Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link HD Video has Landed at Phanfare

We are delighted to announce the immediate availability of HD video support for Pro customers. You can now watch your videos in full-screen, HD glory.

We are busy reconverting all the videos for web presentation, but if you are eager to see what it looks like, here are some soccer videos and some photos too, taken with the Canon 5D Mark II. This is not professional quality video, but it gets the point across (and probably looks a bit more like what you are going to create at home versus what Hollywood produces).

Most computers can’t even show HD video without stuttering unless the hardware presentation is accelerated by special-purpose hardware built into most graphics cards. To get the benefits of HW acceleration, click the full screen button. Our full screen player uses the hardware acceleration that is likely built into your computer.

Our HD video is at 720p and runs at 3 megabits/second. Most viewers won’t be able to stream that without some significant buffering but when it does start to play, it is gorgeous.

Although HD video is reserved for Pro customers, everyone enjoys a significant improvement to the video experience in this release.

  • A new video player that looks good and hides its controls.
  • New controls to switch between video quality and a larger sized player at all quality levels.
  • A new embedded player for blogging of video. Caveat: you will need to put out new links to get the new player but old links continue to work.
  • A better experience for videos transferred to facebook.
  • AVCHD files are supported.
  • Eye-Fi Video transfer are supported, including HD video if your camera shoots it.
  • full screen video with hardware acceleration.

We are busy converting our entire library of videos for Pro customers from the archival versions that we keep. We keep those versions for Premium customers too, so if you upgrade to Pro, your video experience will improve as well. We estimate that it will take the better part of two weeks to convert all our videos to HD for current Pro customers. But any video you upload should get converted with higher priority.

We hope you enjoy these improvements to the video experience. Let us know in the comments how it is working for you.

  • Darryl

    Ah, you also forgot to mention that you now have Keyboard Shorcuts! Yay!

  • tslow

    Excellent service, Andrew. Thank-you.

    I notice that your soccer video file bitrates are at slightly higher than 5Mbp/sec, but they stream at 3Mbp/sec. Is this correct?

    Also, were these edited, or straight from the camera's H.264?

    I am trying to figure out the optimal setting for iMovie export.

  • erlichson

    We keep a 5 mbps version that is available for downloading and a 3 mbps version that we show on the web.

    The soccer videos were uploaded directly from the CF card to the Phanfare account by dragging and dropping into the java uploader on the web.

    What is your source? Taking videos through iMovie is tedious. Either to shoot them tightly the first time as clips and just drag and drop into Phanfare, or better yet, use the Eye-Fi card to move them.

  • Darryl

    Alternately, more and more cameras have in-camera “editing” functionality that allow you to do simple beginning/end trims, splits, etc. A little cumbersome without a touch-screen like on the iPhone 3GS, but still probably faster than importing into iMovie, editing, and exporting back out.

  • tslow

    Referencing Andrew's soccer demo album, I see a good dozen related film clips. it's an awkward multi-click way fo storing, presenting, and navigating the album.

    What I do in iMovie is take all related clips from a “shoot” (Event) and trim quickly, dump in a Project (default transitions good enough), then add a title overly which is an excellent way to date, title and reference a piece (also, who is in it and what ages, teams, etc.). The presets are excellent for doing this.

    Then I export using the HD default setting. Takes a few minutes, and when waiting for the export I work on photos! Finally, upload to Phanfare where you guys do your magic. On an average 10 minutes of footage I can easily do this workflow in a few minutes. Well worth the effort. The longest part is waiting for the HD export.

    The end navigation is better than traipsing through a dozen related video clips, is easier for the viewer, has a narrative structure, has built-in metadata, and frankly, looks way better. It's also easier to archive and generally more efficient use of bits.

    My source is a DSLR now, shooting MJPEG (so no, I do not have to deal with the heartache of AVCHD AIC interpretation). they key to iMovie is to resist the urge to be Peter Jackson, and just be the Dad with the camera. In fact, video editing with iMovie is much easier timewise than messing around with RAW file photography.

    The kicker with video is archive storage space and format. That is why I wish the archive bitrate was higher than 5Mbps/sec.

  • erlichson

    We've kicked around allowing the videos higher than 5 mpbs to go in the RAW blocks of Pro users. Interesting to you?

  • tslow

    Given the high storage costs of RAW and the sheer size of video files, probably not. I don't mind paying for your kids new Adidas soccer cleats, but I can't afford to sponsor the whole team!

    Of course, in the future much higher data rates will be supported; they'll be the norm. “Cloud” archiving is just not cost effective for video, so I'll have to do the opposite of what I would like, and locally store my “raw” original video files on a hard drive, and let Phanfare mangle by precious family memory bits and bytes for web display. I'll have to re-upload my glorious originals and do this all over again when the economics catches up with my ambitions<sigh> ;-)

  • Brian M. Walker


    A PRO feature only?
    YouTube moves to 1080p video…
    and you are just adding 720p video support and only allowing for PRO users?

