Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Making YouTube Videos Look Less Completely Crappy, Part Deux

So, I actually put a lot more work into the final result you see below, and I figured I’d post the other tips I learned for you videographers out there. After a day of trial-and-error with the uploading tips from YouTube, I still had unsatisfactory results. When you’re dealing with comedy, facial expressions are very important – and my cast looked like their faces were made of Lego’s. But the only real way to guarantee highest quality images is by filming your actors in black and white against a white background, and advising them not to move. (Seriously, this is why Apple films their commercials against a white background.)

So I called a highly knowledgeable friend of mine, Damien (creator of Zaproot and editor of the Ask A Ninja videos) and he gave me a few key pointers. First of all, I started by following the tutorial video from YouTube – like I said, you can do all of this stuff in Final Cut Pro by selecting “Export” to “Quick Time Movie.”

These are the modifications that Damien added:

1. Don’t do the “faster encode – single pass” option. The tutorial is just recommending this because it will take a long time to output your video otherwise. As Damien put it, “he’s saying that for the proletariat.” But doing the double pass will add extra details where there’s a high concentration of information, like someone’s face. You are not proletariat. You are aristocracy.

2. For screen size, select the “Custom” option and type in 480 x 360. This is the exact size of the YouTube player.

3. Damien’s magic formula: 20 megs/min at 2500 kilobits per second. The more kbs/sec you use, the better quality. Since my video is only a little over a minute, when I followed the tutorial and outputted at 2000 kbs/sec I got a 20 meg file. So I did several more outputs, gradually increasing the number – I did 8000 kbs/sec and still wasn’t satisfied with the look, even though the video was now 75 megs. In the end I outputted it at 11,000 kbs/sec.

4. Change 'stereo' to 'mono' – I heard YouTube’s sound comes out mono, and it will make the video load faster.

And the final result was… OKAY. Definitely improved, though still not ideal in my book, and still not as good as some videos I’ve seen on YouTube – I don’t know if there’s a luck factor or if the computer you’re using matters, but this is all the knowledge I have on the subject. If anyone knows any other tips I’d love to hear them.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"Off The Deep End"

This is the end result of a few hours of brainstorming with a faulty submersible pump hose: basically, the credits for a fake 80's sitcom. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pixels The Size Of Rice Krispies

I’m working on a new video short, just a one-off thing I did a few weeks ago after some misadventures trying to clean my backyard pool, which I should be uploading some time this afternoon or tomorrow. Even though it's just a short comic thing, I'm a bit nervous - it's the first non-"God, Inc" video that I'll be posting on my YouTube page. However, it's certainly not the last - on the horizon are an old video I did with Stephen Falk called "looking for mr. miyagi", more of my feature film Harold Buttleman, Daredevil Stuntman, and the new web series, "ERF!" (not "Earth", as many have - understandably - assumed...). I've already shot a trailer for "ERF!" but I'm waiting to upload it until I'm closer to posting Episode 1...

On a (possibly boring) technical note, recently it’s seemed like each new video I upload to YouTube has looked slightly worse than the last. I’m shooting on a Canon XL2, and on YouTube my final product looks like it was shot with one of those Fisher Price pixelvision cameras. I was disappointed in how the last two episodes of “God, Inc” looked, but I figured it was because they were on the longish side. Then my 2-minute “update” video looked like crap. So I emailed YouTube for advice, and they turned me on to this link. This guy (whose voice sounds kind of like Ira Glass) has put a lot of work into figuring out how to optimize YouTube image quality, and he even has a tutorial video. In my case, I’m working with Final Cut Pro 3 instead of iMovie, but I found most of the same windows in the export box and was able to duplicate his settings (the only difference was that I couldn’t find AAC audio, so I used M-Peg audio instead). Anyway, for those of you who have been having the same kind of problems, check it out. Also, Nalts of the “Will Video For Food” blog posts some general remarks on compressing videos for YouTube here.

And did all these tips work for me? Don’t know yet. Waiting for my test video to finish uploading…