Panasonic Gh4

May 052014
 

filmmaker

I didn’t intend for there to be 10 sites on this list. But as coincidence would have it, there is a nice even 10 sites. Although there is no particular order, I would start at the top and work down. If you follow all these video DSLR sites, you will certainly learn something (or at the very least see some pretty footage :P).

Vimeo (vimeo.com)

Vimeo is basically a hipster/art version of Youtube. As annoying and self indulgent as Vimeo is, it does provide excellent content. A great way to become a better DSLR cinematographer/videographer/whatever, is to be engaged on Vimeo. Whether you are searching for the latest GH4 footage,  cinematography techniques, animation projects, Magic Lantern RAW workflows, or DIY Steadicam footage, Vimeo has all the video resources you need. And most of the people are willing to share their creative techniques. It is a recourse that helps me stay current and in the loop. The site forbids random videos, and is focused on “serious” videos. So register, watch, and discuss!

DVX User (dvxuser.com)

This is the best forum for anyone looking to dip their toes in DSLR filmmaking. It has a nice blend of beginners and knowledgeable professionals. This website has many subforums, and you are bound to to find the answers to your questions somewhere on DVXuser. I’m a member! The forum sections I frequent the most are the Industry News & Information section and the Cinematography section.

REDUser (REDUser.net)

Needless to say people who shoot on $50,000 cameras are a bit more knowledgeable than people who shoot on $2,000 cameras. REDUser is a great site that focuses on Red cameras. Because I don’t shoot on expensive DSLRs, I mostly read the audio, cinematography and workflow threads. There are lots of brilliant minds on this forum and you can incorporate what they teach/discuss into your own work. For instance, I have learned how to remove noise and how to upscale videos (efficiently) on this site – universal knowledge that applies to pros as well as novices.

Philip Bloom (philipbloom.net)

Who does every DSLR shooter want to be? Philip Bloom. He is the epitome of cutting edge DSLR intelligence mixed with cinematography genius. When Philip makes a post or a video, it is worth reading/watching. He documents his own journey via his blog and Vimeo channel. Unlike many video DSLR authorities, his cinematic works looks beautiful and original. He is highly knowledgeable and has a reputation for being honest. I highly recommend reading his blog, or at the very least following his Twitter.

CreativeCOW (creativecow.net)

This is a particularly useful site for video editors or anyone working in post production. CreativeCOW has tons of professionals posting on its forums, and often when I need help with After Effects, or compression settings, or with color grading, my Google search brings up CreativeCOW. I owe a lot to this forum. I am not a member, but I highly suggest doing a search on CreativeCOW if you need help with the more technical aspects of filmmaking.

No Film School (nofilmschool.com)

I don’t like this website very much. The articles are mostly discussing other people’s work. A typical No Film School articles goes like this: “Look at this new footage someone uploaded of blah blah blah”. So why do I include No Film School in my list? Sometimes you get a good article, and more often then not the discussion or comments resulting from the article are interesting to read. And usually the comments left by readers are more educational than the article itself.

Griffin Hammond (youtube.com/user/griffinity)

Griffin is a filmmaker. You know how people always talk about wanting to make a film? Well he actually put his money where his mouth was. He created a Sriracha documentary single-handedly (more or less). He is a valuable resource because he thinks like an engineer. He is extremely crafty, clever (in a good way), and thoughtful. His youtube channel is awesome, I just wish he had more time so that he could make videos more often.

EOS HD/ Andrew Reid (eoshd.com)

Andrew Reid is a British… filmmaker? cinematographer? blogger? dslr hacker? asshole? anamorphic lover? lens tester? sensationalist? robot? person? The truth is, I don’t know who Andrew Reid is, what he does, what he looks like, where he got his money, how he came to power, or what he knows. I do know that he is opinionated and writes articles/reviews about amusing DSLR related stuff. He has a tendency to rub people the wrong way (or maybe people rub him the wrong way?), jabbing with people on Twitter (Phillip Bloom), sensationalizing everything and getting into feuds with other websites (DVXuser). Whether you love him or you hate him, he has a great website that he pours tons of effort into. He’s a bit more of a BlackMagic/Panasonic guy than a Canon guy (for a valid reason: Canon makes inferior consumer level DSLRs when it comes to video) and he focuses on lens and camera tests rather than on filmmaking. Either way, read his articles and browse his forum. The anamorphic lens section of his forum is probably the best anamorphic resources in the world. I am a registered user here as well!

Dave Dugdale (youtube.com/user/drumat5280)

Who is Dave? Dave is the man! Seriously if you don’t know Dave Dugdale, then you are missing out on an awesome resource. A few years ago, Dave was a nobody in the DSLR world. Through hard work and persistence he has built a library of DSLR related videos. He rolls Canon (ftw!), and has just about beaten every Canon Video related subject to death. AN top of all his Canon videos, he has random other video on color grading, lenses, lighting, audio, etc… Dave really enjoys color grading and I believe that will be the focus of his future videos. My only criticism is that he likes things too flat (lack of contrast, shadows), and he over-edits a lot of his photographs (he loves HDR).

