Tag Archives: mp4

Video Compression: How

The above is from the project I referenced before about the damage to Chile’s architectural heritage. It is set to be live today. Marcelo Bravo, an architect with the University of Chile, pauses to bless himself with holy water, as he passes the sanctuary during his inspection of Santa Filomena in the Patronato neighborhood of Santiago, Chile.

Compression is important. It’s how one gets video on the web without the use of intermediaries like Youtube or Vimeo. It tends to be a theme on which little time is spent in the classroom. Typically, in projects, someone who knows a lot gives you some settings that you plug into a given program. Or, even more likely, you hand off your full MOV to someone else, who compresses it for you.

This situation, however wonderful, becomes rarer and rarer in that real world. Here, I present you a simple series of steps to compress in the easiest (and least expensive) program I’ve used – QuicktimePro. This same thing can be done directly from Final Cut, but as it’s a good idea to always have a full res version of your finished projects for future exports, and because sometimes Final Cut gets screwy and takes eons to compress, I like to do it in Quicktime.

Note, there are other programs that do this. Squeeze, to my knowledge, is the best. It’s also roughly $5000 $799 (thanks for the correction @phildaquila). It is using the same set of variables, but has somewhat better programming which produce more refined results. We used Squeeze in Andaman Rising and Powering a Nation. The results are a little less shiny and nice in quicktime, but entirely reasonable.

What you are doing is making an flv – a Flash video, which is how most of the video in the web is encoded. This is likely to change in the coming years to mp4 with the adoption across browsers to HTML5, as Apple is refusing to allow the Flash plugin necessary on either the ipad or iphone. For now, as only Safari is ready for HTML5, we’ve got some time to go with Flash video.

What you’re doing is trying to create a balance between a refined, beautiful video and file size. The bigger the file, the more difficult it is for people to see it due to the slowness of their internet connection. When in doubt, err on the side of smaller file size. I’ve been hovering around 8mb per minute, for my La Tercera work, it seems to work well. People leave sites whose videos don’t play. (81% of web users will leave a web page if the video starts buffering midstream.)

Open your video in Quicktime. In quicktime, select file>export.

In the export dialog, choose movie to Flash Video (flv).


Go into your options. Go to video settings.

Video codec should be On2 VP6. Make sure deinterlace is checked if you used a camera with interlacing (1080i60, for example – the i is for interlace.) Data rate, frame rate and key frame intervals are the ones you can play with. You can see from our screen shot what we’ve been using. Data rate will be the first one you’ll want to raise for better quality.

Go to audio settings. Put audio – 80kbps

Crop and Resize – whatever size you need. Make sure to have maintain aspect ration checked.

That’s it. Hit ok. Hit export. Depending on the length of your original video and your computer’s processor, in 20 minutes to an hour, you will have a flash video. A little box will tell you how much time remains.flash export

What’s nice is that quicktime does remember your most recent settings. You can return and return, and keep using the same export settings. I am happy to discuss further what some of the options in the video dialog mean, but, I’ve found that for most, it’s not relevant to most people. Results, not explanations.