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Vimeo Respects the Specs: Better Audio Quality Encoding, Frame Rate Guidelines Update

01.12.13 @ 10:40PM Tags : , , , , ,

There’s no doubt that things can get a bit confusing regarding non-integer frame rates — a decimal-specific frames-per-second count isn’t exactly an intuitive aspect of video. Of course, beginners can’t learn such distinctions if they’re going unspecified — a fact Vimeo has recently (and finally) addressed in updating their compression guidelines. Even more importantly, Vimeo is slowly but surely raising the quality ceiling in its encoding of your media — albeit in audio-only, in this case.

Get Specific With Specs

The worst thing for someone still learning the ropes of digital video is when the video services around them glaze over the specs — 24 is different than 23.976 — and if you want the best possible control over the quality of your media (which you probably do), understanding such details is important. As ProVideoCoalition points out, Vimeo’s compression documentation now includes the non-integer cousins of actual whole-number frame rates. Both types were always supported in its encoding (“same as source”), but in a world of potentially confusing number-letter combinations, being specific is healthy. It also avoids rounding (i.e. referring to 23.976 as 23.98), thankfully — the less confusing this stuff has to be, the better — and just calling it what is simplifies everything.

The guidelines now properly state support for 23.976/24, 25, and 29.97/30 frames per second. Videos of higher frame rates are recommended to be halved in encoding — for instance, 60p would be encoded at 30 frames per second.

Up the Audio Ante… Above CD-Quality (Finally)

Bizarrely (and kind of horrifyingly), Vimeo indicated 44.1 kHz as the sample rate at which to encode your audio. ‘Bizarre’ because 44.1 kHz is the sample rate of the 30-year-old Compact Disc audio spec, and at this point, virtually no other surviving tech. When your cellphone can accurately sample a far greater frequency range than any CD you own, it may be about time to get with the program. Says PVC:

At first, I had hoped that Vimeo’s recommendation for 44.1 kHz was (like the non-integer framerate explained above) just a question of mis-documentation, but in the case of the audio sampling, that was not the case. Vimeo was unnecessarily resampling 48 kHz down to 44.1 kHz, which made me cringe. Fortunately both issues were quietly fixed. Now Vimeo is recommending 48 kHz, and only recommends uploading a lower sampling rate in case the original source is (for some reason) lower. Thank you Vimeo!

Amen to that. A higher fidelity allowed doesn’t mean your media necessarily sounds better, unfortunately — but being limited to ancient numbers is akin to shooting yourself in the foot before you even put your shoes on. I too, Vimeo, thank you for this update — though I am a little sad for every video uploaded before it, which I can only assume will retain the old sample rate.

Next up on Vimeo updates: higher resolution, random-access/buffering for seeking that actually works right, and a lift of the gaming videos ban! Well, maybe one day — I tease Vimeo, I tease!

Link: Compression Documentation and Guidelines — Vimeo

[via ProVideoCoalition]


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Description image 29 COMMENTS

  • That’s wonderful too bad they’re miles behind Youtube in regards to video encoding quality/speed. Youtube’s 1080p looks twice as good and apparently they do “original” quality with up to 4k.

  • I noticed that when I didn’t upload at 44.1khz, the audio wouldn’t sync properly with the video (even for music videos we shot on DSLRs). I’m glad they fixed this!

  • I think any issue with Vimeo improving their quality has more to do with that they are piggybacked onto Amazon’s video service, the same one Amazon Prime and Netflix uses, and they can’t just flick a switch and start offering 4k videos or substantial tweaks because they are tied into the same architecture as whatever Amazon is offering.

    Youtube’s problem is that they almost always offer 360p as the base and there it is difficult to direct people to an HD version of an upload. That is to say you have to post an HD link; there is no default HD minimum quality.

    I think that is the big plus for Vimeo. It may not be the best, but if you upload a video the quality will always be of relative high quality.

    • Just add this to a youtube URL to have it load in 720p:


      There’s also ways to modify the URL so it defaults to full browser width. Google it

  • Yes, Justin, I realize that and said as much in my post above. There’s even a check box for a custom url for HD to start at a specific time on Youtube, and that’s fine if you embed the video on your own site, but I’m talking about people finding your video and watching it otherwise.

    Just saw that Netfilx is testing streaming 4k, with abysmal results. But in fairness, most US connections can’t handle full 1080p streaming, let alone 4k.

    • Most people who find your content randomly don’t need to be watching it in HD. I think it’s much more important to have responsive, fluid playback than Vimeo’s tendency to stutter in HD for users who are on slower machines/connections. There’s a much higher chance they’ll click away and view something else. Users that appreciate HD will know how to enable it by choice.

      • Daniel Mimura on 01.24.13 @ 10:19PM

        I, like prolly most film geeks on this site, would rather wait and let it DL or buffer that was it all blurry and crappy. I hate the quality of a lot of streaming, and much prefer the download model of iTunes. It costs so much more, and I stream lots of Netflix stuff still, but I generally hate it.

  • on 01.13.13 @ 11:39AM

    This change may set Vimeo apart in terms of finding better quality videos to watch, both in terms of technical specs but also subject. If people can better utilize Vimeo as a social media powerhouse, the prospect of finding great short films or indie features may make people jump ship from YouTube. I understand that may be a tall order, but it would be interesting if it happened.

  • I still get a buggy vimeo player on google chrome, things like right-clicking to watch in Vimeo doesnt pop up, video doesnt buffer sometimes, fire fox loads it just fine but its kinda sucks not using my browser of choice.