Film Riot (youtube.com/user/filmriot)

Basically Ryan Connolly, his family, and his friends have created an entertaining way to learn about filmmaking. It’s not your typical dry, boring, technical crap. I’d say his videos are aimed at beginners age 20 and under. I watch ALL the videos put out by Film Riot, they are too funny and awesome to miss.

Apr 242014
 

MagicLanternffmpeg

I’m all about Magic Lantern. The coders of Magic Lantern have created lots of opportunities for Canon video shooters. You can shoot RAW on a tiny little T2i for crying out loud! Now there is more good news; MLV files will be supported by FFmpeg. What is so awesome about MLV being supported by FFmpeg? Lets find out.

FFmpeg is best described as an open source project that can be used by programmers to create media related software. Maybe the most famous FFmpeg software you have heard of is VLC Media Player. You can see a list of programs that use FFmpeg here. Now all the programs that use FFmpeg can incorporate MLV support into their software. MLV files are basically the “uncompressed RAW” video files you can get out of your DSLR when you shoot in RAW mode. How cool would it be to play MLV files in VLC Media Player?

This is great news for the Magic Lantern community. It means lots of video based programs will have MLV support resulting in more excitement about Magic Lantern as well as a push towards RAW video. Right now there is a 4K craze going on. I hope that in a few years we will be watching 4K footage that is RAW on our TVs and computers. Not just 4K over-compressed 8 bit footage… To learn more about Magic Lantern and FFmpeg check out Magic Lantern’s official forum.

Apr 162014
 

UniversalAudio

Improve your DSLR for free. Do it. You have no excuses. Free as in: you don’t need to buy anything. Here is the key: record smarter, add additional sounds, and learn how to edit audio. Here are some tips on how I get better sounding audio out of my DSLR recordings:

Move Your DSLR (Microphone) Closer to the Source

Sound decreases at the rate of the inverse of the distance squared. So if your microphone is two times farther away, your sound will be 4 times quieter. Lets say you hold your mic 4 feet away instead of 5: (5/4)^2 = 1.5625, your audio would sound roughly 50% louder. What this means is that you can lower your input gain (or keep it at the same level if it is not clipping), allowing you to minimize the background sounds while maintaining the loudness of your subject matter.

The main reason DSLR audio sucks? Because the microphone is always really far away from your subject. A great way to get your DSLR closer to the subject is by using a wide angle lens. If you have a wide angle lens laying around, try using it. A wide angle lens will allow you to stick the camera less than a foot away from your subject, meaning the on camera microphone will be very close to your subject.

Record in Acoustically Friendly Environments

A second cause for poor audio is recording in a environment with lots of sounds bouncing around. A home office with bare walls usually sucks for recording audio. Try to find a “dead” room. Carpeting, lots of stuff on the walls, triple pane windows, furniture, all help dampen the sound waves. Less bounce results in cleaner audio. Some people record audio in their closets! The logic behind that is: all the clothing in the closet prevents the sound from bouncing around.

Add a Free Windscreen (This is the Shittiest Idea on My List)

What is a wind screen? Basically something that you place on your microphone designed to dampen the amount of air hitting your mic. A cheap or free windscreen will likely work poorly. It won’t block wind very well and it will likely change the frequency response of your recording. But a crappy windscreen is better than no wind screen (if you are in a windy location, otherwise don’t use one). You can scrunch up some stocking, use pillow feathers, fuzzy materials from a soft rag or stuffed animal, cotton from your pillow etc… You would then tape this around your microphone hole.

Also, a more practical way of avoiding wind is: shooting in the evenings or at night, and using buildings/trees to block the wind. Usually wind comes from one direction and so pointing your DSLR in the opposite direction with some sort of shelter to your back works well.

Edit Your Audio in Audacity

Audacity is a free tool for editing audio. It is very basic, and the interface is pretty ugly. Still, it works great. When I need to do a simple edit, I almost always use Audacity. Audacity will allow you to cut/paste your audio, create multiple audio tracks, and add effects.

Record Additional Sounds and Add Them to Your Mix

If you are more daring, simply use your DSLR to record additional sounds and add them to your mix. I often use audio that my DSLR recorded as additional background sounds to soundscapes I work on. The typical DSLR records with an omnidirectional polar pattern (it picks up sound from all sides). This is not great for speech, but it is fine for ambient sounds. If you let your DSLR sit on the sidewalk, chances are it will pick up usable street sounds.

