From Vimeo To YouTube

A ramble about the ever-changing nature of the Internet and Vimeo.

In this moment I am feeling old. Reviewing something I wrote recently on this site I scrolled to the bottom and saw suggested posts (my own) and clicked on one. It took me to something I wrote a few years ago and included a video. When I reached the part where the video should be I saw an error message telling me that the video is no longer available. This has become somewhat common over the past year. The reason it has become common is due to the impermanent nature of the Internet.

The first site I started uploading my videos to was Google. It was the best/easiest way to get my videos on the Internet in 2006 and although not many people watched them they were seen. It was neat. Around that time I started hearing about YouTube from a friend. I checked it out and it looked awful. Most everything I saw was people posting goofy, ugly videos or talking to the camera. Not at all what I was trying to do. A year or two passed, YouTube was purchased by Google and suddenly that’s where my videos lived. Only it still wasn’t great. Another friend mentioned Vimeo and I checked it out.

If YouTube was where you uploaded that video of the duck slipping on a frozen pond (that you shot from your car using your phone as your mother drove past) Vimeo was where Filmmakers (capital f) were posting their work. The site was sleek, it didn’t have advertisements and the video quality was vastly superior. Once I started uploading to the site and looking at the controls a free plan offered I was amazed anyone bothered with anything else. It was a great place to be on the Internet.

Not long afterwards I upgraded to the lowest tier paid plan which would allow me to upload 5GB of data a week. Which at the time was decent. I shot all kinds of videos (in truth mostly of my children and family and never intended for the public) uploaded them to the site and I was happy.

I was also happy to discover the work of filmmakers on the site. In addition to the Staff Pick’s section which was usually terrific it wasn’t hard to search and find random films to enjoy. In short it was a great site that many people were using to share their work. I discovered many filmmakers and saw wonderful films and the site was free and easy to use.

I’m not sure when it all went wrong. At some point Vimeo shifted and people starting using it less. It became harder to find films. It became harder to access and organize my own films on the site. The customization and controls I had enjoyed became more difficult to use. Simultaneously YouTube improved. People were posting things there that were of excellent quality and interesting. Suddenly there were videos that were instructional or educational and about topics I needed (or wanted) help with.

For the longest time I would watch videos where people would use Final Cut Pro and they would access features (or shortcuts) that I did not know about. I would always wonder how people knew about these things as they are not obvious or intuitive. Part of me wondered if they all read the manual. I certainly didn’t. I didn’t even know there was a manual you could download from Apple until 2021.

Then it became clear that people were posting videos on anything and everything. Entire channels were devoted to tips and tricks for FCPX and editing in general. More importantly people were making money. For the longest time Vimeo offered a “tip jar” on their site. I had never opted to include it because almost no one saw what I posted and the people who did were usually friends or family. I knew from chatty filmmakers like Philip Bloom that the “tip jar” generated little to no income as he was quite vocal about such things. Suddenly people on YouTube seemed to be wealthy.

I am keeping this as it sums up my point so well – go to Vimeo to watch their tip jar video

They seemed to be wealthy and not overly active. Or interesting. Or creating much of substance. It was strange and confusing and self-contained. Again I’m not entirely sure when these things happened. One day Vimeo was the place to be and then suddenly it was YouTube. Much like when I started streaming video content from Amazon it started with downloading third party software (Silverlight? I know Real Player was in the mix for a bit) and then one day you were able to do it directly via the site. One day I was clicking on links that took me from Facebook’s website to another and the next Facebook had a browser built into the site and I never left.

I don’t know when all these changes happened exactly only that when I become aware of them everything had already changed. Over the past few years I’ve uploaded my videos to both Vimeo and YouTube, keeping the personal ones private. Whereas before the quality of the videos on Vimeo was superior somewhere around 2020 I noticed they looked the same. YouTube is free to use with no weekly limitation on how much I can upload. For $60 a year Vimeo permitted me to upload 5GB a week. If I uploaded a video and realized it contained a mistake I would correct the mistake and re-upload. If the file size was too large I would have to wait for a week for the reset.

I am writing about this in great detail because I feel that these changes are representative with how the Internet has changed over the past eighteen years. The number of websites I have been a part of, as a contributor or user, that I can no longer remember the names of is quite large. I accept change on the Internet it’s just odd to reflect on the changes of using Vimeo as it clearly chose to become something else (but didn’t much bother to tell its users). Other writers have speculated on the reasons why this change came about and I don’t think I can add much to that conversation as I was unaware.

What I can speak to is how strange it is ending this paid relationship with Vimeo. I was forewarned, luckily, as to what would happen when I cancelled my plan. Again, Mr. Bloom, tested these waters and shared his experience. He made it known that Vimeo would purge your videos once you downgraded. Part of how I used their site had been as back up storage for videos I did not wish to lose. I’ve had hard drives fail over the years and, most recently, discovered that Backblaze, the service I pay to back up my data, has more than one plan. It turns out if you have the wrong one they can’t recover certain data (strong work fellas!).

