Video Service Compression Test

A quick comparison of video compression quality at three of the major video upload services. I posted the same video file to YouTube, Flickr, and Vimeo, and have added them here alongside the original for comparison. I think the results speak for themselves.

miles_thump The original video was not shot with a video camera, but with a Canon SD1100S pocket still camera, which generated AVI files. I stitched a few together in QuickTime and saved the result as a QuickTime .mov. I did not alter any of the compression settings, and ended up with a file using the old standby codec Motion JPEG OpenDML at 640×480, 30fps, at a data rate of 15.75 mbit/sec.

Because it’s 60MBs, I’m linking to the original rather than embedding it.

Subject, by the way, is my son Miles (6) stomping in puddles on a rainy day at Jewel Lake in the Berkeley Hills.

YouTube clearly generates the worst results, with a huge amount of compression artifacts and general jerkiness:

To be fair, YouTube also offers a “high quality” version, which doesn’t look much (any?) better. Especially not compared to Flickr’s and Vimeo’s “normal” output.

Update Sept. 2013: The YouTube version above is no longer the original version. In 2013 I re-uploaded a bunch of old videos, and found that the YouTube quality has increased dramatically. I no longer stand by any of the negative comments about YT video quality stated here.

Few people use Flickr Video, though the feature has been available for nearly a year. Results are definitely better than YouTube, but not as good as the original, and very similar to Vimeo (bottom).

I expected Vimeo to be the clear winner. Vimeo is known for excellent video quality (and the site design is excellent too). But now that I see them side by side, I’m having trouble finding much in the way of quality difference between Vimeo and Flickr. Downsides: It took Vimeo 70 minutes to make the video available after upload, and the tiny size of Vimeo’s social network means the video will get far less “drive-by” traffic than it will on YouTube.

Pollywogs II – YouTube Takedown

Short version: YouTube has removed one of my videos from the service with no explanation. I suspect politics.

Long version: A couple of years ago, while digitizing old 8mm and Super 8 film for my family, came across footage my father had shot on board the Coast Guard Cutter Chautauqua in 1957 — footage of a hazing ritual that sailors have gone through for centuries on their first crossing of the International Date Line or Equator. I posted the video on YouTube, and it’s been viewed more than 25,000 times since then.

A few weeks ago, received a note from a reader saying that the YouTube video had been removed for “Violation of Terms of Service.” Since the video is 100% original and involves no copyright violation of any kind, I immediately contacted YouTube, asking for an explanation. I’ve sent two follow-up messages in the past two weeks, but have yet to receive a response from the service.

There was another possibility. E! Entertainment contacted me a year ago, saying that they were preparing a documentary feature on hazing rituals, and asked for permission to reproduce the footage on TV. With Dad’s permission, I signed and faxed them an agreement, allowing them to do so. Wondered whether fine print in the agreement had given E! any exclusive rights, so looked over the contract. Didn’t appear so, but called them to be sure; they assured me that they had had no involvement whatsoever in the YouTube takedown, and that I retained the rights to the footage.

So the likeliest explanation is that the video was flagged by a YouTube user as being inappropriate, and YouTube responded by removing the video without questioning/viewing/thinking. But what exactly is it about the video that violates their terms of service? Maybe it reflects poorly on the military. Maybe it shows how weird human beings can be to each other. But I doubt the YouTube EULA prohibits display of seamen having their faces smeared in used engine oil, crawling through troughs of garbage, and being sprayed down with fire hoses.

At this point it’s a mystery. I’ve given up waiting for YouTube to respond to my inquiries, and have re-posted the video on Vimeo (amazing UI!). Here it is:

Pollywogs from Scot Hacker on Vimeo.

Music: The Fall :: What About Us?

New Media Webcasts

Another week of interesting webcasts coming up at the J-School, mostly focused on questions surrounding the evolution of newsrooms – the integration and embrace of new and alien techniques and technology in the news gathering process.

The talks represent the public component of another digital media training workshop sponsored by the J-School and the Knight Foundation. We’ve greatly ramped up the number of workshops held each year – this topic is becoming critical to struggling newsrooms around the world.

Tune in live, or check back for archived versions.

Music: Wilco :: At Least That’s What You Said

Tivo Transfers

Part of the fun of exploring the brave new world of HDTV and Series 3 TiVo is figuring out how to get Tivo-recorded shows onto the Mac and preserved on DVD, and to go the other way around, from the Mac to the TiVo (i.e. watching BitTorrent movies in the living room). None of this is built in, exactly, or well-documented. But it’s do-able.

For the First Case, I’ve used TiVo Desktop, which only comes bundled with Toast Titanium 8 (grrr — if you’re going to bundle a network connection on a device, then software to make it work should be included free), then burned to DVD with the awesome VisualHub.

