High definition video on YouTube

My friend John and I want to make some instructional videos for streaming from within my “how to fly” Web pages.  A first attempt is available on YouTube:  “Briefing an Instrument Approach.”  I have a few questions about the quality of this video for those of you with powerful PCs.  On my Dell XPS from 2006 (two CPUs), the video is slightly choppy and the audio seems out of sync of the video.  The video was captured with a 3-CCD Sony HDV camera in 1080i (state of the art in 2006!) and exported to 720p with Adobe Premiere Pro CS4.  The audio was captured at 48 KHz but converted to 44.1 KHz for the export, which is the default behavior when you say “YouTube HD” to Premiere.  We used a Westcott daylight-balanced fluorescent Spider Light TD5 and soft boxes for lighting.

So.. for those of you with modern quad-core PCs… how does the video look?  Do I have Parkinson’s?

My second question is whether YouTube is the right service to use.  I don’t want to pay for the bandwidth to stream these videos.  At the same time, I don’t want the videos to be interrupted with a lot of ads.  Even worse, it would be bad if competitive flight schools ran ads inside these videos.  Aside from the satisfaction of helping others learn, it would be nice if we got a few new students at East Coast Aero Club.  Nor would we want other flight schools to embed these videos in their own sites, chop off the opening and closing titles (with our URL), and use them to promote their own operation.  (I recognize that it is unrealistic to ask someone else to pay for all of the streaming infrastructure and not eventually stick ads in the videos.)

My third question is what do video nerds think about the overall quality of production?  Should we give up before we embarrass ourselves further?

My final question for video experts comes from my friend Ken.  What consumer-grade HD camcorder should he buy to make videos of his kids?  Was there anything interesting announced at CES?  I think his budget would stretch to $1000 but it would obviously be better to bring this in for closer to $500.  And what’s the deal with hard drive camcorders with 80 GB drives?  Aren’t there 64 GB flash cards now?

35 Comments

  1. thrill

    February 4, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

    1

    Perhaps you could host the videos, to have a source, and the torrents to save bandwidth.

  2. Roger

    February 4, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

    2

    It plays just fine for me – Ubuntu 64bit on Core 2 Duo with Nvidia 8800GT (proprietary drivers) The audio was always in sync (it might be a hundredth or two of a second late). Video quality is excellent both for the couch scenes and plate pictures.

    The only issue is that my Internet connection is ~200 kilobytes per second and the video needs more than that, so I had to hit pause and let it buffer ahead.

    Multiplying cpu usage from top by CPU frequency it was using 1.8GHz for the couch scenes and 1.2GHz for the plate scenes.

    On my Thinkpad T61 with Intel integrated graphics – X3100 – again with Ubuntu 64bit. The audio is in sync and video quality is good. Couch scenes use 110% of cpu (multi-threaded) and plates are 87%. (CPU is 1.2/1.6/2 GHz dynamically switching all over the place). That roughly corresponds to the earlier machine.

    I’d guess then that a 2GHz cpu is necessary to watch the video satisfactorily. I suspect even more cpu may be needed if the scene changed a lot such as footage out of a cockpit window.

    For camcorders, http://www.camcorderinfo.com does an excellent job and includes all the CES announcements, hands on, very detailed reviews etc.

  3. Colin Summers

    February 4, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    3

    Worked for me. A little choppy at the start, but that smoothed out. iMac a year or so old, latest software, Safari browser.

    But why do I need HD in the beginning? I mean, I like seeing the stitching on the pillows and the veins on the plant just behind you, but I think if you chose a simpler shot your compression would be better and it would all be smoother.

  4. philg

    February 4, 2009 @ 8:09 pm

    4

    Colin: Why do you need HD? Try looking at the video in YouTube standard definition (option at bottom right of video) and you’ll see! I think that the approach plates are tough to read. Isn’t life too short to look at heavily compressed Internet video?

  5. Pedro A Vera

    February 4, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

    5

    It looks perfect on a Mac Book Pro Core 2 Duo 2.33. The charts look very crisp, and the video doesn’t show artifacts.

    Hosting: it looks great on Youtube, and they only restrict you on how many files you send them in one shot, and size per file. I wouldn’t mess with a good thing, especially since they are not charging you for it (it would be nice if they shared with us their ad revenue).

