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vzaar – Player API

The other week I wrote a little bit about our REST API. This week it seemed only fair to fill in the other side of the puzzle and tell you all about our player API.

The player API is a front-end, JavaScript, API, which allows you to communicate with and manipulate the vzaar player. It allows you to integrate the player deeply into your webpages and make the two interact. Effectively, it helps to break down the barrier between your videos and the rest of the content on your webpage.

What does it do?

The API itself can achieve all manner of awesome things. To start with let’s take a look at some of the great examples, which are already out there.

Chaptering
The API includes a `seekTo` function, which can be used to reach a particular point in any given video. String a few uses of this function together and you’ve essentially put together a set of chapters. This is great, as it means viewers can easily skip to sections that are particularly relevant for them.


Here’s an example, which we put it together for another blog post, last summer. It uses our jQuery library to quickly add chapters to a video. The library itself provides styling for the chapters and does all the heavy lifting, so all you need to do is plug everything together and tell it where your chapters should go. You can instructions for doing that in the library’s readme file.
Bookmarking
Another neat trick, which you can see in the jQuery library, is video bookmarking. This is essentially another use for the API’s `seekTo` function. This time, rather than using the `seekTo` function on click, we’re saving a time in a cookie and then seeking to that time when the page is played again. Essentially remembering where the user left off. It’s a great trick for lectures, longer productions, weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Here’s an example of it in action. Pretty awesome, no? Well, once again it’s a cinch to set up. Check out the jQuery library’s readme file to see how.
Quizzes
Of course, the fun doesn’t stop with the jQuery library. That’s just one thing, which was built on top of the player API. The beautiful thing about the API is that it offers a simple set of methods for interacting with the player. Using those you have every resource you’ll need to integrate your own code with the player.

Here’s a good example. Last year I put together a blog on using the API to add interactive quizzes to the player. The result is a quiz which essentially appears to be a part of the player itself. However, let’s take a step back here. Most of the code this utilises controls the quiz itself. To hook everything together, it just needs the player to do a few simple things.
  1. tell it where the video’s played up to, so it knows when to show the questions
  2. pause the video when a question is displayed
  3. play the video again when the question is answered
  4. let the quiz know when the video’s ended, so it can show the score
You see? Each piece of that information is vital to the process. They’re all simple interactions but without them the quiz wouldn’t be able to do what it does. It’s amazing how a few little bits of integration can quickly allow you to build something pretty cool.
A myriad of video loading tricks
Continuing on that theme, just before Christmas I put together a little (slightly daft) compendia of uses for the API’s `loadVideo` function. The `loadVideo` function is one of those great little tools, which quickly proves itself to be invaluable. Quite simply, it will let you load another video into the player.

Now, at first glance, that may seem like mundane task. However, it can be used to build all manner of things. In the blog I looked at changing the video depending on the viewer’s device, their screen orientation, or after a button click. The idea of loading different videos depending on the context, just seemed really cool to me. As for the button clicks, that’s a little more ordinary (there’s a video below showing it in action). However, making the player change videos on a click is only a few steps away from building your own custom playlist. Something that’s very achievable with the API.


Taking your first steps with the player API

Ok, so that’s what you can do but where do you start?

If you have a little JavaScript experience, setting up the player API is quick and easy. The heavy-lifting of communicating with both our Flash and HTML5 players is handled by a JavaScript library, which we’ve already written.

To get everything up and running all you need to do is link the library into your HTML document’s head and create a new instance of the library’s vzPlayer object. After the player object’s been instantiated, interacting with is just a matter of calling the library’s pre-defined functions. For instance, if everything’s set-up correctly, playPause() will play or pause the video. Link that up to a button and you’ve taken the first step towards building your own set of controls.

There’s some great documentation, outlining the process for setting up the API in more detail and listing all it’s functions, which you can find here. It should help to get you off to a flying start and naturally, if you run into any problems, our support team are here to help.

If you’d like to learn more about the vzaar API check out the page here, or drop us a line – always very happy to help with any video projects.

Happy coding and stay awesome!

Categories Tech, vzaar updates
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We’ve always had Mail Catcher (well, for a pretty long time anyway). But it just got a whole load better. You can now send viewer email addresses to your own custom API (hurrah!)

What is Mail Catcher?

In a nutshell, Mail Catcher allows you to capture your viewers email addresses. You can add an email capture form either at the beginning, end or during your video. It basically turns your video into a powerful lead generation tool, meaning you can reach out to people who are actively interested in your product/services to develop your relationship with them further. It’s a fantastic way to stay in touch with your audience.

