Posted by Charbax on December 6th, 2008
After a lot of wait and speculation, since I had asked the Youtube founders back in January when Youtube would be in HD (through Robert Scoble fortunately reading my questions through his live Qik broadcast), Youtube finally has launched Youtube HD.
I got TechCrunched yesterday with one of my Youtube HD videos that showcases well the new HD quality on Youtube for uploaded HD quality videos when you click on “watch in HD” or add &fmt=22 to the end of Youtube URLs.
Among all the coverage on TechMeme, I couldn’t see any other site yet post the full quality of the output codec comparisons between the different Flash HD sites, so I tried to do it myself using the Gspot codec information software and the Video DownloadHelper Firefox Add-on. Here are my measurements of the HD qualities among the different video services for 16:9 content.
Youtube Normal Quality: 320×180 – 350kbit/s Sorenson – 25fps (probably source based) – 22hz mono audio
Youtube High Quality: 480×270 – 1mbit/s Sorenson – 25fps (probably source based) – 44hz stereo mp3 audio
Facebook HD: 1280×720 – 2.5mbit/s H264 – full framerate – 44hz 146kbit/s AAC stereo audio
Sevenload HD: 1280×720 – 1.8mbit/s H264 – full framerate – 48hz 96kbit/s AAC stereo audio
(I was told by the Sevenload CEO that Sevenload regulates output HD bandwidth according to viewers available bandwidth, so the optimal Sevenload HD quality might be higher then the one that I here measured. My Interview with the Sevenload CEO at the LeWeb08 is being uploaded.)
SmugMug HD: 1280×720 – 3.2mbit/s H264 Baseline Profile – full framerate - 48KHz 128kbit/s AAC-LC stereo audio
(More info about SmugMug’s quality at this page: http://wiki.smugmug.net/display/SmugMug/Video+Formats SmugMug may even support 1080p output quality such as at http://cmac.smugmug.com/gallery/6677452_e9rL5#427227023_AsXNo-X2-LB but that 1080p version seems to require to use the Quicktime browser plugin rather then Flash HD. SmugMug requires a Pro account at $149.95/year to be able to publish up to 5 minute long video in HD on SmugMug.)
Vimeo HD: 1280×720 – 1.7mbit/s VP6 – full framerate – 44hz 128kbit/s mp3 stereo audio
(Vimeo has an Embedded HD subscription plan for providing up to 5000 HD streams at $59.95/year with domain filtering tools for the HD embeds.)
Dailymotion HD: 1280×720 – 1.3mbit/s VP6 – full framerate – 44hz 96kbit/s mp3 stereo audio
In terms of HD Flash video quality, Youtube and Facebook probably provide the best quality HD playback for now among these sites, though Vimeo is using VP6 for HD which has a slightly lower hardware requirement then H264 which is a very processor intensive task, thus Vimeo’s choice to stay with VP6 for HD Flash video streaming may provide a slightly smoother Flash HD experience for some people, though its bitrate seems to be a bit lower. Facebook’s player might have a slight edge over Youtube at this point for providing a cinematic HD experience, since Youtube for now does not hide its playback controls behind the video in full screen mode.
Dark Shikari from Doom9 forums says that “Facebook uses full High Profile and medium-high-ish quality x264 settings. Youtube uses a very old x264 version (unless they’ve fixed it since a few days ago) and Baseline profile.” I think that one thing to consider also trying to investigate is if Facebook also like Google goes back in all of its archive to re-encode all previously uploaded HD videos, also a parameter that might matter for HD video content uploaders is the encoding time, perhaps Facebook’s HD encoding takes longer to process then Youtube, since Facebook probably has a much smaller HD video archive and a much smaller video encoding grid. Facebook verifies accounts somehow to allow longer then 2 minutes to be uploaded, up to 20 minutes, Youtube has no time limit for users that qualify to be Youtube partners and they have a 10 minute length limit for normal people.
Here at TechVideoBlog.com, I have been video-blogging in HD quality since September 2005, publishing over 500 videos in HD from all the consumer electronic shows (CeBIT, IFA, CES) and tech conferences around the world and I have always been encoding my videos in DivX HD 1280×720 at 3.5mbit/s and using the DivX Web Player browser plugin to embed the content on this website. I still think the DivX HD solution is the best in terms of quality and customization, but it requires you to manage the hosting of the files yourself.