Everyone’s uploading their video clips to YouTube these days and it’s easy to shoot your own clips on virtually any digital camera. Preparing those clips to get them ready to put on YouTube isn’t quite so straighforward. Here’s some pointers to make it easier.
I shoot quite a lot of video clips on my digital camera when I’m travelling. I love taking photos, but sometimes a quick 30 second video clip can capture a situation even better, and provides both great memories and a better way to show off some of the things you’ve seen on holiday.
Given the way video has become so prevalent on the Web in the last 18 months, I wanted to start incorporating video clips into my webpages to go with my articles on the Komodo Dragons of Indonesia, the crazy busy streets of Hanoi, Vietnam and the amazing colours of cuttlefish underwater while scuba diving in Bali.
The obvious answer was to use YouTube.com, the hugely popular video sharing service. Not only would it save me the bandwidth of putting the video files on my own website, the clips would also act as a way of inviting more people to come and visit Travelhappy.
Uploading a video to YouTube is easy, so I won’t go through that here. The crucial bit, however, is getting the video ready to upload to YouTube in the first place. My Canon digital camera shoots video in AVI format and I’m guessing that’s the norm for most digital cameras. These produce good resolution video clips which are also big files – around 100 Megabytes for 30 seconds or so.
YouTube doesn’t like the .AVI format and won’t accept clips over 100 megabytes. The answer is to compress the video to reduce its file size and change its format. This is easily done with the free open source program Dr DivX.
Before you compress the clip, you might also want to edit it by chopping off any sections so that your clip gets straight to the point for your audience on YouTube. There is a great shareware program from Boilsoft called AVI/MPEG/RM/WMV Splitter that let’s you do limited cuts to video for free. It’s easy to understand and use too. Chopping out extraneous bits of your clip also helps reduce the file size.
Once that’s done, it’s time to compress it. Dr DivX has a very simple interface. Choose the file you want to compress, select the settings you want and hit the encode button. I’ve found that High Theatre/Extreme Quality produce the best results for me, but you may want to pay around with the settings some more.
Dr DivX crunches a 100 MB AVI clip to around 5 MB on average. YouTube likes the DivX format too, so once you’ve run your clip through Dr DivX, you’re ready to upload it to YouTube.
Be aware that compressing a clip and then uploading it to YouTube is going to make the clip lose quite a bit of its picture quality. YouTube uses a Flash player to ensure it works in all web browsers which degrades the quality further. This usually isn’t a problem, but if you have something delicate or subtle – like the colour changes of the cuttlefish clip I mentioned earlier – it can degrade it quite severely.
However, don’t get too precious about it. I uploaded the Bali Cuttlefish clip with some misgivings about its quality, and it’s still been viewed 400 times in the space of the last month and got a couple of ego swelling comments. People will put up with so-so quality if there’s something interesting to see.
However, if you think it warrants it, you can upload the original DivX clip to Stage6.com, DivX’s own answer to YouTube. This houses clips in all their uncompressed glory, and you can embed them in your own webpages YouTube-style as well, by visiting this DivX webpage embedder generator.
The only problem with embedding DivX video files in your webpages is that a) they take a long time to load as they are much bigger files than typically found on YouTube and b) unlike YouTube, DivX requires certain files installed on the viewer’s computer to see them.
Therefore, it seems wise to offer the user a choice – upload the clip in YouTube and put a link to the higher res, longer download DivX version on Stage6.com too, if you think it warrants the extra effort for you and the user.
In conclusion, it’s a pretty easy process to prepare your digital camera video clips for YouTube when you’ve got the right bits of software to do it. It took me a while to figure out all the right steps to editing and compressing my videos though, so I hope this is useful. If you have better suggestions of how to make digital camera video clips ready for YouTube, do let me know in the comments.
See also my other guide on How to rotate a camera video clip from landscape to portrait.