Concerning online video quality, in the widescreen realm there’s 360p, 720p and 1080p. Most people almost never use 480p widescreen because it has a “weird” pixel resolution (853×480) that most cameras and software do not output, so 480p is almost exclusively 4:3 aspect ratio at 640×480.
In literal pixels, 360p (usually) translates to 640×360, 720p is 1280×720 and 1080p is 1920×1080.
If you post videos online right now whether just for fun or for professional purposes, you’re better off sticking with 720p for the time being.
Why stay with 720p for now for your encoded video?
There are several practical reasons.
1. Most people can’t stream 1080p video
When I say “can’t”, what that means is that most people spend a lot of time waiting around for a 1080p video stream to buffer before playback. Not everyone has a Verizon FiOS connection to their house, and there’s a ton of folks that suffer from bandwidth caps forced upon them by their ISP.
2. The #1 resolution used on monitors is 1366×768
True 1080p isn’t even an option for most computer users, whether they’re on PC or laptop. I mean, sure, they could buffer and load 1080p if they wished, but they can’t watch 1080p in its native format because the monitor simply doesn’t support it on a native level.
3. Your upload time will be cut by more than half
Even if you have an 8-core PC with 32GB RAM and SSD for the fastest possible rendering, that doesn’t matter at all if you have to wait 30 minutes to 2 hours to upload a 20-minute video because of your ISP’s upload throttling.
Encoding at 720p produces video that is crisp and clear. The only people who complain about online 720p video are the nit-pickers who expect everything to be in Blu-ray quality for their gargantuan TVs and monitors. Chances are you’re not producing Hollywood-quality film productions. You’re just an average Joe or Jane trying to post good quality content online. 720p covers that with no problem at all.
4. You can easily keep your finalized video files under 100MB
Unofficially, there is a 100MB limit on uploaded video content on pretty much every video sharing site (like YouTube or OneLoad) before it’s considered a “big file”. Getting even a 10-minute 1080p video under 100MB is sometimes a challenge, but with 720p it’s easy if you do it in a specific way.
In your video editor, purposely output the file as 720p. With the old Windows Movie Maker, this outputs in WMV which is already compressed and should be well under 100MB. With the new Windows Movie Maker 2011, that also outputs in compressed WMV format.
If on the other hand you have a huge MOV or AVI file even after rendering to 720p, that’s not a problem. Use HandBrake (works in Windows, Mac or Linux) to re-encode the file to 720p in the MP4 format; this will result in a file that will still be 720p but have a much smaller final file size while still looking good on playback with minimal “digital grain”.
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