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Video Compression Secrets: Smaller Files, Better Quality


“The best codec to keep file sizes small is Windows Media (.wmv). Microsoft has done an excellent job of combining small file size and very good temporal quality. The format isn’t necessarily good for iOS devices, but if you can manage to get your projects on YouTube, you will be able to deliver everywhere. And that’s a plus, in my opinion.”

Last year, YouTube reported that users were uploading 48 hours of video to the service every minute. That’s over 69,000 hours of video a day, every day. Petabytes of video, every day (a petabyte is a million gigabytes). The only way this works is because YouTube compresses all that video during upload. But you aren’t dealing in petabytes of video so why does this matter to you?

Most of us already use or are beginning to use video in our eLearning. If you’re in the “most of us” category, you are compressing your video whether you know it or not. Some of us can use our own servers for video rather than YouTube’s or Vimeo’s or some other video service, but we all have file-size limitations and bandwidth issues.

How you compress your video and what form you compress it to makes a difference. But what do we know about compressing video except to use the Adobe Media Encoder or a standalone program like Sorenson Squeeze (or DivX, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) and several other video compressors? Does the file type you create matter? Yes. Does the file size matter? Yes. Let’s talk about file size first.

What affects file size?

Any timeline-based project (Figure 1) must be compressed in order to put it on YouTube, Vimeo, your servers, or wherever you need to store and access it. Furthermore, while you can stream an uncompressed video file (.avi), it’s not easy. The bandwidth requirements are such that your IT department will not have anything nice to say about it.


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