Here we continue our discussion on creating a 5-part video series for a simple video production campaign.
Last time I mentioned using Microsoft MovieMaker to import images and render to a video. The biggest issue with MovieMaker is choosing the output options for file format and resolution quality. Microsoft likes its proprietary WMV format for Media Player, and most video hosting sites accept it for uploading, but the compression locally on your PC and then file conversion at the host site can result in poor quality. Opinion is that WMV files are good for high motion and makes for smaller-sized files. But the program does not offer rendering to MPEG4 or flash format, which can be played on all computers and at a high quality.
A video uploaded and hosted on YouTube, or any other host, is only as good as its original source and I have found that WMV files converted to MP4 did not look great. Because of the source format being in WMV, the hosting service converts the file to a more universal format. The process can degrade the quality of the original. By uploading MP4 in the first place you can control the quality early on and reduce the conversion degradation or compression rate that is used at the hosting site.
One option with MovieMaker is to publish the project to NTSC and save as an AVI file, then use a conversion utility to encode to MP4. One such utility is SUPER, Simplified Universal Player Encoder & Renderer, by erightsoft.com
However, AVI files tend to be large and re-encoding takes a long time. Choosing different format options is a bit of an experiment by trial and error, which is even more time-consuming. Even then the results can be less than satisfying resolution.
Camtasia from Techsmith is alternative choice for editing videos on a PC. Camtasia Studio offers similar operation to MovieMaker plus more features, and it can render to MOV files used by Apple Quicktime, and also to flash files for hosting. There are options to choose H264 and MPEG4 compression. Camtasia is better known for its screen capture ability but the editing features can be suitable for most projects.
Another choice for the PC is Sony Vegas Pro. The user interface for this program was less intuitive to me but the program appears to have many editing possibilities and control of the output file.
My conclusion after researching many video creators’ advice, and testing various rendering combinations, is to end up with an MP4 file. MP4 can be played by PCs and Macs without proprietary players. For high quality, a good standard is to use H264 compression and encode at a bit-rate of at least 2000kbps. Widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9 comes from the original video source or can be ‘letterboxed’ as a last resort if using 4:3 aspect ratio raw video footage.
The best input and output size is 1280 x 720 pixels, otherwise called 720p HD. An MP4 file with these values will be a manageable file size, accepted by practically all hosting sites, and will display with excellent fidelity.
Now, there is a trick to having YouTube play back in High Quality. For a while there has been ‘high quality’ available from YouTube either as a switch on the bottom right of the player, or by forcing the playback to high quality by adding &fmt=18 to the end of the video’s URL.
To force high quality playback when embedding YouTube video code into a blog post you can add
&ap=%2526fmt%3D18 &hd=1 to end of the video ID.
More recently YouTube rolled out High Definition wide screen if the source could do it. You may have started noticing a few videos like that lately. Source video permitting, to force the player to HD wide screen, add
&fmt=22 &hd=1 to the end of the URL. To force High Definition playback when embedding YouTube video code into a blog post you can add &ap=%2526fmt%3D22 &hd=1 to end of the video ID.
Now that YouTube has gone to HD delivery, there is more reason to create and upload higher quality videos. 720p and 1080p is easier and cheaper than ever to achieve.
Next time we will go over the steps involved in the upload and listing of video productions.