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Web Delivery or: How I Hate YouTube


andrgl
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I fucking hate YouTube and am done working with clients wanting to use it. That's my New Years resolution.

 

Don't get me wrong. I love it as a monetary platform. I almost-maybe-kinda make a living off a few channels I run.

 

But as someone trying to deliver a great product it makes me want to cry. Feed it whatever the fuck you want:

  • DNxHD
  • ProRes
  • High bit rate h.264
  • Crazy compressed formats
  • Abide a 100% to the recommended spec

 

It does NOT matter! The YouTube encoder will take your work and compress it to shit.

 

Case in point, the last shot I delivered looks awesome on desktop and laptops. It was encoded right out of the gate to VP9. Video has netted twenty-ish thousand views. A few night ago I get an e-mail from the client complaining about how the video looks.

 

Sure enough, YouTube is delivering h.264 for iOS and Android. The 1080P looks like complete crap. Macroblocking, banding and tearing EVERYWHERE. Knock it down to 720P and it's perfect.

 

:(

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YouTube seems to tune the bit rate as it plays, starting with pretty low rate and then raising it as it detects a good network. This is regardless of what it shows as the setting (e.g., HD). Does your video remain bad after playing for a few (try 10 or 15) seconds? If not, it might be worth reminding the client to continue watching till it improves (and of course on a good network). I've seen some great video on YouTube, so I know good results are possible.

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I guess you get what you pay for. (i.e nothing)

If a client is embedding YT videos onto their site, or just sending out links to YT via links I'd guess they would not normally rank video presentation quality as a top priority, otherwise they would likely host their own preferred quality compressed video and player onto their own html5 site - or at least link to a embedded Vimeo link that at least has a more attractive/ custom player and non invasive pop up advertising.

saying that, it's possible to create nice presentations on YT for some projects & companies and they are currently offering some very interesting 360 VR support, as well as very high resolution playback support. But when it comes to playback quality experience, it's almost always dependant on the connection speed to the viewer.

YT only defaults to HD playback when the connection is fast enough( and often not by default even if it is fast enough), otherwise it will auto detect a lower (sometimes drastically low) quality stream to fulfil playback on everything from mobile phone to desktop. That is why sometimes it is good to use YT as a good backup way of promoting video, but better to prioritise and promote the hyperlink to the hosted video page on the clients site, or a Vimeo alternative upload to the Vimeo version may often yield better playback results - as it is less worried about loading fast on weak mobile connections, bit more likely to prioritise maintaining quality on playback...not auto switching to 360p when internet strength is weak.

if your client is complaining about how the video looks, maybe it's time to ask them to think about paying for hosting video on their own dedicated web space - where compression can be controlled/minimised or at least try a plus or pro Vimeo account as an alternate sharing platform.

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if your client is complaining about how the video looks, maybe it's time to ask them to think about paying for hosting video on their own dedicated web space - where compression can be controlled/minimised or at least try a plus or pro Vimeo account as an alternate sharing platform.

Catch-22: upload to Vimeo, no one discovers it. Upload to YouTube, tons of views. These aren't corporate or business gigs. They're creative works I do mostly for fun versus the small sum I ask for.

 

I appreciate the helpful comments but it's not a fixable situation until iOS and Android get delivered VP9. I'm sure eventually the codec will be rolled out everywhere. Just needed to vent.

 

It's just a shame to see a natural, contrast-y, out of focus background macroblock to shit because the h.264 encoder sucks so bad at YouTube.

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At least (until things change) you are not the only one. I suspect the problem with YouTube is that their goal is to service all platforms at all connection speeds at all times. Consistent high quality playback is always the trade off until the whole world has sufficient affordable bandwidth to support HD/4K streams on billions of devices. Just as they do, I suspect some people will then complain that they can't view 16k HDR video on our watches. Current Codec developments can only improve web video presentation so much, the ultimate fix is with speed of connection and its lowering of cost for mass implementation.

I'm old enough to remember in 1999 having to wait 30mins+ for a 480x320 QuickTime download of the Phantom Menace trailer on an average speed dial-up modem. 6 years before YouTube even existed - so don't forget how good we have it now, back then there was no macro blocking...it was massive blocking.

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andrgl, are you paying for your YouTube account?  Paid accounts get higher bitrates / more bandwidth which will obviously look a lot better.

Ah shit, I got excited for a moment thinking that a YouTube Red subscription would unlock some higher bit rate uploads.

 

Thanks for the tip, I'll keep my eye on that option.

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Vimeo is as bad or worse than YouTube in my experience, so I don't agree with the "you get what you pay for, and YouTube is worse than Vimeo because it is free and Vimeo is not." I have the PRO account on Vimeo, and EVERY ONE of the videos I uploaded to Vimeo turned out to be similar to or worse than on YouTube, so I just don't get what you guys are talking about. To be sure, there are other benefits (no ads, can replace video, have custom links, etc.), but WRT to picture quality I don't see any benefit.

