Save your FREE seat for Streaming Media Connect this August. Register Now!

Review: JW Player

Article Featured Image

The JW Player is an online video platform used by broadcasters, publishers, churches, news outlets, sports organizations, and many others. The platform aims to simplify the process for streaming content delivery by including a configurable web player, simplified process for uploading and encoding videos for adaptive streaming, captioning integrations, and more.

This review will highlight the JW Player online video platform and explore its on-demand streaming, captioning, web player capabilities, and other features. It will walk viewers through using the platform, including the core features like uploading videos, importing streams, and creating playlists in the Media Library and configuring the media player, as well as more advanced features. It will also discuss testing done using the platform.

Using Video On-demand Streaming

JW Player users can easily upload videos to the online video platform by navigating to the Media Library. This is the location where all video uploads can be found.

The key to understanding JW Player’s Media Library is recognizing that it works by utilizing Properties (Figure 1). These Properties help users manage their on-demand streaming media, and allows them to keep different types of content separated. For example, users can separate DRM content from non-DRM content. You can also use Properties to manage and organize media.

jwp properties

Figure 1. View of Properties drop-down menu

I’ll first navigate to the property titled “smreview” used throughout this review. This will become more important when I discuss captioning integration in a later section.  

The JW Player dashboard has navigation to the right with all of its features. Within the Enterprise product used for this article, there is navigation based on what’s available to me.

These are the areas available for the Enterprise version I used in testing:

  • On-demand Streaming
  • Live Streaming
  • Apps
  • Advertising
  • Studio DRM
  • Players
  • Analytics
  • Playlists
  • Social Posts
  • Imports 

The Studio DRM settings can be found in the properties section on the drop-down at the top right of the dashboard.

To upload a video to JW Player, navigate to the Media Library tab and click Add Media (Figure 2). The progress window will appear and indicate that the upload is complete once your video is finished uploading. Encoding for adaptive streaming occurs as soon as the video is finished uploading.

jwp uploading media

Figure 2. Uploading media 

Once uploaded, you can quickly view the video in the web browser by clicking the video thumbnail in the Media Library and clicking the Embed button (Figure 3). Then click Preview on the bottom of the window that appears. This is a quick way to check the video to make sure it looks good. One outstanding feature of JW Player is that it makes it easy for users to grab embed codes in the JavaScript or iFrame flavor to add to a web page, blog, or other location.

jwp viewing uploading video

Figure 3. Viewing your uploaded video

Testing Video On-Demand Streaming

For testing VOD streaming in JW Player, I was interested in how long it took for the adaptive bitrates to be created for videos. I was also equally interested in how many bitrates would be in included in the encoding ladder and what the video metrics scores would for PSNR, SSIM, and VMAF.

To test how long it would take to create adaptive renditions, I used the sources listed in Figure 4.

jwp video sources

Figure 4. Details about video sources uploaded to JW Player

In Figure 4 you can see the video details along with the length of each of the three sources used for testing. Once uploaded to JW Player, each video was encoded to 7 adaptive renditions. These are listed in Figure 5.

jwp abr

Figure 5. Adaptive bitrates created by JW Player

In testing I was impressed that the encodes happened so fast. All adaptive bitrates for the three videos tested were completed in under 2 minutes.

Figure 6 shows the PSNR, SSIM, and VMAF scores for one of my videos to illustrate the quality of the output for the top three rungs of the JW Player encoding ladder. For the highest resolution, the score is the “good” range for PSNR and the “excellent” range for both SSIM and VMAF.

 jwp video metrics

Figure 6. Video metrics for Video 1

Adding chapters for videos was surprisingly easy and straightforward. All you have to do is navigate to the Tracks tab within your video (Figure 7) and click Manage. When the dialog appears, click the Add Chapter button, input the time and the name of the chapter, and click Done. Then click the Save button to save your chapter tracks.

jwp chapter tracks

Figure 7. View of Chapter Tracks

Testing Captioning

One item that is always a key consideration for me as it relates to streaming tools and online video platforms is accessibility. Specifically, I’m always curious about what type of integrations are available to simplify the process for generating captions and transcripts for viewers. Since many universities and colleges likely have digital accessibility standards like the ones we follow at The Ohio State University, I wanted to focus in on what features are available in JW Player to simplify the process for providing captioning for viewers. With this in mind, I tested captioning capabilities available on the platform.

JW Player has several captioning partners that assist their clients with creating captions by uploading content to the captioning partner or integrating with the platform. The integration gives JW Player customers and captioning partner customers an easy approach to requesting captions on videos. What this means for customers of both companies is that the request for captions is generated via JW Player, and then media is uploaded to the captioning partner. Captions are returned to the media once complete.

For this review, I decided to test integrations with JW Player and captioning company Rev.com. I also used this company to test the process of manually uploading content for captioning. I used a “pay as you go” Rev account for testing.