    Home use: there are some home grade camcorders that can do 720 at 30fps, 60fps and some even at 1080p. I have a Kodak Zi6, which can do 720p at 60fps, it was $170 with a 16GB SDHC card, enough for two hours of video at its maximum setting. It is not perfect, but it is very good for home use. The video is h.264, I can either edit it in iMovie, or send it as is to Youtube.

    Flip Video makes an HD camera too, but it has fixed storage. I owned the non HD version for a few months, it is a fantastic piece of work, it reminded me a lot about the original 5GB iPod (did one thing, and did it very well). The fixed storage was never an issue, you get used to shoot little clips so over 2-3 hours you may have accumulated 40-45 minutes worth of clips.

    You should expect more of these 720p and 1080p flash camcorders to show up in the $200 range between now and Christmas. Even Best Buy has these under their store brand, Insignia, for under $200.

  6. Solar Power House

    February 4, 2009 @ 8:26 pm

    6

    Phil, Agree with you, life is too short to spend time at crappy looking things. HD is the way to go :-)

    Q1&3: The video quality was excellent with no choppiness, sound was good too. Win XP, 2 core intel 2 GHz, 512MB Video card, 3MB RAM laptop circa 2007.

    Q2: If you want to go free then I guess youtube is the best option. I do believe that there is the option of disabling “share this video” when you upload it. This could help minimize your video being used by other flying clubs. Gotta live with the ads though.

    Final question: I have heard good things about Canon 5D MarkII which is primarily a digital EOS, but also does excellent HD motion capture. Something more economical is Flip Mino HD camcorder with solid state storage for 1 hr of video. Costs $200 at amazon. It does have problems with low light conditions.

    PS:
    I am a SR22 renter pilot in Silicon Valley, and love the idea of using these types of videos for ground school (especially when instructors here charge ~$100/hr whether the instruction takes place on ground or in the air)

  7. Michael Buckbee

    February 4, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

    7

    You should check out vimeo (http://www.vimeo.com) – for lack of a better description they are like a “grown up” YouTube. Much cleaner design, etc and their base free option looks better than YouTube.

    For not much you can upgrade and stream HD to everyone as well.

    - Mike

  8. philg

    February 4, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

    8

    Michael: In the Vimeo terms and conditions they say that “VIMEO shall be entitled to unrestricted use of any Submission for any purpose whatsoever, commercial or otherwise, without compensation to the submitter.” This license is irrevocable. It sounds to me as though if you submitted a really good video to them they could release it as a feature film and pocket all of the revenue (not that I think my approach briefing video is likely to play well at the multiplex!).

  9. Yeah

    February 4, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

    9

    Worked for me on a 3 year old single core laptop, intel graphics.

    However, the black intro screen only flashed up for half a second and I missed what it said. Should be 5 secs or so. You should play this at the end, too.

    The first transition from talking head to gobbeldygook was abrupt, where as the others used a fade. You must have missed that one.

    How about superimposing the schools logo in a corner, like a station ident, if your worried about use in other contexts.

  10. Rob

    February 4, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

    10

    youtube HD videos don’t play well at all on my 2.5 Ghz dual CPU PowerMac.
    Flash on the Mac take tons of CPU.

  11. Chris C

    February 4, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

    11

    As an IFR student currently studying for my checkride, this video was useful. :-)

    I just viewed the video on my computer at work (at Google), and it looks perfectly smooth on my laptop (Thinkpad X61 running XP). It shows up in low-def on my desktop (Linux clone running Firefox), but appears to be smooth. Hi def makes it way easier to see the chart.

    I think Youtube is great — but I work for them, so you can ignore my opinion here.

    Comments on the video: the background in the couch scenes is busy, which distracts from watching you. You look laid back on the couch — you would probably look more authoritative if you were standing up and explaining instead of being relaxed. (This also encourages students to not get comfortable and instead pay attention more). During the first 60 seconds or so of your explanation you appear to be somewhat uncomfortable, as if you are deliberately trying to speak slowly and clearly — which makes it somewhat awkward to watch. Later on you fall into your speaking groove and the pacing sounds much more natural. Around 3:30 you have a lot of umm…ahhh segments which are slightly distracting.

