Magazine article Politics Magazine

Tricks to Sharpen Your YouTube Spots

Magazine article Politics Magazine

Tricks to Sharpen Your YouTube Spots

Article excerpt

While you can spend hours on You Tube watching everything from Obama Girl to stupid cat tricks, many of our clients have also found a much more practical use for YouTube: distributing clips of television spots to their colleagues for approval.


It wasn't long before these clients noticed the quality wasn't as good as what they saw in our edit suite. YouTube significantly reduces image quality in the interest of Internet bandwidth. You can't control much about the compression process at YouTube, but there are things you can do to enhance the quality of the finished product.

In a search for the very best process for our clients, I submitted hundreds of test clips (continued from page 680

to YouTube. But before I share some of my findings, let me go over a few of the basics of video compression.

One of the major misconceptions of video compression confuses the player technology with the codec. A codec (Coder-Decoder) is the algorithm used to squeeze out redundant or unnecessary data from video in order to shrink file sizes. It's a delicate balancing act between reducing data and leaving an acceptable image behind. This compromise is important to understand since whatever you submit to YouTube will be compressed again with a Flash Video codec. The original compression submitted to YouTube will suffer some degradation, but avoiding additional cascading compression artifacts is the key.

Video compression, present in all forms of digital video these days, will compromise the image quality at least slightly. Each codec leaves its own footprint on the video. Depending on your submission format, visible compression artifacts may multiply themselves tobecome more noticeable when uploaded to YouTube, so care must be taken to choose your upload format widely.

The player you see on a computer is just a way of displaying and controlling the video. Compressed video is typically packaged, transported and displayed through a "container." Software players, codecs and container technologies are really three separate pieces orchestrated by compression software. The actual compression is controlled by the codec, then the compression software wraps the compressed data into a container. The player understands how to unpack the container and extract the payload for display.

Blanket statements about which player technology is best for submission to YouTube become moot when considering all the other factors, especially the codec involved. Some player technologies will force you into a codec that is less than optimal for YouTube submission.

For example, Microsoft's Windows Media Player uses an underlying codec, the most common being the older Windows Media 9. Windows Media is really a container technology that favors its own codec and player. The Windows Media codec gave one of the worst performances in my YouTube tests.

RealMedia makes a player that primarily uses its own codec and container but will play other codecs and container technologies. RealMedia will play assets using the MPEG4 container and the H.264 codec. However, RealProducer only creates RealMedia files, which are not accepted by YouTube.


Adobe's Flash technology (used by YouTube) is a container that understands a limited set of codecs but has a broad range of player will also understand MPEG3/H.264 encoded assets.

Apple's QuickTime is yet another container technology that understands hundreds of different codecs. …

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