Online video is all the rage for marketing, retail, education and training, real estate, consulting; pretty much anyone with access to the internet. The hottest apps are based on creating and sharing videos, and each month seems to be a record-breaker in terms of how much video is being produced, shared, and watched online.

Consequently, online video is frequently talked about like it is easy to just grab your smartphone and start recording, but the reality for a lot of people is vastly different. Making a quality video and publishing it on the web is fraught with unexpected technical difficulties, and can expose you to certain risks, like professional embarrassment or content insecurity.

Here is our guide to putting your best foot forward with online video, from producing it to publishing it online.

Choosing a Video Camera

All too often, when making a purchase decision about a video camera, the focus tends to be on the technical specs of the camera, and not enough on its compatibility with your computer and editing software. Make sure that the camera has the right outputs for connecting to your computer, whether it is Firewire, USB, or an SD card. If the camera records video into a format not supported by your editing software, then you will have to encode your video to a compatible format before importing it to your editing software. It is tricky to encode video without losing quality, and the more times you have to encode it, the more quality you are likely to lose. If you spent a lot of money on a nice HD camera, that is the last thing you want to do. Any reasonably modern camera is probably fine, but it is worth double-checking, especially if you are buying secondhand. iMovie has a very handy guide to selecting a compatible camera, though you still want to ensure it will hook up easily to your Mac. Windows Movie Maker supports some of the most popular video formats, like AVCHD, MP4, and MOV among others.

Recording your Video

Watch your lighting and your sound like a hawk. Those are the two factors most difficult, if not impossible to correct in post production. If you hit your lines perfectly, but the lighting was too strong behind you, you will be silhouetted and your video will be useless. Again, if you hit your lines, but there is an obnoxious hum or siren in the background, you will have a tough time isolating and removing that noise. The ideal settings will vary tremendously depending on what you are trying to do, but without good light and sound, your video will probably not turn out the way you want it to. We have a great guide on audio and another on lighting if you need some pointers.

Exporting for Optimal Quality Online

Balancing your video for high quality and fast streaming online is often a double-edged sword: you want your viewers to enjoy smooth playback from your online video, but a large HD file might be too cumbersome for slower internet connections, or wind up costing you more than is necessary in terms of bandwidth and storage. Following these video compression guidelines will help keep your file size down while maintaining as much quality as possible.

Uploading your Video to the Web

While you can self-host videos, an online video hosting provider (like SproutVideo) can take the guesswork out of the process, and will give you a lot of extra tools to boot. Video hosting platforms make it as easy as clicking “Upload” to get your video online. In terms of tools, for instance, you might want Analytics or Engagement metrics to get more insights into exactly who is playing your videos, and security and privacy tools are an absolute must if you want to control where your content shows up on the web.

Publishing your Video Online

Once you have uploaded your video and configured your privacy settings, you are ready to put it on a website for the world (or a select few) to see. When working with a video hosting provider, you need the embed code for the video, which is usually an iframe. You should be able to customize the embed code for your website, and then it is a simple matter of copy and paste into the code editor of the site. When working with WordPress, you will need to install a plugin for iframes, and you can refer to our handy guide for working with Squarespace for more specifics.

If you do not want to spend time developing your own video website in addition to producing online videos and everything else keeping you busy, you might want to check out our beta for brandable video websites. Fully hosted by SproutVideo, they are built around your video content and give you all the security and analytical tools you need to succeed with online video.

We really hope this helped give you an overview of how to get from buying a videocamera to publishing a finished video to the web. Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments below, or let us know on Twitter!