Vimeo is Going 4K and Adding Variable Bitrate Streaming

Vimeo's player is getting a bit of an overhaul.

Not only will the company be rolling out 4K streaming over the next few months to all users, but they're also enabling adaptive bitrate streaming, which means that the player will adapt and change the resolution of the video based on the internet connection you're viewing from (or you can select the resolution you want). While rival YouTube has done this for years, and has even started 8K streaming, it's nice to see the company catching up and starting to get into the 4K streaming game. Vimeo did start to experiment with 4K downloads and some 4K streaming starting at the beginning of 2015, but only for select users.

Another advantage of this 4K rollout is that Vimeo On Demand, their VOD service, will also get 4K streaming in addition to the 4K downloads that are already available. Here are more details from Variety on the Vimeo 4K plans:

Vimeo will initially make 4K and adaptive bitrate streaming available to a subset of its users, but will extend it to everyone in early Q1 of 2016.  4K playback will be supported on Vimeo.com as well as on Vimeo’s player embedded on third-party websites, and the company is also making adaptive bitrate streaming available on iOS and Apple TV at launch. Support for Amazon TV, Roku and Android will be added in the coming months, the company said.

Here's a bit more detail on how this is changing things currently — from the Vimeo forum (though Vimeo has mentioned they are still evaluating this change):

It is no longer possible to default videos to HD on a viewer's behalf. However, there are two important pieces of information you should keep in mind:

  • Once a viewer selects an HD option in the new quality menu, this option will remain selected for all future videos they view.

  • We are preparing to move toward a system where video quality is selected adaptively for all users. This means that if a viewer's playback environment is able to handle HD video, they will receive that automatically. These changes should be completely rolled out in the coming months.

And for an example of this variable bitrate, here is a recent Staff Pick. Though it's not very intuitive yet, if you click on the HD symbol, you get a number of streaming options — 270p, 360p, 720p, and 1080p:

It's hard to tell if they've added the 4K streaming option to any videos yet, but 4K downloads have been available for quite a while — even 2.5K downloads. While it seems that more users have issues playing videos on Vimeo as opposed to YouTube, Vimeo has always tried to put the artist first with minimal advertising and curated content. There's no question it's a nicer experience browsing videos on Vimeo, and actually being able to give people a download link is a huge advantage over YouTube's free service (though YouTube Red does allow downloads for a price). You can always use a third party service to download videos from YouTube, but it's a far nicer experience seeing a bunch of download options (including 4K), directly from the video source. 

As more and more computer screens and TVs go 4K and above, we're sure to see more content being delivered in these higher-resolution formats.     

Your Comment

26 Comments

Cool.

December 4, 2015 at 11:33AM

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Sean Voysey
Creative Director
323

I honestly wish I could use Vimeo but I can barely even stream a 1080p video. I'm not sure what the deal is but it's been like that for...as long as I can remember. Some have said it plays better than YT, others have experienced the same as me. To this day, I spend more time waiting for a Vimeo video to buffer than I do watching anything.

Anyone else experience that?

December 4, 2015 at 11:45AM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
3039

Funny thing is I've had more Vimeo buffer problems on desktops/laptops in comparison to YouTube, but on mobile, it's the opposite.

December 4, 2015 at 11:52AM

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Alex Chancey
Editor, Filmmaker
182

Yep, very frustrating, especially considering I've been paying for their premium plan for a few years (I always forget to cancel before it auto renews). Vimeo's community and design aesthetic are great. Its ability to actually stream videos...not so much. At least that's been my experience.

December 4, 2015 at 12:22PM

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David Roberts
Video Producer, Cinematographer, Photographer
76

yes...here in Australia I (and many of my friends and viewers) have problems watching Vimeo, especially at certain times of the day (3-7pm for me) I have spoken to Vimeo support staff and they had me use a tracker to see the route and identify the bottlenecks...turns out Vimeo doesn't play nicely with my ISP's service...but it doesn't play nicely with many ISP's here in Oz unfortunately.

December 4, 2015 at 1:26PM, Edited December 4, 1:26PM

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That's what I understand, it seems to be a crapshoot. Some people experience faster playback with Vimeo than YouTube though. YouTube has always played flawlessly for me, even 4K!

December 4, 2015 at 1:34PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
3039

thank you for writing this - I have experienced buffer issues so much. I thought I was the only one. I still think Vimeo has a community which is important and I love youtube, but YT feels a little too much like Reddit.

The biggest thing too now is just to embed a video into facebook itself as well, and facebook has really good streaming quality - video quality is not the best, but the video loads.

December 4, 2015 at 4:15PM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1740

For such a huge video hosting site it's rediculous not to be able to get the playback right. The design, community and content are great but it's not beta version.
Why not upgrading the codec? Why not getting better servers? What is the problem of making streaming go flawlessly? How are they supposed to be taken seriously and expand into VOD if they cannot sort out the basics?

December 6, 2015 at 6:17PM

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Stelios Kouk
Filmmaker
3302

It would be nice if they had tiered accounts that allowed 1080p uploads. Like maybe make the Plus what the Pro is now? Sure they'll never do it but it would be nice.

