SHOOTING FOR SUCCESS
Getting the best quality out of online video
by Benjamin Wayne, CEO of Fliqz
With Americans watching more than 12 billion videos a month online, at a whopping four hours for the average user, the web represents a vast and hungry audience, making it a key distribution channel for filmmakers and videographers. The challenges of internet video delivery, however, constrained by end-user connection speeds and the cost of bandwidth, can reduce even the sharpest video quality to a muddy blur. The following tips will help you ensure your masterpiece looks its best when posted online:
1. Think small
Although some sites support full-screen viewing, most users will watch your video at the default player size, which is about the equivalent of a seven-inch screen. At that size, many of the details that would be visible on a standard television screen are lost, making for a very different user experience. To compensate, avoid wide shots where the detail may be lost, and focus on tighter shots which will optimize the viewing experience for the small screen. Also realize that fast motion and quick transitions from dark to light are highly artifact-prone when videos are converted for online viewing, and avoid them whenever possible. Avoid zooms and pans, which tend to translate poorly to the small screen.
2. Pick the best file format for maximum quality
When submitting video files to an online destination, they will be encoded from their native format into Flash for cross-platform compatibility. Not all file formats are created equal when it comes to encoding success and quality. Avoid .mov files, especially those created by Final Cut or similar editing programs, which tend to be problematic for encoders to handle. Also avoid Flash files, as Flash-to-Flash encoding often causes significant degradation in quality. Mpeg files are often the best choice, as they maximize both the encoding success probability as well as output file quality.
3. Match your source file to the output
Another aspect of the encoding process is compression, which can often lead to artifacts or other quality problems in the final Flash output. Most encoding processes create an output file which is roughly 400 by 300 pixels. Files with larger dimensions will be compressed down, resulting in noticeable deterioration in quality. Matching your source files dimensions to the final output dimensions will guarantee the least compression possible. Many sites post their target encoding dimension in their FAQ. If in doubt, contact the site. You can typically ignore audio sampling rates and frame rate, as most encoders will accept the values in the original source files.
Following the above guidelines will help to maximize the viewing experience for your audience, and will ensure your video looks as good on the small screen as it does on the large screen.
Benjamin Wayne is the CEO of Fliqz, the leader in full-service, plug-and-play video solutions. For more information, visit www.fliqz.com