5 Scenarios Where You Need To Ditch The WordPress Video Player

When WordPress 3.6 added the shortcode it used one of the best HTML5 video players available in MediaElement.js.

Despite that, alternative HTML5 video players continue to be developed and made available for the WordPress community.

But if the built-in video support is good why would you want to use an alternative?

Illustration showing the HTML5 logo, the video tag and two stretched video players
Do you really need another HTML5 video player in your WordPress site?

What Is An HTML5 Video Player, Anyway?

As we know, the <video> tag was introduced in HTML5 and is supported by IE9+, Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari. However, that support varies across the browsers and so the HTML5 video players build on top of the <video> tag to provide consistent look and behaviour across the various browsers including Flash fallback for those that don’t support video natively as well as including features beyond those provided by the <video> tag.

Most are available as javascript libraries and the WordPress versions are simple wrappers in the form of a plugin to enable the quick and easy integration of the player in a WordPress site.

How hard the player is working for you will depend on how many of your visitors are not using an HTML5 capable browser (as an example less than 5% of WPMU.org visitors are using IE8 or less) and whether you using any of those additional features.

With WordPress’ built-in support for video being pretty competent, clearly any alternative has to provide extended options, a better experience for incorporating videos in a WordPress site or a better experience for the end user.

Preferably all three.

So, are any worth using instead of the built-in shortcode? The answer is yes and no.

No, If Your Requirements Are Really Simple

The built-in support is good and for the simple task of playing a locally-hosted file it’s more than adequate. Remember, it is built on MediaElement.js and you’d have to think that Automattic would have done their research when choosing a provider.

The number of settings available in the Add Media dialog are very limited, though, which will mean that you’ll have to edit the shortcode itself to add multiple sources, change looping or autoplay for example but this is not difficult.

Tracks are also supported and the videos are responsive by default.

Yes, If You Want To Play YouTube Or Vimeo Videos In A Common Interface

If you want to have all your videos, regardless of their source, all play in a common interface then you’ll need to look at an alternative such as VideoJS and its plugin library.

This is almost a compelling enough reason in itself, particularly if you regularly mix video from local sources with third-party providers such as YouTube and Vimeo.

Yes, If You Want To Play Videos From Amazon S3 Or Stream With RMTP Or HLS

Amazon Web Services logo
Serving video from AWS? Use an alternative player.

If you store your videos on Amazon’s S3 service (including CloudFront) then you’ll probably benefit from an alternative HTML5 player such as JW Player (has RMTP support as well), Secure Video or Sublime Video Player (requires registration before you can use it).

Be aware that the free version of JW Player has a watermark; the cheapest non-watermarked version is $9 / month. If you are willing spend the money and you are worried about protecting your videos from theft then you can also take a look at S3FlowShield ($95).

Yes, If You Need Playlists Or VAST Ad Streaming

Not surprisingly, many of the alternative HTML5 video players provide additional features and playlists and the streaming of VAST ads are popular additions.

Check the table at the end of this article to see the additional features of each of the players.

Yes, If You Want To Extend The Player’s Capabilities Further

If you are handy with Javascript and would like to extend the video player then you should look at VideoJS.

With an API and an existing library of over 20 plugins covering playlists, watermarks, resolutions and Google Analytics, VideoJS is backed-up by the developer-friendly Apache licence and the video prowess of the Brightcove development team.

Yes, If You Just Want A More Comprehensive Interface For Adding Videos To Posts

Screen grab of Sublime Video's video and poster selection
Sublime Video provides a great interface for adding video

The default dialog for adding videos to posts is basic with no opportunity to set the various video attributes such as loop and preload. And whilst embedding a YouTube video is as easy as pasting the URL, this provides little opportunity to configure the player.

A couple of the alternative players have great interfaces – Sublime Video Player and FlowPlayer in particular – and will enable you to configure your players without having to edit the shortcode itself.

Sublime Video Player does make you jump through the hoop of registering before you can use the player but you might think the interface it provides is worth the effort.

Before You Install An Alternative Player

So, yes, there are scenarios where an alternative to WordPress’ built-in video player would be a better option.

However, if you are serving your own videos then stop, take a deep breath and read this excellent post at WP101. It has some compelling arguments as why you might want to ditch local hosting and YouTube and go with a video hosting service such as Vimeo (Plus or Pro) or Brightcove (if you have high-end video needs).

Flowplayer also has some sage advice on encoding video for online delivery.

Plenty to consider before going full steam ahead with a new HTML5 video player.

Selected HTML5 Video Player Summary

PlayerCost LicenceFeaturesNotes
VideoJS
Plugin
Website
FreeApacheAPI, skins, plugins, YouTube*, Vimeo*, playlists*, custom watermark*, overlay*, Google Analytics**available via plugins
compatible up to 3.8
JW Player
Plugin
Website
Free (non-commercial)
From $99/yr 1 site
GPL
Commercial
API, skins, adaptive streaming, social sharing, related videos, Google Analytics, HD switching, VAST*, real-time analyticsFeatures vary between versions. Check pricing page.
compatible up to 3.5.2

Secure HTML5 Video Player
Plugin
Website
FreeGPLUses VideoJS as playerSpecifically for S3 based video content
compatible up to 3.8
Flowplayer
Plugin
Website
Free (non-commercial)
$95 for 1 site
GPLGoogle Analytics, cuepoints, subtitles, slow-motion, retina ready, random seeking, api, custom branding*, playlists, AdSense*commerical only
compatible up to 3.8
SublimeVideo
Plugin
Website
Free (Basic)
Fee for add-ons
Cloud serviceAPI, subtitles, lightbox, HD switching, embed, logo*, social sharing*, cue zones**available as add-ons
Has best interface for adding video.

Do you use an alternative HTML5 Video Player? How did you choose your solution?