Choosing a Video Review Site
When I began as a production assistant, a part of my job was to send out dvd's of video productions for client to review. Today, its a link to a digital file uploaded to a cloud site, with most clients reviewing on laptops or smartphones. Reviews may have gotten easier due to format changes, but for the most part, it still involves typing in a time or timecode or highlighting the beginning and ending of phrases then pasting that all in an email to your editor, animator or producer.
Thankfully several websites have emerged that make reviewing video easier. Some sites even allow for several users to be reviewing a project simultaneously live online. I have been looking for a site for my own projects and thought I would share what I have found. First, here's my "wish list" of what I want from a video review site.
WISH LIST ITEM 1: Value
Costs can vary a lot and can be based on the number of users, amount of server space, customizing the site with your logo or if you want to use the space for reviewing other creative projects such as brochures, logos or audio selections. Costs can be per video posted or subscription based.
WISH LIST ITEM 2: Easy and fast to upload.
I need the site to upload a variety of formats and also process those uploads quickly. I pay for a fast internet which helps, but the sites servers need to be speedy as well.
WISH LIST ITEM 3: Easy and fast to review.
Most people can navigate a video player on the web nowadays. But to be able to come to a web page and immediately understand where to click, how to enter text or information or even use a digital "red pen" and then submit the information is a key component in choosing the right site. It should be easy to upload video and securely send on invitations and links to reviewers. It's equally as important that your reviewer not struggle to get the page to work and get those notes to you.
WISH LIST ITEM 4: Security
How secure is the site? Files or anything uploaded or used on the site - even client email addresses - must be secure. Bottom line: site must have a security protocol in place. It won't guarantee that a server won't be hacked but at least the service has a plan to keep your files safe from hackers.
WISH LIST ITEM 5: Archiving or downloading review notes.
I was surprised to find out that not all websites provide a way to archive project notes and reviews. Some offer cloud space (premium) and some offer an export to PDF that includes timecode and notes. Most all send emails out which you could use to archive but then that can get unwieldy when working on several projects or with several reviewers.
List of sites
This is by no means an exhaustive list and if you have a favorite be sure to list it in the comment section. What follows are a few that have impressed me for one of the reasons listed above.
Also, I could only demo the products. Some dislikes I have listed may have a solution but were not available to me because I was demoing the product. Paying customers may have slightly different views.
Vimeo announced that as part of the PRO subscription you get a video review site with unlimited reviewers, 3 "seats" and 20GB per week storage and up to 1TB per year and unlimited reviewers. It costs $240.00 annually. Vimeo has other packages dependent upon what you need. I like the simplicity of the user interface and anyone can be sent a link securely, they don't need to have a Vimeo account.
The site allows for a download of reviewers notes as a .csv file which has the information an animator or editor would need such as timecode, user, note and date added along with reply and resolved categories. You will be doing a bit of file management as there doesn't seem to be a version tracker for notes and such, so each round of revisions will mean a new upload and new review page.
The cost is right for the services I need, the security is in place (and has been for years), and it has an incredibly simple interface for reviewer and creative alike. And since Vimeo is a platform for video makers I am sure they will listen to feedback and improve the service as time goes by. For instance they recently added the ability to add time-coded notes on mobile browsers based on members' feedback.
And if you have a Vimeo subscription you can try the site for free without an elaborate sign-in or have to give a credit card number.
Pros: Really simple to implement, client doesn't need to sign in.
Cons: Sends an email for each change made, so if a reviewer has ten changes, the Vimeo user will get 10 separate emails notifying them. Haven't found a way to either turn that off or change the duration (every hour or something like that).
Wipster.io calls itself a "video collaboration and publishing platform". The site has a video review platform as well as analytics and media management platforms. For this review I am only looking at their video review tool called "Flow".