Download Free Sounds and Add Them to Your Mix

A great way to drown out poor audio is to layer good audio over it. The best website for free audio is freesound.org. I use sound effects from that website for practically all my projects. Everything on there is free. All you need to do is create a free account. You can even download the files I have recorded: www.freesound.org/filmbrute

Add Music to Your Mix

You can download free music on http://freemusicarchive.org (its basically the music equivalent of freesound.org). I don’t download music from site like premium beats because it sounds so generic and boring (fine for corporate videos).

Create Your Own Sounds and Music

I use several programs to make music and sounds:

  • Reason: This is my most used piece of software. Free demo allows you to use the software as if it was the paid version. The only limitation is that you cannot export the tracks and you have a 20 minute demo. (So you will not be able to use the sounds you have created). You can, however, save the tracks. This means that if you ever upgrade to the paid version you will be able to export your saved songs. While the 20 minute time limit is a bit harsh, it is enough time to get creative and learn the software. (After 20 minutes, you can restart and create a new track).
  • Ableton Live: This is my second most used piece of software. The Free trial period lasts 30 days. You can pretty much do anything you ever imagined in Ableton. It does have a significantly steeper learning curve than Reason. Many professionals use Ableton. I love it particularly for mixing and beat matching tracks (not that useful for film). I definitely suggest doing a 30 day trial of Abeton.
  • FL Studio: The weakest software of the three that I mentioned (in my opinion). Though I find that it encourages more creativity from me. Not sure why. FL Studio has the fewest Demo restrictions. Basically it’s like the paid version only you cannot open files. You can save your tracks, and you can render your tracks. I grew up on a demo version of Fruity Loops. So you should download it and use it forever. Its the best free way to create cool audio.

How Do You Improve DSLR Audio?

So what point am I making here? Basically DSLR audio sucks. But working with DSLR audio doesn’t mean your video recordings need to sound like shit. You can make your tracks sound better by recording smarter and adding additional sounds. And if you are willing to spend a little bit of money, you can buy a cheap $25 lavalier and take your recordings to the next level. Know your limitations and get creative. Sound, like video, is all about creativity.

This was just a simple little article to get your thinking. In the future I hope to write some in depth articles on how I record and edit sound.

Mar 202014
 

Freesounds

The great thing about audio is that it takes your video and makes it totally amazing. If you want to add production value to your video, you need to make sure the audio is excellent. Read my in depth article about recording good audio.

Recording good audio can be a bit expensive. You need an audio recorder, a microphone (most digital recorders come with poor mics) and headphones for monitoring. A small setup can run you a couple hundred dollars! Luckily a ton of people have done the work for you by recording sounds, and sharing them for free.

Before we get started, you should know that you can install plugins/apps/extensions/whatever you call them on your web browser that allow you to download audio and video files that you access on websites. The particular plugins I use on Firefox are NetVidoHunter and FlashGot. Between these to plugins I can download practically and video or music file that I encounter on the internet. I am sure there are equivalent plugins for Chrome and Safari. What does this mean? It means that technically you can download lots of audio without registering or paying for it. I should point out that you should not use this trick on websites that charge money for their sounds because that would be stealing!

Without further ado, there are four websites that you absolutely should use:

freesound.org

Without question, there is one website that is the king of free high quality audio. I almost exclusively use freesound.org because I can usually find every single sound that I need. And if I can’t find a sound on freesound.org it probably means I will not be able to find it on any other website (in which case I go out and record it myself). freesound.org has the most clear and professional looking site of the bunch. Its simple to use, and in order to download the free sounds you need to register (free). If I were you, I would quit reading this article right now, and go listen to the high quality stuff on freesound.org.

freemusicarchive.org (FMA)

If you want free music this is your spot. FMA has tons of genres, tons of artists, tons of everything. All the music on this site is free as long as you use it the way the author wants you to use it (maybe they want credit, or don’t want it used in commercial work, etc…). You won’t find much on FMA in terms of commercial sound, it’s pretty much all independent. I use this website second most frequently after freesound.org.

soundcloud.com

Soundcloud has tons of music and sound effects. Unlike freesound, not everything is free to use. You need to browse groups that specialize in royalty free sounds. This is a great site if you need royalty free or creative commons music (freesound.org is better for sound effects and field recordings). If you find a song that may or may not be free, just contact the artist.

soundsnap.com

Okay, I know this article is titled “Free Sound etc…” but I have to squeeze in soundsnap.com because in my opinion it is the second best website for downloading sounds. It is easy to navigate, has tons of sounds, and is basically a paid alternative to freesound.org. You will find thousands of sounds on this website, and if you couldn’t find the perfect sound on freesound.org maybe it is worth paying a little for a sound on soundsnap.com. The prices are fairly cheap as far as paid sounds go; you can buy 5 sounds for $9, which is not bad if you need a particular sound that cannot be found on freesound.org.

mobygratis.com: Get Free Commercial Music for Your Film

And here is one last website. Do you want free Music from the world renowned Moby? Well then, just head on over to mobygratis.com and download free music that he has created. You are free to use this music for noncommercial ventures.