Clear as mud – make sure you have forever if your drive won’t be constantly connected.

There must have been significant negative feedback directed to Vimeo as when I cancelled my plan (which was a process as annoying as cancelling with Verizon recently) I was given multiple warnings that my videos would be removed and that I needed to download everything if I wish to save it. Silly me though, I forget I had been linking to these videos from this site since I started posting. Which is why I keep finding I have posts with video links to nowhere.

I don’t pretend to know what the future will hold, if any of these sites offering “free” services will continue to do so. Although I am not a business person I have been alive for a while now and I’ve seen how businesses change and adapt or fail. It makes perfect sense of a company like Vimeo to try something different from their considerably larger competitor but they way they have done this seems self-defeating. I know for most people the days of being loyal to a company are long gone but I’m someone who still looks for that and yearns for it. There is a comfort in familiar, dependable things.

Computers, Technology and Hoopla

I would like to be a tech savvy person. I would like to sit down at a computer, any computer, and immediately be able to do all the tasks I wish to do and never need to touch the mouse. I would like to pick up a digital camera and effortlessly navigate the menus in order to arrange all of the settings and presets so that my pictures rival anything out there.

I would like this and it will never, ever happen. My experience with technology is, I think, much like everyone else’s: a big game of catch up. Whatever the piece of technology is I am attempting to figure out the “right” way to be using it. Which is to say I figure things out, mostly, but there is usually something I am not doing quite right. Even if I do not know that I am doing something incorrectly.

Which brings me to one of my many current technology related problems – iPhoto. A while back I bought a DSLR (technically a DSLM but that really is being pretty picky) and I started taking pictures. A lot of pictures. Everything I have read about being a “real” photographer (who is shooting digitally, because there still seems to be a pretty big debate over film vs digital and “realness”) told me that I should be shooting in the RAW format. Yes, you have to write RAW in all caps for some reason. I have heard it and I have forgotten the reason and so should you. Just write the word in caps.

Anyway I have done this and I have then used iPhoto to try and store and manipulate these photos. Which has caused near exponential growth in the size of my iPhoto storage. Which has caused all kinds of computer problems. Which has lead to me playing catch up as to what is going on and how I can fix it.

As far as I can tell I can’t really fix the problem. Or I can but it would involve deleting most of the photos, which isn’t really a solution in my book. So I have begun looking at alternative programs to replace iPhoto. And I have found them. They just cost money and I am adverse to spending money I do not have to on computer programs. Call me cheap. That’s fine. I can take it.

Anyway, I do a fair bit of video work on my computer and now time lapse photography, which is where I ran into trouble with my hard drive space. So the reason I have written this long and not terribly exciting account of my photo woes is that even when a cheap person like myself finds solutions, which I have (Darktable is a free, RAW image editor) it seems you simply replace one set of problems for another.

So I spend three days trying to find an iPhoto solution that does not involve me deleting all of my photos and it leads to a new program. I use the new program and can find no way to make it pull photos off of my external hard drive. Now the point of this rant, if there is one, is when does it end? At each step of trying to do something (because believe it or not I am sparing you the video component of the time lapse saga that goes hand-in-hand with this) there are more obstacles, more problems you did not know existed to then find solutions and encounter a new set of problems.

Which is really another way of saying – I am tired of working for my technology. We all take pictures now and lots of them. Our old system was imperfect but the storage of the photos was rather simple. If we printed the pictures we then stuck them in an album. We kept the negatives in something or other and pretended that twenty years later we were going to find those negatives and do something with them. Maybe we made a large print of a picture we liked and put it in a frame. That was it. You found a place to put your albums and then every once in a while you took them out flipped through the pages and then put them away.

Now I have three external hard drives on my desk and slow desktop because I tend to dip below the recommended level of storage on my internal hard drive and this is a no-no. My photos are now technically stored in the “cloud” so that they take up less space and I can access them on all of my devices that I have linked to the “cloud”. This is also supposed to be a safer way to keep them should anything happen.

Now I will end here but I want to share my silver lining to this problem and my working through this problem. I started writing this post a year ago. I stopped did other things and came back at various points. In that time I glommed onto this idea of how things used to be. I watched a film called Side by Side which talked about the perils of digital and chemical process filmmaking. And something clicked for me.

At the moment the only future-proof format that motion picture films (Hollywood, baby) have is film. Analog. You put it into canisters and store them in those climate controlled dust free something or others. There is a system, we don’t really know what it is but people do and you do it. And then, you can play it on any device that plays that format of film. Even if that particular piece of machinery is already 100 years old.

So how does this relate to my pictures? I spent about three days, sifted through 20,000 digital photos and chose about 900 I cannot lose. I then order 4×6 prints of each picture bought some albums and put them on my shelf. They had been there for about six months now and already I have sat down with my five year old daughter several times and flipped through them, like I used to do with my parents. And I know, if there were some catastrophe and I had time to rescue something from my home I would not try and grab my iMac, I would grab these albums of pictures and run outside.