YouTube Goes High Definition: The “Secret” Hack Know As &fmt=18

The thing that put YouTube on the map was easy file sharing — quick uploads and fast Flash-based streaming. Lately YouTube is experimenting with high definition, which is a slight improvement from the typical squished Flash format.

Here are the key things you need to know:

  1. It’s in testing, and it’s not perfect. The audio sometimes fails to synch, and not all videos work in high definition.
  2. This isn’t HDTV. It’s just a higher resolution version of Flash.
  3. You can add the code: &fmt=18 to the end of a video’s URL to see if it makes it better.
  4. You’ll see some text below videos that allow you to toggle between high and low resolution.
  5. You can update your account preferences so you have the ability to default to high definition if you don’t mind the potential loss of speed.
  6. I’m not aware of any discrimination on this feature between “Partners” and everyone else.

Charles Trippy posted a video on this yesterday and SMPFilms in (“YouTube Hack”) announced the news as well. This perhaps prompted YouTube’s Blog to post” YouTube Videos in High Definition.”

Mike Abundo (Inside Online Video), of course, identified the hack on March 4, and provided this recent update. I saw the post, but found the improvement to be of nominal visual distinction.

Charles Trippy provided this nice post for Mac users to help them export their videos to take advantage of this higher definition.

I’m working on a video that explains this, and demos some of the before/after. It will also show people how to turn on high definition as a default via their account preferences. I’ll show the step-by-step for exporting better quality (the limit is now 1 gig for all).

Another source: Wired Wiki explains formatting in great detail

11 Replies to “YouTube Goes High Definition: The “Secret” Hack Know As &fmt=18”

  1. There doesn’t seem to be any difference in quality, and the little links to click to see the video in higher quality only seem to be on partner videos, at least the ones i’ve seen. It’s nice that they’re finally working on this, but I have the feeling it’s going to be some time before the average user sees any kind of change to their video quality.

    I’ve been encoding my video for the HD servers at VIMEO for some time now, and i’ve been uploading the same encode to YT. The Vimeo vids look great, the YT vids leave a lot to be desired. Steve Chen claims that they’ve got all of the video stored in the cloud in it’s original format (from before they run it through the YT encode process) and that when the go to higher quality all of the existing video would not need to be uploaded again if it was uploaded in a high quality format……..

    I’m not holding my breath.

  2. I see a big difference in some videos, but a few only seem to produce audio on the right channel, though the sound is enhanced.

    When I used the hack this text appeared at the bottom of the vid:
    “Watch this video in lower quality for faster playback.”

    I also went into “Account” “Video Playback Quality” “Choose the default setting for viewing videos” ticked the switch, same text appeared. It worked, so you don’t really need the hack.

    Next I tried FF downloader to see if there was any difference in dl quality, I noticed I now had two dl options, the .flv and the .mp4

    the .flv was darker and softer visually, the sound was muffled.
    the mp4 was brighter, but fuzzier, the sound was stereo.

    With this enhanced feature… well frankly there’s nothing on youtube I can’t wait for, cept a Natls video. If you have cable or DSL the video loads pretty quick, If you have dial-up just get off the net.

    The quality overall on enhanced youtube isn’t as good as what blip or revver offer, but it is a little better then regular YT. The better sound might be worth it. Still, YouTube is the Chevy of online video.
    I don’t know if they can afford to make it much better with out complaints of congestion. Except for partner’s videos I’m getting a lot more 500’s again and videos that stop loading.

    What the heck is YouTube doing with all it’s Google money?

  3. This really makes a noticeable improvement on my videos which I uploaded using the Windows Movie Maker recommended setting: Video for Broadband (512 kbps). Opening the same video at the same frame in two browser tabs shows there is more detail in one image than in the other. Everything is less muddy.

  4. This gives me a good reason to get an HD camera. I wonder though Nalts – do you use Tape or an SD Card for your HD videos?

    I want to use tape but it uses the AVCHD codec – which is in its infancy.

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