    You never mention in this short talk about the difference between government and Jeppesen charts — and many 121 operators would be using Jeppesen. May be worth mentioning.

    Everything you say is in a declarative style — to encourage viewers to be engaged, it might be worthwhile to ask some questions and insert pauses for listeners to think about the answer. Such as: “we didn’t mention the runway length of 7000′, why? (pause) Because…” Or “Why did we mention the type of entry into the hold on missed? (pause) This was…”

  12. Vik Bajaj

    February 4, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

    12

    Phil,

    The low-resolution version is intrinsically unwatchable; the approach charts look ridiculous and your scenes seem almost grainy with distracting artifacts. The HD version is too demanding for Flash Player 10/1.5 GHz dual G5 but works extremely well on the latest MacBook Pro. The approach charts are sharp and readable. There is obviously a problem with Flash on the (legacy?) PPC platform.

    The aesthetic reminded me somewhat of the King School DVDs (which I like and often use as an example in unrelated fields), less the corny humor. However, the segments in which you are reading text aren’t particularly dense in information, and so aren’t very useful. Why serve this in Flash video at all? Why not have a flash sequence of animations and presentations of the approach charts, with accompanying narration, to convey the same information in a more compact and less resource-intensive format?

    -Vik

  13. Ev

    February 4, 2009 @ 11:44 pm

    13

    Playback was absolutely smooth although CPU utilization was never less than 80% on 8 months old Macbook Pro. It gets very hot after a few minutes of playing Flash video.

    The connection speed is another story. I use two ISPs and both of them were inadequate for streaming your HD video without interruptions. Perhaps it has something to do with YouTube’s ability to stream though, as both ISPs are capable of 400kb/sec downloads (I use TimeWarner cable and AT&T U-Verse).

  14. billb

    February 4, 2009 @ 11:51 pm

    14

    Seemed to be fine on my core2 duo 2.0GHz dual -core dell latitude d630 laptop running Ubuntu 8.04 with 2GB of RAM. I viewed it from Firefox using a relatively recent Adobe Flash Player. There were a couple of glitches, but I couldn’t tell if they were jump cuts or an actually stutter from the video stream.

  15. chris

    February 5, 2009 @ 3:10 am

    15

    The video played very well on my older 2.16GHz Core2Duo Intel iMac with nVidia 7300GT graphics chip.

    As for the production quality of your video, it beat the living daylights out of the John & Martha King ground school videos that I watched a long time ago. I would be quite content to watch many more.

  16. Vidar Svendsen

    February 5, 2009 @ 4:22 am

    16

    I think this looks fine both from a technical and production point of view. A professional production might have been a bit more snappy but this is certainly good enough!

    To the last question. I would certainly recommend a flash card camera. I have ruined 2 miniDV cameras and 1 HD camera the last 6 years, just to many moving parts! I now have two Sony solid state memory camcorders, one “big sensor” model, for careful work and low light situations. For filming kids and everyday situations I love the Sony HDR-TG1 (HDR-TG3 here in Europe). Tiny format, always hapilly bring along, easy to use and sturdily built. However, one thing to watch out for with the newest generation memory card camcorders (Canon, Sony,…) is that they use the AVCHD recording format. AVCHD is not supported by all editing software yet, and, worse requires SERIOUS computing horsepower for editing!

  17. Michael Mahemoff

    February 5, 2009 @ 4:28 am

    17

    Looks fine on a MBP 2.4GHz 4GB, full screened on a 30″ cinema display.

  18. Phil

    February 5, 2009 @ 5:00 am

    18

    Why not host the video yourself? The advertising value you should be able to gain from having it on the flying club website should be much more than Youtube can extract from it.

  19. Scott Smith

    February 5, 2009 @ 6:14 am

    19

    On my HP work computer, XP 2GHz Dual CPU with 2GB of RAM, no problems with the video in any way. I work from home, so I use a standard home DSL setup, and I didn’t have issues streaming the vid.

    The sound quality is great except for a couple moments when it sounded like a cell phone was very near the recording device. Sound is probably more important than any other feature of a video. Bad sound means viewers will quit the vid quickly.

