Panasonic Gh4

Apr 022014
 

SonyECMCS3I have used (I own) several cheap lavaliers:

  • Audio-Technica ATR-3350
  • Sony ECM-CS3
  • Olympus ME52W
  • Zalman Zm-Mic1

The Sony ECM CS3 is considered to be the best $25 lavalier microphone on the planet. Is it? In my opinion… kind of. It’s certainly the best sounding mic. But the build quality leaves me unhappy.

My First Impressions of the Sony ECM-CS3

This mic has a short cord length (about 3 feet), so you will likely need to plug this thing into a recorder and not directly into your DSLR. Not a big deal since you can buy an extension cable. An extra foot would have been nice. If you are plugging this thiing into your recorder, the cable length isn’t an issue.

Feels cheap as hell. This is thing cost me twice as much as the Olympus lavalier and it feels twice as cheap. It’s very light, the clip is made out of plastic, and it is wrapped in a softish, silver battery-like cover/enclosure. In other words: I hate the build quality, and I am genuinely afraid that I will eventually break this lavalier.

It does not come with a foam windscreen. Not a big deal, but weird since all the other mics I  bought come with one.

It is a stereo mic. You should not use stereo for speech. In your editing software you should delete one of the audio channels and then duplicate the remaining channel. If you record speech in stereo, it sounds very gross which is why no one uses stereo for speech (unless it’s for music, or some abnormal reason).

Sony ECM-CS3 Specs

  • Electret Condenser Microphone
  • Omnidirectional
  • Frequency Response : 50 – 15,000Hz
  • Sensitivity : -38 dB
  • Cable : 1.0 m (~40 in)
  • Power : Plug-in Power
  • Weight (Approx.) : Approximately 12 g (0.42 oz) (with Cord)
  • Price: $18-$25

In Depth Look at the Sony ECM-CS3

The clip does not allow you to articulate the microphone in all three dimensions like the Olympus lav. You can only spin the mic on one axis (kind of like spinning a bottle). The clip is black, and small. I would prefer a larger clip that was not so cheap feeling. Really, there is  not much to say about the lavalier in terms of cool features. This mic is truly all about the sound…

Sony ECM-CS3 Sound Quality

Is this the best sounding mic under $25? Yes, no question. If you need audio quality buy this mic. Does it sound better than my internal mics on the Sony PCM M10 digital recorder? No. The built in mics on my recorder sound better. But guess what, my recorder costs $200+. If you buy the Sony ECM CS3 lavalier, and plug it into a  Tascam DR-05 you’ll get similar sound for half the price.

This mic is very sensitive for a cheap lavalier. You don’t have to turn up the gain on your recorder or DSLR like you do with the Audio Technica ATR3350. Also, having stereo is a nice bonus. If ever I need to capture some stereo sound effects I guess I can? What I don’t like about the ECM-CS3 is the high frequency response. This mic really favors the high frequencies, and so you may need to edit your audio to your liking. Personally, I like the flat frequency response of the Audio Technica ATR3350. Despite the Audio Technica ATR3350 having a “flatter” sound, it sounds worse than the Sony ECM-CS3. If you need a cheap lavalier mic that has decent sound quality, the Sony ECM CS3 is your best option.


Things I Didn’t Like About the Sony ECM CS3

  • Silver color
  • Cheap build quality
  • Plastic clip
  • No Foam Screen
  • High frequencies are a bit overrepresented

Things I Liked About the Sony ECM CS3

  • Great (for the money) audio quality
  • Stereo if needed
  • Short cable
  • No batteries necessary
  • Picks up the low frequencies (unlike my Olympus ME52W)
  • Great off axis performance. Since you have two mics on this lav, if the lavalier shifts on your shirt or something, you will still pick up great audio.

Sony ECM CS3 Conclusion

If you need good sound quality buy it. If you need good sound quality and good build quality, spend more money on a better lavalier because this thing reeks of cheapness. Overall, I rank this lavalier higher than the Audio Technica ATR3350 (still decent in my opinion) and Olympus ME52W.

Apr 012014
 

I have used (I own) several cheap lavaliers:

  • Audio Technica ATR 3350
  • Sony ECM-CS3
  • Olympus ME52W
  • Zalman Zm-Mic1

My Audio Technica 3350 First Impressions

The Audio Technica ATR 3350 is the most popular lavalier under $50. It comes with 20 feet of wire! Maybe that’s why it costs more than the Sony ECM-CS3 and Olympus ME52W? The microphone is smaller than my other lavs, the clip is small and black. It is a nice sized microphone if you need to hide it.

