Saturday, May 18, 2013

Video Bandwidth Definition and Considerations

Understanding bandwidth is a part of the process of creating web video. Now granted, with Smartphones, direct mobile upload services and Apps like Vine thinking about bandwidth may not be relevant.

Then again, you could find yourself in a hotel room or cousin’s Mickey bedroom with a slow connection and you have a video that you have to transmit using a less than speedy connection.

So to kick this off proper I think a definition post is in order.  I am going for simplicity. Clarity. Conceptual understanding.

What Is This Bandwidth That You Speak Of?

Bandwidth is the amount of data that can move between connection points on a network in a certain amount of time. Depending on your Internet connection speed you might be restricted to a specific amount of data that you can send and received.

On a computer/Internet network that speed is measured as bits per second.

For example, on a 56k modem it takes much longer to move data from one connection point to another. On a T3 line it happens in a blink of an eye. Video has more data than a text file or a web page.

The more bandwidth you have the faster the video can make the connection to the desired location. I now hereby invoke the Tubes comparison

The imaginary tubes of the Internet

If the data that makes up the video is small it can pass through a 56k connection in a reasonable amount of time. If it is a 50MB that is being transmitted via a 56k modem the data has to be broken up into small packets, pushed down the line and then re-assembled at the data location.

In a perfect world this would take a lot time. Things are not perfect. You have your anti-virus/malware program checking in, your email alerts wanting attention, and iTunes trying to update itself again. Or you have a bad phone line/Internet connection.

And it isn't just one pathway; it is a network of other users sending and receiving data. Billings of data files zipping from one point to another.

It Not Just About You

The person or service receiving your video is going to have issues as well. Sending a large file to a user that has limited connections speeds or data access plan is not helpful. They can’t even download it to see it.

Some e-mail programs and services have restrictions on the size of the e-mail or data file that can be sent to a user. You could send it to a cloud service but the user could still struggle with waiting for the video to buffer enough to play.

The Balance Act

After you finish creating your video you are going to compress it to a particular video size and format. That could alter how the video looks. Can't make it too small, too big or compress so much that the video is hard on the eyes to watch.
I think an awareness of how bandwidth can affect potential viewers of your video is a good thing. I think we as creators can make design or compositional choices that would not only improve the video but could shave a megabit or two off the video.

Does it really need to be in stereo?
How many transitions/effects do you need?
Can I find the sweet spot that balances all of the various users and delivery method?

This was more of an issue in the early days of web video but people have gotten sloppy and complacent. With the growth of mobile media and inexpensive tablets we might want to revisit how best to compose a video for multiple viewers.

Other Posts of Interest

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