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How much resolution for YT? Contemplating going back to 1080p


kye

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So, with all this talk about 8k RAW, it's got me thinking, and I'm contemplating going back to 1080p.

I've been thinking about all these cameras with high resolutions and ferocious data rates, and why they don't implement higher bitrates and bit-depths on the lower resolution modes.  

Noam Kroll just shot a low budget feature in 2K Prores HQ on his Alexa Classic.  In 4:3 no less!  https://noamkroll.com/playing-against-filmmaking-trends-on-our-feature-with-arri-alexa-classic-2k-prores-hq-43-aspect-ratio/
His pipeline was RAW -> Prores HQ -> storage.  Prores HQ in 1080 is around 176Mbps, is All-I, and is 10-bit.  It sounds lovely.  Uncompressed 1080 10-bit is a whopping 1490Mbps, so the 176Mbps of HQ is quite a saving of data rates.  

But what do I actually want?

So I made a list:

  • I want more bit-depth than 10-bit
    10-bit is fine if you're on a controlled set or have time to get your WB broadly right in camera, but for some of the horrendous situations I find myself in, having more bit-depth would help (remember how with RAW you can WB in post - well, bit depth is what enables that)
  • I want high bit-rates for a good quality image
    A good quality image means that every portion of the screen gets a decent amount of data, so this is about bit-rate.  It's not about resolution, because a 100Mbps 4K file will still have half the data available for each square cm of the screen than a 200Mbps 1080 file
  • I want files that are easy to edit in post
    It doesn't matter if my 8K smartphone files are only 100Mbps, the computer still has to decode, process, display, and encode 16 times as many pixels as 1080

So, do I want 1080p RAW?

Yes, and no.  RAW has great bit-depth, much larger bit-rates than I care for, but also isn't the best that 1080 can get because it is lower resolution after debayering.  Do I want 2.5K RAW?  Maybe.  Problem is that RAW and IBIS are very rarely found together.  What I really want is some kind of compressed, but not too compressed, intermediary file.  

What I really want is 1080 Prores 4444 (which is 264Mbps) or Prores 4444 XQ (which is 396Mbps), because these are 12-bit.  12-bit would do me very nicely.

So, what do we get from the manufacturers?  We get ridiculous bitrates on the higher resolutions, and paltry token efforts on the lower ones.  My XC10 is a classic case - 305Mbps 4K but 35Mbps 1080p.  The 4K has 2.5 times the amount of data per pixel than the 1080p, and 10 times the amount of data per square cm of screen.

But I have a GH5, which is one of the exceptions, as Panasonic went for the jugular on the lower resolution modes as well as the higher ones, and so I'm down to the three "best" modes that will work on a UHS-I SD card:

  • 5K 4:3 200Mbps Long-GOP h265
  • 4K 16:9 150Mbps Long-GOP h264
  • 1080p 16:9 200Mbps All-I h264

So I shot a test.  That test showed me that the 5K mode is far superior, even on a 1080p timeline, but uploaded to YT is a different story.  Considering I have partnered with YT for distribution share my videos on YT, that's what my friends and family end up seeing.

This lead me to the question about what is actually visible after it's been minced by YT?

Luckily I had done a previous test where I took an 8K RAW file, and rendered out various resolution Prores HQ intermediaries, then exported each of them from a 4K timeline.  That video is here:

So, I downloaded the above video in 4K, 2K, and 1080p resolutions, took screen grabs, and put them side-by-side for comparison.  Here they are - you're welcome.

1071306420_4KYTdownloadcropped.thumb.png.9f5eaee9a6e5afb447a835f6c55e2968.png

79893415_2KYTdownloadcropped.thumb.png.55f9f9a7a7edc0fc85f3c24223b4609d.png

988204233_1080YTdownloadcropped.thumb.png.1ee0e7aef70a3692327c017ae0be5bc9.png

So, what can I see in these images?

  • The 4K download is better than the 2K, which is better than the 1080p.  This is hardly news, each of these is more than double the bit-rate of the next one and they're all using the same compression algorithm, that's how mathematics works.
  • Watching in 4K each lower resolution is subtly worse than the previous, except for 1.2k (720p) which is way worse.  That's to be expected, 2k - 1.2k is a bigger percentage drop than the other resolutions.  However, things don't get "bad" until in the 2.5k - 1.2k range, depending on your tolerance for IQ.
  • Moving to the other extreme, watching in 1080 they are all very similar, except for the 1.2k version, which is interesting.
  • Some of these grabs also have a lower resolution one looking better than the higher one next to it.  That's not an accident on my part (I checked), it really is like that.  As the original video has the resolutions all in sequence in the one video, I suspect that the frame I chose was differing distances from the previous keyframe in the stream, so that will introduce some variation.