The price of Wipster's "Flow" is the same as Vimeo's review tool although you have only 15GB allowed with unlimited projects and reviewers. The collaboration is a bit slicker and you can download or print the list of reviewers comments that include a thumbnail of the shot with the notes. The review platform also allows you to view the comments on the video screen as opposed to the left of the screen...just a little less looking about to find the notes you want. When you send on the "invite to review" to a team member they will have to create a password (and remember that password) to enter the review page. That can be irritation or reassuring depending upon whether the access to the video needs to be secure.
One major difference is the integration with video software platforms such as Adobe's After Effects and Premiere. Nice to have an ability to upload and manage projects with in the program you are using. Go here to view other integrations
Pros: Slick interface, easy to use, same cost as most platforms. They send out notifications every hour. You can try the site with no credit card needed.
Cons: Client will have to sign in and create a password. They send out notifications every hour even if no changes have been made. Can't currently find a way to change the notifications.
This site has all the bells and whistles! And surprisingly is around the same price as others, (about $264 annually.) For that you get 50GB storage and only 25 collaborators (reviewers) and an unlimited number of projects.
To try the demo you can give them an email address and you are sent to a demo. If you have google mail, you will get caught up in the google mail loop and will be sent to a credit card form. Ignore it and confirm your email from the email you were sent.
As you open the review page you see thumbnails of videos that have been uploaded. Simply click on the video and you see comments and can make your own, similar to the other sites above. Sharing and distribution are easily done with dropdown menus. Your account is easily accessed under the Frame.io logo.
One feature I especially liked was when sharing you can choose if the user can download the video, create an expiration date or needs a paraphrase to sign in. Easy and clear.
Another feature available here and not on the previous two sites is the ability to draw on to the frame to emphasize parts of the frame you want changed. Click on the note and the reviewers markings are visible. They go away when you hit play. A plus for animators or video editors if color or objects are needed to be called out.
As a reviewer, you get a link to email. Once on the page and after your first click to submit a review you are asked for your email and name only. Then you can continue reviewing the project.
I did find the notifications settings and you can change the email frequency to "after every comment" or every 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 1 hour.
For archiving you can download a text only (csv, xml, txt) or you can print a list with thumbnails. They also have downloads for Final Cut and Media Composer. App integrations are available for Adobe Premiere and After Effects.
As to securing your media, Frame.io had this to report.
Pros: Fast and simple interface. Easily review or upload. Price is in line with other services. Has a drawing tool to focus on specific changes in frames. Has a free option of 1 project, 2Gb storage, 15 uploads.
Cons: Securing content is in the works but looks extensive once in place.
Screenlight also offers a free option. With a free sign up you get 1Gb storage, single project and a single user. Perfect for a solid test drive. You can upgrade to $9 dollars a month for 50 Gb total storage, 25 users and 10Gb file size limitation that increases by 10Gb as you add users.
Not as intuitive as Frame.io but still very simple to use for both the user and reviewer. At this price point I was surprised to see that the site also offered a drawing or marking tool with the player. You get to create a custom link as well as site customization, to allow for adding your logo to the review page.
When a reviewer clicks on the link you sent they arrive at the video page and can begin making notes. It isn't as intuitive as others but you quickly get the idea since there isn't much instruction on the page. With a few clicks around the page, a user can easily understand how it works.
The site states that your videos are securely encrypted during transmission and at rest. You can add additional security by setting time limits, or passwords or even track IP's.
You can download or archive your notes. You can also download an Adobe Premiere or Avid Media Composer file or print a list of comments.
Pros: Great price that includes customization of the review site, a custom link and drawing and marking tools.
Cons: If you go over the 50Gb storage you can only upgrade to an expensive Enterprise package.
Which should you choose?
This list includes only 4 of the sites currently available, but gives you a general idea of what a typical review site offers for the monthly or yearly outlay. And I have to say, this is waaay better then trying to decipher a long email with inaccurate timecodes or unclear direction.
If you know of other sites or are currently using one of the ones listed, please comment.