With the increasing value of video in online marketing, and important changes in the playing field for video, managing video content assets effectively at your company has terrific payoff. We’ve had >50,000 videos online and available, and I think some of these lessons learned are worth sharing.
Managing Video Content Successfully Means Addressing Many Components, AKA Assets
“A video” is really many assets, because there are more assets in a video than just the moving frames. Images, audio, spoken words and timing each have their own separate value. The production process can also spin off individual images and artwork; these are likewise assets.
Like most digital assets, making copies is easy but keeping track is hard. (We’ve had clients pay 5 figures for a video, then contact us a year later asking if we still have a copy because they lost it. No joke.)
Managing all of these assets for maximum value is, first and foremost, a matter of recognizing that the video file does not contain all of these pieces. You can’t just chuck an MP4 (compressed video) file into a folder, and then assume that all the parts can magically be extracted.
10 Important Assets in Managing Video Content
So what do you do? Succinctly, keep the high-quality pieces in an organized way. Let me break that down, piece-by-piece.
1. Words (Scripts)
Any script for voiceover or recording is its own asset, so save it! You may need it for re-takes or revisions, or legal review. The written script is also a great money-saver for video captions.
2. Timing & Captions
It’s more and more common for online video to have captions. Note that a video with captions tends to have more SEO “juice,” and one video can carry captions in multiple languages. If you invest in captions in one language – in English let’s say – the timing record can be re-used with captions from other languages. (It’s far cheaper to pay for good translation of the caption file than re-transcription of the video!) So save the caption files.
If you’re contracting for video that involves artwork, negotiate for the artwork in digital form near the end – don’t wait until production is finished. Specify vector artif possible. You can’t enlarge a fuzzy little JPG image into a big PowerPoint slide, but you cantransform an Illustrator or PDF vector into any size. Save it.
Rights can get complicated, but as with artwork, have the discussion up front about retaining copies of the audio, especially voiceover. (VO artists will frequently charge a full session fee for a 1-minute fix – an editor with the right raw material may be able to bypass that.)
5. Video Masters
Online video compresses by saving the differences between frames, not each frame. “A frame” of video is an algorithmic reconstruction, so it will never look as clear as the original. It’s worth discussing the cost of uncompressed masters. If you get them, save them.
6. Online Video Files
Conversely, if you get compressed-for-online copies of video (formats like MPEG-4/.mp4 and Quicktime/.mov are common), save them! The big social media networks have recently changed requirements. You can’t upload a video once to YouTube or Wistia, then “embed” that single copy everywhere. Instead, the big networks require that you upload the file to their platform. You will need that MP4 file again.
7. Video Thumbnail(s)
“Thumbnails” are the still images that represent a video beforeit is played. Thumbnails are to video what subject lines are to email; a good one means more plays. Thumbnail images should be tested, and the best ones should be saved.
8. Call-to-Action Images
Some marketing-focused video hosts allow still graphics to be overlaid on the video. These call-to-action graphics can be invaluable – save them.
9. URLs and IDs
It’s easy to miss this one, but it’s absolutely worth being methodical about notmissing it. Every video uploaded to a video host or social network gets some sort of unique ID on that system.
- YouTube – 11-character alpha+number IDs, like 9fB0GBwJ2QA
- Facebook – 16-digit numerical ID, like 1420951021364573
- Wistia – 10-character ID, like 76baezk1y3
- Vidyard – 22-character ID, like bpF3rCsP5jeADtrU2ZXTUV
These IDs are typically the key element in web-page URLs for hosted videos, and “embed codes” for playing the video on other sites.
PRO TIP: YouTube and Facebook don’t allow changing the video content assigned to an ID. Once it’s uploaded, that’s it. You can upload a new copy, but it gets a new ID.
10. Embed Codes
PRO TIP: You can frequently just swap the ID in an embed code to get a different video in the same player configuration.
How to Manage That…
That list means at least 10 different assets for each video, but that’s mainly an organization challenge, not a storage-cost challenge. Files and folders are a good first-step solution. You might declare that every video gets its own folder on your company cloud storage, with consistent subfolders for art, audio, captions and so on. (There are probably dedicated systems for companies that manage this for zillions of assets, but I’m a pragmatist!)
Over time, we’ve become more and more methodical about keeping track of the data involved in these assets. We name the file pieces by ID rather than function; “0001.jpg” in /thumbnails matches “0001.mp4” in /uploadready. That enables batch files and API calls instead of manual operations.
Today’s fuss and busywork is tomorrow’s so-happy-I-bothered solution. We’ve learned the hard way that these pieces may offer surprising standalone value. Original, impactful artwork is dynamite in presentations, and a fantastic website asset. Captions are SEO magnets, and additional languages equals additional customers in the long run, and so on.
Put Managing Video Content into Practice Starting Now
The underlying philosophy is really this: the valuable creative work has been done. Why throw it away to save a few extra steps organizing and copying? Don’t fall for the assumption that you can pull everything out of that highly-squeezed video file, or screen-shot your own YouTube uploads later. The quality won’t cut it. Save it today, and your ROI from that video project will go up and up over time.
How are you managing and organizing video assets? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!