No Need For Anymore Free Music or Sound Effects Websites

That’s it. No need for more. These five website have everything you need. Now go. Go download all the music and sound files your hard drive can fit.

Dec 182013
 

Indy Mogul
Apr 16, 2007 – Dec 16, 2013

If you don’t know what IndyMogul is, it is was the most popular DIY Filmmaking channel on Youtube. It still exists, so using past tense to describe it may be inappropriate, but the gist of the situation is that new content will no longer be produced. I am truly an OG of IndyMogul. I must have discovered the channel when it was three or four episodes deep. So every week I would tune in to watch. The show really matured over the past year as it went from DIY prop building to more DIY filmmaking. What really made the show rock was the enthusiasm and hard work of Griffin Hammond. Griffin is so clever and optimistically motivated that he is a great role-model for anyone who is interested in making their ideas become reality. So the loss of new content from Indy Mogul (particularly from Griffin and Russel) really sucks.

The Top 10 DIY Filmmaking Channels on Youtube

1. Film Riot

I think Film Riot captures the spirit of what Indy Mogul was about. Ryan Connolly is a more cinematic filmmaker than anyone on Indy Mogul ever was. The guys on Film Riot cater to a crowd that is focused lesson on prop building and more on filmmaking. It is my favorite channel on YouTube (Indy Mogul was a close second).

2. Dave Dugdale (LearningDSLRVideo, drumat5280)

Okay, calling Dave Dugdale’s channel a DIY channel is a bit of a stretch, but I just have to give him mad props because he is so awesome. If you shoot video on a DSLR, Dave will teach you a ton of stuff (while simultaneously explaining that he is not a expert on the matter). He focuses more on gear performance, DSRL tests, lens tests, and post production. It’s arguably the most useful channel on Youtube if you want to increase your knowledge about gear, software, workflow, and random DSLR stuff. I’m also an OG when it comes to Dave Dugdale. I literally was one of  his 1st subscribers on Vimeo. I’m awesome aren’t I…

3. Knoptop (Dave)

While FilmRiot captures the spirit of the “new school” Indy Mogul, Knoptop captures the spirit of the “old school” prop building. In my opinion Knoptop is the best true DIY channel out there right now because his builds are highly unique and include props as well as gear. I only wish he made videos more often. Once again, I was a bit of an OG when it comes to Knoptop, I Must have discovered him via the Indy Mogul channel or something. Anyway, I remember back when he had about ~700 subscribers. Now he is up all the way to 30,000+. Basically he is very clever and crafty with his DIY builds, and has an awesome personality.

4. Tom Antos (Polcan 99)

I don’t know how to classify Tom’s channel. Basically, he does everything. And he is highly intelligent and methodical. When you watch his videos you can instantly tell that he is an experienced professional. He is very similar to Film Riot in that he discusses production, directing, DIY builds, and everything else that goes into filmmaking.

5. The Frugal Filmmaker

Scott has an awesome channel dedicated to frugal filmmaking. Basically he goes out and buys/hacks/builds stuff with a micro budget. This is truly a wonderful channel if you want to see what you can get away with for very little money. I feel like I am cheating when I watch his videos; the stuff he achieves on his tiny budgets seems like it should cost much more.

6. Curtis Judd

Curtis produces very similar content to Dave Dugdale. He produces videos regularly and they focus on audio and lighting. If you enjoy Dave Dugdale’s videos you wil enjoy Curtis.

7.  Krotoflik

Chad, like Dave Knoptop, focuses on DIY builds. His builds are very well thought out and very budget oriented. Chad does not feature as many props as Dave, focusing more on DIY stabilization gear. He is most famous for his DIY Jib known as the KrotoCrane.

8. DSLR Film Noob (Onelonedork)

DeeJay is a very cool guy. His specialty is hacking and gear reviews with budget in mind. He will teach you how to increase your production value for very little cost. His channel discusses very little on actual film making, focusing mostly on hardware/gear talk.

9. Video Copilot (Andrew Kramer)

Video Copilot is the best gateway there is into post production special effects. Andrew is a true professional who has worked on many projects for Hollywood, and the fact that he takes time to create these special effects video tutorials is awesome. So while this does not really qualify as DIY channel, I figure it should be included because it is the most accessible free channel for post production special effects tutorials. Check out Andrew’s site videocopilot.net, its has much more content than his YouTube channel.

10. BrandonJLa (freddiew2)

This is the behind the scenes content for Brandon and Freddie’s main channel: FreddieW. Though recently Brandon has tried to make this channel more useful for filmmakers by providing tutorials on 3DsMax. If you enjoy Video Copilot, you might want to take your special effects to the next level by watching Brandon’s 3DsMax videos. Anyway, if you are not into creating 3D objects,  this channel is more for entrainment than learning.