    You may want to use Levelator to process the sound a bit so it is even throughout. That said, I thought the levels were acceptable.

  20. robb

    February 5, 2009 @ 6:43 am

    20

    looks perfect on my MacBook Pro 2.2 Ghz Core 2 Duo in Safari. I have DSL with a 700K/sec download speed. It started up immediately and looked very high quality.

  21. EDZ

    February 5, 2009 @ 8:18 am

    21

    That VIMEO license sounds like a dealbreaker (and a gratuitously nasty one at that).

    The video itself looks great to me (late 2007 iMac). The production is OK (though the big patch of blue knee in the foreground got annoying after a while). Might want to spend another half-second or so on each feature of the approach plate; as an IFR novice I thought it went by a little fast at times. Of course, since it’s YouTube it’s trivial for me to replay it, so perhaps that’s not really a concern.

    Are you planning to do any cockpit videos? That would of course present a whole new set of production challenges but would be much fun to watch.

  22. tony

    February 5, 2009 @ 10:05 am

    22

    Absolutely perfect…no stutter or any audio issues…I have a higher end video card which probably helps, but also using an older AMD 4400+ running at 2.19 ghz.

    One issue I did notice, and it is very very minor, is I bet you have an ATT or other GSM phone. For some reason they cause interference with things, and I could hear that telltale sound of a blackberry or other GSM phone bleeding through the audio at the beginning. I would probably turn off cell phone before filming…otherwise an awesome quality effort!!

  23. Dan Lyke

    February 5, 2009 @ 10:24 am

    23

    I’m still having bandwidth issues on queuing things up, but the first quarter of the video looks great with perfect sync on my HP dv645se, Core Duo T2450 processor, running Ubuntu Intrepid Linux.

    This beastie was under a thousand bucks two years ago, so the issue on your laptop is probably just bit-rot. Have you re-installed windows on it to clear out the update-itis recently?

  24. philg

    February 5, 2009 @ 10:27 am

    24

    Dan: I have never reinstalled Windows on this Dell XPS desktop. In fact I can’t remember the last time that I restarted it. It is running XP with the latest updates, so probably it is getting crusty. Wouldn’t re-installing take days? I’d then have to reinstall all of my apps, no?

  25. Michael Pick

    February 5, 2009 @ 10:28 am

    25

    Hi Philip. This seems to play nicely on my Mac Pro over here in Japan, but most things do :) Very nice quality in HD.

    If you’re looking for an ad-free HD solution to host your videos, without restrictive legalities attached, you might want to check out our WordPress.com player. It’s available to all users with a Space Upgrade from WordPress.com, and the resulting HD videos can be embedded anywhere you like (without restrictions or bolt-on charges). We’re using it over on WordPress.tv if you want to see it in action.

    You can set up a dummy .com blog, upload your videos and then plug them right into your self-hosted blog (or elsewhere) if you don’t want to use the .com service. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about that.

    On another note – with regards to your concerns about other flight schools ripping off your content – it’s always a possibility. The only bullet proof solution there is using a small watermark in one corner of your video, or else making sure the environment you shoot in features some gentle product placement. In my experience, the benefits of sharing videos in terms of generating new business far outweigh the chance that someone will take advantage of your work. Effective, niche-focused content will generate attention and conversation wherever it winds up, and it looks like you have plenty of that.

  26. Dan Lyke

    February 5, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

    26

    Philip, yeah, reinstalling takes a day or so, but I’ve chalked that up to the cost of running Windows. My experience is that the Windows machines need to either be replaced or re-installed every so often (and replacement involves re-installation of the apps), otherwise the cruft catches up with ‘em. There are those for whom it just works, I’ve never been one of them.

    However, I’m leaning dangerously over into advocacy territory, so back to kudos for the video! I’m a non-pilot, but I’ll be watching for the rest of ‘em.

  27. Chris C.

    February 5, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

    27

    So I tried viewing the video at home as well, and at home my experience was this: my DSL connection is not fast enough to stream the HD video in real-time, so I had to pause it for a while before enough arrived that it would play stutter-free. (I live in the heart of Silicon Valley, and yet the best DSL connection money can buy is only 1.4Mbps or so. Amazing.)

