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Stop Rendering Your Vlogs At A High Bitrate

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Okay so I fully expect this to divide some people but here’s how it is, I see all over the place people rendering their YouTube videos at a stupidly high bitrate for not much gain. So here and now I want to tell you why you should stop rendering your files at a stupidly high bitrate.

So I conducted a little simple test I recorded a simple 1 min video from the Drift Ghost S (1080p & 60fps) of me filtering, I picked a bit of footage that had a mix of light, dark, over exposed and had small details like the tarmac of the road has, added no effects audio or video and exported the video with all the same basic video settings apart from the bit rate so here’s the basic video settings (also ticked is Render At Maximum Quality):

So the three different bitrates I used are 8, 20 and 50 I set Target and Max to be the same so there’s no inconsistency, all are set to VBR, 2 pass.

The file sizes for just 1 min of footage is incredible:

For the 8Mbps one the file size was 59mb

For the 20Mbps one the file size was 146mb

For the 50Mbps one the file size was a whopping 362mb (a whopping 6 times larger than the 8Mbps one!)

Now imagine if this was a real vlog, say 10 minutes long with some effects added etc going off these numbers the file sizes would be at least 590mb, 1.46Gb and a huge 3.6Gb respectively (roughly). But ignoring the obvious question of what your upload speed is like, or the fact that rendering at a higher bitrate means it’ll take longer to render (which it does)  the biggest question is, does this massive change in bitrate mean a higher quality video that you can obviously tell the difference with and is it worth it at the end of the day, well lets find out, so below are the three videos, now, only I know which video is which because if I labelled the videos with the bitrate numbers then the placebo effect could sway the results so they’re named 1, 2 and 3. and those numbers don’t mean 1 is the 8 and 3 is the 50. I’ve randomised it because I’m mean like that.

Now you don’t have to watch it here in this small window, go full screen and have at it, slow it down, pause it at the same timeframe, play them side by side and have a look. Let me know which one you think is which bitrate below or on my social media.

So, people of the internet get your eyes ready and lets go:

Most importantly though, can you really tell a difference between the three?

I’ve looked over them multiple times and even I got mixed up with which is which one, now, if you can notice a difference then it could be a few things, you have extraordinary eyesight and can spot minute details or the placebo effect could be playing a part and you only think there’s a difference because who knows I might’ve just uploaded the same file with the same bitrate and just told you it’s different to further confuse and test.

So to me there is no noticeable difference between all three, now let’s go over a little bit of YouTube processing and what’s happening behind the scenes. When you upload a video to YouTube basically the video you upload isn’t the one people see, it’s a copy, now I’ll go over really quickly what happens so you understand a little bit but I’ll go over more about YouTube processing in a different post. So you upload a video, it then copies that video and compresses it to put it inline with their standards and make it easily streamable with the file size etc… so how it does this is really clever, it makes a copy of your file at the resolution you uploaded it, then it also makes the different files for the different resolutions and for different playback devices and it does it in a really clever way.

Let me explain, does anybody remember the circle of doom? The waiting circle while the video loaded? You’ll still get it every so often but in the past this used to happen a lot more, and it was interrupting the whole User Experience of YouTube (nobody wanted to wait for videos to load), so YouTube created the “Sliced Bread” system which is just a nice name for dynamic delivery of videos, what this means is that you know all those different resolutions Youtube created of your file? It can deliver them on the fly, how it does this is when it’s making all those files (including the original resolution) it cuts the file up into 5 second sections and stitches the video back together so that if your internet connection drops a little it can switch from 1080p to 720p to potato(p) at will, this is why you’ll still see the loading circle sometimes and that the resolution will change at will (this only works if you have the quality set to auto, if you’ve chosen a resolution it’ll still take time to load if your connection is weak.

So that’s basically what happens, not only this though most importantly is that it compresses your file to a bitrate of it’s choosing (usually around 5-8Mbps) so is uploading a 50Mbps video really worth the time and effort? For me and YouTube it’s a resounding No. YouTube’s own guide recommends 8-12Mbps and to me, it makes sense to keep it around that area but for motovlogs as their is a lot of movement to hover it around the 16-20mbps range for a 1080p 60fps vlog.

Not only will this save your upload time but also your render time and who knows the more data YouTube has to compress does it mean more artifacts and more compression? Most film professionals also recommend staying around the 12 mark for streaming, you only need a really high bitrate if you’re making feature films. Some people say that you only get out what you put in which is correct to a certain degree but there is such a thing as overkill.

Also final point, much like photography you can only work with the source footage, this isn’t CSI you can’t make up pixels, now out of the Drift Ghost S at high bitrate settings the bitrate out of that is around the 16Mbps range, so you’re adding data where there isn’t any to add, adding bits to make up the same footage doesn’t increase the quality of the source footage it just means more bits make up the same footage, not increasing the quality, just the file size. Nothing can increase the bitrate to increase the quality apart from the source footage recording at a higher bitrate with better sensors/hardware than they currently have and YouTube’s infrastructure being able to handle more and more data being sent over the CDN (Content Delivery Network).

This was of course not an exhaustive test but in this short 1 minute clip can you really tell a difference? Try using a lower setting and it could translate to you saving more time & effort for the same amount of output, and quite possibly a better or less destructive amount of compressiong YouTube does to your video.

Ride Safe & Peace Out – 6M

I’m a Manchester based Motovlogger on YouTube, with over a decade of marketing and design experience including SEO, analytics and branding, my mission is to help out fellow YouTubers with their own YouTube channels and to help them grow as much as they can.

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