Tag Archives: video

Video Hosting Sites Review

Last July, I wrote about video uploading sites. Now that I’m starting to get ready to post video online, some public but a lot of it just for friends or family, I’ve taken another look. And I’m disappointed in what I see.

Youtube has made the biggest improvements since then. Now, they can handle high-definition video, an intermediate “HQ” encoding, and the standard low-bandwidth encoding. Back then, there was no HD support, and I don’t think any HQ support either.

There are two annoying things about Youtube. One is the 10 minute limit per video file, though that can be worked around. The other is the really quite terrible options for sharing non-public videos. In essence, the only way to do this is to, on each video, manually select which people you want to be able to see it. If suddenly a new person gets a Youtube account, you can’t just give them access to the entire back library of videos. What I want it to tell Youtube that all people in a certain GROUP should have access, and then I can add people to the group as needed. That’s a really quite terrible oversight.

Vimeo, on the other hand, has actually gotten worse. Back a year ago, they were an early adopter on the HD bandwagon. Now that they’ve introduced their pay accounts, the free accounts have gotten worse than before. With a free Vimeo account, you can only upload 1 HD video a week. You also get dumped in the “4-hour encoding” line, and get the low-quality encoding. Yes, it’s noticeable, and much worse than Youtube HQ, let alone Youtube HD. You have no time limit, but a 500MB upload limit per week.

The sharing options with Vimeo are about what I’d want.

blip.tv seems about the same, and I’m still avoiding them because you have to pay $100/yr to be able to keep videos non-public.

Then there’s viddler. I am not quite sure what to make of them. They seem to be, on the one hand, Linux fans with a clue. On the other hand, their site seems to be chock full of get-rich-quick and real estate scheme videos, despite a ToS that prohibits them. They allow you to upload HD videos but not view them. They have a limit of 500MB per video file, but no limits on how many files you can upload or the length of each one, and the sharing options seem good.

So I’m torn. On the one hand, it would be easy to say, “I’ll just dump everything to viddler.” On the other hand, are they going to do what Vimeo did, or worse, start overlaying ads on all my videos?

Any suggestions?

Review: Video Editing Software

We recently bought a Canon Vixia HG20 camcorder. The HG20 records in AVCHD format (MPEG-4 h.264) at up to 1920×1080. To get from the camcorder to a DVD (or something we can upload to the web), I need some sort of video editing software. This lets me trim out the boring bits, encode the video for DVD, etc.


In addition to DVD creation and web uploading, I want the ability to burn high-definition video discs. 1920×1080 is significantly higher resolution than you get from a DVD. There are two main ways to go: a blu-ray format disc, or an AVCHD disc. A blu-ray disc has to be burned onto BD-R media, which costs about $5 each, using a blu-ray burner, which costs about $200. AVCHD discs use the same h.264 encoding that the camcorder does, meaning they have better compression and can be burned onto regular DVD+R media, fitting about 30 minutes onto a DVD. Moreover, it is possible to move AVCHD files directly from a camcorder to an AVCHD disc without re-encoding, resulting in higher quality and lower playing time. The nicer blu-ray players, such as the PS3, can play AVCHD discs.

AVCHD seems pretty clearly the direction the industry is moving. Compared to the tape-based HDV, ACVHD has higher quality with lower bitrates, better resolution, and much greater convenience. Hard disk or SD-based AVCHD camcorders are pretty competitive in terms of price by now too, often cheaper than tape-based ones.

The downside of AVCHD is that it takes more CPU power to process. Though as video tasks are often done in batch, that wouldn’t have to be a huge downside. The bigger problem is that, though all the major video editing software claims to support AVCHD, nobody really supports it well yet.

The Contenders

Back when I got my first camcorder in about 2001 — the one that I’m replacing now — you pretty much had to have a Mac to do any sort of reasonable consumer or prosumer-level video editing. We bought our first iMac back then to work with that, and it did work well with the MiniDV camera.

