weeks editing it into a state of perfection, what’s next?  You might have the greatest film ever produced, but if no one watches it, what is the point?  As a photographer, I know that the majority of my images will never be seen by another person because I only share my very best images.  Video, however, is a different story.  Since a completed video represents a much greater time investment than a still image, you’ll want it to be seen.  Try to formulate a clear idea about how you are going to share your work.

The process of getting your videos “out there” is called distribution.  Historically, commercial film studios controlled distribution, as they were the only ones with the budgets and connections to produce and market videos on a large scale.  When video players became mainstream, distribution got a little easier for the individual, but it is still limited to those with enough money to make it happen.

Poor distribution can spell failure for a video.  In high school, a close friend of mine decided to create and produce a movie using a few of our friends.  We decided to mimic a James Bond film.  After 18 months of hard work, an hour-long, James Bond-like film called Operation Morningside was created.  The film was shot using an 8mm camera (this was pre-digital) and edited in a professional production studio (which cost thousands of dollars).  The world premiere was held at our local high school and attended by close to 300 people.

One significant challenge was how to present the film to the student body.  Film reels cost thousands of dollars to produce and require specialty equipment to play.  My friend didn’t have that kind of money.  Instead, the film was transferred onto a VHS tape and played on a large screen TV.  The premiere was a huge success and everyone wanted a copy of the film.  Imagine their dismay when my friend told them that each copy would cost $50, a fee that wouldn’t even help him break even on the project.

There is a lesson in this story.  While my friend did an amazing job creating his film and the film was a success (largely, I believe, because of my acting skills), the project died because the distribution plan was unrealistic.  High school students in 1991 were not going to pay $50 for a movie, no matter how much they liked it.  Note: Some day I believe Operation Morningside will be a collector’s item, mainly because there are only two copies in existence.


Here is the good news; the world has changed.  The availability of computer-based video editing and the Internet has turned the world of distribution on its head.  Today there are many different avenues for sharing your completed video projects.

One of the easiest ways to view videos is on a computer.  Most computers are able to play a wide variety of video formats.  Add a comfortable chair and decent monitor and it can be a pleasant way for one or two people to spend their time.  The problem comes when you want to expand your audience.  Unless you walk around with a laptop under your arm, sharing videos on your computer is limited to individuals you are willing to invite into your home.


While most people don’t walk around with a laptop, smartphones and tablets are fairly common nowadays.  Most mobile devices are able to upload videos from a computer and play them.  In the case of the iPhone and iPad, it is as simple as importing a video into iTunes and pressing the synch button.  Other manufacturers offer similar capabilities.

If you want to view your videos on your TV and take advantage of “surround sound” and HD technology, connect a laptop directly to your TV.  Alternatively, you can purchase a streaming device (e.g., Boxee, WD TV Live box, or Apple TV) which lets you upload videos from your computer and display them on the TV.  For sharing videos on someone else’s TV, creating a DVD is still the easiest method.  Many computers come with DVD creation software.  For higher quality and greater control, Toast, DVD Movie Factory Pro, and DVD Architect Studio are good options.


While smartphones, tablets, and DVDs are all helpful video-viewing accessories, the Internet takes distribution to a whole new level.  Uploading videos to a website greatly expands your potential audience.  Anyone who visits the site can view your video.  The only limitation is your skill at drawing people to your website or your particular video on a video-focused social networking site such as YouTube or Vimeo.


YouTube is the 800-pound gorilla of the video world.  If your goal is to have your video seen by as many people as possible, YouTube is where you want to be.  YouTube is the world’s top online destination for videos, with hundreds of millions of users uploading 48 hours of video content every minute!  It offers an energetic audience that comes for one purpose: to watch videos.  YouTube offers free HD hosting and search engine optimization (remember to check those options) and is a great distribution tool.  Best of all, creating an account and uploading videos on YouTube is free.

Given YouTube’s advantages, why wouldn’t you want to upload your videos there?  The short answer is professionalism.  With more than eight years worth of video content--and more being uploaded daily--viewers need to wade through a great deal of junk before they get to the quality videos.  Most people do not visit YouTube to see quality films.  Their expectations are in the realm of home movies.  If your goal it to produce high-quality films and be recognized as a quality producer, consider uploading your videos to Vimeo.


Vimeo is a smaller social network (eight million registered users) that not only encourages the posting of high quality, creative videos, but also includes a highly supportive video community that acts as a great resource if you want to improve your skills.  Vimeo has a nicer presentation, and unlike YouTube, there’s no need to worry about inappropriate “related video” suggestions being associated with your videos.  The downside to Vimeo is that the site does not permit commercial videos.


What options do you have to sell your video?  Let’s face it; we would all like to make money for our efforts.  While you can always offer direct sales through your website (using either DVDs or direct downloads), it might be worthwhile to investigate the seller options available through sites such as Amazon Marketplace and take advantage of the millions of dollars they have invested in marketing and infrastructure.

What is the right distribution channel for you?  It very much depends on your goals and intended audience.  Are you trying to watch videos in your home?  Share videos with your friends?  Develop an online following?  Or, do you want to sell your videos as part of a business?  Your answers to these questions will help guide you as you explore the world of video distribution.