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Compressing files for computer playback

From: Maximizing Your Web Video and Podcast Audience with Hypersyndication

Video: Compressing files for computer playback

In the past when you want to publish video to a computer, it was pretty difficult. You had different media players for different platforms. Maybe it was Windows Media on a PC or a QuickTime Movie with the Sorenson Codec on a Mac, it was just confusing. You had to put out lots of different formats and it wasn't uncommon to have a small, medium, and large for three different platforms on your website. This was a lot of stuff to manage to keep track of, lot of things to do, just a lot of extra work. And it really was just a pain in the butt.

Compressing files for computer playback

In the past when you want to publish video to a computer, it was pretty difficult. You had different media players for different platforms. Maybe it was Windows Media on a PC or a QuickTime Movie with the Sorenson Codec on a Mac, it was just confusing. You had to put out lots of different formats and it wasn't uncommon to have a small, medium, and large for three different platforms on your website. This was a lot of stuff to manage to keep track of, lot of things to do, just a lot of extra work. And it really was just a pain in the butt.

Well, these days it's gotten easier and that's because we could take advantage of more standard formats like the H.264 format, which is an MPEG-4 file. What I'd like to show you now is an application called Adobe Media Encoder. Adobe Media Encoder is bundled with most of the applications that are designed for web work or video work in the Adobe Creative Suite. So chances are if you're using Adobe software, you have Adobe Media Encoder. Now don't worry. In another exercise we're going to go ahead and cover other compression tools.

We're going to just use Media Encoder because it's cross-platform and chances are you already own it. Let's take a look at how it works. When you launch Adobe Media Encoder, it's a big window with not much in it. Remember, this is not creative software; this is a utility. You go ahead and click the Plus button to add an item. Now when you export a video file, chances are it's going to be pretty big. If you're working with an Adobe software tool, you also have the option to send directly from programs like Adobe Premiere Pro or Adobe AfterEffects, directly to the Encoder without having to export a self-contained movie first.

You'll see the file is in there. If I click Format, we have several options to choose from. Notice here, there's way more choices than you probably have knowledge to use. After all, when was the last time you needed to create a DPX file, unless you were out there working in Hollywood? What you're going to most commonly choose is the H.264. Not the Blu-ray option; just the straight-up H.264 file format. When you do that, you'll notice that there are several presets next to it.

These presets equate to different devices that you want to target. You'll notice that we have settings for common electronic devices like iPods and iPads. But for computers, I typically recommend that you choose something between Apple TV and HDTV. The benefit of these settings is that they're very high-quality, high-definition video. The Apple TV preset is well-suited for playback on a television. The HDTV ones are actually good enough to use on broadcast television.

But they are significantly smaller than the original file size. The use of H.264 compression is a very modern tool. And what it allows you to do is significantly reduce the file size of your file before you upload it to a video sharing site. This is going to cut down on the upload time and also reduce the limits that might be placed on you, because most of these sites will place a restriction as to how big of a file you could post.

Precompressing is usually the only way around these limitations and it will give you much better results. Now you'll notice in the same list that we actually have presets for Vimeo and YouTube. So if you are targeting one of those video sharing services, you can also choose that as well. I'm going to go ahead and specify that this is a 24P material and I want a high-quality HD file. If I want, I can go ahead and simply select that and choose Edit>Duplicate and then choose another preset such as YouTube HD and duplicate that again.

And choose one more. In this case, I'll go ahead and make one for Vimeo. Now you might be thinking, why all these presets? Each website has slightly different settings. Now you don't have to make a custom one for YouTube and Vimeo and all these other sites. The advantage though if you do is that your upload time is faster and the end image is going to look cleaner. When you upload the video following the website specifications, your video is typically not recompressed or smooshed as much.

It's going to look better, because you've followed their recommended technical settings and you'll get a cleaner file. This means that your video will be ready to serve up that much faster and it's going to look that much cleaner. When you're set, just click the Play button and everything will start to encode. If you want to, you can click the output path to rename the file or choose a new destination. I'm going to go ahead and just rename these output files, so it's clean and we're going to call this one YT for YouTube, and rename this one VM for Vimeo, so it's clear that I know where these are going to.

Once I look the setting is over and I'm all set, I just click the Play button and it begins to encode. You'll notice that it gives you an estimated time on how long it's going to take to complete this compression. And it will tell you a little bit more about the file as it runs. Now there's much more to video compression, and if you look here on Lynda.com, you'll find some very comprehensive titles on compression that will help you get more out of your specific application. But these presets are a great starting point and really make things easier.

By sticking to the H.264 preset, you will get broad compatibility with both computers and video sharing websites.

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