If you guys can show a single example of the exact SAME FILE uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo, with Vimeo generating better PQ, I'd love to see it.

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My point was that Vimeo does not auto adjust to 'as low' of a playback resolution when on a mobile device or slow internet connection speeds. YouTube is designed to prioritise playback start no matter what - over waiting to buffer to target HD resolution or 720p playback like Vimeo does.YT used to have the feature to specify HD playback as default priority for your viewers to watch in (like you can with Vimeo plus/pro), but it seems to have been removed from YouTube settings, probably because it can be slow to start on mobile devices and to them, fast playback start is their priority.

what you get with Vimeo (and what many pay for) is a clean looking player that can be customised and embed easily, with non polluted advertised playback and ability to easily offer a download link to the original resolution video file..and it generally is not Populated with insecure 13 year olds bitching at each other in the comments section. 

So yeah, you get what you pay for.

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  • Crazy compressed formats

Well, after a sleepless night I managed to upload a severely compressed h.264 file that managed to avoid any noticeable macroblocking during motion. The trade off is losing quite a lot of fine detail, so I added some sharpening and got a middle of the road image.

Problem is that we'd have to delete the current video and re-upload, losing the views and risking never getting them back.

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Thanks but there's no silver bullet.

Those key frame distances and astronomically large bit-rate astronomically wouldn't have worked for my video.

 

Lesson learned: need to experiment prior to delivery and be prepared to upload 10-20 different version. No exaggeration. It's about a full day's work to find the right settings.

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Vimeo used to be great for image quality but YouTube have caught up now (or Vimeo have downgraded).

Another thing is that they've now brought in adaptive streaming (the quality adjusts depending on your connection and size of player). This would be OK but it seems like embedded videos play at a really low resolution and can't be forced to play at a higher quality. I'm fully switching to YouTube for this reason.

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I used to do a lot of SEO for my small wedding video business I ran in London and later Johannesburg circa 2005 - 2013. It was a constant battle trying to rank on the first page of Google for my search terms. But it wasn't impossible... for 6 months or so before you had to change your strategy. All above board, no black hat SEO at all.

But what I have perceived is that Google knows exactly how you are ranking and they switch things up, almost like clockwork, because once people lose their ranking they will generally switch to Adwords for a while to keep business coming in. This gives them a boost in revenue with every algorithm change.

In this instance, they know we are struggling with video compression issues. But I am supposing this is part of a strategy to nudge people to pay for better quality via their services - ads or Red (or partnerships like Vevo).

I also guess they don't really need to bend over for professionals with clients to please unless they get paid too, because Youtube is probably low on the radar for in-house innovation due to its sheer dominance in the field of online video delivery.

Of course, most will call this conspiracy theory and insist they are really just a bunch of down-to-earth engineers trying to give us the best web experience ever known to man. Its just my opinion after years of gaming them and paying them. You will run in circles doing the former i.e. trying to figure out the secret settings to look like a Gopro Official video.

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  • 1 year later...

Does it really worth it to invest in an enthusiast video camera (like GH5) if I only deliver on youtube and facebook (even worth compression)? Should I stick to my cheap nikon D5500? My business is growing, I really want to upgrade but it seems useless because of compression limitation, not mentioning that less than 15% of the monitors are  Full HD in Europe.

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You are just using the wrong tool. Youtube is not made for delivery. It's a free video streaming platform and you get what you paid for.... For your client use dropbox, Gdrive or any other online storage services to send them the full quality source file.

Plus most people watch video on cell phone or tablet now with the low resolution default or adaptative mode....

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If your priority is image quality, you can simply host your self-encoded video files on a website or blog. Thanks to HTML5, the obsolescence of Flash and affordable server bandwidth, this has really become a no-brainer today. WordPress provides good tools for this. But all you actually need is to encode a video as an h264/aac mp4 file with the quality-vs.-bitrate compromise that you find best suitable, and write...

<video controls><source src="myvideo.mp4"></video>

...into some HTML file that you're uploading to your web server.

The strength of such platforms as YouTube and Vimeo is that, behind the scenes, they provide all videos in a variety of formats and quality levels so that they can adjust playback quality on-the-fly depending on a user's available bandwidth. So they're the better suited for making sure that your video will remain watchable under all kinds of bandwidth conditions and display resolutions. But they are less than optimal if in-browser playback quality is your priority.

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It took me about 4 years to realize, but delivering from resolve as DATA levels, not AUTO or VIDEO, is much better for Vimeo and Youtube - which raises the shadows signifigantly with its h.264 compression scheme.

I should have tested this years ago.

Also exporting as Pro Res LT if you can, because if you export as h.264, then YT and Vimeo make a h.264 copy of a h.264 copy - so even more macro blocking and stuff

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