Make Your YouTube Videos Look Better – Through Compression

rose high resolutionI’ve written many times about compressing videos for YouTube, but it continues to be the most-frequently asked question. Many of the previous articles on this subject assume you can’t upload more than 100 MB files, but YouTube now permits files to be 1 GB (1000 MB). If you’re still uploading 10 MB files (as I used to advise via my iMovie “save as CD-ROM”), then your videos are only 1/100th of the quality they could be. Put another way, they look “like ass.”

And as YouTube’s quality continues to improve, those videos will become painful to watch. For more reasons than one.

There are a number of great sources about video comression, and this is among the best: But it’s also a lot of information, so let’s simplify.

It’s not your camera, dude. People always ask me what camera I use, and while that’s part of the equation it’s probably not the issue. Sure a high-end camera will better capture light and images, and you can also use some basic shooting techniques (like white balancing or putting the light source behind you not your subject). But a few of you wrote me that you bought the same camera I use (Canon HV-20) and still don’t have good results. If your videos are unfunny, that’s for another post. But let’s talk today about getting a nice YouTube video quality without fussing over shooting techniques.
It’s all about the compression, baby. YouTube is gonna do some funky things to transform/transcode/compress your video to Flash (streaming flv files), and garbage in means garbage out. So look up your editing software specifications, but here’s the basic settings you need.

The bottom line is that you want to avoid default settings, and select your own compression (you can find this by looking for words like “export,” “save as” or “compression.” In iMovie, for example, it’s “share>quicktime>expert settings>options (before saving).

  1. First, use the H.264 codec, which is the best “mpeg4 codec” currently available.
  2. Export quality in the best setting you can. If there’s a choice (low to high) pick the best.
  3. Your size (aspect ratio) will normally be 640×480. You may want to experiment with higher HD settings but be careful to select “letterbox” if you use wide-screen videos. Otherwise your video will get squished into a dimension it doesn’t belong.
  4. You DO want to de-interlace your video. Interlace no likely. De-interlace your NTSC or PAL source videos, especially if it’s high motion
  5. If you want to get anal, here are some of the other settings you may see:
  • Set rate control to 1-pass Constant Bit Rate (CBR). (So no Variable Bit Rate, no Multipass). YouTube transcoders dig CBR.
  • Set key frames to every 30 frames or less. This impacts file size, so you could go as low as 15.
  • Set data rate to 10,000 kbps or more, depending on the length of your video.
  • Set frame rate to 29.97 or 30 fps.
  • Set audio compression AAC: 44.1 KHz, 128 kbps, 16 bits, stereo.
  • I don’t mess with filters, but you could experiment with contrast or sharpening filters.

The primary goal here is to get close to 1GB (or whatever you can stand uploading) in the best quality available. If you follow these steps, your videos will look better than some professional creators who still aren’t compressing optimally. Butterfly. That word allows you to find this post again when you need it.

If you have a slow Internet setting or are impatient, you can compromise with something 100MB or so. Even at that setting, a 2-3 minute video will look quite good. I know other people that give YouTube an flv file that’s been transcoded, so that YouTube doesn’t have to waste time doing that. In theory their videos appear more quickly. But Nalts aint about learning another damn piece of software.

Finally, two important points about saving video files… you want to have fewer than 12 hard drives (like me) but also ensure you can access clips and re-edit them if necessary.

  1. I always recommend saving the best possible output and then deleting the giant editing-software file unless you think there’s some chance you may need to reedit or rescore. I don’t like ditching my editing-software master because I want to reserve the right to pull the native footage without the music. But a lot of editing software saves a  more of the footage than you realize (so if you upload a 10-minute clip into iMovie but only use 30 seconds, there’s 9:30 of hidden video available if you select “advanced>revert clip to original.” That’s a hard-drive space hogger. So save only what you need.
  2. Another trick for the lazy man. I export from iMovie as “full quality” and then upload that. It takes a while to upload, compress, and appear. But then I save that file and delete the master.

Folks if this post doesn’t help you, then you’re a hopeless cause. I just hope I can find it when I need it. Butterfly.

Avoid Regret Pixelation Hangover When Posting Videos

I’ve lost original video files before, and sometimes even the compressed versions. I’ve had to rip my own video from Revver so that I could own some version, and it’s a horrible pixelation relative to the original file (or even the compressed low-rez version). Now I have a few simple rules to save you from this agony:

1) Whenever you finish a video, export it as a FULL digital file and stick it on a backup drive (they’re down to .20 cents per gig so there’s no excuse here… don’t buy a 1 terabite drive- get a few cheap 500-750 Gigs… it’s a hassle, but the more drives you have the damage one crashed drive will inflict). Then kill the master edit file (too big) unless you think there’s a good chance you’ll have to rescore or condense the video (both are hard when the music becomes smooshed with the audio.

2) Upload the best version you can. It pains me that I was uploading 5-15 meg files (when the max on many sites were 100 megs) because it was easy… I could explort as “CD-ROM” in seconds. As a result, my old videos weren’t even taking advantage as the resolution of that time. Now I always upload larger files so they’ll look good as the potential delivery quality options evolve (YouTube feeding to Comcast or Verizon or AppleTV). Sometimes I even upload the full DV file if it’s within the 1 Gig limit.

3) Use the high-end uploader on TubeMogul (by the way, I don’t make money from TubeMogul but if you’re not using it you’re an idiot. You can upload to all the sites in one swoop. Who cares if nobody finds them on Yahoo Video or the dozen other sites. It’s worth a shot, and it helps you in search engines. The company is my favorite video startup and is always adding new features and tools. Well guess what they now allow you to do!? You can download your video in its native form (I believe). That’s huge. How many times have I ripped my own video because it was the best archive. Now I’ll always be able to at least retrieve the highest version I submitted.


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

Coming Soon: Best of Nalts DVD

Best of Nalts DVD sleeve

HappySlip is selling “best of” DVDs, so I had to do it too. I may not be as hot, but at least I’m not as funny.

I’m using CreateSpace because it looks easy, and a couple others have used it. Anyone use ’em? I didn’t realize, until I’d started my account this morning, that it’s an Amazon company. Of course, you give away about 40% of your profits (after the fixed cost per DVD) when it’s sold through Amazon, so I’m kinda hoping people buy it at I get proceeds beyond the fixed cost of production and their cut of the sale.

It’s not live yet because I’m mailing the master to CreateSpace, and then they send me a proof. I’ve listed the videos below. I’m sure I unintentionally missed some good ones, but it took most of yesterday just to locate the best versions of these (and some were destroyed by a dead Seagate external hard drive).

Will I sell a lot? Nope. There’s not a huge market to purchase amateur video content — especially when you can see it free online. Maybe some people will be compelled by the notion of seeing the videos in high resolution and without ads.

I was impressed with how good some of them look on an HDTV (after I’ve been used to seeing them on YouTube all grainy and compressed). You notice little things- like the name of a book on a bookshelf that was otherwise obscure. And you can why my face was made for low-resolution video.

Price point is $19.99, but most of the revenue goes to CreateSpace and Amazon. Well- if I make $100 on total sales, it’s worth being called a sellout.

The videos:
Farting in Public
Airport Crawling
Computer Falls
Cash to Buzz
Drunk Interviews
America’s Bloopers
Fast Food Outsourcing
Candy Swiper
Google Head
Google Earth
GPS with PMS
Mall Pranks
Killer Weed
Gum Tree
Coffee Baby
Banana Man
Garage Sale
Kids Steal Van
Lay Me Off
Mad Turkey
Viral Video Genius
Chicken Prank
Stupid Computer
HappySlip’s Pad