    Once the bits arrived, my computer (a 3 year old AMD based HP PC) had no problem playing the video.

  28. John

    February 5, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

    28

    I would highly suggest hosting your videos on SmugMug.

    http://www.smugmug.com

  29. Jake

    February 5, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

    29

    The video looks fine on an Aug 2007 iMac Core 2 Duo (or however Intel spells it), but the audio appears to be subtly off, making it appear that your mouth isn’t quite matching your words. If I hadn’t been looking for issues, I’m not sure I would’ve noticed it.

  30. Cincy Steve

    February 5, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

    30

    Since I am currently also watching King IFR videos this month I can appreciate your video quality is of far higher quality than the King DVDs (course those were probably shot about 20 years ago). I watched on 3 different computers using a cable modem.

    1) 6 month old mac pro. Video and audio smooth as silk- wireless N

    2) Ancient Dell Dimension single 2.4 GHz Pentium- Parkinson City
    -of interest as Windows XP reinstalled within last month

    3) Dell Laptop 1.4 GHz Pentium M moderate parkinsons while downloading. Once video downloaded you appeared to have taken your Sinemet and Parkinsons was only modest but still present
    Windows XP also recently reinstalled on this system.

    HD camcorder. I have a Canon HV10 which I love. Problems include a slightly poor low lighting capability which also was a problem with my prior SD Canon Optura. The other complaint doesn’t affect my teeny hands but large framed individuals may have trouble holding the book-like camera and manipulate the controls. A newer version is out and is essentially the same camera but in a tube like configuration. The delicate cassette mechanisms have actually held up well for me and in prior reviews I read prior to buying the camera. Hard drives and flash memory also available for the next higher level Canons but may be stretching the budget. Hard drives sometimes don’t do well at altitude (lose the air cushion and head contacts disc) so if he is a pilot he might want to stay away.

  31. Dan Winkler

    February 5, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

    31

    I’ve seen YouTube HD videos play much smoother on some machines if you let them download for a while before you start them playing.

  32. Val B

    February 8, 2009 @ 2:44 am

    32

    It runs fine on my machine but it’s one of the quads you mentioned… The transitions from “face” to “paper” are indeed brutal. My XP installation is quite old, I only installed XP twice on my “main” machine, once at the very beginning and then once when I’ve got a new machine (like in completely different/separated one as there have been many other changes along the way: RAM, hdd, video cards, CPU, motherboard, including going from IDE to SATA without reinstall which was interesting). I tend to install a lot of crap especially on the old XP but it’s still running (but I run there only what I trust, what I don’t trust is run in vmware). Nothing to report, maybe a little slowdown at startup but that’s all. I backup the system as incremental disk images because I would be very upset to reinstall everything, I would rather throw more hardware at it than to deal with a fresh installation.

  33. Peter Bierman

    February 15, 2009 @ 8:11 pm

    33

    I’m doing something similar for my hockey league. I’m using a shared web-hosting provider with unlimited disk and bandwidth for under $10/month. Dreamhost. I wish QuickTime had kept up with the ease of using the various flash video tools, but Dreamhost works with either, so I can use quick-n-dirty flash or invest the effort into QuickTime all the way up to cinema pro quality levels. Dreamhost is what I call a “three nines” service, but I appreciate that I’m not paying for promises no one seems to keep anyway. I get a referral bonus if people sign up with the code PMB50, and you get $50 off, but I’m not posting this because of that; this is a serious suggestion for how to self-host tons of high bandwidth video.

  34. Stefan

    February 16, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

    34

    I have a dual 2.5GHZ Apple Mac with the older PowerPC chip, 4.5GB of RAM and 6600 Ultra video card and youtube HD is taking over 120% of my CPU and causing massive stuttering and uneven video play. The audio is fine. My internet connection is fast 15mbps.

    I guess it’s the older macs from 4-5-6 years ago that will have trouble with this?

  35. Carl

    September 10, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

    35

    Interesting article covering all things interesting in flying, video and streaming.

    If you must (re)install Windows, or any PC OS, use something like Acronis TrueImage.

    I’ve used this on all of our machines, then can restore to a pristine state usually in under one hour.

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