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H.264 for slow connections

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Desiree Damon
H.264 for slow connections
on Jan 4, 2010 at 8:23:01 pm

I've been looking for a way to get the highest quality of video possible with the fastest load time. Video is edited in Final Cut, but the player itself is created through flash, video imported for progressive download, then spit out again as a .swf.

A few months ago, I discovered that I can export a .mov out of Final Cut using the h264 codec, and bring that into flash. Once I load it to our company's servers, I play it back on the web site, and it looks great.

Problem is that, apparently, many of our clients don't have fast enough internet connections to load the .mov that's inside the .swf. I'm pretty new to producing video for web, so bear with me... Am I doing something wrong? Is there a way to tweak the settings so that I can still have H.264 crispness and quality, but something that will still load quickly on a slower connection?

Thanks for your help!


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Jim Glickert
Re: H.264 for slow connections
on Jan 6, 2010 at 1:03:53 am

Hi Desiree.

I faced basically the same issue when posting videos on my website. I ended up posting two versions--one for those with high-speed connections (500kbps and up), and one for dial-up (56kbps). Of course, the dial-up version is much smaller in size on the webpage, has lower audio quality, and a frame rate of 15fps (versus 30fps for high-speed).

My suggestion is to first find out from your clients what their typical download speeds are. (They can use http://www.speedtest.net to easily find out.) Then, play around with things like frame rates, audio rates and video size (i.e. heighth and width, in pixels) to find an acceptable compromise between quality and speed. I use Flix to do my Flash encoding, and it's easy to try different settings with that software. I'm not sure what you're using to encode, but it should have similar settings to play with.

Hope this helps.
Jim


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Desiree Damon
Re: H.264 for slow connections
on Jan 6, 2010 at 5:15:37 pm

I've been using the Adobe media endcoder that comes with flash CS3. Even with the highest quality settings, I get complaints that the videos aren't "high enough quality."

For the H264 .mov files, I used the quicktime conversion in Final Cut. with high quality. usually around 640x480 in size or a little smaller, sound as AAC at 48 khz, normal quality. This was enough to get "high enough quality" for approval, but really hurt those trying to watch the video.

I like your idea of using two versions, and I'll use that for some projects where I can give them choices. But for those who just want the video on the site, playing like a large (and sometimes long) web ad, what should I do?

What kind of settings would you use in that situation?


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Jim Glickert
Re: H.264 for slow connections
on Jan 7, 2010 at 12:37:03 am

Let me answer by first pointing out what works for me.

I normally start out with a high-definition, 1280x720p, 30fps, QuickTime (.mov) file exported from Final Cut Pro.

Then, using Apple's Compressor, I encode it using H.264 to get a 640x360 (i.e. 16:9) QuickTime video with audio at 44.1k and a frame rate of 30fps. The quality is very high, but so is the file size. To reduce the file size even more, I convert it to Flash (.flv). When converting, I use a 640x360 frame size, a frame rate of 30, and reduce the audio sampling to 22k. To give you an example of what that does to file size, one video that was 194MB BEFORE converting to Flash ended up as 68MB after. That's a pretty sizable reduction. Of course, the quality isn't as high, but it's still acceptable to me. You can check out some of the videos I've posted here:
http://www.gojim.tv/Videos.html

For the dial-up Flash versions, which, to be honest, are almost worthless, I use a frame size of 192x108, frame rate of 12, and 11k audio. The file size gets reduced substantially, of course--down to 11MB.

In your particular circumstance, that is, for those who just want the video on the site and want it of the highest quality, I'd consider just posting the QuickTime (.mov) version (after H.264 encoding). If the download speed becomes a problem for them, then convert it to Flash. The quality deteriorates to some degree, but the file size drops dramatically.

Most of all, keep experimenting until you find an acceptable compromise between quality and speed.

Hope this helps (again).

Jim




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Desiree Damon
Re: H.264 for slow connections
on Jan 7, 2010 at 4:27:27 pm

Thanks! Those examples really help.


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Jim Glickert
Re: H.264 for slow connections
on Jan 8, 2010 at 4:20:16 pm

Glad I could help, Desiree. I hope it all works out well for you.

Jim


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