Mail Catcher then sends the email addresses to either MailChimp, Aweber or Google Drive. PLUS you can now send to your own custom API too. The video (above) gives step by step instructions.

This brings a ton more flexibility – because you can choose to send your data to your own database. Once you’ve got it – you can do with it as you will. Perhaps you’re using a custom set up, or an alternative email provider, a la online media company Pink Pepper Media:

kevin-van-der-straeten“We use a custom build CMS/mailserver platform. As a media company our mailing database is the center of our business. Being able to capture valuable opt-ins directly in our database, even when our videos are embedded on other sites is important.” – Kevin Van der Straten, MD & Founder, Pink Pepper Media.

We intro’d the new functionality direct from a request from one of our existing clients (see, we really do listen to you guys :p). We’re constantly reviewing our platform to make sure we’re bringing you the best possible service we can, and we’re always open to any feedback. Drop us a line if you’d like to discuss any of your requirements – always happy to help!

Categories vzaar updates
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vzaar Support teamMaybe you’re looking for a new video hosting and delivery service and you have some questions to help you in your evaluation?

Maybe you’re a new customer uploading a large number of videos to our service so that you can get those videos playing on your website and in front of your viewers?

Maybe you’ve been with us a while and you’d like to discuss a new feature or how we can help you as your video needs evolve? Maybe you just stumbled across vzaar and you have no idea what we do!

Regardless of who you are and what your question is, the vzaar support team is here to help.

What’s the best way to get hold of us?

There are many ways to contact us for support:

Phone

For some questions – and for many people – there is no substitute for a knowledgable technician on the end of the phone. A phone call gets you an immediate, personal response that’s interactive and secure. There’s also no restriction on the length of the message. We might answer your question in a moment or need to do some troubleshooting which can take a little longer.

You can call vzaar directly in the UK on +44 20 7820 6280 or at +1 877 831 7110 between the hours of 9am GMT (4am Eastern) and 6pm Pacific (9pm Eastern). That’s a 17-hour window each day when you can talk to a real person and get help.

Live Chat

Some questions are more easily answered – and some can only be solved – while you’re at your computer. For that reason, we have Live Chat on our website on all pages at vzaar.com:

Video_Hosting_For_Business

Just click the tab and one of our video experts will be right with you. Live Chat is a great channel because it makes sending links (e.g. to specific videos, or pages on your website) easy and error free (if you’ve ever spent 5 minutes trying to read a website URL over the phone to somebody, you’ll know what a boon this is).

Live Chat is online during the same hours as our phones. If you visit our site and you don’t see that tab, we may have taken it down for maintenance or we may be experiencing a spike in chats and our support technicians are at capacity. It’s usually back online, in either case, within 5 or 10 minutes.

Help ticket

If your question is less urgent in nature – you don’t need immediate help – or if it’s more involved and you’d like to write it up in detail, then consider opening a help ticket by clicking the “support” link at vzaar.com:

Video_Hosting_For_Business

You can also go directly there by bookmarking https://vzaar.com/help/.

On that page, click the “start a discussion” button. Then give us a little information about yourself and your query, and submit the ticket by clicking “create” and following the prompts. If your question concerns security or if you just would prefer that other vzaar customers don’t read it, check the box to make the discussion private:

Example of discussion form

The help ticket system is also a useful option if you need to attach files to your question.

The ticket system has an advantage over phone and chat as it’s available 24-hours a day. Response time for a help ticket can be very short – it’s typically measured in minutes. In 2014, 75% of all help tickets received a response in less than 4 hours.

Time to resolution can vary obviously, depending on the nature of the specific question, but most issues are satisfactorily resolved quickly – the vast majority of tickets are fully resolved within one business day.

Email

Traditional email is a good choice for many people as it makes support enquiries easy to manage as part of your regular workflow. Again, you can compose your questions – or in the case of a pre-sales enquiry, your list of requirements – at your own pace and can work through the response in your own time.

Support emails can be sent to: support@vzaar.com

Contact form

Perhaps the fastest, simplest way to send us a question. You can find the contact form at: https://vzaar.com/contact

Twitter

The 140-character limit on a Tweet can make asking a question hard, but not impossible, If Twitter is your preferred channel of communication, you can get hold of us there too. On Twitter, we are: @vzaar

Blog

We regularly update our blog with informative and, we hope, interesting articles: http://vzaar.com/blog/

At the end of each blog article, there’s a section for comments – it’s the best way to get help with specific issues covered by that article.

