Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Clients don't understand Container Formats

Once again a client asked me for "an avi" of a video. Avi was introduced in 1992 or so by Microsoft and has really been a positive and exciting boon to the pirated movie industry ever since. Aside from that it continues to cause headaches for "video people" and fellow "creatives" like myself.

.mov, .mkv, .avi and others are containers which mean they're like sandwiches, I tell clients. (Did you see that? I began a sentence with a period, hah! Mrs. Roberts was wrong!) Not all sandwiches are good, and asking me for "a quicktime" or "an mov" or "an avi" is like asking me for "a sandwich on white bread". You've specified that you want a sandwich (video file), with white bread (container format) but you have yet to tell me what kind of sandwich you want (codec).

This seems to be the only way to get through to some clients. "You're ordering a sandwich with white bread but I don't know what kind of sandwich you want. PB&J? Mustard and Lettuce? Cheese and Anchovies?" "What do you recommend?" is usually their response. I dunno. What kind of sandwich does the thingy that you're going to play it on ask for? In the manual. Yes, that one, the one you didn't read.

Today I literally said to a particularly ornery client, "I need to know what you want between the bread, otherwise we're going to have to try a bunch and see which works and looks good." See, I'm making a video in an outdated format, using outdated software for a client's outdated hardware. This is the kinda fun that only a college education can provide, kids.

Things like H.264 solve this problem. They're PB&J sandwiches all the time. And something known as a "standard".

The second most oft repeated phrase from me on the phone is "No, I wouldn't recommend a .wmv."


Zach Powers said...

I've tried so many times to talk my boss and people from companies we deal with out of .wmv. I've found the only thing that works is making them .wmv files and letting their customers struggle with playback and complain, which happens like clockwork. It's not the fastest way to get a project to H.264 or something else standard, but it gets there eventually.

Ldtowers said...

Terrible analogy destined to keep clients stupid. It doesn’t help them to understand in principal what is happening.

A better analogy is that a file is like a secret message inside a particular envelope/package that requires a certain code to break.

Walker Ferox said...

In my experience with clients they seem to understand the sandwich analogy pretty clearly especially when I say "What you need to do is look in the manual or ask the IT person what type of sandwich they need."

Then that gives them purpose and a task which they seem to like as it makes them feel important and useful.

Street Gardener said...

Nice use of the word ornery man, love this post.