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I find the internet tiresome. It’s this swamp of crap, where, when I want to find out something very basic, like flash compression settings, I have to wade through three pages of google results just to find one legitimate response from some half trustworthy posting board.
I, myself, am in the dangerous blogging time. My post frequency is declining along with the novelty of the space in which to write and interested readers. Whether I will persevere is, at this moment, uncertain.
I’ve been thinking in the past few days about the person for whom this blog is useful. I believe it is and will be useful for the recent photography graduate who knows a little about multimedia but needs to know more about the specifics of the trade and the trials of the execution as my own efforts force me to learn. Students, I am your internet filter. Or maybe just a source of useful information.
Thus, here we are going to talk about video compression. If you see that I am wrong here, please let me know.
My most recent La Tercera project was just published. It’s awesome. I like making things that are fun to watch. I did a timelapse. I processed the images in groups and saved them in folders according to the groups. It was too hard for me to conceive of the project in one swoop with the roughly 600 images that were going into this thing. I would process a group, put them in their own folder and then import this folder into final cut. I set the still image editing settings to a length of 5 frames. Super short, but it has to be short to get a flipbook effect. According to the music, the scene and the image, I chose to lengthen certain images. I staggered the processing of the images with the bringing of it onto the timeline, again, because it was easier for me to build piece by piece, although having everything running at once made my computer less than happy.
Paula Tala created the maps and times and animated them in Flash for me. I worked with them a bit so that could stand up against the strong visuals of the timelapse and I exported the whole group as an mov.
Everything was put together in After Effects and a massive file was created. You can compress files directly in After Effects or you can export a full sized version and compress that using another program. I use Quicktime. The other program I know to use is Squeeze. It gives incredible results, but costs $5000.
My first compression, direct from After Effects to Flash was beautiful. It was also nearly 50mb for a 2 minute video. When I tried to watch it from home, from the La Tercera server, it couldn’t play more than two or three seconds without stuttering. An awful experience, and, as we know, users do not wait for videos to buffer. They leave.
Nacho, knowing heaps more than I in compression, began working with me to make a more accessible file. We decide to export a full mov. It was 4.3 gb. That’s too big. We discovered that the default export flash setting from After Effects is rendering every single frame. Instead of using the H.264 codex, it was using the animation compression setting, which is the default mov export.
Changing that brought us to a more reasonable mov of 28.2. The quality wasn’t nearly as good as the first export. The numbers were less crisp and compression noise (little squares when movement occurs) was more obvious. But, it was almost half as small. When watched from my apartment, it was certainly clearer but, stutters remained, now happening about every ten seconds. This video is an experience, one that one enters directly upon clicking through on the link. You can’t have stupid streaming stutters break the experience. Who wants to watch that?
So, I spent a night compressing. The dimensions had already been determined, but were a point to change if we needed. Audio quality was uniformly reduced – from the auto 80 kbps (stereo) to 64 kbps (mono). We didn’t need to deinterlace because it was all photos. Key frame interval saw the most action, as we tried to find a balance between crispness. 30 frames means a key frame each second – in other words where the image is reloaded. We tried 1 and 15 and I don’t know and probably much larger. 1 looked stunning and was 264mb. 15 was 25mb but made the maps look goofy. 30 gave us the clearest usable image, and so that’s what we have, with a file size of 22.1 MB. It plays clearly with a decent wireless connection and the quality is reasonable.
One other note – in our efforts to reduce file size one of the first changes we made in the After Effects export settings was to change the audio quality there from 48kHz 16 bit stereo to 32kHz 8bit mono. When put in a flash player, the sound sounded similar to the file that was too big, even though it was being played locally. The problem was that Flash only likes 44.1 kHz (something important in Soundslides too).
Quick note on compression. All movies on the internet have been compressed in someway. The overwhelming majority of them are compressed into flv’s and consequently, a flash player is used for their presentation. Alas, neither mobile devices nor the new Apple Ipad have flash capability (by choice.) Therefore, for someone to see your video on these devices you have to use youtube or vimeo, who have devised solutions, or you can use HTML5, the newest iteration of HTML, the basis of nearly all web pages. Alas, Internet Explorer (still vastly the most popular browser) and firefox are not adopted to this technology. You can read why Apple doesn’t like Flash here, and why Gizmodo thinks HTML5 will not destroy the need for flash anywhere in the near future here.
By the way, spam commenters, I’m sick of you.