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Dan Sperling
compression choices
on Mar 7, 2009 at 12:07:23 am

I just spent a few hours reading latest compression threads, so I think I've done my homework.

I am going to add video demos to my production website and naturally want them to look as good as possible and play for anyone with at least a dsl connection. Of course, we all know that compression is a subjective art, but here's my plan. If you could help me by pointing out any pitfalls or improvements to the plan it would be most appreciated.

I plan to offer a progressive steam H.264 at 650 mbps as my main offering. I hope the data rate of 650 mbps isn't too aggressive considering the files are progressive (what ya think?). I am thinking that most Windows users and all Mac users will be able to use these files. For those that can't (or won't upgrade to the latest wmv), I will provide a Flash file also at the same data rate. I don't really want to offer multiple data rates other than the 650 because I want the high quality.

I am testing now using Compressor following the great article by Ken Stone at http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/compressor_h-264_movies_fcp.html and at the above rate, my video looks pretty sweet. I will also be testing with Telestream Episode, which I expect will even be a small notch better so I will probably wind up making both the H.264 and flash files using Episode (see Walter Biscardi's ace article on Telestream's Episode Pro).

Again, my results already look very good but I thought I would also try a pre-compresssion software such as Video Purifier by Innobits. Anyone know if this is a good product or a better one to try?

I didn't post my compression settings because my initial files look great and I am not having difficulty getting good results. It is my approach and the assumptions I have made above--the data rate, the choice of formats offered and the compression and pre-compression software used that I am looking for comment and possibly correction on.

Thanks!

Dan Sperling
Dan Sperling Video & Film


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Ed Dooley
Re: compression choices
on Mar 7, 2009 at 3:08:59 am

People on Windows either have to download QT or have iTunes, which comes with QT to see H.264.
I've been compressing to 700kbs for a couple of years without any problems (650 video and 48 audio), sometimes a little more for audio, depending on the subject.
How are you going to compress to Flash? You can use the ON2VP6 codec for more compatibility (with Flash 8), or, you can use H.264 in Flash, but you need Flash 9 (a later version of 9) or Flash 10. The advantage is compressing one H.264 for both platforms, the disadvantage is not everyone has Flash 10 yet.
Ed



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Chris Blair
Re: compression choices
on Mar 7, 2009 at 4:06:51 am

Ed Dooley

People on Windows either have to download QT or have iTunes, which comes with QT to see H.264.


I don't believe that's entirely true. You can export to MP4/H264, then use Flash as a wrapper (with many available tools to do it) and Windows will play it either embedded in a website or as a popup in HTML. The latest version of Flash 9 has H264 support, so you don't even need Flash 10 installed.

I'm sitting here playing an H264/Flash wrapped file from a website on a Windows 98 computer as I type this. I had to update Flash, but only to something like 9.1.6xxx. I don't have Quicktime on this computer and I have no exotic codecs or other media players installed. Of course....my 11 year old Windows computer is choking trying to decode that H264 file, but it's playing it! My 4 year old WinXP laptop plays the very same file fine just fine even though its version of Quicktime is ancient.

Most Windows users will have little problem playing back those files as long as they let Flash update itself. That said, if you want maximum compatibility, On2 or even Flash 8 or Sorenson in Flash are better choices, but they won't look near as good as H264.

Here's a link to Adobe's Flash 9 update specs with the H264 support at the top of the list:

http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Flash_Player:9:Update:H.264#H.264.2FHE...

According to Adobe, a Windows computer should even be able to play an H264 .mov file (in a Flash wrapper). This is copied from Adobe's site:

Q: Will Flash Player 9 Update 3 support non-FLV files?
A: Yes, with this update, Flash Player will also support files derived from the standard MPEG-4 container format such as MP4, M4A, MOV, MP4V, 3GP, 3G2 if they contain H.264 video and/or HE-AAC encoded audio




Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Ed Dooley
Re: compression choices
on Mar 7, 2009 at 4:25:45 am