Dec 122013
 

Recently, a comment was left asking as to why a higher bit workspace caused footage to look faded, and whether converting your footage from 8bit to 10bit or 12bit before you drop it into After Effects is beneficial. I wrote out a long reply, and figured I may as well turn it into a post!

1. Unfortunately there are so many variables involved in editing footage that I have no answer as to why your footage turns faded (could be a bug in AE, or maybe your DLSR footage didn’t like it, maybe it just appeared so on your monitor but the footage was fine?). Keep in mind, once we start working above 8-bit, our monitors become the bottlenecks; most monitors used by amateurs like myself are 8-bit, so I rely on the numeric color value displayed rather than my eyes. The best suggestion I can off is to drop a RAW image or jpeg file into the comp, and see if it also becomes distorted after edit it in a 16 bit or 32 bit workspace. If you still have problems, maybe try the same workflow in Photoshop (if you have Photoshop) to see if it’s an After Effects problem.

When I ran tests on higher bit workflows on AE CS5.5, my files did not become more faded. So its weird that you experienced that.

2. I think right now all Canons, Nikons, and Panisconis shoot 8-bit out of the box. However, you can now hack cameras to shoot RAW which is waaaaaaay better than the standard 8 bit 4:2:0 DSLR video (look up Magic Lantern RAW if you have a Canon). Many people convert their 8-bit footage to higher bit depths, but you will never get more color data from doing that. Many people trans-code their footage to  ProRes or Cineform so that they use less CPU/RAM while editing. I believe ProrRes is always 10 bit or higher, (as is Cineform, I think).

Some popular solutions for converting your video to higher bit depths are:

MPEG Streamclip, Free
5DtoRGB, (better quality, but takes longer to convert), Free
GoPro CineForm, (formally knows as NeoScene), Paid
Apple ProRes,

The main reason for working in higher bit depths is so that the effects you add to your footage benefit from more color values, not so that your actual footage gets more color values, because it won’t get more color values from converting to a higher bit depth. The colors were assigned a number 0-255, and converting to 10 bit gives you color numbers (or shade values) from 0-1023. Unfortunately however, your footage will not fill all those numbers when you convert to a higher color depth! It will have large gaps, and only fill 255 of those shades. But once you start adding effects that are beyond 8 bit, you will begin to get more color values. So the main reason for converting to 10 bit or 12 bit or 32 bit is to get more colors from the added effect layers, not from your actual source footage.

So what can you do to make 8 bit DSLR footage look like it has more color values?

One common solution is to dither footage. This is a great method of minimizing banding (banding is what you get when there are not enough colors to accurately portray a continuous color gradient).  I am no physicist, but I assume that there are infinite shades of colors, and infinite colors in our sensible world. Unfortunately our DSLRs can only capture a fraction of those colors in video mode, so when in the real world there are subtle changes in colors you notice ugly patterns in your footage because colors were omitted by the DSLR.

What dithering does is add variance to your color values by overlaying a layer of noise. This layer of noise is like film grain. And it can be so subtle, that you will not notice it. Now your footage no longer has smooth gradients. Since you dithered your footage by adding a bit of noise your smooth gradients have color variance and banding will not be as vivid because the change in color shades appears to be more continuous. It is a great way of minimizing banding. Just google “how to dither DSLR footage” or “how to dither video” to learn more.

Mar 012013
 

So here is a random curiosity I have always had; what are the optimal export settings one should use for video that is intended for YouTube or Vimeo? I figured the first step is to understand what goes on when you send your video to YouTube or Vimeo. I read the recommended export settings on YouTube and wanted to see if what they recommend is optimal.

Here is the YouTube page that explains what settings you should use when exporting your video. You will notice that they recommend to use 8000 Kbps = 7.81 Mbps for 1080p encoding and 384 kbps for stereo audio. If your exporting 720p, they recommend 5000 Kbps = 4.88 Mbps for video and the same 384 kbps for stereo audio. Right off the bat I notice that 8000 Kbps is a decent bit rate for online video. The 384 kbps for audio is way too high, you won’t need anything over 192 kbps for online audio. If your a person who stresses over specs rather than actual performance gain, go ahead and use 384 kbps for audio. So if your recording a screen with Camtasia or something, I recommend using ~8000 Kbps, .mov, with 192kbps audio. For DSLRs, read on:

YouTube Video Compression:

I used one initial test file for this half-assed test of mine. It was 3.0 seconds long and was about 16.7MB (17,183 kb to be exact). The normal bit rate for 1080p videos off of my Canon 60D is about 45 Mbps (including audio). So it’s almost 7x YouTube’s recommended settings. I uploaded the uncompressed file (by uncompressed I mean no further compression after the in-camera compression) and then downloaded it off of YouTube. 16.7 MB turned into 2.27 MB.