So, what does this mean?

Well, firstly, no point shooting in 8K RAW if your viewers are watching in 1080p on YT.  I doubt that's news to anyone, but maybe it is to some R5 pre-orders lol.

More importantly, if your audience is watching in 1080 then they're not going to notice if you used 2K intermediaries or 3.2k ones.

How can we apply this to our situations?

This is more complex.  In this pipeline we had 8K RAW -> X Prores -> timeline.  This meant that the Prores was by far the weakest link, and Prores HQ is pretty high-bitrate compared to most consumer formats.  1080 Prores HQ is 176Mbps, but UHD Prores HQ is 707Mbps.  I don't know of any cameras that shoot h264 in anything even approaching those data rates for those resolutions, so good luck with that.  
If you're shooting 4K 100Mbps h264 then that's the same bitrate per square pixel of screen as 1.4K Prores HQ, which is pretty darn close to that 1.2k that looks awful in all the above.  

Obviously if your viewers are watching in 4K then it's worth shooting in the highest bit-rate you can find.

What does this mean for me?  Not sure yet, I need to do more tests on the GH5 modes, and I need to think more about things like tracking and stabilisation which can use extra resolution in the edit.

But I won't rule out going back to 1080p.

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That's a lot of testing but do you want to know what I do? I have a GH5 also, I shoot nearly everything in 8bit 4:2:0 LongGOP 4K 60FPS and deliver every project in 1080P with a 16MB/s or 8MB/s bitrate and not one paying customer has complained about the video quality. I used to go through the same hand wringing over quality until I realized I'm not creating Hollywood blockbusters, my footage is going to be totally trashed by YT compression, and my clients will never notice the difference; they care about the content and have no idea where the quality could have been better.

I also have a C200 and have never shot a single project in RAW...everything is 4:2:0 LongGOP and my clients love it. For both cameras I avoid WDR scenarios whenever possible, I perfectly white balance the scene, and I shoot CLOG3 with the C200 and CinelikeD with the GH5.  Sure 10bit and RAW give you more latitude in post....but in most situations I have found that highlight rolloff and white balance are the two things that will make your footage fall apart in post if you are shooting 8bit. If you can get those right in camera you won't have any problems in post.

 

If I ever get a big time paying commercial gig in the 5 figure+ range then sure, I'll switch the C200 over to RAW and happily invoice the client for the extra storage and post processing time required or I might even go and rent something even fancier, but until then there is no way I am wasting my storage space, time, or equipment to improve quality that is impossible for the average viewer to see especially when 90% of them will view the footage on a tiny cell phone screen.

 

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My approach is very simple also:

Shoot in 4k 60p so I can slow down any piece of footage anywhere and crop in far harder than I could if I shot 1080.

I think that is the beauty of shooting 4k, - not to output it as such necessarily, but to have a higher quality and more flexible starting point.

Batch convert to ProRes so my PC/Premiere can handle h.265 and overnight whilst sleeping, ie, takes 'zero actual working time'.

Output at 1080 for everything, job done.

Same as the above poster, - I am under no illusions that I am creating a Hollywood or even Indie Art House movie, but a 9-12 minute wedding film that's going to be watched on a phone. Or a laptop. Or even a large 4k TV where still no one will 'notice' anything.

No one has ever even asked for 4k or discussed it. Ever.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another thing to think about with the GH5 is the mode you shoot in impacts the zoom factor that the Extended Teleconverter ETC mode gives you.

It's 1.4x in 4K mode, but is 1.7x in 3.3K mode, and 2.8x in 1080p.  That's another plus for the 3.3K mode, as 1.7x would give me a bit more reach at the long end of the three primes I carry - the longest is the 42.5mm and with the 1.7X it would be a FF equivalent of 145mm, which is quite a bit of reach.  If I wanted more like a 1.4x then I can just crop in post, as that's within the limits of hiding something in post with a bit of sharpening to compensate.

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1 hour ago, docmoore said:

YouTube compression :   >1440 VP9   <1440 AC1

 

think that defined for me the resolution I need to upload ... as AC1 is very poor.

I routinely upload 2K to Vimeo ... always 4K to YouTube. Vimeo charges for space while YouTube does not charge 

Actually, when I was downloading the video again, I got two choices for the 1080 mode, so I downloaded both, but I only ended up analysing the higher bitrate one (which would be what people without VP9 capability would be limited to).

