PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #127 - Dec 2, 2006
A Closer Look at YouTube

YouTube seems to be a tital wave of added interest in online videos... it's been in the forefront of the news lately, including the feature article in the December issue of Wired magazine. From the viewings/sightings at YouTube, it seems that most videos uploaded were made with Movie Maker. 
Here are some stats from the Wired article
When I issued newsletter #101 in April about 5 free online hosts, YouTube was just one of the 5 covered. Since then it has really taken off and currently stands alone as the leader of the pack.
It's a free service. With its popularity and ease of use, you'll need a good reason not to use it rather than reasons to do so.
YouTube Playlist

After uploading a movie, YouTube processes it to convert to flash format if needed and add some data. It then provides a link or the html code to embed a player in a website page...
... and a really neat feature lets you add the video to a current or new playlist.
You can use the link to the playlist to see it at YouTube, or use other html code provided to embed it in a web page of your own.
For the newsletter, I made a web page with Chuck Bentley's Carnival in Venice podcast videos embedded in it... click the image and it'll open the test page.
The scrolling filmstrip in the player lets you browse the playlist and select any of the videos... or you can opt to play them all in sequence. 


I'll cover
... before getting into details, here are a few notes...

Vista Corner... I started updating the Vista section of the website...
In Windows XP, a movie project can get too complex for the computer's memory to handle when publishing the movie. Movie Maker in Vista is completely different under the hood. If more memory is needed, it uses part of the hard drive. That's the concept... of course I needed to check it.

My first test was a movie of 8 hrs, 22 minutes... all video clips... rendering a movie takes time... 18-1/2 hours later I had a 4.1+ GB wmv file that was complete and played fine.

Sometimes a super slide-show is harder to render than a long string of video clips. My second test was a 5-1/4 hour show that used 5,000 7-megapixel JPG files from our recent vacation, a transition between each, and music provided by 64 MP3 music tracks. Publishing to Vista's option for DVD quality took 10-1/2 hours of rendering, and produced a great looking and sounding 2.4 GB WMV movie file. 

After some discouraging results when checking for missing frames last week, I was happy to see such positive results in these rendering tests.

Next week I'm attending an orientation class at the Kalamazoo Community Access Center... some info from their website 
"The mission of the Community Access Center is to provide access to electronic media via education, technology, and distribution resources, so that a diversity of local voices can be expressed and heard in the community.

For over 25 years, the Community Access Center has provided vital community media services to the greater Kalamazoo area. Our services include educational workshops on
video production techniques, free use of our television production facilities, and programming distribution on Channels 19, 20, 21, 22, and 95 on the Charter Cable system. We also offer an outstanding internship program that provides valuable work experience for future media professionals."
Their current classes include iMovie and Final Cut HD... maybe with time they'll add one about Movie Maker. They seemed interested!!!!
.... back to the main topic...

Chuck's videos make for a great playlist. I found that you can select and play any of them from the embedded player, but when opting to play them all in sequence, the first 4 play followed by a message that to see more it's time to go to the YouTube site... where you'll also see some advertisements needed to help Google get income from their investment in YouTube.

Another Playlist... a study of ducks - 5 videos
Let's study YouTube's service with a short 2:21 video of ducks, the same movie uploaded 5 times... each a different file type or with different quality settings. My starting point for each was the same DV-AVI source file from Movie Maker.
Two of the 5 were uploaded as WMV files, and the other 3 as flash FLV.
Instead of embedding the playlist in a web page, I'll give you the link to see it at YouTube. For some reason, the last of the ducks has taken off... with 600 views in 3 days, while the first 4 uploaded have a combined total of 88 views. I don't know why, maybe the words 'best WMV' in the title. What the viewers don't know is it's the worst of the 5 in quality... keep reading. 
Duck Playlist at YouTube
Play FullScreenPlay them to see differences in quality (most noticable when viewed at full screen, something the embedded playlist viewer doesn't offer).

How Do Downloaded Files Compare to Uploaded Ones?
YouTube converts uploaded files to flash format...
  • give it a wmv and it'll convert it to a flash file... and maybe at a much reduced quality
  • give it a flash file and it'll keep the file pretty much the same but use YouTube Metadata Injector to add some info. The downloaded files are the same quality but slightly larger than the uploaded ones.
I use the file sizes as the first indicator of quality... both WMV and flash are highly compressed.
Ducks - this first upload was a wmv file saved at my usual choice of Video for LAN (768 kbps)... it went up as a 13.8 MB wmv file, and comes down as a 5.9 MB Flash file. 
Ducks Again... for this next one, I did a conversion to a Flash file myself (see below) rather than letting YouTube do it. With the DV-AVI file as the source, I got close to the settings of my uploaded wmv file... 25 fps at a 768 kbps bitrate. The uploaded FLV file was 20.1 MB, and the file that comes down is just a slightly larger 20.1 MB.
Ducks... at 1000kbps - the first two played pretty smoothly, so I wanted to see what happens if I upload a higher quality flash file at 1000 kbps. The uploaded file was 22 MB, not much bigger than the previous one, and the downloaded file is 22 MB. We're seeing a pattern of flash flash files going up and coming back at the same size, indicating YouTube isn't re-rendering them to a default quality level.
Ducks... at 1600kbps - this is the highest bitrate setting the Riva FLV encoder goes up to... a 30 MB file up and a 30 MB file downloaded... the pattern contines.
If it doesn't come down smoothly as it plays, pause the playing and let the downloading finish. After the download, view it a full screen and you'll see the highest quality file in the playlist.
Ducks... best WMV at 60 MB - YouTube's maximums are a 10 minute video and a 100 MB file size. In Movie Maker I notched the size of the saved file as high as I could for a 640x480 pixel file. It made a 59.4 MB wmv file. I thought that perhaps YouTube would reject it as some users say they can't get it to accept their wmv files, but there was no rejection.
The conversion to flash by YouTube took a bit longer than usual, and the downloaded file was 6 MB, 10% the size of the uploaded one. The visual quality was consistent with the smaller file.
So the best quality going up was tied for the lowest quality when viewed... the lesson here is to upload what YouTube likes rather than what we like.... Flash files, not wmv. And make the flash files at the quality you want.

