When video first burst on the scene, the quality of the video wasn’t as important as the watchability of the video. You Tube’s genius was to stream flash videos with a smooth, uninterrupted playback that almost anyone could watch, without downloading new software or waiting for long periods for the files to be buffered. The combination of faster connections and flash made the video revolution possible.
A year or so later, and viewers and producers are both restless. You Tube’s quality never matches the original – and “compression” is no longer a good enough excuse. Rival services like Vimeo offer better quality, while remaining broadly accessible. In fact, Vimeo will stream High Definition videos from its own site (although you cannot embed HD yet)
You Tube is not standing still. They have begun to offer different versions of individual videos depending on the viewer’s connection speed. (all embedded videos remain standard quality).
Look at these three pictures for a quick comparison. The original video was shot with a Canon HV20 in High Definition, then downsampled to SD and produced as WMV for viewing on the internet. The clips are all taken from the same video, in roughly the same spot. Because the talent is moving and talking, the person in the screen cap is slightly blurred. Look at the still portions of the video – the bag or the caption, for instance – for a quick video clarity reference point. (If you click on the pictures, you will be taken to You Tube or Vimeo, where you can view and compare the actual videos.) The first picture is from Standard You Tube quality:
Standard You Tube Quality
Notice the option, directly below the Views counter, to switch to High Quality. If you click on that link, You Tube will start the video over. The high quality version will have been rendered with a newer, better codec that may require a more recent version of the flash player and a higher connection speed. The difference, however, is immediately apparent. Here’s a screencap of the High Quality version:
You Tube High Quality
Notice that the link under the Views counter now offers you the choice to switch back to Standard quality.
Finally, here is the same video, in Standard Quality, on Vimeo:
Standard Quality on Vimeo
I didn’t produce the video in a High Def version, so there is no way to show the truy superior results available in that format. But the lesson is clear: standard quality on Vimeo matches or exceeds high quality on You Tube.
You Tube still has twice as many visitors as all other video sites combined. You must upload your videos to You Tube if you want them to be seen by the widest possible audience. But if you are embedding the videos in your own site or blog or auction listing – upload the video to Vimeo as well, and embed the video from there.
Video Quality, although it may be hard for the average internet user to define, can be seen by the naked eye. You don’t need benchmarks to know what looks better. And better looking will almost always translate into better selling.