Here's the two modes, notice the different file sizes for the same resolutions between the two modes:

189269304_ScreenShot2020-07-30at9_01_21pm.png.a2f4830289fa70ceac049169d3c3fa43.png

327680885_ScreenShot2020-07-30at9_01_41pm.png.b9f1a7e8ce16cc2755942464566f5f02.png

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To up load to YouTube I would just shoot whatever was highest/best looking to my eyes.

To WATCH stuff on YouTube, unless it is something i want to see clearly, I will choose one of the LOWEST settings to keep my data usage low (in some cases even SD uploads would be overkill for me to watch)!

I doubt I am alone.

That said, great work Kye!

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your not alone, your never alone.  Not sure where i saw that... now. If its a lens test or similar i'll watch it in 1080 which probably equates to two or three items a month, otherwise its 720 for any tutorial or youtube that i want to enjoy. I try real hard not to watch anything on a lower quality setting, after youtube compression which has basically murdered anything sent it way, i find my eyes don't really thank me for watching anything on a lower quality setting anymore. Which has in turn made me more discerning about the content that i do watch.

Pretty sure on my internet plan anything i upload counts towards data used. So it would be kinda pointless and masochistic of me to upload 4k, not to mention slow. So i kinda settled on 1080 already, but thanks for the effort by the way, at least you post results to back up your statements, personally i am finding a lot of opinions finding their way into youtube without the visual evidence to back things up at times. Maybe i grow both, cynical and blasé perhaps.

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Jenkins shot “Moonlight” in ProRes 1080...so whatevs.  Still won “Best Picture” at the academy awards. Ain’t no rules for this stuff. 

The best looking doc film I’ve ever shot was over half a decade ago on 1080 8-bit .mp4. 

BTW, when I uploaded that film to Vimeo and YouTube I did uprez the 1080 to 4K and then gave them that file. 

It made a big difference with the streaming IQ of the lower resolutions, FWIW, —something about how their codecs allocated data rates to those uhd videos —and I’ve been doing that ever since.

Perhaps that’s an outdated process as they may have improved since then? 

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Nice post Kai... thanks.

If my C100Mk2 recorded at a higher bit rate, it really would be all I need in a camera. The C300MkII offers 10/12-bit 4:4:4 files in 2K/Full HD... for $7500 😂

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A 2012 5d mark 3 shoots beautiful 1080p full-frame 14-bit lossless compressed raw with more sharpness than you'll ever need for YT, at a bit rate comparable to Prores XQ. If IS lenses can do instead of IBIS, I don't think you'll find a better deal.

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On 7/30/2020 at 11:02 PM, thebrothersthre3 said:

Shoot hd render in 4k = decent looking results on YouTube 

Assuming people watch the video in 4K, yes.

Let's see what the numbers say.  Here are the file sizes of the above 4K clip:

Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 9.01.21 pm.png

Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 9.01.41 pm.png

And here for a 1080 upload:

1443036100_ScreenShot2020-08-10at7_14_09am.thumb.png.4d0e73493d6f197151cd4eb528cadfde.png

388108990_ScreenShot2020-08-10at7_13_24am.thumb.png.88dbb5436870dd3d78341d3706d45786.png

The above 4K upload has 1080p at 2Mbps MKV and 3.53Mbps for MP4, and the 1080 upload has 2.06Mbps MKV and 3.92Mbps for MP4, so looks the same to me.

7 hours ago, leslie said:

your not alone, your never alone.  Not sure where i saw that... now. If its a lens test or similar i'll watch it in 1080 which probably equates to two or three items a month, otherwise its 720 for any tutorial or youtube that i want to enjoy. I try real hard not to watch anything on a lower quality setting, after youtube compression which has basically murdered anything sent it way, i find my eyes don't really thank me for watching anything on a lower quality setting anymore. Which has in turn made me more discerning about the content that i do watch.

Pretty sure on my internet plan anything i upload counts towards data used. So it would be kinda pointless and masochistic of me to upload 4k, not to mention slow. So i kinda settled on 1080 already, but thanks for the effort by the way, at least you post results to back up your statements, personally i am finding a lot of opinions finding their way into youtube without the visual evidence to back things up at times. Maybe i grow both, cynical and blasé perhaps.

Due to internet limitations I once watched everything on YT in 360p, over a period of days IIRC.  It was actually really very nice once I got used to it. I think it was on a laptop, so not on a huge screen where the artefacts would be dancing about all the time, but I think it was a real leveller in the sense that it didn't matter what camera people shot things with or how much sharpening they'd applied, etc.

Of course, you could still see all the good stuff, like composition, DoF, colour, and of course, content.  It's worth trying if anyone is curious - I recommend it.  Be warned though, for people who hang out on a camera forum, the adjustment is a bit rough.

