Compression Settings

I blogged about why you need to be good at video compression a little while ago.  Since I’m telling you to be good at it, I figured I should help you along.  To that end, I’ll compile a list of good compression settings and profiles as I find them.  For the moment, they’ll all be included on this page.  If the list gets long enough, I may split it off into subpages for easier navigation.

Before we begin, a quick note on frame rates: 24 fps is typical for film, 25 fps is standard PAL broadcast (if your in the US, don’t worry about that guy), 30 fps is standard NTSC broadcast (that’s what we use in the US), and 60 fps is high definition.

First up: Youtube.  YouTube actually has 2 different compression profiles to be aware of: regular and high quality.  Where this really comes into play is with your resolution.

Standard YouTube setting:  Youtube can actually handle a variety of files, including .wmv, .avi, .mov, and .mpg.  However, the recommend that you use H.264, MPEG-2, or MPEG-4 to get the clearest picture.  I’ve gotten middling success with .mov files as well.

  • Resolution: (aka, the size of the video) If your video is SD, go for 640×480. If your uploading HD video, I highly recommend 1280×720.
  • Keep your frame rate set to the original settings for your video. Resampling can actually cause the picture to come out worse. ‘Current’ is your best option here. You’ll see the best results if your original video was shot at 24 fps or higher. Cell phone camera video is always going to look bad. I’m sorry. While we’re talking about rates, don’t worry about the bit rate, as per YouTube’s instructions.
  • Make sure your audio is set to .mp3 or AAC. I personally use AAC for all my web video audio.
  • Keep your sampling rate to a standard 44.1 kHZ
  • Make sure you’re using stereo audio. Lots of viewers, like me, use external speakers with their computers. Make sure we hear your audio through both speakers. If you only have a single channel, duplicate it into another audio track, and you have now created stereo audio. Just be sure to check all your levels to make sure they’re good.

Vimeo is another popular video hosting site. I use them personally, because I can host full HD videos there, with the option to play them in full HD (1280×720). In fact, since most of my work is HD, I pony up the money to allow those HD videos to be embedded on my site in full quality.  They’re settings are a bit different than YouTube’s, so they’ll be listed here as well.

  • Codec: H.264 for video (If you’ve never used it, try it. H.264 is the codec all the iPods and iPhones use to get that nice, crisp video on that little screen.) and AAC for audio
  • Frame rate: Current is your best bet, again. The video knows what frame rate to operate at.
  • Key Frames: Every 30 frames for best results.
  • Data Rate: The higher the data rate, the better the quality, but the large the file size.
    • 1800 kbits/sec for standard definition 4:3 video
    • 2500 kbits/sec for widescreen (16:9) DV video
    • 5000 kbits/sec for high definition video
  • Size: Always double check this. These are the optimum sizes for each major type of video:
    • 640×480 for standard definition 4:3 video
    • 872×480 for widescreen 16:9 DV video
    • 1280×720 for high definition – this includes any 1080 HD video you may have. Always scale it down to 720 for internet viewing.
  • De-interlace: yes, always de-interlace when coming from tape. If you don’t, you’re going to get an odd, jagged looking video. I usually de-interlace all my videos, just so that I don’t fall into a bad habit and forget to do it one day.
  • Sound sampling rate: 44.1 kHz
  • Audio quality: go for an audio bit rate of 128 kbps. It will sound nice without dramatically increasing the file size

That’s about all for now. I have a few profiles saved that I use from time to time. I’ll add them in as I have free time here and there. Hope this is helpful!

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