Today, there’s a lot more competition out there. The Mac software stack has not really maintained its lead — some would even say that it’s regressed — and the extremely high cost of buying a Mac capable of working with AVCHD, plus Final Cut Express, makes that option completely out of the question for me. It would be roughly $2500.

Nobody really supports AVCHD well yet, even on the Mac. Although most programs advertise support of “smart rendering” — a technique that lets the software merely copy unchanged footage when outputting to the same format as the input — none of them have smart rendering that actually works with AVCHD source material. Though this fact is never documented, though discussed on forums.

Another annoyance, having used Final Cut Express in the past, is that with these programs you can’t just go to the timeline and say “delete everything between 1:35 and 3:52”; you have to go in and split up clips, then select and delete them. They seem to be way too concerned about dealing with individual clips.

I briefly used Cinelerra on Linux to do some video editing. It’s a very powerful program, but geared at people that are far more immersed in video editing than I. For my needs, it didn’t have enough automation and crashed too much — and that was with MiniDV footage. It apparently does support AVCHD, but I haven’t tried it.

I’ve tried three programs and considered trying a fourth. Here are my experiences:

Ulead/Corel VideoStudio Pro X2

Commonly referenced as the “go to” program for video editing on Windows, I started with downloading the Free Trial of it from Corel. Corel claims that the free trial is full-featured all over on their website, but I could tell almost instantly that it wasn’t. I wound up buying the full version, which came to about $65 after various discounts.

I wanted to like this program. Its output options include AVCHD disc, Blu-ray disc, DVD+R, and the like. Its input options include MiniDV, AVCHD, ripping from DVD, ripping from Bluray, and just about every other format you can think of. And it heavily advertised “proxy editing”, designed to let you edit a scaled-down version of AVCHD video with a low-CPU machine, but refer back to the original high-quality footage for the output.

It didn’t pan out that way.

The biggest problem was the constant crashing. I really do mean constant. It probably crashed on me two dozen times in an hour. If you are thinking that means that it crashes pretty much as soon as I can get it re-opened, you’d be correct. Click the Play button and it hangs. Click a clip and it hangs. Do anything and it hangs.

It did seem to work better with the parts of the source that had been converted to a low-res version with Smart Proxy, though it didn’t eliminate the hangs, just reduced them. And every time I’d have to End Task, it would forget what it had already converted via Smart Proxy — even if I had recently saved the project — and have to start over from scratch.

I spent some time trying to figure out why it always thought my project was 720×480 even when it was 1920×1080, and why the project properties box didn’t even have an option for 1920×1080. After some forum searching, it turns out that the project properties box is totally irrelevant to the program. Yay for good design, anyone?

VideoStudio Pro X2 does have good output options, allowing combination of multiple source files onto a single DVD or AVCHD disc as separate titles. Unfortunately, its DVD/AVCHD rendering process also — yes — hangs more often than not.

The documentation for VideoStudio Pro X2 is of the useless variety. It’s the sort of thing that feels like it’s saying “The trim tool is for trimming your clips” without telling you what “trimming your clips” means, or making it obvious how to remove material from the middle of a clip.

The proxy editing feature isn’t what it should be either. Instead of being something that just automatically happens and Works in the background, you have to manage its queue in the foreground — and it forgets what it was doing whenever the program hangs.

On the rare occasion when pressing Play did not cause a hang, the AVCHD footage played back at about 0.5fps — far, far worse than PowerDirector manages on the same machine. Bits that had been rendered for proxy editing did appear to play at full framerate.

I have applied for a refund for this purchase from Corel under their 30-day return policy, and have already uninstalled it from my disk. What a waste.

CyberLink PowerDirector 7 Ultra

This was the second program I tried, and the one I eventually bought. Its feature set is not quite as nice as Corel’s, especially when it comes to versatility of output options. On the other hand, it feels… done. It only crashed two or three times on me — apparently that’s GOOD on Windows? Things just worked. It appears to have proxy editing support, but it is completely transparent and plays back with a decent framerate even without it. It can output to AVCHD, Bluray, and DVD, though smart rendering doesn’t work with AVCHD source material.

