Getting good video with Vimeo

Like many amateur videographers, I was not satisfied with You Tube’s video quality with my uploaded video clips. My videos were always too compressed and You Tube did not offer enough control over my finally video presentation, so I tried Vimeo which offers basically the same video services. This post covers my experience with Vimeo and what I learned about getting good web video with Vimeo.

First off, a standard free Vimeo account is much like You Tube’s service; not good enough. Grainy web videos are not up-to-par with the high quality HD videos that can be found on the Internet nowadays. Only after I upgraded to a Vimeo Plus account did I finally get video quality that I considered acceptable. Vimeo Plus cost $60 a year, which is pretty reasonable for nearly unlimited streaming video. That’s $5 per month to have a streaming video server, HD quality resolution, for an unlimited number of videos. If you don’t have a Plus account, you are going to be a second class client with Vimeo. A basic free account has restrictions and limitations that push you to a Plus account and this is how Vimeo makes money.

When you sign up with Vimeo you are creating your video library on Vimeo’s streaming server. From Vimeo’s website you can manage your videos within your account. Video from Plus accounts is always “processed” ahead of free accounts and there are no limitations on how many videos or how large your videos can be when uploaded to their servers. A basic Vimeo account can’t upload enough video data (size: h x w) to get good video quality. As a Vimeo Plus user, your account has many more options which you can select during the production of your web video. The Embedding settings will allow you to customize your video player and eliminate ads within your player. Privacy settings allow to control who can watch your video content including it being only viewed from your domain.

I have a website hosted on a web server, but the server is not a streaming video server. A streaming video server is absolutely necessary to deliver video content to your website. Keep in mind that your videos are stored on Vimeo servers, not on your web server. They are displayed on your website by embedding a video link from your website to Vimeo’s servers. This is good because serving videos from your server will eat-up your website’s bandwidth quota quickly. Web host admins, like myself, want our clients to keep their video content on streaming servers not on a web server. A video server has been optimized to stream your video content much more efficiently than a standard web server. If you don’t have a website, you can still share your videos with others by viewing them from Vimeo’s site.

What really helped get my videos looking better was when I uploaded so called HD videos to Vimeo with minimal video compression. Let Vimeo do the prepping and compression of your videos. Vimeo recommends uploads with the H.264 codec, size of 1280×720, and a bit rate of 3000-5000 kbits/sec when exported from your video editor application. In iMovie’s Share menu you will find Vimeo’s export panel. Enter your Vimeo account login and size to publish. HD 720p produces good results for all devices with less download bandwidth. If you use HD 1080p, your movie will double in size, but would be good for presentation on a 27″ monitor.

Video resolutions of 1280×720 or greater are considered high definition and with a Plus Vimeo account, your uploaded source video is processed more thoroughly by Vimeo, resulting in superior video compression and containing far less pixel artifacts (blur spots). If your video meets Vimeo’s specs for HD quality, you will see the HD logo at the bottom of your movie player control buttons. You should see clearer video when compared to non-HD video. Event though, you are providing your viewers with HD video, you should probably not have the embed settings to default to HD (HD is off) because many browsers don’t have the bandwidth and will experience sluggish playback. Don’t check; “Default this video to HD quality when embedded”. If they want HD, they click the HD icon on the video controller (HD is on).

HD/Non-HD difference: The extra video compression can be seen on the right around the text.

Here is an example of using Vimeo Plus correctly with HD content. Granted; good photography, Nikon cameras, and a helicopter help too.

 

There is also a free iOS application available from Vimeo. Once you login into your Vimeo account from the Vimeo app, you can produce and distribute video content from one application on an iPhone. As crazy as editing video on a mobile phone sounds, in a pinch, you can trim your clips, add text, add audio and get them online quickly.

Video editor in  the Vimeo app

 Another issue with serving video content on the Internet is who are you serving your videos to? What size of video do mobile browsers need and what formats do they require? Vimeo’s post-production takes care of these unknowns for you. Vimeo will create mobile versions of your video for you. In the example to the right, Flash video is not supported by iOS devices, so Vimeo provides a H264 encoded version to the iPhone. With Vimeo, you don’t have to worry about optimizing your video for web viewing or different mobile devices, just get them enough data, and they do the optimizing.