Thursday, January 1, 2009

First stab at explaining why your YouTube videos are all messed up

During December, YouTube finally did what I'd long hoped they would do. They went and changed viewing screens. They took that 1950s, 4:3 format so beloved by Barbara Billingsley fans, and swapped it for that spiffy 16:9 ratio you see every time you walk by the TV section at your favorite mass merchandiser.

Sad to say, like so much in life, this change came at a cost. For many of us who had been letterboxing our widescreen video in the old viewer as the only way (or so we thought) to preserve the original aspect ratio, to keep our subjects from looking like the inhabitants of the Planet with Incredibly Stretchy Air -- suddenly, our old, tired videos look something like this, if we're lucky:

Actually, on this page that viewer doesn't look so bad. On the YouTube page though it looks more like this:

This is very frustrating -- don't you just want to grab the corners of the image and just
streeeeeetttttch them so they fill that little screen? I'm betting you do.

In fact, I'm betting you probably want your video to look more like the next video you see (points) "over there!" -->>>> (well, somewhere soon).

It's my plan, at least, to try to suggest some ways to make your video look more like the second example and less like the first.

Something you probably don't want is a version that looks like this.

Once I deal with giving you the settings and what to watch for so your videos do the proper tricks where aspect ratio is concerned, them maybe I'll get to tell you how I messed that one up, and why I even did it on purpose. In the meanwhile you might want to take a look at the file specs for that one too which, as with the other videos, is included at the end of the description block.

And so, here are the boring details.

Until I do spell this out in all its gory details (or at least the details that probably matter to the Average Josephina with a video camera, you may want to take a look at those two videos and compare them on their individual YouTube pages. In particular, look at the details given in the description for file format and other details of how each one was rendered, paying special attention to the lines about width, height and display aspect ratio. The last one can be a biggie, and there are several ways to screw up so I'll try (and most likely fail) to keep it simple.

Widescreen, but crammed into a Dior housedress of a Leave It to Beaver pseudo-screen:

Luxurious Luxorvision (16:9 video in a 16:9 Player):

I'll try to work on a more detailed explanation in the meanwhile, aimed at those who may just be starting to learn about all the variations possible when it comes to rendering, and some of the reasons why you may be better off rendering things in moderate quality for the present and keeping control over the results, to whatever degree that might be a realistic goal.

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