Most web video uses the latest software for best results. If you're experiencing problems, check to make sure you have all the following in place:
a Fast Computer
Most computers purchased in the last three years or so should be fine; older machines may give less satisfactory results.
- the OS should be Windows XP or Vista on a PC, OSX on a Mac, or Linux
- the software player should be a recent download; you'll need:
- Win Media Player for Windows Media
- Flash Player for Adobe/Macromedia Flash Video
- Quicktime Player for Apple Quicktime videos
- Real Media Player for Real Media videos
a Fast Internet Connection
- Broadband (DSL, Cable or Satellite) is generally required at home; most campus and office networks should be fine.
- Dialup connections will be frustrating, require a lot of patience, or not work at all. If you can't use your phone when you're on the web, you probably have dialup.
Audio fine, video garbled or missing, or can't see or hear anything
Usually this means you don't have the latest version of the software player. Download the newest software, install it, restart your web browser and try again.
- for Windows Media, get the Windows Media Player
- for Quicktime, get the Quicktime Player
- for Real Media, get the Real Player
- for Flash Video, get the Adobe Flash Player
Video starts and stops, or plays haltingly
This indicates the connection isn't fast enough, or there's too much traffic on the network. Or your computer may be too old to handle that much data in real time. Sometimes it helps to pause your player and let the file download for a while, then hit play. If you're on a dialup connection, it can take eight to twelve minutes (or more) to download each minute of video, depending on the compression.
Tips by Computer Platform
The latest players are available for most Windows machines. However if you're on an old machine or not using Win XP or Vista, your computer may be too slow and short of memory for web videos to play well. You can download the latest player software to try it, but you may need a newer machine or faster connection.
The latest players are generally available for Macs as well, but if your machine is still on OS9 or older, you might have problems. Macs on OSX can play most Windows Media by downloading and installing the Windows Media Player 9 for Macs from the Microsoft site. Another option for Macs is Flip4Mac, available on the same page. Flip4Mac will play many Win Media files using the Quicktime Player. Some Win Media files will play only in one or the other player. You may want to have both available.
Real, Quicktime and mpeg usually work well. Flash and Win Media may not always work, as the newer player versions are often slow to be ported to Linux. You may want to have a look at the MPlayer website for more information on playing Win Media, the Adobe website for the Flash video player, or the Real website for Real Media.
A Note About Streaming
Many short videos are designed to download to a temp file on your hard drive, and play from there. Often you can start playing shortly after the download begins, and as long as your download is faster than the playback, everything goes well.
Longer videos can benefit from streaming, where the web server delivers the file as you need it. Your download speed must be faster than the playback, but you can quickly jump ahead, say 40 min into an hour program, without downloading the entire program. Streaming is also more susceptible to network congestion, and handshaking with the server is necessary for changes, which can result in sluggish behavior at busy times.
You won't have to worry if it's been designed for streaming or not. This just explains why some files behave differently.
A Bit on Codecs
Codecs refer to the type of compression used for the audio and video. There are several available for each of the four main file formats. You might find audio will play and video will not, because the video codec isn't loaded. Sometimes a player will download a needed codec automatically, but often you need a later version of the player. Some, like DIVX, can be downloaded manually and installed from the codec's website.
Most of the time a user shouldn't worry about codecs. Just get the latest player software you can for your platform.
Back to Video page