Is there a secret (free) platform for hosting high-quality video?
July 23, 2019 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Too many artifacts on YouTube; too cheap to spend the big bucks

Hi all

I'm trying to upload a graphics-intensive video somewhere that can play it back and do it justice. It looks too low-quality on YouTube. Facebook (with the high-quality option checked) is the best I've done so far, but still has too many artifacts. Weebly -- which hosts my website -- Vimeo, and others seem to want more money for a file this size (13.5 GB at best quality, 3.5 GB version is close enough that I could live with it).

The video was created in Apple Motion. 1920 x 1080, 29.97 fps, exported in both 4444 and 422 LT. Tried H.264, as YouTube recommends it, but there was too much quality dropoff. There is other guidance from YouTube (e.g., .mp4 container) that I can't figure out how to do in Motion.

Is there any free site that will stream this in HQ? Or some export format that will preserve the graphics but be more YouTube-friendly?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

posted by troywestfield to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Streaming large video files with high quality codecs is expensive for hosting services, as you've discovered, so I doubt you are going to find any "secret" workarounds for free.

What is the context for how this video is going to be shared? You say you want "to do it justice" which is understandable for quality, but do you also want all of the other features that these services tend to provide? (Such as sharing, embedding, commenting, etc.)

The only alternative that comes to mind is Google Drive which has a limit of 1920x1280 and the file size is based on your storage limits. However, even here you run into the codec issue, you are looking at either H.264, or VP8.

If you want to experiment with rolling your own streaming "channel" for free, you're probably going to have to look into something like Amazon Cloudfront, which does have a free tier for On-Demand video for HQ codecs, but you are going to have to be a lot more involved from a development standpoint, it's not just drag and drop your video files.
posted by jeremias at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2019

Streaming a larger high-quality file when they could be streaming several lower-quality files with the same bandwidth isn't particularly cost-effective for free, ad-supported video hosting sites. Maybe upload a preview to Youtube and seed a torrent for people to download the high-quality version if they want?
posted by Aleyn at 12:49 PM on July 23, 2019

Is there any free site that will stream this in HQ? Or some export format that will preserve the graphics but be more YouTube-friendly?

Nope, and not really. Cloudfront is your best bet. This is something people spend a lot of money on.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:36 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Eh; it was worth a shot. I just don't get how some others have been able to get better results, even on YouTube. I've asked a couple of them, but haven't gotten any helpful suggestions yet. Anyway, thanks to you all for the responses.
posted by troywestfield at 2:10 PM on July 23, 2019

There is other guidance from YouTube (e.g., .mp4 container) that I can't figure out how to do in Motion.

This is really not my area of expertise but you're not restricted to using Motion. There are a few very widely-used tools for video conversion and processing (ffmpeg is what I can name offhand). I'd suggest asking here or on video forums for advice on conversion techniques.
posted by trig at 2:56 PM on July 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

One question - are you judging the quality on those services based on watching your videos as soon as they were available after upload/processing? The first version available on a platform is usually a lower-quality one and the higher-quality ones are still processing.

See here for YouTube's explanation.

Your settings and Internet bandwidth can also make a difference - if you have a less-than-great connection and your settings are set to automatically offer the best version based on what the platform determines your streaming capabilities to be, you might be getting a lower-quality version than someone else might see.

Video sites perform their own compression on your source file, and you don't really have any control over the compression settings. So having a good master file is important, but after that it's a bit of a crapshoot. You can try to optimize your content for better compression (limiting the amount of detail and motion for example), but then you run the risk of losing the properties of your media that are important to you.

Running your master through ffmpeg won't help in this scenario if you're getting clean output from Motion (or whatever else you might generate your material in). YouTube and Vimeo are still going to crush it according to their own settings. As far as I know they will not display your original video file even if you manage to guess the exact compression settings they use to process your video and compress your file accordingly.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 3:36 PM on July 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Besides the points raised above, there's also the difference between H264 and VP8. Youtube have tried to make the experience as transparent as possible - VP8 (basically HEVC equivalent) is higher quality but not supported on all devices, and it downgrades to H264 when necessary.

I've uploaded a small lossless video file to Youtube and their VP8 codec output was really quite good, but I'm not sure if it qualifies as "good enough" for your case.

I also have a sneaking suspicion there may be some kind of prioritization in terms of how much CPU power and duplicated storage Youtube dedicates to any one video depending on how much revenue it is going to generate... getting a super high quality encode is expensive in terms of CPU time. But this is total speculation.
posted by xdvesper at 8:28 PM on July 23, 2019

I dunno if Motion and Final Cut use the same encoder, but Handbrake gave much smaller files, with more knobs for adjusting quality vs. size. I’d try that. How long is the video?
posted by Pronoiac at 10:33 PM on July 23, 2019

> "… VP8 (basically HEVC equivalent) is higher quality but not supported on all devices …
Nope; VP8 quality & compression is near-identical to H.264/MPEG4 AVC, not H.265/HEVC. One or the other may have a slight edge in some scenarios, depending on the specific type of video and what exactly you choose as your measure, but for all intents and purposes in the real world they're the same quality and compression ratio.

Pretty much the same goes for VP9 vs H.265/HEVC comparison (if anything, they're even closer in performance to each other across scenarios/measures).
> "… and it downgrades to H264 when necessary." …
Yeah, nah - totally different codec structures between (though VP9 may indeed fall back to VP8; haven't looked at that aspect since, outside YouTube's mysteries, VP9 is practically irrelevant in the real world).

My money would be on under_petticoat_rule's suggestion about the time delay betwen uploading and the best quality being available. YouTube seem to prioritise that for popular/revenue-generating channels; I've seen really big channels have the best quality available within minutes, while smaller channels can take hours (or sometimes, days) to get there.
posted by Pinback at 2:50 AM on July 24, 2019

Thanks again, all.

Pettitcoat: Thanks for that. I did see that, and am talking about the HQ version, I'm pretty sure -- at least, I can change the view setting to 1080. And I've tried viewing on what seemed to be like pretty good WiFi; the video certainly uploaded a million times faster than it did at home.

I will try Pronoiac's Handbrake suggestion, as well as some I got from someone whose videos look good to me on YT, which mostly center around amping up things like frame rate and resolution.
posted by troywestfield at 6:41 AM on July 24, 2019

Try Wistia. Their free plan includes 3 videos and 200GB of bandwidth. They compress the videos, but I think their compression results in a much higher quality output than YouTube.
posted by reeddavid at 12:17 AM on July 25, 2019

Thanks for the advice, reeddavid. I tried them, but didn't see an improvement over YouTube.

The best results I got centered around changing the container to an mp4 for YouTube and changing the framerate to 60. I think, if I could get the video to play exclusively at 1080 for any viewers, I would release it on Facebook or maybe YouTube, but I imagine that isn't possible. I might try upgrading my weebly site to see how good their HD is, but failing that, I think I'll have to leave this unreleased.

Thanks again to all for your time.
posted by troywestfield at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2019

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