I've been trying to get video to play on this site for a long time. Not just YouTube videos... using their embed codes is simple and works like a charm here, just like it does everywhere else.
The problem I was having was trying to get my own videos to play on this site. Hosting them on YouTube wasn't possible, since they only accept videos ten minutes in length. My movie System Failure and my two documentaries were all longer than that.
(My recommendation is at the bottom of this review if you just want to cut to the chase... my choice, and especially my reasons for writing this review might surprise you.)
So, no free video hosting... I could have used some other free video hosting service, but that was what I was trying to get away from... using a free service means I have no control over my intellectual property, and they get to make all the money from it. Not the solution I was looking for.
I tried all the video players you can get free at WordPress.org, and without exception, none of them worked. The trouble is that free is often worth exactly what you pay for it when it comes to support issues and that was true in this case as well.
When I tried asking developers what they might think was the problem... if I got an answer at all it was "Not my plugin's issue" and that was the end of it.
Needless to say, I won't be addressing any of the free options here. While you may have great success with them, I did not.
As with alot of specialized products, they all looked really good. Sales pages are like that, aren't they!
The downside, naturally, was that they all cost money, and in some cases a LOT of it. But, since I was getting nowhere fast solving this problem on my own, it was time to ask myself one simple question:
What is my time worth?
I could continue to waste my time trying to figure out a solution to this on my own, or I could get some professional help. Since I'd already spent literally 7 days of my time trying to solve this problem myself, I'd obviously already invested far more in getting nowhere than even the most expensive of these solutions would cost.
Now, I'm no dummy when it comes to computers or video. I've developed software for Windows for over 15 years, and have created three documentaries and more short films than I can count. So I know quite a lot about computers, and quite a lot about creating video.
What I didn't know anything about was how to make video available on a website or online media players in general. That was the one downside to having relied on YouTube for content deliver. Sure, it's free, but when you need a professional solution, you've got no idea where to start. Let me rephrase that: *I* had no idea where to start.
That's the thing about problem solving though isn't it? If you don't know where to start, if you don't know the correct questions to ask, you're simply not going to get anywhere.
And this was my predicament. Clearly I didn't know the right questions to ask or I'd have solved this problem a long time ago!
So I began my examination of my paid video player options to see what I was in for. Here are my results, in alphabetical order. My recommendation and reasons for the product I finally purchased are at the end of this review.
Price: $40 for WordPress version, $60 for Joomla version
From the information on their site, they have a standard video player and focus on the protection of your Amazon S3-hosted media. Since this was one of the main factors in my decision-making, I gave CdnVault a serious look. At its price-point it's certainly a good deal.
I wasn't able to find out much about their actual implementation of the video player though, which led me to seek out other solutions.
Price: $127 plus $77 for 2-player commercial license
This product is aimed primarily at the internet marketing crowd and looks pretty spectacular. You have the ability to add overlays to your videos, and quite a few other tools designed to make creating video sites easier and more accessible.
The ability to add "buy now" buttons and email opt-in forms directly inside the player is a pretty strong incentive for the marketing crowd. If that's your game, then this player is the hands-down winner, all other things being equal.
They have a very slick sales presentation and use the names of some of the biggest players in the internet marketing game to validate their product. It's an effective presentation.
If you're an internet marketer, the ability to add buy buttons and opt-in forms to your video are powerful options and make Easy Video Player a contender.
Price: $20/month personal use, $40/month professional use
EZS3 has received a lot of good press, so I started there. They focus on easy of use as their main selling feature, and from what I can see prior to purchasing a membership is they have a lot of players available too.
If you're not technically-minded, this might be a good option for you as they make handling of video player and S3 storage easy, hence their name.
It was the ongoing monthly fees that stopped me from choosing them, because if I stopped paying the monthly dues, all my media stops working instantly.
Price: $97.00 for a lifetime license.
The owners of S3 Flowshield focus on bandwidth security, or bandwidth theft if you will, as the big selling point for their product. That was what initially caught my eye about this product. It allowed me to solve the S3 Problem.
The usual way people are told how to use S3 is to "make everything accessible to everyone". While that works, it can cause you to pay for someone else's bandwidth.
How? Imagine you host a video on your site that is 250 megs in size. If someone else links that video from your S34 account to their website, you're essentially paying for all their traffic to access your video. That can get very expensive. They've got a good video explaining all this on their website, which I recommend you watch if you're planning on, or are already using Amazon S3 for your media files.
A very impressive player that allows you to embed video into your site, like you'd do with a YouTube video, plus the ability to create an "overlay video"... essentially a light-box window that plays your video and restricts access to the underlying web page while the video is playing.
