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What is a Video API?

February 8, 2021 - Erikka Innes

A video API is an application programming interface that allows you to create, store, and deliver video. Many video APIs also include a way for you to retrieve analytics about the videos and livestreams you show viewers. The benefit of a video API is that it's completely flexible, you're able to develop the API for any use case you want.

Sometimes a video API focuses on one element of the video creation and delivery process. For example, a video API might only handle livestreaming. Or it might only transcode videos for use elsewhere. A video API that offers the developer an end-to-end experience will include:

Livestreaming

What a livestreaming API can do will vary by product. Services fit into four major areas - transcoding, delivery, video security, and storage.

  • Transcoding is about preparing your video for delivery. Typically this means converting it to a format that can easily be shared, such as HTTP-Live-Streaming (HLS) which has quickly become the industry standard when it comes to high quality video with reliable playback.
  • Delivery in a video API is usually through a private CDN (content-delivery-network) made available through the API or a partner. A plus to using a private CDN offered by the creator of the video API is that the number one priority is always your content. On a CDN that handles livestreams from many different sources, the content may be prioritized differently. It may also not be optimized as well as it would be on a video-focused CDN.
  • Video security is about features that allow you to make your livestreams private or public.
  • Storage is, of course, about storing your livestreams and other videos for playback.

Video on Demand

A video API that offers VOD will offer features that help with the viewing of the video, such as:

  • The ability to secure your video so that it can be made public or private
  • Captions - videos that support captions can be distributed more places and can get more viewers than videos without
  • Chapters - sometimes content is long enough that organizing it helps your viewer more easily get to the section they want to watch

Video Playback

Video playback is important for livestreams and VOD (video-on-demand) content alike. Video players need to be reliable and easy to work with so developers can quickly add them to their applications. Video player APIs include features like * The ability to make the video being played downloadable or not

  • Video resolution options
  • Autoplay or no autoplay, video looping once it reaches the end or no looping
  • Logo - add your own branding
  • Colors - add your brand's colors, or your favorite colors if you want
  • Content type being played - some types of videos need additional support in your player, for instance 360° or immersive video
  • Monetization - some video players offer the ability to monetize content by placing ads at the start of the content or in the middle or end

Analytics

Video analytics are important for determining what people watch and what they don't watch. You can also use analytics to create personalized content experiences for your viewers. If you know a viewer likes videos about a certain topic, you can make sure you suggest other videos with this topic the next time they visit, increasing the amount of content they watch. Some statistics that a video API offers iclude:

  • Session information per viewer
  • What events occurred during each session (where the viewer played, used rewind, paused the video, etc.)
  • Location and browser information
  • What videos the viewer watched during their session
  • Video topics and themes they liked
  • How many times a video was played

This covers the basics of what's in a typical end-to-end video API. Many video APIs only handle one or two of the features described. api.video is one of the few developer focused video solutions that offers VOD, livestreaming, playback and analytics.

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Erikka Innes

Developer Evangelist

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