Original clip off of camera (1:1 crop)

Tahoe Raw

Original clip as seen on to YouTube (1:1 crop)

Tahoe Youtube Raw

The dark clouds located at the top of the frame are a bit more washed out. Particularly the dark cloud on the left side of the frame. If your monitor is decently calibrated, you should notice that while the dark clouds are a slightly darker/more contrasty, they clearly have less detail. Furthermore there is a bit less detail seen throughout the mountain. Overall, the differences are subtle, and you really need to look close to spot it.

Original clip off of camera (1:1 crop)

Tahoe Raw2

Original clip as seen on YouTube (1:1 crop)

Tahoe Youtube Raw2

Here I clearly see less detail in the upper parts of the water. Also the wood beam has significantly less detail in it because the darks were crushed, particularly the left side of the beam. Still, the differences are not drastic.

When I compared the entire images, I noticed that for the most part, the darks got fairly crushed. I could not make out detail in the dark parts of the mountains, nor could I see the detail in the wood that is in the foreground. The whole image got a bit softer as well, I was quite shocked at the loss of sharpness in the YouTube version. There was less detail seen when observing the faint clouds and the brighter parts of the mountains. The color seemed to be a bit different, but most likely that is just the darks being crushed. All in all, the difference was very easy to spot @ 1080p.

After seeing these results, I figured if I compress the original 16.7 MB file a bit, maybe YouTube will leave it alone when I upload it. So I rendered the 16.7MB file out in After Effects.

I exported the file using h.264 with a target bit rate of about 15,000 Kbps (maybe it was 10,000 Kbps, not sure).  The file size ended up being almost 4 MB (4,053 kb). And when I uploaded it to YouTube and then downloaded it, I saw that the file was once again compressed by YouTube down to roughly the same 2.27MB size. The difference between the 4MB file and the 2.27MB file was slightly noticeable. I had to look for it to see it:

Compressed clip as seen on YouTube (1:1 crop)

Tahoe Youtube Compressed

Compressed clip as seen on YouTube (1:1 crop)

Tahoe Youtube Compressed2

Compressing the file before uploading it to YouTube did not result in a better playback quality on YouTube. To my eye, it was a mixed bag of nuts. Some parts seemed to retain more detail, while others seemed to lose detail. The wooden beam was a bit less crushed, but the dark clouds were fainter and had less detail.

Lake Tahoe Video
Name MVI_5798 Original MVI_5798 15Mbps
Origianl Size 17,183,816 bytes 4,053,165 bytes
(MB) 16.3 MB 3.86 MB
Bit rate 43.47Mbps 10.3Mbps
Youtube Size 2,327,076 bytes 2,261,559 bytes
(MB) 2.21 MB 2.15 MB
Youtube Bit rate 5.89Mbps 5.73Mbps

The ambiguity in the bit rate used for the compressed export (15Mbps vs 10Mbps ) is something I will have to revisit. The reason I want to revisit this issue is because all my subsequent 10Mbps exports that I uploaded onto YouTube outperformed the uncompressed uploads in terms of bit rate. The Lake Tahoe video was the only case where this did not happen. The conclusion I have drawn is this; YouTube is going to target the bit rate of your original Canon file size to some random bit rate. So lets assume the bit rate of your Canon footage is 45Mbps. Your YouTube bit rate for that file is always going to be some fraction of your original bit rate, which sucks because the Canon footage is already extremely compressed to start off with. With a basic understanding of what YouTube is doing, I decided to research this topic further and more scientifically by uploading a series of videos.

The first video (Garage) consisted of a dark setting with a tiny bit of movement. The second video (Outdoor Pan) consisted of a high dynamic range environment with lots of camera movement. The final video (Indoor Pan) consisted of a high dynamic range environment with lots of camera movement. The test I conducted consisted of feeding YouTube multiple bit rate versions of the same file, here are my results:

Garage
Name MVI_5587 Original MVI_5587 10Mbps MVI_5587 3.5Mbps
Origianl Size 85,689,548 bytes 13,061,619 bytes 6,535,919 bytes
(MB) 81.7 MB 12.4 MB 6.23 MB
Bit rate 46.35Mbps 7.04Mbps 3.53Mbps
Youtube Size 5,514,753 bytes 6,193,311 bytes 5,803,427 bytes
(MB) 5.26 MB 5.91 MB 5.53 MB
Youtube Bit rate 2.98Mbps 3.35Mbps 3.14Mbps
Compression Ratio 0.064381885 0.072337821 0.067686659

As you can see, the 10Mbps export produced the least compressed file on YouTube. In fact the difference in bit rate was quite shocking, the 10Mbps version had a bit rate on YouTube that was 12.3% higher than the bit rate of the uncompressed file. Visually, the files I compressed and then uploaded outperformed the original uncompressed file.

