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What is the best way to encode video for web use?
November 3, 2005 12:38 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to encode video for cross platform (mac, windows and *nix) use?

We have several videos that we need to host on our site. The video guru has edited them, but is unsure of all the encoding options in Final Cut (he mostly works in straight DV format). The sources are all dvd quality, and they need to not only look good but sound good. The quicktime.mov files he created looked and sounded great, but would only open on a few windows boxes. After updating to the latest/greatest QT on the windows xp sp2 box, it still refused to open. I'm trying to find the best balance between quality and ease of use for the non-expert site viewer (no forcing them to download an extra codec like divx).

On a side note, one of the exports he made was mp4 streaming, yet the browsers would not stream and downloaded them instead. Safari on my mac just downloaded what looks to be the file code in the browser window, but never played the file itself. Is there something we need to add to the html to make it stream?
posted by ikareru to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Why not convert to FLV and play using a Flash-based FLV player? That way they play directly in the browser, and it works on any machine with Flash (which is pretty much all of them now). There's a thread on AskMe about this from the last month, but you'll need to look for it.

There is a free "any video" to FLV convertor around too, so then you just need to worry about the player, and there are many free ones. This is a good starting point. Or here's a good one.
posted by wackybrit at 12:57 PM on November 3, 2005


I'd definitely suggest FLV as well. It is really simple to set your conversion options and take a 500MB DVD resolution clip down to 10MB while retaining great quality in audio and video.

You can create custom player skins for the playback component or modify the existing ones to your hearts content, as well as easily integrating actionscript for cool video selection menus and the like. I recently was in a similar situation and went with FLV.
posted by prostyle at 1:06 PM on November 3, 2005


If it's displaying in the browser instead of playing, it's likely a MIME issue. According to Apple, your web server should be serving it as "video/mp4".
posted by revgeorge at 1:16 PM on November 3, 2005


flv sounds perfect! thanks wackybrit and prostyle

revgeorge -- i'll lookinto the mime type issue, just so I understandnd about it. thanks
posted by ikareru at 1:25 PM on November 3, 2005


Well, if you choose not to make people download macromedia (I would have to) then you can go with MPEG-1 instead...
posted by shepd at 1:53 PM on November 3, 2005


FLV is an extremely poor choice if you want something cross-platform. It's only useful on platforms to which Flash has been ported. Most notably, a huge swath of the UNIX and Linux universe is not supported (basically anything other than i686 platforms). MPEG is the way to go if it's portability you're after.
posted by majick at 2:19 PM on November 3, 2005


the results with mpeg-1 have been less than spectacular. I'm playing with the flv stuff now, and the quality seems very good, nearly as good as the quicktime in half the file size.

Is there anything I could pass on to the video guy(he specializes in editing) that would help him if we went the mpg-1 route?
posted by ikareru at 2:30 PM on November 3, 2005


Yes. Tell him to ignore shepd and majick and go with FLV. MPEG-1 is an awful choice in comparison - it's not called the lowest common denominator for nothing.

Or compromise: offer FLV embedded in the page and provide a text-based link to download the MPEG-1 version for the <1 % who won't be able to view flash video./small>
posted by blag at 3:13 PM on November 3, 2005


Or if you're going to provide a link to download a more portable version, make it mpeg2. It's about as widely understood thanks to libavcodec and the quality is much higher.
posted by polyglot at 3:36 PM on November 3, 2005


Ummm. Majik is confused I think. Almost every linux distribution I know can play flash files. It is only i686 that doesn't play flash files. (And there are work arounds).

I agree about flv. I've used it and it worked great for a dvd conversion.
posted by meta87 at 3:40 PM on November 3, 2005


Yes, I was just thinking that too. Certainly every desktop distribution that I've used will support it, most of them out-of-the-box.
posted by blag at 4:13 PM on November 3, 2005


"Majik is confused I think. Almost every linux distribution I know can play flash files. "

There is no Flash player for the PPC, SPARC, MIPS, PA, ARM, 68K, 360, or any other architecture beyond x86. You're apparently only aware of Linux distributions for x86, however Linux (and UNIX) runs on quite a lot more hardware than Flash does.

Likewise, there's no Flash player for AIX, Solaris, or IRIX.

The guy said "cross platform" including UNIX. Flash runs only on a very small subset of UNIX and Linux systems. If the dude had said "Windows, Macintosh, and Linux on x86," you folks would be correct.

Also, performance of the Flash plugin on the supported Linux platform (x86) is abyssimal bordering on criminal.
posted by majick at 5:27 PM on November 3, 2005


My mistake. I assumed that because you said i686 instead of i386, that you were saying that it runs on a 64 bit pc, but not a 32 bit pc. And since it is quite the opposite, I felt the need to mention it. (It runs on ppc quite well last time i used a powerbook so...)

Also, does anyone really worry aboout sparc, mips, etc compatibilty? I mean anyone using those systems as a desktop must be used to incompatibilty by now.

Anyway, if you do have some money to through at the problem, Sorenson Squeeze works great for converting videos into flv and many other formats.
posted by meta87 at 5:35 PM on November 3, 2005


Another downside to the FLV method is that the videos can't be downloaded and played in normal video players without some effort (i'm not even sure it's possible).

I'd ask that you please not put your video inside a flash object.

MPEG is the standard you're looking for - I know no video player that doesn't understand MPEG.
posted by odinsdream at 5:49 PM on November 3, 2005


Another downside is that it isn't a very efficient compression (compared to h.264 or mp4).

If safari is downloading it, it's definetly a misconfigured server.
posted by filmgeek at 6:23 PM on November 3, 2005


Apparently there are some people doing wild and wonderful things with mpeg1 and mpeg2 encoding. Check out kvcd for details.
posted by Chuckles at 12:51 AM on November 4, 2005


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