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Computing Thoughts
Brightcove vs. YouTube
by Bruce Eckel
June 23, 2008
I recently had to figure out how to post some videos of locally-written 10-minute plays (including my own) and ran into YouTube's 10-minute limit.


My friend Jeremy Meyer pointed out that YouTube's 10-minute limit is, in general, a good thing, because it keeps people from going on for too long. But the plays take what they take, and some run over 10 minutes -- mine did.

I should explain. Crested Butte, Colorado, is a fairly artistic community and has an active theatre group -- the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre, which I've been participating in for the last few years (I'm playing "Rapunzel's Prince" in the "Into the Woods" which opens this week). Each year they have 10-minute plays written by local authors, and I've been writing these for the last three years. It's a good place to struggle with the issues of fiction writing, dialog, and seeing the way your words end up seeming to an audience.

Also, I bought a good camera for capturing seminars and so I've become the defacto cinematographer for the Mountain Theatre. Not that I'm an expert with everything the camera does; I've mostly just learned enough to do the job.

Every year there's a theme; this year it was "in the kitchen." My play is about a creature from another dimension who hangs around the kitchen and gets involved in the lives of a couple of people. You can see it here. (The aspect ratio is because of the HD camera which has a widescreen format. I'm not sure if I can change that on the camera.)

When I went to try to figure out how to publish it on the web, naturally I looked at YouTube. The first problem was that, even though the play was 10 minutes in rehearsal, it was 11.5 minutes in production. Of course I could break it in two, but that seemed awkward so I hesitated.

A bigger problem is that YouTube processes your video into its own format on its servers, and there's a 1 GB upload limit. The highest quality I could produce was bigger than 1Gb, even split in half. Which meant I had to introduce losses to generate a lower-quality, smaller video. These losses would then be amplified when the video was re-processed on YouTube's servers; also, I believe that different algorithms can interfere with each other in ways that can make the result dramatically worse. There doesn't seem to be much guidance about this on YouTube so I was faced with a lot of experimentation to figure out which algorithms might work best.

Brightcove, on the other hand, gives you so much structure it can even seem rigid, but you at least know what to do. There is no 10-minute limit (although I haven't seen what the upper limit is). Best of all, they have their "PublishPod" which downloads to your local machine, processes your video directly from a number of raw formats into Flash Video (.flv) format, and uploads it. So you don't have to worry about size or what pre-processing algorithm to use as you do with YouTube.

I'm new to this so I don't know how Brightcove compares in other areas, or what other competing services there are out there, but my first impression has been quite positive.

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About the Blogger

Bruce Eckel ( provides development assistance in Python with user interfaces in Flex. He is the author of Thinking in Java (Prentice-Hall, 1998, 2nd Edition, 2000, 3rd Edition, 2003, 4th Edition, 2005), the Hands-On Java Seminar CD ROM (available on the Web site), Thinking in C++ (PH 1995; 2nd edition 2000, Volume 2 with Chuck Allison, 2003), C++ Inside & Out (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1993), among others. He's given hundreds of presentations throughout the world, published over 150 articles in numerous magazines, was a founding member of the ANSI/ISO C++ committee and speaks regularly at conferences.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2008 Bruce Eckel. All rights reserved.

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