What do we need to know to help you?

There are many approaches to problem solving but most, if not all, will start by identifying the problem. It’s hard to solve a problem if we don’t know what the problem is!

At this early stage, a few simple but key pieces of information will go a long way to helping us to identify and work towards a solution:

Which video is having the problem?

We’re a video hosting company so many of the questions we answer are about specific videos. Before you contact us it will help to make a note of the specific video about which you’re asking. The easiest way to give us that information is to just paste in the address of the video ‘manage’ page on http://app.vzaar.com (the ‘manage’ page is the page where you manage the settings for that specific video):

video_-_Butterfly___vzaar_com

The address will always be: https://app.vzaar.com/videos/xxxxxxx where xxxxxxx is the unique vzaar video ID.

If the video is embedded in a page in your own website, it’s even more helpful for us to see the video in the page and begin there. The address of the page on your website that contains the video might look like this: http://www.awesomewebproducts.com/products/page1/index.html.

How does the problem appear?

Are you seeing an error message and, if so, what is the full text? Simple information like this will speed up diagnosis.

How is the viewer viewing the video?

We’ve spent a lot of time creating a system which ensures that your videos will play across all kinds of devices, operating systems and browsers so, whether your viewer is using Chrome on Mac OSX or Silk on a Kindle device, videos will play reliably and look great.

But, occasionally, users will have issues which are specific to their setup – they may have an out of date browser or some component which is interfering with our ability to deliver your video. It’s very helpful for us to have information about your viewer’s system details and you can get that to us quickly and easily by inviting them to visit our system details page.

Ask them to “Start Speed Test Now”. When it completes and displays the “Average Speed”, they can click the “Save As CSV” button and send us the CSV document which is saved to their hard drive.

Any other information on their machine, connection, etc. is useful. For example, a comment like “I’m in the same office as a coworker – she can see the video but I can’t” can help us quickly isolate and solve a problem.

In summary

There are many ways to contact us and get help with our service. Whether you prefer talking – or chatting online – in person with a video expert or writing up a query in more detail at your convenience, we have an appropriate channel.

You can help us to help you by gathering some basic information before you contact us. And we’ll have all your video questions answered just as soon as we possibly can. Drop us a line – always happy to talk video.

Categories vzaar FAQ, vzaar updates
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First things, first..

What is the rest API?

REST stands for representational state transfer. It’s a fancy way of saying you can send HTTP requests to vzaar, and vzaar will do stuff for you.

Basically, the REST API will let you build your own custom platform, off the back of vzaar. You can integrate your own web application into our own, allowing you to harness the years of work which have gone into vzaar, and saving you from reinventing the wheel.

So what does it do?

Imagine a scenario where your videos are added to your web pages automatically, whenever you upload a new one. Hell, why stop there? The API will allow you to upload videos from your own webpages too. If you wished, you could build a whole video application, allowing users to upload and interact with their own content automatically, using the API.

Ok, that’s all a little esoteric. How about some examples?

Video training portals

LearningZen gives its clients the ability to create their own online training portals. The team used the vzaar API to integrate video into this platforms. Giving their clients the option to create video based training portals.

“We were also looking for a service that could be fully integrated into our own product at an API level, eliminating the need for our content creators to leave LearningZen when uploading videos and placing them into their own course materials.” – COO, Thomas Klassen

Read More

Personalised video messaging

Not an application for popping the question remotely. ProposalApp allows sales pros to connect with their prospects, including a video of themselves in their proposals.

Read More

CMS with easy video integration

Parallax are a digital marketing agency. As a result, for them, video forms a single part of a multi-media arsenal they use for their clients. Using our API they created their ‘Expose’ CMS which means their clients can add videos to their sites really, really easily.

“The user simply clicks ‘add video’ in the interface. This adds a video placeholder to the page. They then click on the placeholder and select the video file. The file uploads to vzaar and, after it’s finished encoding, it will play on the page.” – Director, Dario Grandich

Read More

In a nutshell…

The REST API integrates with vzaar’s video management functionality. Allowing things like uploading and accessing video data think of it as allowing you to do all the things you’d normally log into your account to achieve. Except, you know, without actually requiring to login.

Hang-on? Wait?! What?! My account can be controlled without logging in?! That sounds terrifying?!

Well, no. The REST API still requires that you authenticate to perform the majority of actions.

To authenticate with the API, you’ll need your username and an API key (randomly generated muddle of characters, which you can create in your account’s API settings). These two values are then used to generate an OAuth signature, which tells vzaar you have access rights for the request you’re making.