When you open the package and look at the mic, you will notice that there is nothing interesting about the ATR-3350. It is small, has no special features, is drowned in cable, has a rather large compartment for a battery, and that’s it. You get a foam wind cover. The clips does not allow for any adjusting. Pointing the mic perfectly at your subject could be troublesome.

Audio Technica ATR 3350 Specs

  • Condenser
  • Omnidirectional
  • Mono
  • Frequency response: 50 – 18,000Hz
  • Microphone sensitivity: -54 dB
  • Impedance: 1k ohms
  • Battery types: LR44 or SR44 or 357 type
  • Weight: 6g (0.2 oz)
  • Cable: 6m (20′) 3.5 mm (1/8″) dual mono mini-plug
  • Price: $18 – $25

An In Depth Look at the ATR 3350

The two biggest turnoffs are the fact that the cable is very long and that the mic requires batteries. Maybe you need a 20 foot cable? In that case this mic is awesome. Needing a battery for such a weak mic is annoying, and the fact that the on off switch has no light (reminding you to turn off the mic) only adds to my frustration. I’m very forgetful and it’s only a matter of time before I forget to turn off the mic and it runs out of juice. If you don’t need the 20 foot cable I would probably skip this mic and check out the Sony ECM-CS3.

Battery powered: You cannot plug your lavalier into a device and use plugin power. I hate batteries, and as your battery slowly dies your mic will sound worse and worse. Audio Technica recommends LR44 batteries, but these batteries die off slowly over time. You are better off getting SR44/357 batteries because they work strong right up until they die meaning you will not experience weak mic sensitivity for the duration of the battery life.

If you buy an Audio Technica ATR-3350 and it sounds quiet or bad, then try replacing the batteries. The ATR-3350 ships with a Maxell LR44 battery, and Lithium batteries gradually die off. Try putting in either a fresh LR44, or an Energizer 357 silver oxide battery (they work perfectly up until they die).

Lithium vs Silver Oxide

Audio Technica ATR 3350 Sound Quality

Fortunately, this little mic delivers when it comes to sound quality. The mic sensitivity is low (a bad thing) so everything sound quiet and you will have to turn up your gain. Once you have boosted your signal it sounds decent. If all you need is cheap usable sound then get an ATR-3350 or a Sony ECM-CS3. Don’t get an Olympus ME52W if you need usable sound, that thing sounds pretty awful. The ATR3350 delivers a flatter sound than the Sony ECM-CS3 (gives you a bit too much at the high frequencies). But unfortunately, because the sensitivity is low, once you boost the audio you get preamp and room noise. For this reason I would buy a Sony ECM CS3 over an ATR 3350.


Things I Didn’t Like About the ATR 3350

  • On/Off switch has no LED, so you might forget to turn the mic off.
  • Mic placement: the mic has no swivel, so pointing it in a particular direction is a bit difficult. Luckily the polar pattern is omnidirectional and so the mic placement is not as essential as with a cardioid mic like the Olympus ME52W.
  • Weak mic sensitivity: -54 dB means you will have to either use a lot of preamp gain, or boost your audio in post. -54 dB is the lowest mic sensitivity I have encountered amongst the cheap lavaliers.
  • Cable length: way too long for normal use.
  • Price: Overpriced. If you only need good audio get a Sony ECM-CS3. It is often priced lower than the ATR 3350, and the audio quality is superior.

Things I Liked About the ATR 3350

  • Frequency response: The sound from this mic is like night and day when compared to the Olympus ME52W. The 50-100 MHz that this mic picks up really makes a difference.
  • Omnidirectional polar pattern: you get a fuller sound, and mic placement is not as crucial.
  • Cable Length: I know, I know. I was bitching and moaning about the long cable length. If you don’t have an external recorder and need to plug this lavalier into your camera, you will appreciate the long ass cable. So when I need 20 feet of cable, I like this mic.

My Final Thoughts on the Audio Technica ATR 3350

In conclusion, I have to say that if your sole mission is to improve the audio from your DSLR, then you will benefit from the ATR-3350. The omni directional polar pattern is easy to work with, and this mic picks up a good bit of the low end frequencies. You get nice flat audio for $20. What is there to complain about? Not much really. The sound is okey, not great. If you own an external recorder, then you most likely don’t need 20 feet of cable, and getting a plugin power lavalier that does not require external batteries would result in a more relaxing experience. If this mic did not have a long-ass cord, did not require batteries, and was more sensitive then it would be an amazing value. But as is, priced at $20+ I’d go for the Sony lavalier.

Mar 302014
 

OlympusME-52W

I have used (I own) several cheap lavaliers:

  • Audio-Technica ATR-3350
  • Sony ECM-CS3
  • Olympus ME52W
  • Zalman Zm-Mic1

First Impressions of the Olympus ME52W

The ME52W  it is minimalist and sturdy. Even though it’s cheap and made in China (I assume) it feels like it will not break as easily as my other cheap lavaliers. I flat out love the feel of this thing.

