Now that video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo can display content in high-definition, it’s important that you understand how to prep your videos so that they will look their absolute best, whether they were shot in standard or high-definition. Online videos need to look crisp and sharp. Resolution and detail are lost when a video undergoes high compression. The file size may be smaller, but you sacrifice quality. Since YouTube can accept videos as large as 2GB in size, there’s really no reason to compress videos as much as we used to. Let’s talk about how you can get your video to look its best when you upload it to the web. A lot of the information presented in this article can also be found here.
- DE-INTERLACE YOUR VIDEO. An interlaced video is comprised of two fields that are blended together to create a single frame of video. This is how many televisions display video and it’s how many standard-definition formats record video. However, computer monitors display video in a progressive format, which means that each frame is a single image. It is not comprised of two separate fields, blended together, as in interlaced video. So, before exporting your video to the web, you will need to de-interlace your footage, or shoot in a progressive format. You will need to consult your editing software to determine how this is done. I use Adobe Premiere Pro. When I am ready to export from Premiere, I got to “File>Export>Media” which brings up my Media Encoder settings. Within that window is a tab marked “Video.” Under the “Video” tab is an option to export the video in progressive or interlaced format.
- CHANGE YOUR PIXEL ASPECT RATIO. DV footage, natively, is a non-square pixel format. However, computers display video content in a square pixel format. So, before uploading your video to the web, you will need to change your non-square pixel aspect ratio to a square pixel aspect ratio. If you shoot in HD, this point doesn’t apply, because HD video is a square pixel format natively.
- EXPORT YOUR VIDEO WITH A 640X480 FRAME SIZE. The frame size for standard 4:3 DV footage is 720×480, but in a square pixel aspect ratio, DV footage will look its best if rendered out at 640×480. If you shoot your footage in a widescreen format (16:9 aspect ratio), YouTube should recognize it as widescreen and display it properly. However, if you find that your widescreen video is being squeezed into a 4:3 player window, try adding the following code into the tags for your video – yt:stretch=16:9. This should solve the problem and your video should play in a proper widescreen format, without the addition of letterboxing.
- TRY DIFFERENT CODECS. Codec is short for “compression-decompression.” Codecs are programs that help compress videos for transmission and distribution and then decompress them so the end user can view them. The thing you need to know about codecs is that there are a LOT of them. Some provide better results than others, so you may need to experiment with various ones until you find the codec that gives your video the quality you like the best. Your editing software will come with several built-in codecs. I like using the H.264 codec. The video maintains a good level of clarity and sharpness when I use it. Plus, the pocket-sized HD cameras on the market today use the H.264 codec when recording video.
- KEEP YOUR FILE SIZE RELATIVELY HIGH. Remember that YouTube can accept videos up to 2GB in size, which means you have a lot of flexibility when encoding your video. And current Internet connection speeds can handle larger video files much better than what was possible a few years ago. In my work, I have found that a 4-5 minute video, when encoded, will come out to about 500-600MB. It might take 90-120 minutes to upload a video of that size, but once uploaded, it can be played back quickly.
Getting video to look its best when uploaded to the web can be a trial-and-error process, but once you hit on the right formula, you can begin uploading some great-looking videos. I know that Premiere Pro allows one to save user-defined presets when exporting a video. So, if I find a combination that works right for me, I will save it as a preset so I can quickly pull it up when encoding another project.
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