Uploading Video Assets

How to upload your video screener, trailer, and other video assets

Written by George Reese

Last published at: March 10th, 2023

In places where we ask for a video asset, getting that asset into SparqFest is a two step process: upload and ingest.

For your screeners/exhibition copies, this process can take a long time. You should be uploading a reasonably high quality video asset which is probably many gigabytes in size. This article lays out what we expect from a video file, what we do with it, and what some good practices are to create an optimal viewing experience for your audience.

Video Upload

You have three options for video upload:

  • Manually, from your computer to the festival
  • Direct, from a cloud provider using a provider-specific file picker
  • Custom, from a URL you provide

Manual Uploads

Manual video uploads are fairly straightforward, if not time-consuming. You can either select the “upload” button or drag your video asset onto the field it represents. 

The above examples shows an old user interface supporting only an upload from your computer to the festival. In that example, we drag a trailer video into the trailer field of the project editor. 

If you use the “upload” button approach, you will be asked whether the file location is on your computer, with a cloud provider, or sourced from a video URL. For a manual upload, select “My Computer”. You will be prompted to select the specific file to upload when click “Begin Upload”. Make sure you answer the other questions before clicking “Begin Upload”.

Limitation on Manual Uploads

The file size of a manual upload is limited in part by your bandwidth. In practice, most people are limited to around 50 GB. People on lower bandwidth connections may only be able to upload 25GB.

If the file size is too big, you will receive an error saying that the file is too big for the amount of bandwidth you have. In that scenario, you have two options:

  • Re-encode the video into a smaller file size
  • Use the direct or custom upload options, which are not limited

Direct Transfers

A direct transfer is where we pull your video file from your cloud storage provider. Direct transfers are the ideal way to get us your video files.

At this time, we support the following cloud storage providers:

  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive

We will naturally add other providers based on the demands of festivals and project teams. We cannot support WeTransfer as the WeTransfer terms of service prevent direct downloads.

As this example shows, you select the “Dropbox” option for file location and a button appears at the bottom that says “Choose from Dropbox. You should first answer the other questions in the dialog before clicking ”Choose from Dropbox". Once you select the button, a dialog window controlled by Dropbox appears.

The first time you do this, Dropbox will ask you to authenticate and confirm that you want to give SparqFest permission to browse you files. Once you authenticate and grant SparqFest permission, you will see the files in your Dropbox account.

We Don't See Anything in the Dropbox Window

When you click the “Choose from Dropbox” button, we hand control over to Dropbox in the pop-up. We have no visibility into what happens in that Dropbox. When you are done, we simply receive a special URL from Dropbox that we can use to download your file.


Once you have selected the file, SparqFest will start the download process.

This process is almost identical for files in Google Drive.

Custom Uploads

If you have the video hosted at some other location, you can simply choose the “Raw Video URL” option and then enter the URL in the option that appears. You then click the “Begin Upload” and SparqFest fetches the video for you.

This Option Works only in Selected Situations

The custom upload process works only if the URL you provide is a direct download URL for a raw video file. In other words, the following WILL NOT work:

  • You cannot enter a Google Drive private share URL (they prevent automated downloads)
  • You cannot enter the URL for a Vimeo or YouTube video (these aren't the raw video files, they are pages for viewing the videos)

Dialog and Captions

No matter what approach you choose, we need to know about how your video handles dialog and captioning.

The first question is simple enough: Does the video have dialog? For most every video, the answer will be “yes”. Do you have a music video with lyrics? The answer is yes. Do you have a silent film with captioned dialog? The answer is yes.

The only situation in which the answer is “no” is if no one is speaking any dialog meant to be “heard” in the video. The answer to this question helps us manage captioning.

The second question is relevant only if you answer “yes” to the first question. It is asking what languages are supported in this video by "open captions". We track support both for “open captions” (captions burned into the video) and “closed captions” (captions housed in a separate file). At the time of upload, we want to know the language or languages of the open captions. 

CHECK ONLY LANGUAGES FOR WHICH CAPTIONS OR SUBTITLES ARE EMBEDDED DIRECTLY INTO THE VIDEO STREAM. If you have captions as separate files, you will be offered the opportunity to upload those files later.