What I meant about needing to install QT or have iTunes (which installs QT), is to play H.264 in QT, not Flash.
You can't just have Flash on your system to play H.264, it needs (as you said) to be in a Flash wrapper, so it's useless by itself without QT installed. I also said you needed a later version of Flash 9 (it's Update 3) or Flash 10. And not everyone is allowed to update Flash on their computers, it's a common problem for my clients in corporations; the IT department doesn't allow users to download updates to their own computers. I have a number of clients with Flash 8 on their corporate PCs.
There are ways to play H.264 in Windows Media Player (I think it's FFD Show, or something like that) to play it in WMP10 or 11), but you don't want to be asking your viewers to find and install something to be able to play H.264. WMP12 will have built in support for H.264, I think.
Ed



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Chris Blair
Re: compression choices
on Mar 8, 2009 at 12:39:58 am

Ed Dooley

You can't just have Flash on your system to play H.264, it needs (as you said) to be in a Flash wrapper, so it's useless by itself without QT installed.

I am not clear what you're saying here. Are you saying you need Quicktime so you will have the H264 codec? Flash 9 has an H264 software decoder built in. It's had it since Sept. or Oct. of 2007. That's 18 months.

You can indeed playback an H264 encoded file from within several Windows based browsers...if the metadata needed for Flash to recognize it is injected into the H264 file, which creates the necessary flash wrapper.

You don't need QT installed to play those files on Windows computers. Theoretically, you don't even need it on Macs to play them, as long as you have Flash 9 or higher installed.

The original post was asking if people would be able to play his H264 files. The answer is "yes," if he uses a flash wrapper. Flash 9 supports H264 files with the .mov extension. In fact, Flash doesn't care what extension the file has if it has the metadata for Flash Player to recognize it, although most people recommend using .flv. Here's info copied from an Adobe engineer's blog about Flash's H264 support and file extensions:

You can load and play .mp4,.m4v,.m4a,.mov and .3gp files using the same NetStream API you use to load FLV files now. We did not add any sort of new API in the Flash Player. All your existing video playback front ends will work as they are. As long as they do not look at the file extension that is, though renaming the files to use the .flv file extension might help your component. The Flash Player itself does not care about file extensions, you can feed it .txt files for all it matters. The Flash Player always looks inside the file to determine what type of file it is.

Link to his blog: http://www.kaourantin.net/2007/08/what-just-happened-to-video-on-web_20.htm...

H264 is an open standard and as such the specs are well defined. Much like MPG2, there isn't a huge difference in the various implentations of the codec. So Apple's H264 is pretty similar to Nero's or the x264 version or the Main Concept version. Except Apple's has a ridiculous (and years old) bug that screws up color and brightness depending on what you play the resulting file with.

So while the original poster would not have 99% compatibility like he'd get using ON2 or Flash 8, he'd still have pretty darn high playback compatibility since Adobe and other independent folks estimate Flash 9 has 97% penetration worldwide in what they term "mature" markets, which is most of the industrialized world.

http://www.adobe.com/products/player_census/flashplayer/version_penetration...

So while a small percentage of users might have trouble playing his files...it's a good bet those people not only have problems with H264, but with a LOT of different media content.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Chris Blair
Re: compression choices
on Mar 8, 2009 at 2:27:05 am

I should add that while my Windows 98 computer will recognize and open the H264 flash files from websites, the hardware is just too darn old to play it back without screeching to a halt. The H264 codec is just too complex for an Athlon 600 CPU and Windows 98 to decode fast enough.

But...that same 12 year old Windows 98 computer CAN play back an ON2 or Flash 8 (H263) video in decent fashion. So smooth playback would be a better argument for not using H264 than any compatibility issues.



Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Ed Dooley
Re: compression choices
on Mar 8, 2009 at 3:12:52 am

I thought I was being clear, but I guess not. If you don't put the H.264 in a Flash wrapper, you need QT installed (not everyone with a PC has QT installed, either by choice or corporate edict). You will be able to, in the future, play straight H.264 in Windows Media Player (without installing your own codec). If you have it in a Flash wrapper, you need at least Flash 9, Update 3. And contrary to your reports of market penetration, Flash 9 Update 3 is not on 97% of computers in mature markets (the Adobe reports says Flash 9, which includes the all versions, including the 1st version). I have my doubts about all versions of Flash 9 even having that much market penetration, but Update 3 definitely doesn't, and Adobe and independents don't think so either. Some reports say Flash 9 Update 3 has 80% penetration, and that may be fine for his audience, I can't afford to have 2 out of 10 people not be able to see our videos, we'd get a lot of complaints.
If his audience is young, iTunes, Flash movie-watching hip people, I'd suggest H.264. If his audience is corporate, I'd suggest ON2VP6 Flash, which still looks very good BTW. It compares to H.264, is less processor intensive, and compresses faster.
Ed




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Chris Blair
Re: compression choices
on Mar 8, 2009 at 3:49:46 am

We're both essentially saying the same thing...and I indicated that ON2 is a good solution, as are Flash 8 and even Sorensen Spark. Your first couple of posts made it sound like you had to have Quicktime installed just to play back an H264 file regardless of the wrapper or player used.

