When planning to create and share video content the video quality is something that matters a great deal. When we say “video quality”, this can be interpreted a few different ways:
- Creative video quality – the level of skill or taste with which the script and creative was developed, or its aesthetic appeal.
- Technical video quality – the resolution, clarity and skill with regard to the video’s visuals and audio, and ultimately its playback on devices.
In this post, we’re going to review basic video quality from a technical standpoint, such as file formats and resolution. We’ll describe how these relate to playback when uploaded to a website, video hosting site or social media platform.
Video File Formats
First in understanding video quality, let’s review the most common video file formats. There are a plethora of video file formats available, such as .MP4, .MOV, .OGG, .WEBM, and many more. Which file type you use is generally determined by the way you plan to share your content – on your website, hosted by YouTube, on social media – because each has a different type of compression yielding options for video quality vs. file size.
File size matters because when someone is visiting your website or wanting to watch a video, it should load quickly. If too much time passes, you risk losing the interest of the viewer. Likewise, if their viewing experience is disrupted by pauses or glitches that can be a turn off that causes them to close out of your site or video and can also leave a negative impression of your brand in their mind.
The most common video file formats include:
- .MP4 – A very versatile format, great for file sharing on the web thanks to being relatively small in file size while retaining high quality. These file formats are lossless, making them idea for editing as they won’t lose quality through various edits and saves. MP4’s are compatible with online and mobile browsers and supported by the new HTML5. Grey Sky Films generally provides final project files in MP4 format for all of these great reasons.
- .MOV – Developed by Apple, this is the QuickTime file format very popular for sharing on Macs, and also available to play on Windows. .MOV viles are usually high quality and generally large in file size.
- .WEBM – Created by Google, WEBM files are smaller than MP4, which can sacrifice quality by comparison. WEBM is however utilized in HTML5 video streaming sites like YouTube.com
- .OGG – These are often used for high-quality videos to be streamed via the internet. They are higher in quality than WEBM files, and since they are open sourced they can be detected and accessed by a variety of applications like different media players.
If you’ve ever tried to upload a video to YouTube or another social media platform, you may have seen instructions or settings with regard to resolution. Usually you will see resolution referred to as: 360p, 480p, 720p or 1080p.
The “p” refers to pixels, and these numbers refer to the number of lines that make up the video’s height. The more lines used to form the image, the more detail the image will have. So, 1080p is a better resolution than 360p, because it will offer more detail and hence better quality as far as clarity is concerned.
In general, here are the best applications for these different levels of resolution:
- 4K – 4K is a relatively newer resolution category, commonly referred to as “Ultra HD”. 4k exceeds 1080p (at either 3840×2160 or 4096×2160). 4k files are significantly larger than 1080p but only really perceivable if you are watching 4K content on a 4K device (like a movie screen, large experience screen or a 4k capable TV) and able to see the extra fine details.
- 1080p – This is high-definition (HD) and the standard for television broadcast currently. This is also ideal for high-quality playback online. So, if you’ve produced a cinematically beautiful mini-documentary about your yachting company, you’d certainly want to playback this video in at least 1080p!
- 720p – This is the minimum level that is still considered to be HD. To save a bit of file size, but still have a high-quality clarity to your video, you may wish to use a 720p video for hosting on websites or social media platforms.
- 480p – Standard DVDs play at 480p, so a basic DVD burner or player will play this quality file on most laptops or computers. To get an HD look by playing a DVD, it will have to be a Blu-Ray DVD.
- 360p – This is quite a bit lower resolution, but a good option for sharing a video via your phone or other mobile device, as it is a smaller file size to be managed and uploaded.
While it’s generally better to have higher resolution, this also means you’ll have a larger file size and that can affect playback speed and a viewers experience. The larger a file is, the longer it may take for your website, browser or device to call it up and play it back smoothly.
Platforms Help Adjust File Quality
A great feature of platforms like YouTube, as well as internet and mobile browsers, is that if you upload your best file (a 1080p HD file) the video player will automatically process the video to have a few different options for playback.
The platform would then, for example, stream a lower resolution version (240p or 360p) or an HD version depending on the speed of your internet connection or video player size. The platform detects how the video is being viewed and responds accordingly.
If you are hosting video directly in your website (not embedded from YouTube or another hosting service), you’ll need to create various file versions (.OGG, .WEBM, .MP4) that can be detected and utilized by the different mobile and internet browsers like Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and more. This way, the browser can detect the best file for playback and use that one.
An experienced and trusted video production agency can certainly provide files for you in a variety of ways and assist in creating the best version for your method of distribution. Part of the providing video services means helping to assure that the viewing experience is the very best it can be, so that your high-quality video can perform well and achieve the goals you have devised for it.