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Old February 24th, 2016, 07:08 AM   #1
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Is H264 codec/MP4 Wrapper most universally playable file today?

Say a client does not stipulate, nor even know, what type of video file they want.

Could I sleep well at night knowing that by delivering a H264 encoded, MP4 file, the client will be able to drop it in a laptop (PC and Mac) and play it?

In short, is it the most playable video file for the end user today?

Finally, is there a bit rate that just becomes overkill for smooth play out?

What in your opinion would be the universal sweet spot for a bit rate giving you the best combination of playability and image quality?

Any advice always appreciated.

Cheers

Last edited by Miggy Sanchez; February 24th, 2016 at 07:08 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old February 24th, 2016, 08:09 AM   #2
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Re: Is H264 codec/MP4 Wrapper most universally playable file today?

I work at a university and have to get video files to a number of different people that I have no idea what they have for playback. I have been going with h.264 with mp4 wrapper and have had zero complaints. The bitrate changes depending on the length of video and content. For something on the high end that may need major re-edting, I require them to get an external drive to hold all the original and project files. (that may not work in your case). For almost everything else I make them a 1080p archive file with a bitrate no higher than 20mbs. I also make them what I call their playback file, 720p and that I think is around 4-6 mbs. I chose a setting in Premiere media encoder and tweaked it. This gives them a file that they can easily put on a USB thumb drive and playback on most computers. The 720 file can also be played back very easily on a tablet or most smart phones. The quality is good for quick playback and they have a higher quality if they want to tweak or cut something out of it later. Right now I deliver the videos to them on a DVD as data. It is the most universal for them to store and put on their computers. I can also share it with them through OneDrive or Dropbox. It really depends on the client's capabilities, their planned viewing and audience.
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Old February 24th, 2016, 08:50 AM   #3
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Re: Is H264 codec/MP4 Wrapper most universally playable file today?

Yes I would say you are on a pretty safe bet there. 99% of what I deliver be it on USB sticks or web based is all x264 which is an advanced writing library of H.264. x264 is available in Handbrake and does a far better job of encoding especially at lower bit rates than basic H.264. Can't speak highly enough about it. Other encodes I do are WebM and Ogg for the odd clients who require HTML5 based videos:

HTML5 Videos: 10 Things Designers Need to Know - Hongkiat

Check out Handbrake though:

https://handbrake.fr/

If you really want to learn Handbrake well there are about 10 Youtube videos that will take you through the whole process. I downloaded them and ran through a few encodes while learning from those videos. Once you've done it a couple of times and understand the process you will discover Handbrake is very easy to use and will deliver you very good results.

Jan Ozer, probably one of the best known encoding gurus around the web has a massive amount of information on how the get the best quality vs bit rate on his site. A useful page here:

How to Produce High-Quality H.264 Video Files

He does have a range of PDFs you can download. I tried uploading his "Encoding H.264 Video for
Streaming and Progressive Download" but it failed to attach to this post?? See if you can find it on his site and download it. It's 120 pages of info but if you work your way through it it will teach you heaps.

Another pretty informative source can be found at:

http://www.adobe.com/content/dam/Ado...264_primer.pdf

if you really read up on the subject is really all about the optimum bits per pixel depth to get the best most and efficient encode bit rate. Bearing in mind you are looking for the optimal Bits-Per-Pixel depth of between 0.20 - 0.25. If you want to shortcut the learning curve there is a pretty useful calculator on line here:

Video Bitrate Calculator - Silverjuke Forum

I've used this before and the calculations it spits out seem to work pretty well.

If in a hurry a rough rule of thumb for x264 encodes which will get you pretty close to the optimum between quality, size and play back smoothness over the web is to multiply the the width of the encode you want by 2.5 for average complexity and movement videos. Higher motion videos multiply by 3 or more but do a test encode first as going too high a bit rate doesn't give you any more perceived quality and just becomes harder to stream, longer to download and harder to play on older low powered PCs. An example: 1280 x 2.5 = 3200 kbps.

Chris Young
CYV Productions
Sydney
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Old February 24th, 2016, 05:20 PM   #4
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Re: Is H264 codec/MP4 Wrapper most universally playable file today?

David and Chris, that's awesome! Thanks for taking the time to write such detailed and informative posts.

And the links are gold!!!

Chris, does the "2.5 x width...rough rule of thumb for x264 encodes which will get you pretty close to the optimum between quality, size and play back smoothness over the web" hold for files delivered by USB to be ultimately played back on desktop/laptop/modern phone etc.?

Again, much appreciated.
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Old February 24th, 2016, 05:34 PM   #5
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Re: Is H264 codec/MP4 Wrapper most universally playable file today?

I deliver downloadable 1280 x720 h264 mp4 to quite a few folks and haven't had any complaints
I let tmpgenc video mastering works 6 take care of the bitrate and other details.
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Old February 24th, 2016, 08:25 PM   #6
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Re: Is H264 codec/MP4 Wrapper most universally playable file today?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miggy Sanchez View Post
...does the "2.5 x width...rough rule of thumb for x264 encodes which will get you pretty close to the optimum between quality, size and play back smoothness over the web" hold for files delivered by USB to be ultimately played back on desktop/laptop/modern phone etc.?
In a word yes. As Ozer states you can encode a file at say 20,000 and it its a magnificent thing and will play back beautifully on a decent spec desktop or laptop. The problem is someone with an old 500MHz laptop will easily open the file but will it play back smoothly... highly unlikely.

If you study Ozer's research results from around the world where everything and everyone from B to B, TV networks, streaming movie sites, VOD sites etc were analyzed as to what they were doing with their uploads and streaming videos the general consensus was that 640 x 360 is now just about the default size for delivery. Enough of that though the best thing is download this and read it over a couple of days. it will answer 99% of your questions. It's the "Encoding H.264 Video for Streaming and Progressive Download" PDF I was trying to upload. I found the link to it:

https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&r...ZiCyzg&cad=rja

Three years ago I had a contract, still have it, to shoot weekly medical training sessions which when edited had to be uploaded to the web for medical students across Australia. The problem is they are 90-120 minutes long, have to fit some dedicated online learning software specs. 720 x 400 and had to be able to stream to remote locations and play on fairly low spec laptops and at as small a file size as possible. Nearly tore my hair out on that one until I digested Ozer's PDF. It lead me to 720 x 400 a 768 kbps with dual pass encoding in Handbrake and the file sizes were between 500-700MB. Clients were very happy. They can even be played back at 1080, granted a bit soft but importantly without blocking. Even fine text PowerPoint slides stand up and are readable at 1080 which for a lowly 768 kbps encode is pretty decent.

Happy reading / encoding!

Chris Young
CYV Productions
Sydney
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Old February 25th, 2016, 01:50 AM   #7
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Re: Is H264 codec/MP4 Wrapper most universally playable file today?

Bruce Dempsey, thanks for the feedback from your part of the world. Gives me more confidence that folks all around the world are enjoying the H264/MP4 flavour.

Chris Young, cheers again. Actually read one of the original links you embedded this morning, before hitting an edit today. Have downloaded the PDF. Looks like just what I need, especially as footy season/live streaming recommences for 2016.
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