Flowplayer markets itself as ‘the video player for the web’ and it’s a service designed for managing self-hosted videos. If you don’t want to hand your video content over to a service like YouTube, and let them host your files, Flowplayer provides an alternative method for getting your videos online in a way that is easy for your audience to access, consume and enjoy.
The player offers a fluid layout and is claimed to be the only completely responsive player on the market. This makes it the perfect choice for anyone using a responsive design for their website and wants their video content to display on smartphones and tablets just as well as it does on a desktop. As the service comes complete with a free plugin for WordPress, it’s an ideal choice for anyone looking to host their videos themselves, and publish them via their WordPress site.
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The company offers two main services: Flowplayer HTML5 and Flowplayer Flash. This review will be covering Flowplayer HTML5 for WordPress and looking at the main differences between the free and commercial service.
Installation and Setup
As the plugin is free it can be installed directly from your WordPress admin dashboard by going to Plugins > Add New and then doing a search for ‘flowplayer’. As there are a few options returned in the results make sure you pick the right one, which is ‘Flowplayer 5 for WordPress’.
Once installed, the plugin adds a new menu item to the admin sidebar menu entitled ‘Videos’. From there you can add videos, view your videos and edit the settings for the plugin.
Features and Usage
The settings for the plugin only take up one page and are pretty straightforward and most of them are optional rather than mandatory. The settings allow you to enter your license key of you have upgraded to the premium option which removes the Flowplayer logo and allows you to add your own logo (see pricing section for more details). If you’ve upgraded, you can also upload your logo here.
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There is also a setting to allow choose whether to show your logo on videos hosted on your site and those embedded elsewhere, or only show your logo on externally embedded videos. This is a nice feature as it means you have the option of not obscuring your videos with a logo if they are viewed on your site, but should they be displayed elsewhere, you can still make the viewers aware of who produced or owns the video, helping to promote your brand of service.
If someone has ‘borrowed’ your video, or you’ve chosen to display it elsewhere, upgrading to the premium version and displaying a logo that contains your site name or URL is a good way of getting some more visitors to your site and credit for your work.
There are a few options for uploading the videos, when using this plugin. You can upload them as you would’ve done originally, by using the WordPress media manager. Or you can use the Flowplayer Designer service to upload your videos and let them be hosted on Flowplayer.org. The third option is to use a third party hosting service, such as Amazon S3 and then add the links manually.
When setting up a new video, a shortcode is created for allowing you to easily insert that particular video into your posts.
To actually add the video to your site, if you’ve not already uploaded it via the WordPress media uploader (Media > Add New), simply click on add button that matches your video: MP4, WEBM or VVT. This will load the media library where you can either select on existing video or upload one using the WordPress drag and drop file uploader.
While adding a new video, the Flowplayer plugin recommends you ‘add at least two video formats so that the video plays on as many browsers as possible’. This seems like sound advice due to the fact that there are still some issues regarding video formats and cross-browser compatibility. To find out the latest information on video formats for the web, visit the video formats page on the Flowplayer site.
When adding a new Flowplayer video, there are a number of settings to choose from such as:
- Select the source of the video (Flowplayer Designer etc)
- Add a splash image that will be displayed before a user clicks on a video
- Add secondary versions of the video in different format
- Include a subtitles file for your video (more info)
- Select from three skins for the player controls
- Set the video to autoplay, loop or preload (more info)
- Enter the dimensions of the video player
By default the plugin will resize the video to fit the width of your post content limits if the video itself is larger than the space available. This ensures your videos don’t overflow into your sidebar.
When it comes to playback on your site, the controls should be familiar to users of sites like YouTube. Clicking on the video starts or pauses playback, and hovering over the video displays the controls.
Overall, adding videos to your site is very easy with the Flowplayer WordPress plugin.
When it comes to support for the WordPress plugin, you can post a question on the WordPress.org support pages for the plugin, which has a high resolve rate. For the Flowplayer service in general, free support can be obtained via their public forum and premium support can be purchased at a rate of $39 per ticket.
Initial purchase prices are listed as:
- 1 domain $95.00 / €71.25
- 5 domains $220.00 / €165.00
- 100 domains $395.00 / €296.25
- Unlimited domains $995.00 / €746.25
When you purchase a license, you get a license key which can be used on one domain (or more domains if you purchase a higher plan) and any subdomains. There is the chance of a 15 day money back refund if you are not happy with your purchase.
Even though WordPress does include video support out of the box, using the Flowplayer plugin gives you an easy way to gain more control over how your videos are displayed on your site and elsewhere. Also, the ability to add multiple formats of the same video to the players you create significantly increases the chances of them being able to be played on a range of devices and browsers.
Other features of interest that make Flowplayer a good choice include the ability to add your own logos with the commercial version, create splash screens or custom stand and end screens, and easily add subtitles or text overlays and annotations to the videos as well as the responsive fluid design of the player for use on small screen devices.
The Flowplayer service does a great job of handling video for the web and the plugin that integrates it with WordPress makes it a very easy way to add this functionality to your site.