I haven’t yet mastered the art of the Second Case, going from the Mac to the TiVo. Michael Alderete, who was a communications ace at Be back in the day, has written an excellent guide covering the process soup-to-nuts. We hooked up on the topic through a post in the VisualHub forums, and I wound up throwing in a few edits to his doc.

This document describes set-up and processes for downloading videos from the Internet using BitTorrent or other mechanisms, and then transferring them to a TiVo Series 3 high-definition (HD) recorder, for playback on a high-definition TV (HDTV).

Ironically, I haven’t yet gotten the Mac –> TiVo connection working yet myself; TiVo says my “brain” (that’s this Mac’s hostname) is empty. I suspect a firewall issue. Alderete’s directions assume Tiger, not Leopard. The problem is that in Leopard you need to manually poke a firewall hole for the apps you want to be able to communicate with the rest of the world — but Tivo Transfer is a preference pane, not an app, so there’s no clear way to add it (adding the preference pane module to the list of apps hasn’t unblocked the pipes).

Will get this licked eventually. And keep burning DVDs when necessary until then.

Music: Henry Kaiser :: It Happened One Night

Hooked on a Feeling, Vol. 1

Ktel This week, Stuck Between Stations combed through a Denny’s shortstack of YouTube bookmarks to find videos that simply will not escape the brain, no matter how many times you call the sheriff to force their eviction. The visual equivalent of ear-worms, these A/V train wrecks take up residence in the corpus callosum, either because of or despite their badness, and lodge there for keeps, like grains of sand in your Juicyfruit. There are elements of awe and sadomasochism at work here. It’s not just that these videos are “so bad they’re good” (though there’s plenty of campy indulgence); we’ve come to genuinely love these “bad” music videos, and offer no apologies. In Vol. 1, Roger and Scot subject themselves to South Indian breakdancing music, the bizarre-but-relevant soul stylings of Tay Zonday, a troupe of angry geriatrics covering The Who, an airborne David Hasselhoff, the worst Star Wars theme song cover ever taped, and Leonard Nimoy’s foray into Hobbiton.


Got kids? As summer fades, it’s getting dark earlier, which means evenings indoors. And for us, that means only one thing: YouTube! Kidding of course, but we did just stumble upon a large and completely amazing collection of short videos, rendered from a bug’s-eye perspective – excerpts from Thomas Szabo’s 2006 movie Minuscule:

IMDB: “You might call it a cross between Tex Avery and Microcosmos, or grassroots slapstick.” A few of the clips are available in higher resolution at the official web site, which is a gorgeous work of art on its own (though somewhat mysterious to navigate). Would like to get my hands on the original DVD, though it’s mysteriously not available through NetFlix (no surprise – seems like NetFlix doesn’t have half the stuff I search for.)

Anyway, next time you want to cuddle up with your kid(s) in front of the computer, check these out – Miles ate ’em up like peanuts.

Music: Sun Ra and the Year 2000 Myth Science Arkestra :: Prelude to a Kiss

Two Wheeler

Two-Wheeler Miles has been riding with training wheels on his bike for half a year now. Somehow, a sunny summer evening seemed like the perfect time to try ditching them and flying free. He had a bit of trepidation, and after his first wipe-out he declared his “new” bike “stupid” – said he wanted to give it as a present to a 7-year-old. Then he said he wanted to try again. Riding on the grass turned out to be the magic ticket, and made wipeouts fun. Within half an hour he was flying free and ecstatic. Strange, almost comical coincidence – practically every crash was complemented by the ping of a baseball on aluminum bat in the diamond we shared a field with.

The RIOT Wheel

Riotwheel Tell me you don’t want one. “The RIOT Wheel is a huge, heavy motorized single-wheel vehicle, originally
built for Burning Man, the natural home of deviant vehicles.” The version currently being worked on is actually a hybrid (take that, Toyota!). The weight of the rider out front is counterbalanced by the weight of the engine, which hangs freely inside the wheel. An adjustable crane lifts the engine up and down, changing the angle of the dangle and thus its leverage. Apparently it’s steered by leaning, though it apparently steers like an oil tanker. Coupla videos here. Not too zippy in those vids, though inventor dude claims to be working towards a land speed record (his own, I imagine).

Music: Mahmoud Ahmed :: Belomy Benna

San Francisco in Jell-O

Hickock1 Liz Hickok creates scale models of San Francisco cityscapes, then uses the models to create Jell-O molds by the hundreds. The Jell-O cityscapes are lit and filled to perfection, wanting only a giant dollop of Cool Whip (which is itself “a delicious blend of sugar, wax, and condom lube”).

Similar to making a movie set, I add backdrops, which I often paint, and elements such as mountains or trees, and then I dramatically light the scenes from the back or underneath. The Jell-O sculptures quickly decay, leaving the photographs and video as the remains.

The labor involved in creating these must be intensive. The results strike me as super-saturated, glowing representations both of SF’s jellified undercarriage and its playful surface life. The molds later become art objects themselves.

Music: Mr. Smolin :: Face The World