Original clip off of camera (1:1 crop)

WiresRaw

 

Original clip as seen on YouTube (1:1 crop)

WiresRaw Youtube Uncompressed

The differences should jump out at you. The highlights at the bottom part of the frame got completely blown out, and the darks throughout the frame got crushed. If your monitor is decently calibrated you should see that in the original image there is white/grey smoke in the dark background one the upper right side of the frame. That grey detail has been greatly reduced in the YouTube version of the clip.

Compressed clip as seen on YouTube (1:1 crop)

Wires Youtube compressed

When I compressed the clip and then uploaded it, I was able to retain some of that dynamic range; the highlights were less blown out and the darks were less crushed. I see much more of the grey smoke detail in the upper right side of the frame. Unfortunately there are more blocking artifacts throughout the frame causing the image to become slightly less sharp. Because I never watch YouTube videos @ 1080p in full screen mode (I watch them in the condensed player size @ 720p), I would likely not see this loss in sharpness. But I defiantly would see the increased dynamic range in the player so personally I would choose compressing the video first and the uploading it to YouTube.

Outdoor Pan
Name MVI_3340 Original MVI_3340 10Mbps MVI_3340 “Optimal”
Origianl Size 115,055,917 bytes 21,646,150 bytes 13,565,186 bytes
(MB) 109 MB 20.6 MB 12.9 MB
Bit rate 43.38Mbps 8.2Mbps 5.13Mbps
Youtube Size 11,571,846 bytes 11,661,559 bytes 11,394,817 bytes
(MB) 11.0 MB 11.1 MB 10.8 MB
Youtube Bit rate 4.38Mbps 4.42Mbps 4.3Mbps
Compression Ratio 0.100917431 0.101834862 0.837209302

Again the 10Mbps file outperformed the rest of my settings. After the first two renders, I saw that YouTube wanted my file to be about 11.0 MB. So I made a third file called “Optimal”. I figured I would compress this file down to 11MB in After Effects so that YouTube would not have to do any work. Anyway, After Effects rendered it out to 12.9MB, and I uploaded that to YouTube. I was shocked to see that despite my aggressive rendering the “Optimal” file ended up having the lowest bit rate of the bunch. Again, the compressed versions of the file beat out the original file visually in the YouTube player.

Original clip off of camera (1:1 crop)

Shrubs Raw

Original clip as seen on YouTube (1:1 crop)

Shrubs Youtube Raw

Wow! A complete mess. This time, YouTube completely crushed the detail in the shadows. You literally see zero detail throughout many of the bushes. Notice how the sky in the background is less blue as well.

Compressed clip as seen on YouTube (1:1 crop)

 Shrubs Youtube Compressed

 While this clip has more blocking artifacts, it also has more dynamic range. I can see way more detail throughout the bushes. The choice for me is a slam dunk; compressed it first, then upload to youtube.

Indoor Pan
Name MVI_3341 Original MVI_3341 10Mbps
Origianl Size 55,327,859 bytes 9,124,392 bytes
(MB) 52.7 MB 8.70 MB
Bit rate 46.33Mbps 7.65Mbps
Youtube Size 4,097,170 bytes 4,424,210 bytes
(MB) 3.90 MB 4.21 MB
Youtube Bit rate 3.43Mbps 3.7Mbps
Compression Ratio 0.074003795 0.079886148

Once again, my test confirmed what I knew already; compressing your video down to around 10Mbps and then uploading it will result in a higher bit rate than uploading your uncompressed footage strait into YouTube. So it turns out that YouTube’s advice about exporting your files at about 8,000 Mbps is great advice. 8,000 Mbps compression being optimal is consistent with my findings of 10,000 Mbps beating the competition. So in my opinion, if you compress your file to somewhere between 12,000 Mbps and 8,000 Mbps you will be getting optimal performance from YouTube. Visually, the original uncompressed file was handled the worst by YouTube.

Original clip off of camera (1:1 crop)

Books Raw

Original clip as seen on YouTube (1:1 crop)

Books Raw Youtube

The result here is even worse than the result we observed with the bushes. YouTube just decided to make a bunch of the detail disappear by making it black.

 Compressed clip as seen on YouTube (1:1 crop)

Books Compressed Youtube

As usual, my compressed version of the clip shows more dynamic range. And, sadly it shows more blocking. But keep in mind these pictures I am showing you are 1:1 crops @ 1080p. If you watch the videos at 720p or 480p, you likely will not see much blocking. The loss of sharpness due to blocking only comes into play when you watch the footage at 1080p and sit close to the screen.

GH4Ad

Vimeo Video Compression:

The Vimeo test was not as thorough because I don’t have a Vimeo Plus or Vimeo Pro account, meaning I am limited to only one HD upload a week. My initial Vimeo test consisted of uploading the same two Lake Tahoe files that I uploaded onto YouTube. The compression of the SD Vimeo stream was slightly more severe for the 16.7MB file. My 16.7MB file got compressed down to 254KB in SD mode, while my 4MB compressed version of the file got compressed down to 262KB. The SD footage looked similarly awful for both clips. Like YouTube, Vimeo likes to compress your file down to a certain size, regardless of what bit rate you feed it.