Its weakness compared to the Corel package is that it doesn’t have as many options for formatting these discs. You can have only one title on a disc, though you can have many chapters. You have some, but not much, control over compression parameters. The same goes for exporting files for upload to the web or saving on your disk.

The documentation is polished and useful for the basics, though not extensive.

Overall, this package works, supports all the basics I wanted from it, so I’m using it for now.

Adobe Premiere Elements 7

I downloaded the trial of this one too. I opened it up, and up popped a dialog box asking what resolution my project would be, interlacing settings, etc. I thought “YES — now that’s the kind of program I want.” As I tried out the interface, I kept thinking the same. This was a program not just for newbies, but for people that wanted a bit more control.

Until it came to the question of output. Premiere Elements 7 was the only package I looked at that had no option to burn an AVCHD disc. DVD or Blu-ray only. That’s a deal-breaker for me. There’s no excuse for a program in this price range to not support the only affordable HD disc option out there. So I didn’t investigate very much farther.

Another annoying thing is that Adobe seems to treat all of their software as a commercial. I’m a user, not an audience, dammit. I do not want to buy some photoshop.net subscription when I buy a video editing program. I do not want to see ads for stuff when I’m reading PDFs. LEAVE ME ALONE, ADOBE.

I just felt sleazy even giving them my email address, let alone installing the program on my system. I think I will feel like a better person once I reboot into Windows and wipe it off my system.

Pinnacle Studio 12

Another program that comes highly rated. But I never installed it because its “minimum system requirements” state that it needs an “Intel Core 2 Quad 2.66GHz or higher” for 1920×1080 AVCHD editing. And I have only a Core 2 Duo 2.66GHz — half the computing horsepower that it wants. And since they offer no free trial, I didn’t bother even trying it, especially since PowerDirector got by fine with my CPU.


This seems to be a field where we can say “all video editing software sucks; some just suck a little less.” I’m using PowerDirector for now, but all of the above programs should have new versions coming out this year, and I will be keeping a close eye to see if any of them stop being so bad.

Video uploading sites?

I’m working on switching from using a Mac to using Linux for editing video. I have a mini-DV camcorder that a bought a few years back, and I’ve been looking at capture and editing software for Linux.

Along with that, I want to post some videos online for family to be able to see I want to preserve the original quality as much as possible, offer the option to download the video, and be able to share some videos with family only (not the entire Internet).

I’ve been looking at various reviews of video sites (such as this PCWorld one) and decided to look at blip.tv and Vimeo in more detail.

Blip seems to have lots of controls, options, etc. And, they seem to really care about end users, respond fast, and care about freedom. There’s an impressive response from their support team concerning Ogg Theora out there. They offer FTP uploads (which are a huge improvement over HTTP POST uploading, in my opinion, and easily scriptable). They can also automatically post your video to archive.org or about a dozen other video or blogging sites.

But what I want to do is not really what they are aiming at. They are set up for “channels” (you can apparently only have one channel per user), and for more professional users. Most notably, you can’t make videos private or restricted without paying for their $100/year or so “pro” account.

Vimeo looks very much like the Flickr of video. They do offer various options for restricting who can see a video. When they transcode video to Flash, they have the option of preserving it in HD, which blip.tv doesn’t (both go 640×480 or so by default, and blip maximizes out that that). Though both offer the option to download the full, unmodified original. Vimeo has only one option for uploading, and it doesn’t seem to work well with Firefox. They have little detail about anything in their docs. Maybe it’s more the Photobucket of video than the Flickr of video. (Oh, who am I kidding — that’s Youtube).

Of course, there is Youtube. Maxes out at 320×240, doesn’t offer the original for downloading. Doesn’t make me think all that positively about them.

I could also use Flickr. I’m not sure if they offer the original, but there’s a 90-second limit on uploads there.

Any other thoughts?