Thursday, 21 April 2011

Posting HD videos on YouTube

When I first started posting videos on YouTube in 2007, they were audio only - I mastered them using Windows Movie Maker as wmv files with a short text header and trailer and typically they were around 10MB. That year, I also uploaded the wav files (about 30MB each) to Fileden and created playlists which could be played from my blog. The audio quality was usually pretty good - I used a little Zoom H4 digital  recorder with an AT shotgun mike - and almost all of the bandwidth was tajken up with the audio.

In 2008, I got my video camera, and started to record the visuals as well as the audio, but, I still mastered them as wmv and tried to maintain a similar, small file size. While the audio in those files wasn't bad, the video quality wasn't that good. Typically YouTube wasn't able to deliver more than 240p.

In 2009, as network upload bandwidth became better and YouTube relaxed their file size limits, I started to render my videos as mp4 files, now using Sony Vegas Movie Studio, and I tried  to keep the files at around 100MB. YouTube was now able to deliver these at up to 480p, which I considered a pretty good improvement.

Last year, YT upped its limits to 2GB and I moved to a BE broadband connection which had up to 2Mb of upstream bandwidth, so I started to increase the size of the mp4 files to about 800MB for a 10 minute video. Now YouTube could play these in HD at 1080p, but I found that my download speed was no longer good enough, and the videos would stop and start. so I usually played them at 720p or even 480p on a bad day. I also found that I couldn't play them locally any more. VLC would play the first couple of minutes OK, but then would stop showing any video and just play audio. Two steps forward and one step back.

Recently, I discovered that I hadn't done anything with my 2010 recording of Maalem Mahmoud Guinea and Daby Toure, so I edited and mastered one of the numbers, and rendered it in Mpeg 2, producing m2t files, at around 1.2GB per 10 minutes of video. Not only would these play well locally with VLC and QuickTime, but YouTube could deliver them pretty reliably in HD at 720p.

Update: 15 Oct 2011

I've been getting quite a few Google searches ending up on this page, so I thought that I'd add a few details about the setting I use:

Software: Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD 10
Encoding: MainConcept MPEG2
Vegas template: HDV 720-25p - I film in the UK so always work in PAL at 25fps
Audio: 384 Kbps, 48,000 Hz, 16 Bit, Stereo, MPEG
Video: 25 fps, 1280x720 Progressive, YUV, 18.3 Mbps
Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.000
Aspect ratio: 16:9

I know I could probably reduce the bit rate, but this works, so I'm loathe to change it.

I'd welcome your comments on what works for you.

What's interesting is that I've been using the same camera all for all of this - a Panasonic GS-400, which creates a 12GB avi file for each hour of tape. The high quality is inherent in the original, but it's taken me three years to discover the optimum way of delivering the quality on YouTube. I re-rendered and re-posted one of the numbers by the Korean drummers, Samulnori Molgae, but honestly, life is too short to re-render everything that I've recorded and posted over the past three years. Looking back at some of my old stuff, I cringe a little, but people still watch and listen to them. My most popular video - Maalem Hamid El Kasri - is only available in 240p but has had over 40,000 plays and still gets around 50 plays a day, so I figure I shouldn't worry too much.

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