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Video Personalization: Better to Build or Buy?

With so much content available online, the competition for viewership and engagement is fiercer than ever. Personalizing videos is a powerful way to make sure visual content grabs and keeps a viewer’s attention.

Videos can be personalized by:

  • Adding a specific viewer’s known personal details directly to the video. These details might include their geographic location, products they’ve shown an interest in, or their past purchasing history
  • Focusing a viewer’s attention on a key area of the video. Video enhancements, such as zooming in on a particularly relevant area of a video while blurring or obscuring other regions, can direct a viewer’s attention.

It’s clear that video personalization offers a lot of benefits to a website’s presentation. But it’s less clear whether it’s better to develop a DIY toolkit that enables personalization enhancements or purchase a ready-made solution for automatically personalizing videos.

Let’s consider the “build versus buy” debate. 

The standard method of adding a video to a webpage is to use HTML5’s <video> tag. While this bit of HTML makes it simple to add videos to websites, it doesn’t offer a lot of capabilities for changing or personalizing the video. To personalize a video, a savvy editor needs to manually edit the video file or a web developer needs to apply some code to generate effects and overlays to customize it. 

Using raw HTML to embed a video on a page comes with a few options for changing the size of the video and enabling or disabling basic video controls such as pause, play, and volume. Web developers can also make use of some clever CSS and JavaScript tricks to enhance or customize the video. But these DIY techniques can introduce potential problems, particularly when it comes to compatibility issues between different browsers.

Video personalization DIY solutions aren’t really scalable. They require infrastructure and custom software. They demand time and resources most teams don’t have. They’re never “set it and forget it”; they need ongoing support and maintenance to ensure the solution is working and viable. They also lack the on-the-fly capabilities of automated solutions. 

Let’s look at the difference between DIY and automated solutions in two common video personalization tasks. 

The simplest method of adding some personalization to a video is with an overlay. Without changing any of the video content, we can apply a text or graphic overlay that stands out to the viewer. 

Personalizing overlays enables us to incorporate what we know about the viewer into our video. For example, an overlay might call out a customer by name if they are logged in to a site. An overlay could reference a customer’s purchasing history to recommend a particular product. An overlay might also emphasize real-world information such as the viewer’s geographic location and location-related data like weather, temperature, season, holidays, or local events.

It’s possible to add overlays to a standard HTML5 video by positioning them in CSS or by presenting the video as a <canvas> element. While this approach will get the job done, it may make for an awkward presentation without some fine tuning. A more elegant and seamless overlay to the video that doesn’t compromise its appearance demands substantial developer investment. 

Unsurprisingly, adding overlays by hand can also be resource intensive. Capabilities like video-in-video overlays consume both bandwidth and underlying infrastructure.. Without developer time dedicated to optimization, features like these can become cost-prohibitive to operate at scale.

In contrast, a ready-made solution such as Cloudinary provides rich features for video overlays. Cloudinary’s overlays make it easy to incorporate powerful personalization features such as text, graphics, or even other videos, with just a bit of coding on the backend.

We can direct a viewer’s attention in a video by enhancing the most relevant details and blurring out less pertinent areas of a frame. Zooming in on certain aspects while blurring out others, based on what we might know about a viewer’s interests, are highly effective video personalization techniques. 

For example, we might reference a viewer’s purchase history to determine the areas of a product video or advertisement that might be most relevant to their interests. We then use this information to zoom in on the areas most likely to drive engagements and blur minor details that might divide their focus.

Yet it turns out zooming and blurring are not easily reproducible in raw code.

While it’s possible to blur areas of a web browser using CSS, attempting to apply this technique to an embedded HTML5 video requires careful positioning and produces sub-par results. And while it’s possible to use some tricks with JavaScript and the HTML5 <canvas> element to modify the video, these tricks are, well, tricky and require expensive development time to perfect. 

Zooming is an even more complicated task that can be difficult to achieve without manually editing the original video. If a business is looking to enhance a few product videos, the level of investment in developer resources is hardly worth it.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can identify objects within a video and intelligently zoom or blur the frame to highlight specific objects, such as a particular product that the business wants to highlight to a customer. This type of selective manipulation requires much more than the simple browser tricks that HTML and CSS make possible.

Ready-made solutions such as Cloudinary provide advanced zoom and blurring capabilities, along with an extensive suite of other effects and enhancements. Cloudinary can be used to automatically zoom in on specific regions of a video and deliver complex AI-powered personalization. An interactive video zoom-in feature allows viewers to interact directly with the video by clicking on and zooming in on certain selected areas. This advanced capability is impractical and out of reach for all but the most sophisticated DIY solutions. 

Plus, a ready-made video personalization solution such as Cloudinary is cloud-based and doesn’t demand additional computing resources to be purchased or maintained.

Advanced video personalization features cannot be developed easily or quickly. They require huge investment in resources. Even after they’re created, they need support in the form of bug fixes and new features. Extensive back-end infrastructure is also required to provide the processing power, memory, and tech stack that enable the video personalization tools to operate effectively.

It’s time to leave video editing software and DIY solutions behind and explore a better way to automatically edit, enhance, and add personalization elements to a video.

With a ready-made solution like Cloudinary, developers can benefit from advanced video personalization tools without extensive development time, expensive infrastructure, or ongoing overhead and maintenance costs of DIY solutions. 

Rather than building out internal teams to handle video personalization development and the ongoing challenges of maintenance, support, and development, a ready-made solution such as Cloudinary provides an extensive personalization platform with minimal time spent in development.

Ready to see how much more attention your videos could achieve with a bit of personalization? Try Cloudinary today.

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