Video Encoding Guidelines

With many teams posting videos online, I’d thought I would share some helpful tips to make them look at good as possible.

  • Try not to repeatedly re-encode video files when transferring them to different programs. Each re-encode makes the video look more “blocky” and pixelated. Think of making a photocopy of an already photocopied page. Each time you do it, it looks worse.
  • Try not to convert the framerate of the videos. Changing a 30fps video into 60fps just duplicates frames for no reason, and changing it to 24fps will likely make it “stuttery”, as some frames will be removed. This is not the same as changing the playback speed, like in high-speed/slow-mo video
  • If you are all done editing your video, export it as high quality! Try not to scale your video down or up. Both cause a loss of quality. Also, you generally shouldn’t select some generic “Web” preset! It will likely over-compress your video and make it look bad! You should always upload the highest quality “final release” video to sites like YouTube! (See notes below)
  • Don’t add your own letterboxs or pillarboxes! These are those “black bars” you see on widescreen movies when watched on a regular 4:3 “square” SDTV, and when you watch SD video on a HDTV. Sites like YouTube automatically add them in when you watch on their site. Adding your own just adds more empty black space.

I use an older version of Final Cut Express, and mainly work with only SD content. The camera I have isn’t that great to begin with, so I try to retain as much quality as possible by exporting the final project as a full quality DV file, and I upload that to YouTube. YouTube then converts that into a variety of formats (FLV, H.264, 3GP) for use on its site. You should try exporting to DV, MPEG2, or H.264. The last two are the formats used on DVDs and HD content like Blu-Ray discs.

Also, if you are hosting your videos on your own site, you should convert you video using something like Handbrake (Free, Open Source, Win/Mac/Linux) to convert to H.264. The “Universal” preset should work well after checking the “Web Optimized” box. The resulting file can be downloaded and viewed in a player, and can even be streamed in a Flash video player you can place on your site.

See Also: http://www.google.com/support/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=132460

Anyone else have other comments/suggestions?