After uploading it takes some time, minutes to an hour depending on the file, for YouTube to turn the upload into a downloadable (viewable) file with link. During that time you can upload more or copy the file to a playlist, or do whatever else you want.

As both wmv files came back as lower quality flash files, let's look closer.
When you play a video on YouTube, the file downloads someplace into a set of automatically created sub-folders on your hard drive. On my laptop, they are in c:\Documents and Settings\PapaJohn\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5 sub-folders... along with other temporary internet files. They don't all go into one sub-folder.
The downloaded files are named get_video, and they are flash files without the FLV file extension. Just add it.
I watch the files grow in size as the dowloading buffering happens. When finished, I copy them into the newsletter folder with the uploaded ones, and rename them to add a FLV extension. With the extension, double-clicking one opens it in the Riva FLV Player, a utility that comes with the Riva FLV Encoder.
The uploaded duck files started in the folder shown at the right in this picture (don't look at all the details as the list wasn't finished when I took the snapshot). The folder also has copies of the files that came back from YouTube.
I correlated the ones that went up and down, and gave them numbers to pair them - the 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s are related.
Uploads and Downloads
Meta Data Injector

the MetaData Injector
To study the file properties of the downloaded flash files, I got a
FLV MetaData Injector
and it's associated GUI.
When you run FLVMDI, it injects meta data (like I injected my name into the file). I didn't need it to do any injecting, but one of the options when injecting is to have it make an xml file which shows the file's properties.

Let's check some of the files by looking at the xml files
Checking YouTube File Properties
Here's a section of the xml file for the downloaded 1600 kbps flash file... the video size and data rate are the same as the file I uploaded. 
xml data

downloaded file 1WMV to Flash by YouTube
This snippet of xml info shows what came back from my first wmv file upload.
A 640x480 file with a bitrate of 778 kbps went up, and a flash file of 320x240 at 331 kbps came back.

My 60 MB super duck wmv video went up at 640x480 with a video bitrate of a high DVD quality... 3276 kbps.Super Duck File
... and came back at the same flash file quality as the first wmv file... 320x240 with a video bitrate of 340 kbps.
The pumped up extra quality of the uploaded wmv file didn't buy me anything when viewing it. It just took more time to process.

Make Your Own Flash Files
Save movies as DV-AVI from Movie Maker, and use the Riva FLV Encoder, a utility covered in Riva Encoder SettingsNewsletter #102, to convert them to Flash FLV files. 
Here's a snapshot of my usual settings.
Being in a good broadband NTSC environment, I favor 640x480, 29.97 fps at a video bitrate of 768 kbps.  
... as seen above, with this tool you can notch the bitrate up as high as 1600 kbps. 

Make YouTube Playlists
When a video is online, you can add it to a playlist, a great feature.
A playlist has a fixed link, so once you've created one and given the URL to the world, you can delete, add, or swap videos without effecting the link.
The last one uploaded will appear first in your list of online videos... a perfect time to assign it to a playlist.
Playlists of 4 or fewer videos will play completely in an embedded website player. If there's more than 4, as in Chuck's playlist of 7 videos, YouTube gives a message after the 4th one that, to see more, you need to go to the list in a YouTube page, where you'll get to see some advertising.
YouTube Interface
Tip: I learned by experience to give YouTube the time it needs to do what you tell it. My first attempts to build playlists didn't happen quickly enough to suit me, so I told it again and again, adding the same files over and over. Then maybe 10 to 30 minutes later I found lots of duplicates in the playlists. Each time I told it to add a video, it did so, but at its own pace, not mine.
It works well if you give it a chance. 

Widescreen 16:9 Videos
display as they should... I checked by
I saw a post on Riva's forums asking when widescreen will be supported... there wasn't a response, but it seems it already is.

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
... upload a higher quality wmv and get back a smooth playing flash file, but of lower quality... upload a high quality flash file and get back what you upload. Sometimes you don't care, so wmv to YouTube is good... sometimes you do, so make a DV-AVI file and convert it to flash yourself.  

Have a great week...