The cable length is a bit short and that the silver microphone clip is big and draws a lot of attention. The short cable length is not a big deal for me because I plan to use the ME52 with a digital recorder that will be in my pocket. The ugly silver mic clip is not a big deal either because I will be using this mic setup for personal use. If I was using it for a wedding or corporate work I would prefer a black colored clip. The clip is ugly, but nice and big – I am not concerned about it breaking.

The microphone articulates/swivels very nicely. You can position the mic which ever way you like. Overall, I am very happy with the ergonomics of the ME52. I would have liked the cable to be a bit longer. The cable is long enough for me to attach the mic to the collar of my shirt (I’m 6 feet, btw). But I would have liked an extra few inches…

Olympus ME52W Specs

  • Electret condenser microphone
  • Mono
  • Impedance: 2.2 k￿ ohms
  • Unidirectional (Cardioid)
  • Microphone sensitivity: – 40dB/kHz
  • Dimensions: 17.5mm x 27.3mm
  • Cable length: 1.05m
  • Weight: 4.2g
  • Frequency response: 100 – 15.000Hz
  • Input: 1.5v – 10v
  • Plug Type: 3.5mm mini-jack
  • Power Supply: power is supplied by recorder
  • Price: $10 – $15

In Depth Look at the Olympus ME52W

The first thing I wanted to test was mic sensitivity. The more sensitive a mic is the less you have to boost it via preamps. If your preamps are crappy, then increasing the gain will add noise. So in order to get nice clean sound it’s nice to have a sensitive mic and good preamps. The ME52 has a sensitivity rating of -40dB. What this means is that it is more sensitive than the Olympus ME15 (-42dB), but less sensitive than the Sony ECM-CS3 (-38.0 dB).

The ME52W claims to have a unidirectional polar pattern. I assume this is a cardioid polar pattern. Most lavalier have an omnidirectional polar pattern (they pick up sounds from all sides). A cardioid polar pattern picks up sounds mostly from the side facing the microphone, though not as aggressively as a shotgun mic. Olympus’s claim that this mic reduces ambient noise is just marketing speak for “this mic uses a cardioid polar pattern”. I tested the mic a bit by turning it away from the source, and it certainly is directional. So if you need a mic that doesn’t pick up sounds from the sides this is a decent choice.

ME52W Sound Quality

If you need a cheap microphone that delivers good sound, then you are probably asking for something that does not exist. In my microphone shootout this was by far the worst sounding mic. Personally, I will likely never use this mic for filmmaking or anything that requires good sound. If all you need is a mic for basic voice recording or for Skype calls, this will be fine. But forget about it if you need good sound quality; your voice will sound as if you’re speaking through a can. If I was producing youtube video, I would skip this mic and get an Audio Technica ATR-3350, Sony ECM-CS3, Giant Squid Lavalier or Church Audio CA-10 (if you can afford to spend $100).

Frequency Response

This is the second biggest problem with the ME52W. The frequency response is 100 – 15.000Hz and as a result everything sounds very weak and your cutting out the low end in your voice. Your voice will sound mediocre with this lavalier. If people are listening to the audio from this mic on laptop speakers or iPhone speakers, they won’t know the difference. If you listen on decent speakers or use headphones, you will notice the “lacking” sound quality instantly.


What I Like the Most About the ME52W

  • No battery necessary, plug it into whatever device you have and it should work.
  • Ease of use. It does not have lots of wires, the clip is big (too big maybe), and the mic can be easily positioned.
  • Rugged build quality. I know this thing is not rugged compared to professional gear, but it feels tough. I am not afraid of handling it.
  • Impressive directional performance: you don’t pick up a lot of the noise on the sides.
  • Fair value. I got it for about $13, and it performs better than what I expect from  a ~$10 mic.

What I Don’t Like About the ME52W

  • The mic is fairly big, and the clip is rather large and ugly. If you need to mic someone up discretely, the mic may be too big.
  • This microphone has poor sound quality.

My Final Thoughts on the ME52W Lavalier

If you have good speakers or a headphones you will definitely hear the unnatural sound this mic produces. The ME52W sounds very thin and small compared to the internal microphones of my PCM M-10. It is as if you are talking through a can or something. Really gross… It’s a shame because this lavalier has the best construction of any sub $50 lavalier I have tested.  Overall, this is a decent mic for applications that don’t require good audio quality. If you need this mic for video work, YouTube prosecution, or anything that requires decent audio I would skip this mic and buy a ATR3350 or a Sony ECM-CS3 (both cost a little bit 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