Web video sizing

I have been getting more and more interested in video work in the last couple of years.  Shooting video at the same time as stills is a regular feature of any shoot I am now on.  I am even getting better at planning my shot requirements for the video in order to have some hope of putting together a relatively coherent piece later.  The recent ISAP symposium had some good information on that.  However, that is not the point of today’s piece.  Instead, I am thinking about video size.

I have a YouTube channel on which I upload my content.  As s shameless plus, if you want to check it out, go to http://www.youtube.com/user/EdgcumbePhoto and you can see the videos I have previously uploaded.  Subscribe if you want and it will let you know about all of the exciting new videos I upload!  Okay, we return from that commercial break and resume normal programming.  I shoot everything in HD and edit the footage for 1080p output.  This can result in some quite large files.  YouTube allows you to upload full 1080p so that is what I have been doing.

Unfortunately, our current internet connection is not helpful here.  While we have pretty decent download speeds, the upload speeds are very slow.  DSL was not designed for upload and consequently, the upload speeds have not kept pace with the download speeds and the needs of users generating more and more content.  A recent video I made was about eight minutes long.  The 1080p version of this was nearly 2Gb.  Uploading this took over a day!!!

Now, when I watch videos on YouTube, what resolution do I watch them at?  I certainly like HD footage but I only ever use 720p.  This is a combination of avoiding bandwidth issues as well as the size of my monitors.  There really is no need to be any larger.  I wonder whether this is normal.  I started looking at what is available on other videos I was watching and quite a few only go to 720p.  I thought a quick experiment was in order.  The eight minute video I mentioned before can easily be regenerated at 720p so I did that.  The file size came out to just over 300Mb.  That is a pretty dramatic reduction in file size and upload time.

I think I have been wasting time and bandwidth creating files too large for anyone to need.  I am going to stick with 720p for a while and see how things work out.  We might have access to a different net connection before too long and I might check out upload speeds then but, for now, this seems to be a far more sensible approach.

One thought on “Web video sizing

  1. Jonathan Price

    Think you’re right about 1080 v 720. 1080 is nice but I remember a trial in ‘What HiFi’ mag where customers were asked to rate a 50 inch Pioneer 720p Plasma Screen against the same manufacturer’s newest 1080p version. Watching a 1080p bluray on both a majority could not tell the difference especially during scenes with movement. There was more of a difference when viewing stills. Maybe something to do with the amount of info the brain can absorb / process? With a still you can take time to absorb and let your eyes wander over it picking out detail; with video you have to ‘grab’ the information and comprehend it while the scene morphs? The brain is a clever filter so it concentrates of the ‘important detail’ and records the detail change from one frame to the next. I guess this is why compression algorithms work so well – grab a video still and the compression blocks stand out clearly, but you rarely notice them when watching the video play. I think this is where data rates become important – you can encode at 720p but if you data rate is low then the compression ‘blockiness’ becomes more obvious – because the data rate is too low for the compression to morph the blocks regularly. And since data rate is as important to file size as resolution then mucking about with both (and then playing the result in a variety of players) produces interesting variations in file size. I often find my video quality looks completely different when viewed in a browser versus a MS player versus something like VLC media player! I guess this is down to each players decompression algorithm. And therefore why it probably worth buying the latest and best bluray player first, and then buying a screen that that can cope with that player’s data rates.
    And I wonder if this will mean that 1080p will be the resolution for home consumption for longer than some industry insiders are currently predicting? With most media moving to online / net distribution the net speeds are going to have to move on from what is currently proposed to allow higher resolution live broadcast than 1080p. And do we really need higher resolution? When I watched 520i TV you still wanted to go to the cinema to watch something in all it’s expansive glory, but watching a bluray on my 50 inch screen (especially some of the stuff that is filmed in IMAX – Dark Knight Rise) I have no such desire! All they need to sort is a screen size with a width that matches cinema ( so I don’t have to watch a bluray film in a letterbox) and cinema is dead!


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