Seeking Advice: How Does Our Video Play?

By Hugh Powell
November 14, 2008
Give us your feedback on our video Give us your feedback on our video.

While I’ve been out cavorting with Green Jays, the web developers and multimedia team back at the Lab have been hard at work. They’ve created a stirring video about what it means to be a member of the Lab, just in time for birdy Web surfers to send gift memberships to their families.

New self-paced course: Learn How to Identify Bird Songs, Click to Learn More

There’s just one catch: the video is large and pretty. We’re concerned that posting it at high (i.e., most beautiful) quality might tax some of the older computers out there. As Alex puts it, we need to decide how much data compression to use – with more compression meaning faster loading, but grainier pictures.

So we thought we’d ask you. Round Robin readers have been so helpful in the past with comments and ideas that we’re turning to you again. If you can spare three minutes, could you please watch two versions of this video, then take the quick polls below to let us know how they played?

First off, watch this version:

(This poll is now closed.)

Now, watch this version. It’s the same video and same size, but it plays at a different quality. How does it look?

(This poll is now closed.)

Please leave any other thoughts in the Comments section below.

Cross our hearts – this is not some crafty ploy to get you to watch our membership video (though you are welcome to join if you’re not already a member). I would like to thank all our readers for following along with Round Robin and for adding your own voices and suggestions to help us improve.

In case readers wonder about our focus on membership: We’re a nonprofit organization that gets little financial support from Cornell University. Instead, we rely on memberships, donations, and research grants. So while we’re hard at work on research, conservation, and improving our web resources, it’s also vital for us to put effort into membership. Thanks for helping.


  • With a 20-30 megabit/sec connection, both videos play fine (although the first jumps a tiny bit at the start) and the second is a bit more grainy.

    As long as you never EVER have to install anything to play the video!!

    (Viewed in Safari browser)

  • Runaround

    Both loaded quickly on my broadband connection. The first looked better but had a couple of little jerks in the first 20 seconds. The second looked worse but ran smoothly.

    Using Safari on my Macbook.

  • The first film is better quality than thye second, and the video is spectacular!

  • As Birdfreak and Runaround have said,

    the first looks a bit better but jerked quite a bit (with Broadband). The second looked almost as good but without the annoying jerks.

    Uh…guess I could have worded that better. :)

  • I ran both of them simultaneously on a fast connection and didn’t experience any stuttering. The first appeared smoother to me, with fewer distortions around complex elements (like the flock of shorebirds shot). I enjoyed voting, but have been unable to look at the results–is this a bug with the polling software?

  • Hugh

    Hi Sitta – it’s not a bug in the polling software. I just made the results private thinking readers wouldn’t be as interested in these results as they might be in a more typical blog poll (such as, say, your favorite flavor of ice cream or cutest kind of baby animal).

    I guess the software does have a small bug in that it still offers you a link to view the results even though that’s not really an option.

    I’ll take requests though: how many people want to view the results? If enough of you do, I’ll enable that feature.

    Maybe I should run another poll…

  • Amy

    I’ve answered the poll, but just wanted to let you know I thought the video was fantastic either way. Beautiful shots all around.

  • The first one was slow to load and kept stuttering during playback; the second had no delay in loading, and no stuttering, but the image quality was slightly degraded, mostly on images where there was movement of the camera (panning or zooming).

    I’m watching on a Dell laptop, using Firefox on a 760K broadband connection.

    Either way, I enjoyed the content, and would be convinced to join if I weren’t already a member.

  • Royce

    The first was slightly clearer, but stuttered frequently, and the second stuttered occasionally. I have a Dell with Vista and DSL connection. Fantastic video either way, and I watched it even though I just became a member. Hope it gets results!

  • Robinsegg

    Not a huge difference between two, although the first was beautiful the second more youtublike. Great production.

    Viewed on a duo-core PC with broadband connection.

  • Janet Maynard

    Good video. I also had delay in loading with frequent jumps. I replayed it, and it was fine. The survey samples are both good. If you are not real fussy about what you see, the second one is still quite good. I am using a Micron computer on DSL and using XP.

  • Hugh

    In just a week, we’ve had 86 people vote in the video poll.

    Thanks to your comments, we’ve decided to use the slightly lower quality, faster-loading video in our membership campaign so the maximum number of people are able to see the movie.

    In case any of you are, like Sitta, curious about the poll results, here you go: Just under 50% of people said they couldn’t tell a difference between the two videos. About 35% reported some version of “the second one looks a bit worse but plays a bit better.” About 10% said neither video played well, and 5% said the second video both looked and played better.

    Thanks to everyone who took the time to watch the videos, vote, and comment!

  • JW

    Both were jerky over my university’s open wifi. Would probably be fine from home where I have broadband.

  • Shauna Bowers

    I honestly couldn’t tell the difference except that the second one had a bit of a glitch the first time I played it. I actually opened up both sites and had the videos place simultaneously and STILL couldn’t tell the difference.

  • Bird World Blog

    The video is very well made.

Seeking Advice: How Does Our Video Play?