When configuring integrations, you’ll need to first get the API credentials for JW Player (Figure 8). This information is specific to your JW Player property.  Notice that the API credentials are specific to my property name “smreview.” To set up the integration, navigate to the My integrations tab inside the Rev account once you have the information.

jwp api

Figure 8. API Information from JW Player

Next, click on the Link New Account button, and select JW Platform from the drop-down menu (Figure 9).

jwplayer drop-down

Figure 9. Select JW Player from drop-down menu

Input your JW Player property name, API key, and API secret in the text boxes that appear (Figure 10), then select Pull Only Tagged Videos. Choosing this ensures that any video tagged within a particular property will be uploaded to Rev for captioning and returned to the selected video. This type of integration is key to universities like Ohio State since we have thousands of encodes for on-demand videos weekly university-wide. It would take an enormous amount of time to upload videos manually for captioning.

adding jwplayer

Figure 10. Adding JW Player information 

Figure 11 shows how I tagged the video I wanted captioned with Rev. You input rev-en under Add Tags and click Add. Once tagged, the video was uploaded to Rev for captioning within 1 hour. 

tagged video jwplayer

Figure 11. View of tagged video in JW Player

Once the video is uploaded to Rev, the initial tag of rev-en changes to rev-en-placed. It is updated again with rev-en-completed once captioning is finished. What’s wonderful about the integration is the captions are returned to the media in JW Player once captioning is complete.

In addition to testing the Rev and JW Player integration, I tested manually uploading a video to Rev. The uploading of media was straightforward: within the Rev dashboard, you can upload media by dragging the files over “Drag and drop files here” or by clicking the “Browse files” button.

You can see an update in the dashboard under My Files once captioning for your media is in progress or is completed. Once captioning is complete, you can download the caption files.

Using Web Player

There are many options you can customize for JW Player whether you are a novice or advanced user. Users can adjust behavior, display options, sharing features, advertising, recommendations, and many other options.

To get started, navigate to the Players tab. Once there, click Create Web Player and give it a name (Figure 12). The created player can be used on any video under your property. Users can select the aspect ratio for the player as well. The player can be customized with colors to match whatever branding you may have.

jwp creating web player

Figure 12. Creating a Web Player

One great feature is if you navigate to the Playlist tab to create a list of recommendations to play after the video, these can be added within the player as well.

Testing Web Player

I was able to easily make a playlist and add it to my player to use under the section for recommendations. What’s nice is you have various ways to configure the recommendations display. I also tested adjusting colors to customize the look of player. All of my adjustments, shown in Figure 13, were easy to implement.

jwp playlist recommendations

Figure 13. Playlist recommendations

Closing Thoughts

For this review, I wanted to test video on-demand streaming and how long it took JW Player to create an adaptive bitrate ladder for videos. I was equally interested in how many bitrates would be in included in the encoding ladder and what the video metrics scores would be for the three highest resolutions. Learning the PSNR, SSIM, and VMAF metrics for adaptive video renditions encoded by JW Player was also important.

Additionally, testing the ease of use of the web player and available features was key for me. Lastly, testing captioning integration with one of JW Player’s partners as well as testing manual uploading were critical for my review.

So here are my closing thoughts. In terms of the encoding speed for adaptive encodes, I was extremely pleased, since all adaptive encodes for my videos took less than 2 minutes to encode. I was happy with numbers related to video metrics as well. The results for “Video 1” listed in this review were in the good range for PSNR, and in the excellent range for SSIM and VMAF scores.

To say I was impressed by the ease of use of the Web Player would be an understatement. It’s remarkably easy to use and customize. Based on their web player features, it appears that JW Player does a great job of catering to novices as well as advanced users. Users really don’t need to know how to code when using the Web Player. Advanced users can copy the JSON code they want and add it to their code.

I was extremely happy with the Rev captioning integration I tested. The process proved easy and straightforward once I got my account set up using the “pay as you go” option.

I absolutely loved how easy uploading media was in Rev and I like the various captions type options available for downloading. I was able to add the downloaded captions in JW Player easily and without issues.

In terms of future enhancements, I would be interested in seeing some improvements on the captioning integration side from JW Player. In addition to receiving an email from JW Player once media is sent to the captioning partner, it would be great to have tagged videos checked more frequently for uploading the captioning vendor. Providing a way to let users know that files were tagged properly for processing would be helpful as well.

Streaming Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues
Related Articles

The Algorithm Series: Video Player Performance

Multiple algorithms for encoding, transfer, and playback intersect in the end user's player. So how can you make the numbers work in your favor?

SMW '19: Mux Talks Measuring Player Performance

Streaming Media contributing editor Tim Siglin interviews Mux Founder & Head of Product Steve Heffernan at Streaming Media West 2019.

JW Player Engineer Offers an Update on LHLS Development

Relying on chunks instead of larger video segments, LHLS brings latency down to two to seven seconds. Now the open source project is looking for publisher support.

Finding a Video Player That Works for You and Your Budget

The video player landscape has changed tremendously since Streaming Media examined it four years back. Here are the questions to ask when choosing a player and the features to watch for.

Companies and Suppliers Mentioned