    We really like Phanfare and have been with you since the beginning have recommended you to many people Love the iPhone support but seriously this is really lame.

    I have been shooting HD home video since 2004 and I have been waiting since you started Phanfare for support only to find out its being offered to Pro users only.

    We can not justify double the cost just to have our family and friends view our video in HD. The other Pro items are useless to us and most likely to the majority of your client base i.e. families sharing their life events.

    How is it possible for a free service like YouTube to offer this but a pay service such as yours can not?


  • erlichson

    Sorry you don't value the feature enough to pay for it. Truth is, the higher fees of pro help fund innovative development here.

    We don't show ads and are not backed by the significant cash flows of Google's highly profitable search business. You should realize that Google does not make money on YouTube. It loses a ton of money. And as a free user of YouTube, you have very little standing with them. Try to contact their support team and ask a question!

    As for the 720p versus 1080p issue, we aimed at a good customer experience. Try to download and watch a 1080p video on the web. It does not work, plain and simple. 99% of monitors are not large enough, and 99% of computers can't play them back without hardware support, which is not built into the flash player except at full screen. Even our 720p video runs at 3 megabits/second. Our guess is that fewer than half our customers have the bandwidth to stream that.

    When 1080p video makes sense, we will support it. Until then, its just a marketing check list item with no real value to the consumer.

  • Wayne Curley

    Great improvement Phanfare!
    It’s too bad people don’t understand the “Big Picture” (every aspect of technology), but I’m glad Phanfare does! You can’t compare Phanfare with other photo/video sharing websites; other websites don’t even come close to Phanfare. In my view Phanfare is user focused, because their users themselves, which is a big benefit to all the users out there. As an electronic technician (for over 50 years), working with computers since 1979, a photographer (wet darkroom), videographer (first video camera was with a backpack RCA VHS VCR recorder in the late 1970’s) and working in television transmission for the last 25 years before retiring two years ago, when I first found Phanfare (through an article in “Best Buy” magazine) I knew I found a great place to share my photographs and videos with family and friends. Phanfare is a leader in my opinion not a follower, it doesn’t have to follow “You Tube” or any other web service, it’s way ahead of all of them. Phanfare is unique, thank you Phanfare for all your hard work to make a great web service that is a pleasure to use.
    Wayne Curley (Life Member)

  • tslow

    YouTube's 1080p is actually lower quality than the 720p that Phanfare supports! Look at the streaming rates and pixel size. To get YouTube's 1080p you need to reduce the quality (pixellation). 540p uncompressed beats 1080p stretched for visual clarity and less artifacts.

    HD content is still only being generated on YouTube by less than 10% of all users. The article you quote lumps even the commercial offerings on YouTube which greatly exaggerates the numbers coming from “family” users like yourself.

    Last, YouTube has severe limits on how many times you can upload to each account, and the privacy therein. You want to use Google, you lose control, but not with Phanfare. That's the point.

    It's worth the Pro upgrade, and is also what the competition is doing.

  • fokusnik

    Andrew — thanks again for adding support for AVCHD.

    Completely agree with your assessment of 1080 Vs 720, most PCs will not be able to display or stream 1080.

    A few feature requests/questions that I submitted to support:

    + It looks like video in the slideshow mode is using low or medium quality. Why not high or hd (maybe auto-detect)? Or at least provide user an ability to choose. I prefer slideshow mode when showing/viewing my albums so having lower quality video in that mode is not cool

    + Album music should pause or mute (currently volume is lowered) when playing a video.

    + HD mode seems to buffer about 30% of the video before playing. That seems a bit excessive

    Thanks and keep up the good work — phanfare is getting better and better

  • fokusnik

    Wayne — completely agree. I actually build software for a living and considered building a photo/video sharing site a number of times because I couldn't find anything that satisfied my needs (just a simple fact that videos and photos should NOT be separated seems to avoid most of the sharing sites). And then I found Phanfare… :) Now that it supports AVCHD, it satisfies pretty much most of my needs.

  • Cory

    1) The slideshow does not show the HD renditions at this time. Less than half of our customers are capable of streaming an HD movie without significant buffering ( see answer 3 ) and we thought it would ruin the flow of the slideshow to have to stop and wait every time it hit a video.

    2) This all depends on the type of a video. If it's dialog then obviously you don't want music, but if it's a clip of a sports game you might prefer the music to silence. There isn't any option of adjusting this right now.

    3) The player estimates your bandwidth, then does some math to decide how much of the video to buffer so that once it starts playing it thinks it won't have to stop to buffer again.

    All of these things will need tweaking over time.

  • fokusnik

    Cory — thank you for prompt responses

    1) Would be great to have similar Hi, Med, HD buttons that are present in the “standalone” player

    2) My suggestions would be to put another checkbox in the runtim slideshow options panel that allows to “mute background music”

    3) Understood but as you say: will need tweaking

  • mikewoolley

    The windows media videos I upload I make with Pinnacle 12 Ultimate and render the final product at 1920×1080 @ 5Mps. Since the HD change with Phanfare, two short videos have uploaded and converted just fine; however, longer movies between 16-18 minutes upload but after 24 hours, not a one has converted to flash yet. Why is this?
    The smaller videos were the same format and did fine. All movies I upload are of this same format and have not had a problem until now. Any ideas why Phanfare has not been able to convert these yet.