You start the upload process by clicking on “Begin Upload” or “Choose from [CLOUD PROVIDER]”. If you dragged a file into place, the upload will begin immediately. Otherwise, you will be asked to pick the file to upload.

How the upload occurs depends on what method you selected. If you are uploading from your computer, the site begins uploading that file. For the other options, our servers go to the remote location and download the video.


If you are using a direct or custom download, however, you can go on and do other things once the confirmation dialog appears.

Under all scenarios, the ingest process begins once the server has a copy of your file.

Replacing Videos

To replace an existing video, simply drag over the new one or select a new one.

Video Formats

We accept just about any video format you can imagine. The one exception we know of is ProRes 4444. If you don't know what that is, you likely do not have a file in that format. PreoRes 4444 is a format for mastering some select projects and is not suitable for screening contexts like film festivals. We accept other ProRes formats, Windows media, H.264, and more.

One the audio side, we will accept surround mixes but we will not accept videos without any audio track. Even if you have a project with absolutely no sound, you should have an audio track. Thus, we consider the lack of an audio track to be an error condition.

Even though we accept surround mixes, the result for online screenings might not be what you desire. When we receive a surround mix, we mix down to stereo for online audiences. Whether or not this mix down works depends entirely on the nature of your surround mix. We therefore recommend uploading videos with stereo tracks for online festivals.

Video Ingest

As you saw above, once the download is complete, an ingest phase begins. You do not need to wait around for the ingest to complete. We will send you an email once ingest is done with either a success or error message, depending on which is the case.

An email from SparqFest telling the creator that the ingest failed

Ingest can take a long time. For very large files or when SparqFest has a lot of active users, it can take a really, really, really long time.

When we are ingesting, we are taking your original video and transcoding it to many different formats for online streaming. The goal is to provide the best possible viewing experience to every viewer, regardless of their bandwidth or choice of device.

Once the ingest completes, you will see a thumbnail from the video instead of the original placeholder image.

The trailer and screener have both been successfully ingested and are ready to watch

You will also see a new captions/subtitles field where you can manage your closed captions and subtitles.

Captions and Subtitles

During the upload phase, you were able to identify any languages for which there were embedded captions ("open captions"). Once ingest completes, you can upload any captions you have in sidecar files ("closed captions"). We accept either SRT or VTT files for your closed captions/subtitles.

In the Captions/Subtitles box is a list of all languages supported by the festival plus the language of your project. You can either drag a captions file onto the box or you can click on a specific language.

If you click a language, it will ask whether you have open captions or closed captions for that language. If you click “open captions”, you can save and the language will be marked as having captions embedded in the video. If you click “closed captions”, you will be prompted to upload a captions file in SRT or VTT format.

When you drag a captions file onto the box, SparqFest will attempt to guess what language the captions are in based on the file name of the captions file. If it cannot guess, it will ask you.

Timecode Basis for SRT and VTT Files

If your project is a feature film whose captions were converted from a projection standard like SCC, your SCC likely has a 1:00:00;00 timecode basis and a raw conversion to SRT or VTT will not work well. Always make sure the start point for your SRT or VTT files is a timecode of 00:00:00;00 (meaning that if the first line of dialog is 10 seconds in, the first line in the captions file should show a timecode of 00:10;00).


The Online Viewer Experience

The experience for in-person viewers will obviously depend on the quality of the file you uploaded and the projection environment, neither of which SparqFest currently addresses. SparqFest is, however, the screening environment for any online audience. Your viewers will not be watching the original you uploaded, but instead of one of the transcoded versions based on a combination of their device and bandwidth capabilities.

You've experienced Netflix buffering content and some people will occasionally experience your video buffering. These flaws are not an artifact of the quality of our transcoding nor our bandwidth. We provide the highest quality transcoding and have the same bandwidth as Amazon Prime. The video streams are moved to endpoints all over the world and thus are being served relatively close to your viewers. Still, things go wrong between our cloud and viewer devices, and sometimes viewers just have terrible connections to the internet.

On the security side of things, we are streaming HLS over encrypted connections to authenticated viewers. Your original file is never accessible to the end-user, and we do not download your work to the user computer.