The HD file came out to be 962KB. It seems small, but is quite comparable to YouTube because Vimeo only outputs 1080p for Pro users. For Vimeo Plus* and regular members the HD stream is 720p (2.25x less pixels than 1080p). So if I multiply the 962KB by 2.25, I will get a rough estimate of the 1080p bit rate, which would be 2164.5 KB. Sadly, 2164.5 KB is lower than the Youtube 1080p bit rate I was getting (2324.48 KB). To my eye the 720p footage looked the same in both players. I often hear people suggesting that Vimeo is superior to YouTube because the great video quality. I didn’t see it after my initial test.

* I believe there is some option for Plus members to enable 1080p videos. I am not 100% sure.

After comparing the Tahoe videos, I moved on to the other test files. This is where the difference jumped out at me. Vimeo’s 720p file for for the uncompressed garage video had a file size of 3,165KB (3,240,136 bytes). Multiplying this by 2.25, we get 7,290,306 bytes, for a 1080p equivalent. This smokes the YouTube bit rate by over 32%. But lets not focus on the bit rates. As I showed previously, a higher bit rate doesn’t mean anything. More important is the method of compression. If it is compressed well, then it will look better than if it was compressed poorly. And as I showed visually, YouTube does not compress files as well as After Effects or Premier does with respect to dynamic range. So how does Vimeo compress its files? Very well. In  fact, you don’t even need to precompress your files. You can just upload your files off of your camera right onto Vimeo, and Vimeo will compress your file in a way that preserves the detail and color. No compression required on your end. I uploaded the 10Kbps bit rate version of the garage file which resulted in a 3,198KB file size on Vimeo. Visually, there was no difference between the 10Kbps version and the uncompressed version of the garage file.

Conclusion:

Uploading uncompressed files onto YouTube is disastrous if you care about preserving your dynamic range. If you are using high bit rate DSLR files, I encourage you to precompress them before you upload them onto YouTube. I personally use After Effects to achieve this, but you can use Sony Vegas, Adobe Premiere, Avid, Final Cut, or a stand alone compression software to get the job done. I found the bit rate sweet spot to be around 10Mbps. If you compress and then upload, your footage will have a higher dynamic range on YouTube at the expense of macroblocking artifacts. Personally, I doubt most people watch YouTube in full screen mode, so I think the macroblocking is not a big deal.

If you upload uncompressed footage onto Vimeo, it will look about the same in the Vimeo video player as the compressed version of the footage. So basically it doesn’t matter what you do on Vimeo because Vimeo spits out a high quality file either way. Your file still gets compressed a ton. Nothing on Vimeo or YouTube will ever look as good as the footage stored on your camera. Vimeo can store your uncompressed source files, but it will not play them in the video player. Vimeo only plays the compressed version of your source files in the video player. Personally, because I am limited to only 500MB of uploads a week, I would compress my footage at a bit rate of about 10Mbps and then upload it to Vimeo.

What looks better, YouTube footage or Vimeo footage?

Since the Vimeo player has a default resolution of about 960×540 pixels, SD footage looks awful on it. Vimeo takes the SD footage (which is 360p) and blows it up to 540P. So if you watch SD Vimeo footage on a laptop or something, sit further away from your screen. For standard definition video playback, the advantage goes to YouTube. Now, lets say you uploaded uncompressed footage onto YouTube and Vimeo, in that case the Vimeo footage will look much better if you care about dynamic range. Finally, lets say you take my advice and upload compressed footage onto YouTube @ around 10Mbps. Does that YouTube footage look as good as the Vimeo footage? In short; yes. I compared the compressed YouTube video files to the Vimeo files (remember, it doesn’t really matter what version of the Vimeo files I choose since the compressed versions look about the same as the uncompressed version) and the footage looked about the same. Certainly nothing to lose sleep over.

Personally, I will be exporting all my videos intended for internet playback at 10Mbps from now on.

1080p vs 720p Compression

In a nutshell, your video quality stays the same regardless of whether you export at 1080p or 720p. If you don’t have a plus or pro account on Vimeo, you should export at 720p so that you don’t use up your allocated storage space (you only get 500mb of uploads a week). For YouTube, you may as well upload at 1080p since YouTube allows you to upload as much as you want, and YouTube’s player plays HD @ 1080p (Vimeo, only plays HD at 720P for non plus/pro members). I ran tests on multiple files, and the compression looked exactly the same on 720p and 1080p videos. Furthermore, the file sizes had the same ratio with respect to resolution (file size was about 2.25x bigger for 1080p), confirming my observation.

I do my compression in Adobe After Effects and also in Adobe Encoder. You can encode in Adobe Premier as well. Any Adobe software will do a better job at compression than YouTube.

Film Brute