  • erlichson

    I know you are also pursuing this with support. We will look into it.

  • bmw

    For reference here was Andrews Direct response via email to me.

    “Video got better for everyone with a new player, but HD will be pro only. Sorry. Gotta pay the bills around here, unlike google ;-) ” Andrew

    To clarify… you house our video as HD but will not allow us to playback that content unless we pay double. So you can pay your bills?

    Rethinking my investment!

  • erlichson

    Development is a significant cost for Phanfare and we only create h.264 web renditions for Pro customers. there is a cost to rendering and storing those. the HD versions that plays on the web is about 3 mbps and the archival version we keep is 5 mbps. But more importantly, if you don't value the HD video, then don't join pro and don't pay for it!

    Republishing my personal email to you – not cool. Don't email me personally anymore,. thanks.

  • bmw

    You were copied on my email to Customer Support regarding the HD announcement. As an executive and founder of Phanfare I thought you might want to explain your exclusion of Premium members from viewing their HD content. If you're ashamed of your response maybe you should use more care before you reply to a Premium customer. Or are we not valued over PRO users? Think I know that answer already from your “DON'T EMAIL ME” response.

    I am voicing my opinion that it's lame not to allow all your paying customers access to this great enhancement. As a Premium customer I belive I am entitled to give feedback. For you to get hostile or diminish my concern is not what I expect from someone at your level.

  • lvbags
  • mikewoolley

    Just to update anyone who reads this blog. Phanfare has made some adjustments and today my videos have been converted just as the email I received said they would.
    Good Job again Phanfare.

  • andylock

    Web casting, or broadcasting over the internet, is a media file (audio-video mostly) distributed over the internet using streaming media technology. Streaming implies media played as a continuous stream and received real time by the browser (end user). Streaming technology enables a single content source to be distributed to many simultaneous viewers. Streaming video bandwidth is typically calculated in gigabytes of data transferred. It is important to estimate how many viewers you can reach, for example in a live webcast, given your bandwidth constraints or conversely, if you are expecting a certain audience size, what bandwidth resources you need to deploy.

  • Py

    As for the 720p versus 1080p issue, we aimed at a good customer experience. Try to download and watch a 1080p video on the web. It does not work, plain and simple. 99% of monitors are not large enough, and 99% of computers can't play them back without hardware support, which is not built into the flash player except at full screen. Even our 720p video runs at 3 megabits/second. Our guess is that fewer than half our customers have the bandwidth to stream that.

    When 1080p video makes sense, we will support it. Until then, its just a marketing check list item with no real value to the consumer.

    Hi Andrew. I'm considering signing up for phanfare and perhaps pro just for the hd video feature. As brian indicated, the other pro features just aren't useful for family albums. Perhaps you might want to introduce a middle tier just to add hd video support? Otherwise, springing for a motionbox subscription would cost less than premium -> pro.

    On the issue of streaming hd video, I observed that smugmug's 1080p video streams just fine for me. This is even though I am in asia, potentially at the end of a very long pipe and bandwidth delay product. And of course, this is because smugmug uses a real content delivery network (akamai) which datapipe cannot compete with for performance. I've read with interest 2 forum posts on video streaming issues: and

    1. Is there still a 2mbps downstream cap, or does that only apply to images and web/dvd video renditions?

    2. Any chance of going with a content delivery network like akamai, limelight, etc?

    On the hardware requirements to support 1080p playback today – if my 3 year old macbook can play it, surely more than 1% of computers can play it back?

  • erlichson

    I would be shocked if your 3 yr old macbook can play it, except full screen. And for a 16×9 video, the resolution of a 1080p video is 1080×1920. As your laptop only has 1440×900 pixels, the video has to be downsampled (reduced in size) to even display on the built-in LCD. Hence, you can't even see an 1080p video in all its glory!

    We increased the downstream limit to 3.5 mbps to accommodate HD video.

    I agree that a more distributed CDN would improve performance for our international customers and this is on the long term list, although I can't tell you when we might get to it. Datapipe is very well connected though. Their data center is Newark, NJ peers with just about every ISP you have ever heard of, and then some.

    As for Pro features, many personal photographers like the cname support, the lack of phanfare branding on albums, and the flexible subsite structure that allows them to publish sets of albums for community events they are involved in, without opening up their main site to the world.

    Looking at us compared to the competitors, it basically comes down to the tools. Our tools are the best in the world on Mac, PC, Web and iPhone. And there is a good ecosystem of supporting plugins, etc.

    Oh, and we also have the gold standard of slideshows.

  • geno09

    What are the best keyboard shortcuts?

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