Video quality on Youtube, Facebook and Myspace

 BLOG 2008 Jun 30

I make short time-lapse films by combining thousands of frames from my Nikon DSLR camera. I say "films" because they are equivalent in quality to cinematic productions. The quality and sharpness of the images surpasses even professional HDV cameras costing $60,000 and more.

When I play a clip on my MacBook Pro, I have to *shrink* the player down so it fits the screen. Connecting an HDMI cable to my laptop allows me to show my films on large, 1080i LCD screens. People are always amazed at the detail.

The only time I have trouble is when I want to show my work on the web. I realize that time lapse, especially my moving time lapse sequences, are the most difficult to compress for streaming on the internet. There is movement in almost every frame so they don't compress well.

After returning from a recent trip to Glasgow and London, I did an experiment. I exported one my time lapse films as a 640x480 mp4. I used Visual Hub to compress the original HD file from 375 MB to 23 MB. I uploaded the same mp4 to Youtube, Facebook, and MySpace. I was surprised because the differences between them is significant.

I'm consistently disappointed with the quality of my work on YouTube. I know they're dealing with an enormous volume of people watching the videos but the encoding should be slightly better. Even the "watch in high quality" option leaves much to be desired. (if you don't see the video, try reloading the page)

Link to video on (standard) and (high quality)

As you'll see, my video looks significantly better on MySpace. I was surprised because the social network is famous for intermittent connections to their servers. The only thing I don't like is the poor choice the software made for the title image. While YouTube selects a still image from somewhere in the middle of your video and gives you the option to change it, MySpace picks a still from the beginning and offers no ability to select a different frame.

Link to video on

My time lapse tour of London looks best on Facebook. In order to see it without logging into Facebook, I've done a little hack. The player is on my server but the video itself is streaming off the Facebook servers. If it stops working, let me know and I'll try something else.

Link to video on

Why is there such a difference between the videos? It's all a function of the quality settings of the automatic encoder. I downloaded the encoded video from each site and here's what I found:

Youtube, 320 x 240, 2.7 MB (default "normal" quality, shown here)
Youtube, 480 x 360, 4 MB ("high quality", not available for embedding?)
MySpace, 480 x 360, 4.3 MB
Facebook, 606 x 455, 6.0 MB

As you can see, MySpace defaults to quality slightly better than YouTube's "high quality". Facebook encodes their videos with even better quality than MySpace but doesn't make them readily available to the general public. I seriously think YouTube needs to update the quality setting on their encoder. Having two different versions of each video on YouTube seems like a waste of disk space and bandwidth. For every play of a decent quality video on MySpace or Facebook, the same video on YouTube will have *both* versions played if the default quality one looks bad.

To see more of my artwork and video on MySpace, visit





01 Jul 2008 1:30am

"the facebook one does look better i agree, YouTube needs to have a look at making the quality better!"


nice work

15 Sep 2008 4:56pm

"First of all, great article. You're right, the quality is superior on Facebook. I see that you uploaded a 640x480 mp4. Was this video progressive or interlaced and at how many fps? What program do you edit in? Final Cut Pro?

[Reply from Robert Giordano]
Thanks. All video uploaded to the web is de-interlaced and encoded at 30fps. I use Final Cut, Quicktime Pro, and Photoshop. I'll have to test the new YouTube update."



07 Oct 2008 10:19am

"Thanks for an interesting article. I'm searching for more information about settings for both YouTube and MySpace."


mp4 Compression

27 Oct 2008 12:56pm

"Your videos look quite remarkable! Unfortunately, I have not been so lucky. After reading this article, I'm wondering, what were the exact settings of your mp4 compression? And which compressing tool did you use? I've tried FCP 5.1.4, MPEG Streamclip, Sorrenson Squeeze, Compressor... all with little luck. I would sincerely appreciate any advice.

[Reply from Robert Giordano]
I've tried all of the programs you mentioned. The best program I've used so far is VisualHub! I export a high quality Quicktime Movie then use VisualHub to convert to MP4. Unfortunately I just visited and it looks like VisualHub has been discontinued. =("



19 Nov 2008 2:55am

"facebook looks fab compared to the others"



21 Nov 2008 3:08am

"thanks for the info, I can't believe the quality change, can you post the embed code for facebook?

[Reply from Robert Giordano]
YouTube has recently updated its quality settings but if you have older videos, they don't seem to benefit from the upgrade. As I mentioned above, Facebook doesn't give you an embed code because you have to log in to see the videos. I downloaded my video from Facebook and I'm hosting it on my own server."



17 Dec 2008 1:07am

"good stuff"


Song name

20 Dec 2008 4:19am

"Hey what's the name of that song playing? It's amazing!"



01 Feb 2009 7:07am

"Facebook also has a high quality option, but I think your VGA-res video isn't big enough to qualify. I upload 720P vids to facebook and the user gets the option of watching in high quality or not. You might want to look into Flowplayer, with it you can host your own videos on your own site in whatever quality you want."



20 Aug 2009 12:22am

"check this link, you can upload HD video with youtube."


Alex Yu

04 Sep 2009 5:34pm

"You can do facebook link without logging on like so,

[Reply from Robert Giordano]


No no no...

17 Sep 2009 10:51pm

"Your example is false. The quality depends on how the video is encoded serverside. Youtube gives some recommendations for you to encode your video such as bitrate size codec... Maybe facebook and myspace do the same ? Maybe your video is more optimized for myspace & facebook than youtube so you see the quality is better."


Nice comparison

15 Oct 2009 7:51am

"Lately youtube has been useless anyway, they're going to bed with WMG and political music correctness has almost made self expression on their website useless and impossible to work with. They plonked a video I posted that had "MY OWN MUSIC" in the background, ya that's right, I wrote, composed and played all the instruments on the tracks, and WMG fapped it. Between that and their kr$$p quality I use toxic junction to view "Un Censored" videos for quality pictures. For quality videos Myspace."


Still a sorry state...

15 Oct 2009 6:47pm

"What I noticed most is the simple fact that even though you uploaded a video with a resolution of 640x480, the person watching the video does not get the original resolution. Instead you are castrated down to about 25% of the original resolution. Ignoring everything else such as the compression codec and associated settings, the simple difference in resolution is enough to make me hate all 3 sites. I mean really, do they think we all use computers with display resolutions from 15 years ago!?"



13 Nov 2009 2:16am

"I think you gan get even better encoding quality if you try MeGUI with x264. It's got a steep lurning curve but it's got remarkable quality which beats most commercial encoders (it's open source). google it or go to doom9 forums :)"