December 4, 2015 at 11:50AM

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Alex Chancey
Editor, Filmmaker
182

Plus and Pro accounts can upload/stream 1080p. You just have to enable it after it's been uploaded.

December 4, 2015 at 1:07PM

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"Once a viewer selects an HD option in the new quality menu, this option will remain selected for all future videos they view."

So if i select 4k but then realize my roommates are all streaming video as well I can't re-select a smaller resolution? On any other video? Ever? I'm confused...

December 4, 2015 at 2:42PM

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NO Name
1st. Assistant Camera
472

It's just a sticky preference, meaning you don't have to go in and reselect it every time. If you switch the player to 720 playback, the next video you open will have 720 as well.

December 5, 2015 at 6:32AM

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That actresses video was one of the first I've been able to watch streaming on Vimeo. I reached a point where I gave up trying to watch Vimeo videos unless it was necessary, because I'd literally have to play them, mute the sound, and change tabs to let them buffer. Otherwise, if I'd hit play and then pause to let them buffer, they wouldn't pre-load as if they knew I wasn't actually watching it yet. Annoyed the bejeezus out of me.

December 4, 2015 at 2:52PM

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Ben Howling
Writer / Director
663

Vimeo =
Bad search functionality.
Sub-par customer service.
Playback issues out the butt.
Overpriced for what you get back.

Vimeo needs to hire and fire programers and product development employees ASAP if they want to be relevant in the next 5 years.

So much potential.

December 4, 2015 at 5:29PM

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Filmmaker Dude
Film stuff
203

On a side note. Enjoyed that film. Great performances.

December 4, 2015 at 8:35PM, Edited December 4, 8:35PM

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Stu Mannion
writer/dir/dp
1120

Kind of interesting seeing what everyone says about the streaming not working very well. I've always thought that that was me having a slow internet connection.

One thing I have noticed though, is that Vimeo seems to have nicer video quality than Youtube. I'm guessing that they have better compression algorithms. Especially since it seems to have a more professional base compared to Youtube, which seems to be more laid back.

December 5, 2015 at 1:13AM

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TARDIS Maker
Beginner
88

well i think vimeo it is like home to me and to many of filmmakers... but i don't think thats stunning interface need to "pick resolution" thing?! maybe "U" before "HD" ... or something =)

December 5, 2015 at 9:44AM

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Oh hey, that short! Saw it at Sundance, it was one of my favorites last year!

Happy to see Vimeo changing things up. I hope they streamline the 1080p experience while they are adding new features (variable bitrate, yes!)

December 6, 2015 at 12:31AM

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Zack Wallnau
Cinematographer & Tinkerer
558

Is anyone else not getting "Full Screen" on Vimeo?
In "My Feed" and "Discover" I can play back full screen, but not on the authors Channel.

December 6, 2015 at 9:54AM

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Darryl Gregory
Director of Photography
228

Whilst I welcome the introduction of 4k to Vimeo I really wish they would spend some more time making their mobile apps even remotely useable. Both the apple and android apps are barely functional and have seen little or no improvement since I first started using them several years ago. Please Mr Vimeo, if you're listening could you at least make it so I can search my own uploaded content? Thanks

December 7, 2015 at 2:44AM

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James Wallace
Cinematographer & Editor
74

Nice, I like the new bitrate option for when playing with slower connections/computers.

December 9, 2015 at 10:55PM

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J. Fandino
Drone sales at www.providentialsystems.com
135

While the 4K news might be welcome, variable streaming is long overdue. The concept of not playing a video if its not at the highest quality is one of the reasons watching video on Vimeo can be frustrating sometimes. Hopefully this will be good news for those who have low bandwidth or watch videos on the go.

December 11, 2015 at 1:08AM

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Kayode
1193

Funny thing is that you need a PLUS or PRO account now to upload a 1080p video. They used to have a tick box option to keep the original file and make it available for download. They seem to have binned all those files off their server and the converted 720p is the only thing still available. After digging around on their site, I found out that you'll have to upgrade and then re-upload to get this back. Progress...

December 11, 2015 at 8:28AM

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Milan Schere
Director
189

Which is exactly why I don't use Vimeo. My potential clients don't give a shit where they go to look at my reel, and YouTube gives me the best quality free. Sure, YouTube's site is a joke... but when you refer someone directly to a video, who cares?

December 12, 2015 at 1:10AM

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David Gurney
DP
2677

This is the thing... most clients don't care about the quality that makes me pay Vimeo to have good quality, if anything they sometimes complain the videos take too long to load. I cancelled my subscription and YouTube works just fine. I am currently considering Wistia.

December 14, 2015 at 7:49AM

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Kayode
1193

I like the idea of Vimeo and their cleaner presentation. But I can't see paying to post 1080p content, when I can post 4K content free on YouTube.

Of course, calling any of this Internet junk "4K" is just as big a fraud as "HD" has been for most of its existence. At these pathetic bitrates, you MIGHT be getting near-HD quality from the "4K" stream.

December 12, 2015 at 1:08AM

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David Gurney
DP
2677