Creating your own videos is easier to do than ever, and it’s more tempting than ever to view and share them on multiple devices. But it isn’t always simple. Videos can be large files that are clumsy to move around. And they aren’t always created in formats compatible with every device you or your friends may use.
One obvious solution is cloud storage and sharing. Popular social networks Vine and Instagram let you take smartphone videos and share them from the cloud, but these videos are just seconds long. You can store longer videos on general cloud storage services like Dropbox and SkyDrive, but video isn’t their primary focus.
With RealPlayer Cloud, an iPhone can share videos with an Android phone, and vice versa.
Now, RealNetworks, the media-software company whose last major product launch was in 2008, is aiming to make video storage, portability and sharing a no-brainer with a new service called RealPlayer Cloud. It lets users of many different devices store their videos online; stream or download them; share them with others (even if the recipients lack Real’s software); and move videos easily among devices on the same network. It also has built-in playback and sharing of your friends’ Facebook videos.
Real boasts that its new service reformats videos to best suit the device to which you stream or download them, taking into account device type, screen size, bandwidth and storage space.
The service works using new or updated Real apps on Android devices, iPhones, iPads, Windows PCs and Roku TV set-top boxes. A Mac app is in the works, but meanwhile it can work, with some limitations, in a Web browser on a Mac (or any device with a browser).
I’ve been testing RealPlayer Cloud on all these devices and despite some hitches, found it performs as advertised. Real’s mobile apps and website were better designed and easier to use than its old-looking Windows app. Real’s new iOS apps (the ones for iPhone and iPad) worked well, but I ran into trouble with the Android version, though the company has fixed much of that problem.
I easily uploaded to RealPlayer Cloud a video of my wife and son dancing at his wedding a few years ago. I streamed it or downloaded it, via the cloud or my home network, to a PC, an iPhone, an iPad, a Web browser on a Mac and an Android phone. I also could stream it through my TV on a special RealPlayer Cloud channel via a Roku box.
An Android phone
I did the same with fresh videos captured on an iPhone 5 and the Android phone, a Nexus 4. It works on iOS 5 and later, Android 4 and later, and on Windows 7 and 8. On the Mac, I was able to use it in both the Chrome and Safari browsers.
I downloaded videos from Real’s cloud onto my iPad, iPhone and Android phone, for playback on a plane without Wi-Fi. I was able to share cloud videos with others by emailing them links and they could view the videos on almost any device without having to download the app — a big plus. Another plus: While you can share videos to large social networks, you can limit your sharing to small groups.
RealPlayer Cloud worked very well on every device except the Nexus 4. On the Android phone, I saw stuttering and buffering of the exact same cloud videos that played smoothly on the iPhone, iPad, Web and Windows — even though all were on the same Internet connection. The company sent me a revised, pre-release Android version that fixed the playback issues but not another problem — frequent crashing. Real says it was still working on that Tuesday.
The apps are free, but the catch is that, like a lot of cloud services, RealPlayer Cloud charges for storage. You get 2 gigabytes of storage free, but must pay $49 a year for 25 gigabytes; $99 for 100 gigabytes; or $299 for 300 gigabytes.
There are other limitations. The company stresses the product is “designed to help consumers move, watch and share videos they have created.” So to discourage piracy of TV shows and movies, there’s a 15-minute limit on videos shared from PCs or the Web. There’s no limit on videos shared from the camera rolls of iPhones or Android phones because it’s assumed those were taken by the user.
Finally, while the service is out of beta and isn’t invitation-only, the company warns that even though it will go live on Tuesday night, some users may have to wait a few days or even a week to get it. That’s because Real wants to guard against its servers getting overloaded and crashing.
Real says that when you upload a video from one device, it creates several versions of that video in its servers in the most common formats used by other devices.
There are common features across the different versions of the product for different devices. In each, you can view all your videos — stored on your device and in the cloud. Icons tell where they live. You can view just videos from your camera roll, or those you’ve downloaded.
If there are other devices on your local network running RealPlayer Cloud, those are listed in the app for quick video transfers. This feature doesn’t work with the Web-browser version. And while the Windows app can be seen by iOS and Android devices, it can’t detect them. The company says it views the Windows app as mainly a server for the mobile apps.
The mobile apps also let you play and share, but not download, a preselected offering of Web videos, plus videos from your Facebook friends, though you don’t have to link it to Facebook.
I think RealPlayer Cloud is well-designed and makes storing and sharing videos easy across different devices. There are other ways to do it, but this one is pretty clean and simple.
Email Walt at at email@example.com.