Petter Reinholdtsen

When web browser developers make a video player...
17th January 2009

As part of the work we do in NUUG to publish video recordings of our monthly presentations, we provide a page with embedded video for easy access to the recording. Putting a good set of HTML tags together to get working embedded video in all browsers and across all operating systems is not easy. I hope this will become easier when the <video> tag is implemented in all browsers, but I am not sure. We provide the recordings in several formats, MPEG1, Ogg Theora, H.264 and Quicktime, and want the browser/media plugin to pick one it support and use it to play the recording, using whatever embed mechanism the browser understand. There is at least four different tags to use for this, the new HTML5 <video> tag, the <object> tag, the <embed> tag and the <applet> tag. All of these take a lot of options, and finding the best options is a major challenge.

I just tested the experimental Opera browser available from, to see how it handled a <video> tag with a few video sources and no extra attributes. I was not very impressed. The browser start by fetching a picture from the video stream. Not sure if it is the first frame, but it is definitely very early in the recording. So far, so good. Next, instead of streaming the 76 MiB video file, it start to download all of it, but do not start to play the video. This mean I have to wait for several minutes for the downloading to finish. When the download is done, the playing of the video do not start! Waiting for the download, but I do not get to see the video? Some testing later, I discover that I have to add the controls="true" attribute to be able to get a play button to pres to start the video. Adding autoplay="true" did not help. I sure hope this is a misfeature of the test version of Opera, and that future implementations of the <video> tag will stream recordings by default, or at least start playing when the download is done.

The test page I used (since changed to add more attributes) is available from the nuug site. Will have to test it with the new Firefox too.

In the test process, I discovered a missing feature. I was unable to find a way to get the URL of the playing video out of Opera, so I am not quite sure it picked the Ogg Theora version of the video. I sure hope it was using the announced Ogg Theora support. :)

Tags: english, h264, multimedia, nuug, video, web.

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