Category: Technophilia Visual

Lessons of a video dolt, pt. 2: Resolutions can wait

Technophilia Visual

Disclaimer: I’m not a video expert, so this tutorial may be entirely wrong. It reflects only my understanding of what I’ve learned so far about editing video files.

Note: I had intended to write a series of tutorials while I dealt with some menial task for a video project, but those tasks turned out to be easier than expected. So I’m not sure how many more of these entries I’ll write.

There are a lot of places on the Interwebs where you can find out about video resolutions and the first two links provided by Google are good places to start.

Assuming you can get through all the jargon that gets thrown around.

Here’s the thing you should come away with in learning about video resolution: there are many ways to describe the same thing.

Let’s begin with aspect ratio, the width of an image divided by its height. Long ago and far away when televisions started inching their way into American homes, film studios combated the perceived threat of the medium by expanding the size of the theater screen. As a result, films have an aspect ratio of 16:9, while TV has an aspect ratio of 4:3. That’s the simple history of aspect ratios.

Now comes the hard part.

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Lessons of a video dolt, pt. 1: Bring yr camera and know yr codecs

Technophilia Visual

Disclaimer: I’m not a video expert, so this tutorial may be entirely wrong. It reflects only my understanding of what I’ve learned so far about editing video files.

Any explanation of digital video begins with an understanding coders and decoders. The proper parlance for this concept is codec. This word is important to learn. Take it to heart.

Digital video takes up a lot of space, much, much more than audio. An uncompressed audio file can be dozens of megabytes. An uncompressed video file can be dozens, even hundreds, of gigabytes. Back in the late ’90s, when I made my first tip-toe into the depths of digital audio, 6GB hard drives felt voluminous, but they were no match for the demands of space-hogging WAV files.

Today’s late-aught hard drives make those 6GB drives look puny, so a 100MB WAV file doesn’t seem so greedy. But even a 1.5-terabyte drive is no match for hours of uncompressed video files. Till such a day comes when drive space approaches infinity, codecs are a fact of life.

And damn are there a lot of them.

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Lessons of a video dolt, introduction: Audio is easy

Technophilia Visual

Since 2005 — or perhaps even 2000 — I’ve been schooling myself on the ins and outs of recording my own music. I’ve had help in the form of numerous classes at Austin Community College, but software for setting music down on digital bits is not too difficult to learn.

I’m at the point where my workflow is pretty solid — get the MIDI parts down, record those MIDI parts to audio, lay some vocals over those tracks, apply effects processing to all that audio, mix it down, do some quick mastering and pow — ready to hear.

It took a few years before I really got how effects, particularly equialization, work, and I had to redo a lot of stuff multiple times just to get the sound I have today.

That shot of confidence in my achievements made me think video would be just as surmountable.

What an idiot.

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Music video social network shootout, part the second!

Technophilia Visual

When I uploaded some videos to YouTube last year, I encountered some heinous audio problems. YouTube was forcing some really draconian compression on the audio, and it turned me off from the site.

After considerable uproar from users, the forced compression was removed. So I begrudgingly uploaded my videos again.

This past summer, I put new audio tracks on my videos, and I wanted to update them on all the sites to which I uploaded. The difference in user experience between then and now was drastic, and it forced me to update the 2008 shootout. High definition is now the norm, and each site handles it differently, some better than others.

This time around, I stuck with uploading MPEG-2 files, forgoing the comparison with MP4.

Here’s how each site performed.

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Music video social network shoot out!

Technophilia Visual

Now that YouTube has gone out of its way to ensure crappy sound on uploaded videos, I’ve been investigating other sites on which to post Eponymous 4 music videos.

The major social networking sites — Myspace and Facebook — both support video uploads, as does, and all three pretty much accept the same file types: MPEG-2, MP4, MOV, AVI.

To test the capabilities of Myspace, Facebook and, I uploaded MPEG-2 and MP4 versions of my videos. The MPEG-2 files averaged about 150MB, while the MP4 files weigh in at about 36MB. The MP4 files have impressive picture and sound for their size, and I was hoping the encoding processes of these sites would maintain that quality.

Of course, not all video is created equal, and one in particular — "enigmatics IV" — poses problems because it was not "shot" as digital video. The footage is actually stop-motion animation from individual digital pictures. This video would prove to be the Achilles heel of all three sites.

On the whole, the picture quality of the videos was on par between the two formats and between all four sites. The MP4 files showed a bit more degradation than the MPEG-2 files after going through each site’s Flash encoding, which is to be expected given the amount of compression in MP4.

The more noticeable difference — still not by much — is in sound. The MPEG-2 files fared better than the MP4 files after the encoding. For folks who aren’t particular, uploading an MP4 on a high-speed connection gets the job done and produces fairly good quality. But if you’ve got an office T-1 connection, uploading MPEG-2 files is a better bet.

Here’s how each service performed.

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