5 hours ago, fuzzynormal said:

Jenkins shot “Moonlight” in ProRes 1080...so whatevs.  Still won “Best Picture” at the academy awards. Ain’t no rules for this stuff. 

The best looking doc film I’ve ever shot was over half a decade ago on 1080 8-bit .mp4. 

BTW, when I uploaded that film to Vimeo and YouTube I did uprez the 1080 to 4K and then gave them that file. 

It made a big difference with the streaming IQ of the lower resolutions, FWIW, —something about how their codecs allocated data rates to those uhd videos —and I’ve been doing that ever since.

Perhaps that’s an outdated process as they may have improved since then? 

See above - watching in 1080 seems to get you the same quality regardless of upload resolution.  I have heard others say that though, so I suspect it might have been something they used to do.

I keep wanting to talk about the bitrate of Prores and how it compares to h264 and modern cameras.  I think it's time for a comparison....

4 hours ago, User said:

Nice post Kai... thanks.

If my C100Mk2 recorded at a higher bit rate, it really would be all I need in a camera. The C300MkII offers 10/12-bit 4:4:4 files in 2K/Full HD... for $7500 😂

Can you use an external monitor with it for something like Prores HQ?

These days we've kind of skipped over Prores 4444 and gone straight to RAW.  If I didn't care about IBIS then I'd be very tempted by something that shoots downscaled RAW/Prores like the P4K, P6K, or Z-Cam offerings, and just shoot 2K or 2.5K Prores downscaled from the full sensor.  In a sense that gives the best of both worlds.

2 hours ago, thebrothersthre3 said:

HD or 2k is the bees knees. I often shoot in 4k as 1080p is sometimes pixel binned. 

What I found interesting, at least in YT compression, is the difference between 2K and 1080.  See the above.  Maybe 2K means "Pro" and so they up the bitrate for it.  I should upload something in C4K and see if that bitrate kills the UHD one.

1 hour ago, cpc said:

A 2012 5d mark 3 shoots beautiful 1080p full-frame 14-bit lossless compressed raw with more sharpness than you'll ever need for YT, at a bit rate comparable to Prores XQ. If IS lenses can do instead of IBIS, I don't think you'll find a better deal.

True.  IBIS is a pretty killer offering though, considering that if you take all of the lenses made throughout history, the percentage of those with OIS is almost zero, but IBIS gives stabilisation to every lens ever made.

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2 hours ago, kye said:
7 hours ago, User said:

Nice post Kai... thanks.

If my C100Mk2 recorded at a higher bit rate, it really would be all I need in a camera. The C300MkII offers 10/12-bit 4:4:4 files in 2K/Full HD... for $7500 😂

Can you use an external monitor with it for something like Prores HQ?

These days we've kind of skipped over Prores 4444 and gone straight to RAW.  If I didn't care about IBIS then I'd be very tempted by something that shoots downscaled RAW/Prores like the P4K, P6K, or Z-Cam offerings, and just shoot 2K or 2.5K Prores downscaled from the full sensor.  In a sense that gives the best of both worlds.

The C100(MkII) is 8 bit 4:2:0, even through the HDMI. Although I've never tried, by all accounts, the difference in adding a ProRes recorder is negligible with some saying that they in-camera recording is actually better.

Everyone was hoping for a solid and affordable 1080 camera with a great codec back in the day. It seems to me that the only ones to deliver were Black Magic with ProRes. But for my situation - run and gun doc under difficult conditions - too many features were lacking and I need a camera that actually helps me get the shots. Ah well.

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2 hours ago, User said:

The C100(MkII) is 8 bit 4:2:0, even through the HDMI. Although I've never tried, by all accounts, the difference in adding a ProRes recorder is negligible with some saying that they in-camera recording is actually better.

Everyone was hoping for a solid and affordable 1080 camera with a great codec back in the day. It seems to me that the only ones to deliver were Black Magic with ProRes. But for my situation - run and gun doc under difficult conditions - too many features were lacking and I need a camera that actually helps me get the shots. Ah well.

I've heard that BM just released a camera with a pro body and decent resolution, maybe that would do it for you?  It probably has semi-decent 1080p capture...

But seriously folks.

I guess the other options would involve swapping ecosystems, to Sony, etc...

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8 hours ago, kye said:

True.  IBIS is a pretty killer offering though, considering that if you take all of the lenses made throughout history, the percentage of those with OIS is almost zero, but IBIS gives stabilisation to every lens ever made.

Can't argue with this, I am using manual lenses almost exclusively myself.

On the other hand, ML does provide the best exposure and (manual) focusing tools available in-camera south of 10 grand, maybe more, by far, so this offsets the lack of IBIS somewhat. I am amazed these tools aren't matched by newer cameras 8 years later.

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