Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Video Encoding: YouTube Beats Google Video

YouTube seems to use a much crisper codec than Google Video. I have run several animated clips through both of them and there is always a notable difference in quality, and always in YouTube's favor. I'm a big fan of most of Google's recent projects, and think they have a better model for long-term viability. (Ever wondered what will happen to all of your YouTube videos if the company burns out? Or to the embedded YouTube videos in blogs and websites?) But I can't handle the compression level.

Here's a sample clip uploaded to both sites. It's a three-slide PowerPoint that intends to communicate the effects of supply and demand on price to seventh-graders (the image of the sun in the background relates to its inclusion in a teaching unit on nuclear energy). In keeping with the goal of minimizing onscreen text, there are pauses (including a few-second pause at the beginning) for instructors to explain to students what they are seeing.

YouTube Version

Google Video Version

I haven't experimented exhaustively with this - no live action, for example - but the difference seems clear. I guess this would be Reason #11 for some people. Google is also having problems with image rendering in its Picasa Web Albums, currently in "Test" mode, which I blogged about previously here, here, and here.


Tim Lauer said...

In looking at both clips, to my eye it looks as if they both play with equal quality, but the Google Video poster frame looks better than the YouTube frame. Also, I don't care much for the YouTube logo they throw up on the screen. As for posterity...You might want to take a look at They offer the ability to cross post your work to the Internet Archive.

I enjoy reading your site...


Jim said...

I couldn't disagree more. The quality of YouTube's encoding looks WORSE to my eyes than most other video hosting services. I've written about this on my video blog here: YouTube vs Google Video, and here: Video quality at Vimeo and YouTube. My video is nothing but live action, and really tests the limitations of the encodings, especially at low bit rates.

Jeremiah McNichols said...

Nothing like an unscientific study to draw out the recommendations! Both and Vimeo (which Jim recommends on one of his linked reviews below) look like interesting options; I like's idea of simultaneous publication on the Internet Archive, but the quality of video at Vimeo looks great and I love that they allow you to keep your original version available for download. As far as their user base is concerned, Vimeo seems to have a better mix of interesting videos (at first glance) than, as well as a better browsing interface, which is relevant to finding interesting videos others have produced but not so much to serving them up on a blog.

I have to say, though, Jim, I thought your YouTube version in your Google Video/YouTube shootout looked much better! I did notice the artifacts in the YouTube version but I see the blurring in terms of anti-aliasing, which does wonders for rendering onscreen text and smooths over some of the digital gunk that any web-applicable compression format will give you. Obviously, my own purposes test the two codecs a lot less vigorously than yours does, but to my eyes there is a big jump in quality when you can have text on the screen that does not look like it got jammed in a paper shredder.

Thanks for tuning me in to your recommendations, Jim, I will continue to follow them as you are clearly better versed in these matters than myself. But barring abandoning both services for a or a Vimeo, I won't be leaving YouTube just yet.