I liked this feature because it allowed to "force" my viewers to focus on my video, not start it to play and then wander off to some other website.
But the thing that ultimately was the decision-maker was the ability to redirect my viewer to another webpage when the video finished playing.
- No ability to add an email opt-in form
- No ability to add "buy now" buttons to the player
Both of these are pretty important for the internet marketing crowd, which seems to just keep growing. Had these been my primary requirements (after S3 integration, of course) then I'd have chosen Easy Video Player without hesitation.
Price: Only $147 one-time fee - $10/month for continued music & tutorials
Mike Stewart makes a good pitch for his product and continuity site for royalty-free music, tutorials and themes. Since I already have a ton of royalty-free music and tutorials, that pitch didn't resonate with me as well as it might for someone who is in need of those products.
So while his player sounded good, it was more expensive than other options, without providing the additional benefits (for me) that would cause me to choose his solution.
I purchased a license for S3 Flowshield based on the following:
1. First in my mind was that there were no monthly charges. Personally, I didn't see the benefit of a monthly fee for a video player. Obviously that's not the only view to take, since EZS3 and S3 Media Player are pretty popular solutions.
2. S3 Flowshield allowed me to add a link to the embed code to redirect my viewers to another page. This was actually the deciding factor for me over the less expensive CdnVault S3 Plugin for WordPress. It was well worth the extra money for this option alone.
3. S3 Flowshield focused on how to protect the content of my Amazon S3 account with detailed and specific information on how easy it is for others to steal bandwidth that I have to pay for if I followed the "standard advice" of how to set up video or downloads on S3. For me, this benefit was the one that resonated with me, and is what caused me to look at them as an option in the first place.
Now, that was the answer to WHY S3 Flowshield was my choice. Now let me tell you why it's the reason I'm writing this review:
S3 Flowshield's customer service.
It is, in a word, exceptional.
Needless to say, I was incredibly disappointed when I installed and I still couldn't play video on my site. For a moment I figured I'd just tossed away $97... the upside was that if it didn't work I still could get a refund.
The thing is... I didn't want a refund... What I wanted was to be able to play video from my site using my Amazon S3 account.
My frustration came from the fact that I visited websites daily that had this working. It just couldn't that difficult!
So I went back to http://s3flowshield.com and clicked on the big "support" link at the top right of the page and opened a support ticket.
I got a response back within a couple of hours from Wil, one of the creators of the product. Wil was extremely pleasant right from the start and was confident we'd solve the problem in no time. His pleasant demeanor carried on undaunted for four solid days as he tried to figure out what was going on with my website. He'd ask me for information, or ask me to try something... I'd give him the information, do as he requested and report the results.
Finally even he was stumped. He wrote me asking for admin access to my blog and ftp access to the site so he could try some additional thing in his attempt to find the source of the problem.
He wrote a small plugin to test shortcodes on my site. That led him to discover WHAT the problem was. Some installed plugin on my site appeared to be stripping shortcodes from my blog.
It was the classiness of his response that really impressed me, however.
This is not an S3FlowShield issue. I disabled S3FlowShield and when the plugin is disabled, the actual shortcode should show up on the page...yet nothing is showing up.
I then wrote another super simple test plugin and installed it. It's called WP Test Shortcode. All it does is add a new shortcode called [TESTSHORTCODE] that when placed on the page or post gets replaced with "This is a test shortcode result"
As you can see, I have added the shortcode to that page and still nothing shows up.
There must be some plugin causing shortcodes to be stripped. I would start turning off one plugin at a time and seeing what makes a difference.
Until you can get the WP Test Shortcode plugin to work, S3FlowShield is not going to do anything as it's shortcodes won;t be interpreted either.
When you are done testing, feel free to delete the WP Test Shortcode plugin. As I said, it is super simple and just does a text insert to verify shortcodes are being processed.
What can I say?
This guy is a class act.
Not only did he spend DAYS trying to solve my problem, he went, in my estimation, way above and beyond the call trying to solve my problem. That's a lot of dedication to solving an issue for a customer who's only paid you $97 in the first place, with no possible up-sell. I already owned the full product.
You see, it's not just that Wil spent the time to find out what the problem was... the result was the same as what the rude guy from one of the free plugins said... "not my plugin's problem". It's how Wil delivered that message... by offering an explanation and a course of action for solving the problem.
It's not Wil's job to figure out which plugin was causing the problem. His job ended the second he discovered that it wasn't his product at fault.
But let me tell you... anyone handling a customer service issue the way Wil did with me... let's just say he's guaranteed himself a champion of his product for life.
Which is, I'd bet, was why he was willing to spend four days of his time to solve a $97 problem.
Thank you Wil!