Sunday, December 7, 2008

YouTube "Watch in HD" Now Available and Facebook Video HD Launches, Is It Really An HD War?

We've all been seeing YouTube move in this direction with their continued development of features in the player and user experience. Since June 2007, newly uploaded videos have been encoded using the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format with stereo AAC audio.

They recently expanded the width of the player from 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9 and just partnered with music licensing firm Rumblefish adding over 25k new songs from to use with their AudioSwap too. Now their geared up for higher quality video with HD 720p as they quietly introduced a new "watch in HD" option late Thursday night no longer requiring the "&fmt=22" hack.

Here's a screen shot comparing normal quality and HD courtesy of Silicon Alley Insider:

No official word on the YouTube blog yet but an interesting post did appear for a short while today which had to be translated from Portuguese and has been removed and opens to a blank page.

I used Google Translate and included it below:

From the YouTube Blog,
Posted by: P. Pflaeging (which had to be translated from Portuguese)
Release: YouTube 960

Index of change
The Player:
  • The YouTube player is bigger now: with 640x360 (16:9 ratio).
  • Videos as a standard, at a ratio of 4:3, will be between tracks, meaning they will be centralized in the player with two black bands on either side.
  • Page Layout: - The YouTube now has 960px wide (from the previous 875px) in the Watch, Home, Search and Browse.
  • The page Watch DL (right side) is now 300px against 360px - the ads are better!
  • Banners from the "Watch Video" ( "banners of the partners) to scale down its 300x45, preserving their share.
  • Ads in Player: - Ads on YouTube Inviolability are centralized in the player.
  • Ads Graphics "AFV" are also centralized in the player.
  • Ads from Text "AFV" were "staged" to the width of the player.
  • Areas without changes - The channels have not yet been staged in wide format. (But soon will be!) Enjoy the changes!
Vimeo, Dailymotion and several other video sharing sites have offered HD for a while, but they haven't seen the level of traffic as YouTube who drew 5 billion U.S. online video views in July 2008. You'll start to see a real distinction between high quality professional work and amateur user-generated content (UGC) that YouTube is know for. Video produced in HD will look great but you need a lot of bandwidth to enjoy the full user experience. More bandwidth means greater costs for Google who seems to be working hard to change YouTube's reputation as a free-for-all UGC site to compete with Hulu for the online ad market.

WebTVWire has an interesting post on this subject, The Death Of User-Generated Video | Web Video Is Evolving To Professional Content, which explores how UGC is losing it's appeal in favor of professional content.

In November, Google also announced two new methods for monetizing YouTube videos through YouTube sponsored video search results, and overlay ads in embedded YouTube partner videos. It seems YouTube is starting to have a real business plan to better monetize those views with ads and high quality content in the Screening Room which launched in July 2008 and full-length films and television shows from MGM, Lions Gate Entertainment and CBS. Hulu features material from both NBC and Fox.

Facebook is another story since it's focus is not primarily on video but on social networking. But it also made it's own video announcement on the same day as YouTube launching its Facebook Video service. According Chris Putnam on The Facebook Blog, "Since we launched video last year, more than 45 million videos have been uploaded to Facebook with approximately 100,000 new videos added each day. Starting today, you'll be able to upload higher quality videos to Facebook and also embed your Facebook videos on other websites. Higher quality video means we'll be supporting higher resolutions—as much as 1280 by 720 pixels (720p)—which means crisper quality than was previously possible on Facebook. Plus, we've upgraded our audio, too."

Here's an example from their blog:

Robert Scoble started an interesting discussion on Friendfeed, "EXCLUSIVE: Facebook is turning on HD video. Watch the video at -- you heard it here first! - FriendFeed" and a blog post HD war breaks out as Facebook, YouTube deliver new features. I embedded his video with Chris Putman in my previous Weekly Review post.

One of the more pointed comments came from Bwana who said, "I don't see it as major because Facebook's video community is virtually non-existent. Had they opened up video to non-Facebook users a year ago and THEN added HD today, it may be different. There's a ton of competition in this field, and it's a steep hill to climb. I will be very surprised if we're even talking about Facebook HD video 3 months from now."

It will be interesting to see how things shakes out.


For those interested in how the various sharing sites stack up here's a rounds up of Online video sites HD quality comparison compiled by Charbax:
  • Youtube Normal Quality: 320×180 - 350kbit/s Sorenson - 25fps (probably source based) - 22hz mono audio
  • Youtube High Quality: 480×270 - 1mbit/s Sorenson - 25fps (probably source based) - 44hz stereo mp3 audio
  • Youtube HD: 1280×720 - 2mbit/s H264 - full framerate - 44hz stereo 254kbit/s AAC audio - more details
  • Facebook HD: 1280×720 - 2.5mbit/s H264 - full framerate - 44hz 146kbit/s AAC stereo audio
  • SmugMug HD: 640×360 - 1.4mbit/s H264 - full framerate - 48hz AAC stereo audio
  • Sevenload HD: 1280×720 - 1.8mbit/s H264 - full framerate - 48hz 96kbit/s AAC stereo audio
  • Vimeo HD: 1280×720 - 1.7mbit/s VP6 - full framerate - 44hz 128kbit/s mp3 stereo audio
  • Dailymotion HD: 1280×720 - 1.3mbit/s VP6 - full framerate - 44hz 96kbit/s mp3 stereo audio