  • While its great that Vimeo now allows 48 kilohertz audio for upload without converting to 44.1 (with its attendant synch issues), I defy anyone to distinguish between audio delivered at 44.1 and audio delivered at 48. Recording sample rate? I’d imagine that there could be a difference, but the quality of the analog-digital converters is much more important than the sample rate itself. At any rate (ha), make sure you are converting your audio to match the delivery specs yourself and you’ll be fine.

    • The difference is usually inaudible based on the limits of human hearing, and especially through cheap hardware… although 48 kHz can have a slightly higher frequency response, and with 44.1 kHz you can have more opportunities for distortion. Yes, commercial CDs are traditionally 16-bit/44.1 kHz, but then again CDs are a dying breed.

      • 16 bit, 44.1 has served us well, I feel, over the last thirty years. Any problems with material delivered in this format are likely due not to the limitations of the format, but to poor recording, mixing and mastering. Still nice of Vimeo, one way or the other. Cheers.

        • To be more specific: 44.1 kHz can capture tones up to 22.05 kHz, while a 48 kHz can capture tones up to 24 kHz. The limit of human hearing is approximately 16-20 kHz based on average to exceptional ears.

    • Not to mention, virtually all viewers are listening either through tinny speakers or inexpensive headphones plugged into a basic audio out port – making the difference even more negligible. Although it’s a nice gesture on Vimeo’s part anyway.

    • Yeah, but the problem is no one records audio at 44.1…they record at 48 or 96. Downsampling from 96 to 48 is great, it’s like going from 4k resolution to 2k resolution. But downsampling from 48 to 44.1 is like going from 1920×1080 to 1764×992…it’s just fucking stupid, and will have problems because it’s not a clean half sample.

      • What kind of problems? I’ve been an audio engineer since the late nineties and editing almost as long. I’ve yet to encounter problems from downsampling from 48 to 44.1.

        • Like aliasing…I’m not a sound guy, but I am a video guy and I know what can happen when downsampling images. I mean christ, anybody who knows anything about why DSLR video has issues should know that downsampling is important.

          And there’s a difference between downsampling in a $3000 program and letting Vimeo do it.

  • when i last looked at vimeo as a video hosting solution, i ran into problems with vimeo videos sometimes not loading properly in IE, and had to cancel the plus account. youtube on the other hand, had zero problems loading. vimeo support blamed it on a particular version of flash, but i haven’t run into the problem recently and i haven’t updated flash.

    both services have their quirks. i’ve just learned to live with youtube for now.

    • I run multiple versions of Flash players and multiple IE versions for development testing: IE 7, IE 8, IE 9, and IE 10. Vimeo works great on any of these IE versions, because it’s really the Flash player doing the work anyway. For better performance update your Flash player to the latest version

      • that’s the solution vimeo offered to a bunch of users having the same problem (firefox and chrome never had the problem).. the thing is, i am technically self sufficient. i have three browsers installed and know how to update flash. but i can’t assume the same for all visitors. it’s them i have to worry about, and if vimeo didn’t work for a standard IE user out of the box i couldn’t use it.

        interestingly i haven’t run into this problem in a few months and i have not changed my IE or flash installation. so maybe it was something on their end. i didn’t have time to wait so i switched.

  • CD’s may be a dying breed but all music is still mastered to 44.1kHz. Since I have a background in music when I record sound I never use anything other than 44.1kHz and If I would (for time streching for example) I would use 92kHz anyway. Of course it may be different if your final output is DVD or whatever.

    • Digital video uses 48 kHz. There will be aliasing artifacts near the limit of a filter, with simple filters having worse aliasing. Besides sync, the point of 48 kHz used in digital video is to get enough headroom for less computationally complex filters to operate without introducing audible artifacts.

  • Cool of Vimeo to update/post their best compression specs

    As Ian points out though, delivery format sampling rate in general is usually 44.1kHz

    Frankly, unless there is the intent to do a lot of post audio processing, capturing at 48kHz/24-bit then mixed down to 41kHz/16-bit is completely acceptable.

    Also, I find it interesting that no where in this article, or on the vimeo source page, is the bit rate clarified… I’m not 100% sure off the top of my head, but i suspect an AAC encode can be done in 24-bit. My google skills are fail atm, perhaps someone else can clarify =)

    If Vimeo is doing 48kHz/16bit, I have a hard time appreciating the point. If doing 48kHz/24-bit, that is pretty cool, but only for serious audiophiles/studio pros with 40+ speaker count systems (talking tweeter/mids/woofs/subs – not enclosures) in a controlled listening environment.

    • TYPO “….then mixed down to 41kHz/16-bit is completely acceptable.” meant 44.1kHz there =)

    • Agree 100%. Delivery on the internet above 44.1kHz is completely useless.

      • Dave Kendricken on 01.16.13 @ 12:34AM

        I’m sure 4K anywhere on the web is too, but internet delivery is slowly integrating into other traditional outlets (like the living room) — there’s no reason media centers can’t increase quality in anticipation of being played through a higher-end home system, be it sound or video, particularly if the consumer prides his or herself on the specs… A.K.A, bragging points about the “man cave,” at the very least — why not?

  • Terence Kearns on 01.18.13 @ 1:46AM

    Nice article, well written. Speaks for me. So thanks.

  • Anthony Marino on 03.17.14 @ 1:18PM

    What’s up with the sound on Vimeo, it’s a lot lower than it was before, sounds great on the computer but way way too low on Vimeo. Hope they get it ironed out