Compressing your video for the internet

So, you've finished filming and editing your juggling video, and you want to show it to other jugglers. Nowadays, the easiest way to do this (if you don't happen to have a bunch of jugglers lounging about in your living room) is to put your video on the internet, hopefully right here at JTV.

To do this, you'll need to compress your video to a sensible size, to make it easy for you to upload, and for others to download. This article aims to address how to do that, and to answer the question "But what's a sensible size?". Read on....

First of all, you need to start with the best quality you can get before you compress it. After you've finished editing your video in your editing program (Windows Movie Maker? iMovie? Final Cut? Premiere?), find the "Export" (or "Share" or "Publish") command, and export your video in the highest quality possible. Hopefully, this will be "HDV" or "DV" ("DV-PAL" or "DV-NTSC" depending on which type of camera you have), depending on whether you filmed in standard or high definition. This will give you a really large file (somewhere around 1GB for 5 minutes), but that's ok, that's just the first step.

Now we need a program to compress your video. We recommend MPEG Streamclip, which is free, and available for both Windows (XP/Vista) and Mac OS X.

Open your large file in MPEG Streamclip, then go to the File menu, where we find options to Export to Quicktime(Mov), AVI, DV, MP4 or Other Formats. Windows users often don't like MOVs, AVIs can be flaky on Macs, HDV/DV is too big, so that leaves us with MP4. So, choose Export to MP4, and you'll then get another window with some more options....

Audio: Choose "MPEG-4 AAC", "Stereo", "Auto" and "96kpbs", which will give you a perfectly 'listenable' quality soundtrack. If you are picky about the quality of your sound/music, then you can bump it up to 128 or 160 kbps. If your audio is just speech, you'll probably be fine with 64kbps.

Video: Probably the best codec around at the moment is H.264, so choose that in the "Compression" box. If you are patient, and are prepared to wait a little longer for your encode to complete, in order to get slightly better quality, then tick[1] the "Multipass" box. Tick the "Deinterlace Video" box. For the frame size, remember that juggling videos tend to have lots of fast-moving objects in them, so you don't want it to be so small that people have to squint at your video to work out what's going on. Choosing the "unscaled" option will probably be fine, but you can select any frame size you like in "Other". I'd recommend a minimum of 320x240, but somewhere between 480x360 to 720x540 would be preferable for standard definition, or 960x540, 1280x720, 1440x810 or 1920x1080 for high definition. (Choose a 4-3 ratio for PAL or NTSC, or a 16-9 ratio if your video is widescreen/HD (eg 720x405, or 1280x720)). Next, we have two options....

A) Set the Quality slider to a nice high number, say 80% AND tick 'limit data rate' and set that to..... 1200Kbps should be fine for standard definition, 2000Kbps for HDV. This will give you a pretty good quality video at a reasonably decent size, but you may find that a few frames here and there will be a bit 'blocky', because of the data limiting, so, if you're a perfectionist, try B)....


B) Make a few test runs with the slider set at...... 32%, 35%, 39%, 42%..... until you get a result that gives you a movie with an overall data rate somewhere between, say, 800-1500Kbps (SD) or 1600-2500 (HDV). (And of course looks 'good enough' to your eyes). As a very rough guide, you could aim for no bigger than "10MB per minute" for SD, or "20MB per minute" for HD, as a decent size/quality for an internet download video. This method could be much more time consuming, but may well end up cutting down your final file size by a large chunk.

Confused? Too much information? OK, here's a really easy third option:

C) Open your original file in MPEG Streamclip. Go to File>Export to MP4. Click the "iTunes" button. Click "iPod 640x480" (for SD/4:3 source) or "iPod 640x360" (for HD/16:9 source). Tick "Deinterlace video".

I can't really give you an exact series of settings, as the end result depends on the source footage - for example, if your video is all tripod shots, you will probably manage to get a pretty decent quality video at well below the "10MB a minute" level. Unfortunately, there's no absolute 'right' setting for video encoding - you usually have to experiment a bit, but I hope you'll find these hints useful.

Once you've chosen A), B) or C) click "Make MP4", and wait a little while for your file to encode.

Try to name your file helpfully. "Juggling.mp4", "my first juggling movie.mp4", or "summer2007.mp4" might all sound reasonable enough, but they won't exactly stand out in a list. Perhaps something like "JaneK_number1.mp4", "BJC2008_by_Jonny.mp4", or "diabolotennis2.mp4" would be clearer. It's probably a good idea to avoid punctuation marks or spaces in your file names unless%20you%20find%20this%20bit%20of%20the%23paragraph%21%20easy%20to%20read. Just use letters, numbers and _underscores_.

Now you should have a good quality video clip, at a sensible size, but before you rush off to upload it for the bedazzlement of all your friends - WATCH IT! You never know, you might have made a silly spelling error in the titles, or inadvertently cut the end of the video off. It's best to spot any such mistakes now, before you put it online!

There are of course, other settings, and other video compressing programs, so do feel free to experiment until you find a method that suits you.

Oh, and one last thing..... this article was originally written in 2007, and technology moving as fast as it does, it might be out of date before too long, so..... remember that massive file you exported at the beginning? If it's less than 20 minutes long, you should be able to back it up by burning it onto a data DVD, or saving it to your cloud server. That way, in 2015 when VidZap8.3[2] is released, you can dust off your masterpiece, and re-compress it to a tenth of the size so it'll play on your iPodfemto[2] ;-)

Happy compressing!

[1] or 'check', if you're American. :-)
[2] Not yet invented.

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