An OAuth what now? Where does that come from? Hold tight and I’ll explain…

The techie bit

The OAuth signature is programmatically generated. However, I wouldn’t get too hung up on the details. We offer a range of libraries, in multiple different languages, which handle most of the nuts and bolts bits for you.

This means that most API tasks are as simple as copying over your username and API token, then calling a function from the library.

Let’s look at the process in Ruby, to give you an idea of how simple it is.

require ‘vzaar’

vzaar = Vzaar::Api.new(application_token: "API token", login: "vzaar login") vzaar.video_details(video_id, authenticated: true)

This will give you all manner information for the video you requested. Like this:

vzaar REST API example

Not bad for three lines of code, right?

Take a look here for all the other functions the ruby gem offers. The libraries in other languages are also similarly well-endowed. You can find a list of them all here, at present we also offer libraries for PHP, .NET, Java, node.js, Scala, Objective C, ActionScript. and ColdFusion.

In Summary

The REST API gives you a lot of extra functionality. Because the vzaar API is so flexible, you’re able to build bespoke platforms to suit your business. It basically means that you can really tune your use of video and use it create your own custom solutions.

Remember, we’re always happy to chat through any video projects, and we love hearing about the different ways businesses are using video so do get in touch with any questions, comments or ideas.

Video Hosting API Developers Learn More

Categories Tech Tips, vzaar updates
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GC_Med

It feels like it’s been a big year in the online video player world. I caught up with vzaar’s Video Player Maestros Terry Anderson and Jon Prince to get a sense of what’s on their minds…

Feature Rich Yet Lightweight Video Player

Terry and Jon have been thinking a lot about the trade-offs between what the video-owner and video-viewer want from a video. Many businesses want more sophisticated security elements to protect their content, want to integrate advertising capabilities, various pay-per-view options, mail capture, and much more. This has to be traded off against the viewer’s desire for a fast, lightweight player. “We’d reached the end of the line for evolutionary tweaking,” Terry told me, “So we’ve redesigned our video players, streamlining communications between the elements.” Jon explained that, “We see API-controlled players as the future, and we’ve built the current players with that vision very much in mind.”

Redesigned Audio Player

“One of my projects this past year has been to build a custom audio player that’s optimised for high-quality audio,” Terry told me. This is in response to a noticeable change in expectations; many more online video based businesses want high quality audio and a more capable audio player. “Most audio players have really been shoe-horned into a video-player,” Terry explained. “Clients are trying to do a lot more with media files and expect a lot more from them.” The challenge has been to put the management and control functionality clients want in such a compact footprint.

HTML5 Video Player

Jon has been focused on vzaar’s HTML5 player. “I think this could be the year we see a big swing away from Flash to HTML5, even amongst businesses with content to protect” he said. “Security remains the biggest reason to stay with Flash, but we’re seeing clients who need security features prepared to forego Flash in order to take advantage of features they can only get on the H5 player. I think momentum is building and it’s only going one way.”

Terry added, “An RTMPe -equivalent security feature is what’s missing, and it’s coming. I think Flash will continue to be important in certain niches; for people in Developing countries who use older devices or small segments who are stuck with old versions of browsers.”

The Mobile Video Environment

The shift to viewing online video on mobile devices has been the other big trend pre-occupying Terry and Jon. “We see stats that say that Ad Revenues on mobile devices are more than doubling year-on-year, eight-to-ten times faster than revenues from other devices. And we are seeing similar trends amongst our business clients,” Terry told me.

“There’s been a proliferation of device/browser combinations in the past couple of years and the prevalence of mobile viewing means that clients want all the bases covered,” said Jon. “Samsung highly customizes its Galaxy browser, for instance, and although Windows phone is kind of in a twilight zone, it does have small communities of very committed supporters.”

“But,” Terry continued, “it looks like there is more standardisation coming amongst Android/Chrome handsets, so this issue may grow less intense as the market settles towards iOS and standard Chrome.”

IFrame Improvements

Looking ahead, Jon and Terry are excited about the work they are currently doing to modularise the player environment, in particular abstracting the iFrame layer. “Tactically, this will accelerate future feature releases, speed up testing and release processes, and make for faster bug-fixing,” Terry explained. “But the really exciting thing this gives us is that it allows us to start augmenting the video world with richer surrounding data and features. This will take us way beyond play-pause-rewind to an environment where many layers of presentation and information can be experienced by video-owner and video-viewer.”

Categories vzaar updates
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