Virtually all of the video we encode for the web is corporate work and we have one client that insist on using H264 because they want high quality. We haven't had a single report or complaint of someone not being able to play back the Flash wrapped files on those corporate websites, and their clients run the gamut of age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. I also know quite a few IT folks, and many large companies have no problem allowing trusted content to be downloaded and installed, especially something as ubiquitous and stable as Flash Player. I've never heard from these folks even one instance of Flash Player installation causing problems on a corporate computer, or any computer for that matter. Usually the problems they encounter are Microsoft vulnerabilities that Flash Player exposes. Vulnerabilities that the IT guys are supposed to fix anyway.

For the original poster's purposes, he could put the H264/Flash wrapped files up, and put up a more common option for those that might not be able to play the H264. He did say his goal was high quality to showcase what he does.

So he has plenty of info to "chew on" now!



Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Dan Sperling
Re: compression choices
on Mar 8, 2009 at 7:17:31 pm

Ed and Chris & Cow folks,

Thanks for the excellent, in-depth feedback. Here are my thoughts. If you and/or other readers can again let me know of any missteps in logic....

After reading your contributions it seemed like the thing I wanted to do would be to offer files at both H.624 (for QT or updated windows media player) and a Flash made with ON2VP6. I didn't want to get into wrapping the H.624 in Flash because that could exclude people who didn't have newer versions of Flash installed.

But a strange thing happened. I've been doing a ton of tests and for laughs I made a .wmv with codek wmvV9 using Episode and I think it looks better than my tests making ON2VP6 from both Sorenson and Episode! I expect people to say--what!--because that's not what I've been reading on the Cow but that's my results. I checked and .wmvV9 files are backwards compatible to player 6 so I think all Windows users should be able to play it. BTW, for me Episode made better .wmv compressions than Sorenson (or FCP using QT conversion), and my tests showed Compressor edging out Episode in making the best H.624 files.

So, unless further comments suggest otherwise, I plan to offer both H.624 and .wmv files. That should take care of everyone. I also plan to offer them in 3 sizes: for download to desktop (as large as I want for best quality); for fast dsl/cable at about 4500 kbps, and for dsl at 750 kbps.

Readers may take issue with these data rates and please do!--but it seems that for progressive download most dsl users can handle a 750 kbps data rate at least that's what Cow contributors have posted; and going to Apple's website I found HD video trailers at smaller and medium size offered at about 2500kbs and 5600kbs. My fast dsl could barely keep up with the 5600kbs stream but did so with no problem.

Would love to hear all comments and suggestions before proceeding and thanks in advance.

--Dan Sperling
Dan Sperling Video & Film


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Ed Dooley
Re: compression choices
on Mar 8, 2009 at 10:42:25 pm

It's funny you mention the WM9 looking better. I just had this same discussion with someone when I posted a WM9 and H.264 version of a project. I thought the WM9 looked better than the H.264, she thought the opposite. I think you've made a good choice. I might look at the data-rate on the high quality one to see if you can lower it even more (as a test to see if it still looks good at, say 3,000-4,000). WM9 is compatible back to 6.4 (with some exceptions), so you should be covered as far as market penetration. :-)
Ed



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Chris Blair
Re: compression choices
on Mar 9, 2009 at 1:21:34 am

Sounds like a plan to me...a lot of work...but a plan. And we've had very good results with .wmv too. But I think a properly compressed H264 file is quite a bit smaller in file size overall.

The "rub" of video compression for the web is that it's always a balance between making the files look as good as possible and having them play back on as wide a target base as possible, and that usually means going the route you've mapped out (multiple versions), or offering a codec/container combination that offers good quality but high playability.

The thing I tell clients is, "hey, nobody complains about the quality of YouTube videos, and they suck."

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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