Exporting HD video for Vimeo

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Someone recently asked, “What are the best export settings to use for uploading HD video to Vimeo?”

Well, being the inquisitive person that I am, I decided to do some investigating. My first efforts took me to a set of great tutorials on the Vimeo forum: Vimeo HD exporting from many editors. This page has some great information, but it appeared to be written several years ago and is no longer being updated, and unfortunately, ScreenFlow was not one of the tools mentioned. (Though, there was some great information there, so I would encourage you to check it out.)

Next, I found my way to the Vimeo guidelines page.  This page has very clear compression guidelines, which seemed easy enough to follow. I decided to do some tests from ScreenFlow to see how they turned out.

Results of my HD Vimeo tests

I found a bit of HD footage and imported it into a ScreenFlow document that had a canvas size of 1280 x 720.

hdscreenflow 1024x746 Exporting HD video for Vimeo

For my first test, I used the following settings:

Compression type: H.264
Frame rate: Current
Key Frames: Every 30 frames
Frame Reordering: checked
Data Rate: Automatic
Compressor Quality: Best (with Encoding set to “Best quality (Multi-pass)”)
Audio Format: AAC
Sample Rate: 44.100
Target Bit Rate: 96 Kbps

I then uploaded my file to Vimeo and called it NC bike race 1.

This 40-second video ended up being 186 MB, but it looked crisp and clear on Vimeo.

For my second test, I used the following settings:

Compression type: H.264
Frame rate: Current
Key Frames: Every 30 frames
Frame Reordering: checked
Data Rate: Restricted to 5000 kbits/sec
Compressor Quality: High  (with Encoding set to “Best quality (Multi-pass)”)
Audio Format: AAC
Sample Rate: 44.100
Target Bit Rate: 96 Kbps

Based on the guidelines in the Vimeo Compression page, I changed the data rate so that it was restricted to 5000 kbits/sec. I uploaded this video to Vimeo also, and called it NC Bike Race 2.

In looking at my two tests side by side, I could not see any discernible quality difference. The ONLY BIG difference was the second file was only 23.9 MB (as compared to 186 MB for my first test). That’s 7 times smaller than the first file! And if you have a free account with Vimeo, which limits the number of megabytes you can upload weekly, this can be an important factor to consider.

My third test, I decided to tweak the frame rate, to see if I could further affect the file size without disrupting quality. The settings I used were:

Compression type: H.264
Frame rate: Current
Key Frames: Every 300 frames
Frame Reordering: checked
Data Rate: Restricted to 5000 kbits/sec
Compressor Quality: High  (with Encoding set to “Best quality (Multi-pass)”)
Audio Format: AAC
Sample Rate: 44.100
Target Bit Rate: 96 Kbps

The resulting file came in a tad bit smaller at 23.4MB, and again, I saw no discernible difference in quality. You can see this one at NC Bike Race 3.

The verdict

So although these tests are certainly not exhaustive, I used Vimeo’s basic guidelines to get good quality HD video using all three of the settings above. The main difference between them was the ultimate file size of my exported video. Moving forward, I will probably stick with the settings I used in my 3rd test, as this was the smallest file.

If you have experience, input or advice on this topic, please comment below and let me know.


10 Responses to “Exporting HD video for Vimeo”

  • 1 Mike Grace Says:

    This is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you.

    Current score: 1

    [Reply]

    Jamie Kelley Reply:

    Very good. I would also suggest that the audio sample can be dialled down to 22,000 without noticeable effect.

    Current score: 1

    [Reply]

  • 2 Dan Weaver Says:

    I just downloaded the 3 videos from Vimeo and they’re all around the 10MB mark. In fact they get slightly larger from 1 to 3:

    Bike Race 1 -- 9.98 MB
    Bike Race 2 -- 9.99 MB
    Bike Race 3 -- 10.0 MB

    So does Vimeo re-encode them for the page? If so why can’t we give Vimeo an optimized version so we know what people will actually see?

    Current score: 1

    [Reply]

    Lynn Elliott Reply:

    Hi Dan,
    All these video sharing sites use some sort of encoding ‘under the hood’ for compressing uploaded videos. I suppose if they told us the encoding settings they use, we could ‘optimize’ our output, so that our result would match what ultimately gets shown on their site. But I haven’t seen any such settings printed anywhere (and it may in fact be proprietary -- their added value). The guidelines they provide ensure that the video they start with (and ultimately further encode) will work well with their ‘under the hood’ encoding settings.

    Current score: 0

    [Reply]

  • 3 Eduardo Barrera Says:

    Your setting are right on. Played with a few of them until I got it. Thanks again.

    Current score: 0

    [Reply]

  • 4 Jonathan Rowland Says:

    This was dead-on. Exactly what I was looking for. I used Adobe Media Encoder but used your settings (example no. 3) and the results were substantial -- an almost 5 minute video at 1080p, orginally about 1.12GB, was now 162MB! You are a genius.

    Current score: 0

    [Reply]

  • 5 Ben Says:

    Thanks for this post. I had a HD video I wanted to upload to Vimeo (around 2 gigs) that I want to upload as best and in the smallest file possible without sacrificing image quality. We’ll see if it helps.

    Current score: 0

    [Reply]

  • 6 Peter Says:

    Any tips on the time it takes to export?

    I have a 30 min HD video, and it takes a good 8 hours to export using the above settings.

    Current score: 0

    [Reply]

    Lynn Elliott Reply:

    ooh, that doesn’t sound right. However, since I originally wrote this post we have released Version 3 of ScreenFlow, which has a Publish to Vimeo feature. Have you tried publishing using that? And do you get the same result?

    Current score: 0

    [Reply]

  • 7 Preseli Says:

    your third test is flawed -- you did not change the frame rate at all, you kept it as ‘current’

    all you changed was the keyframe rate -- which is the glue between the audio and the video to prevent audio / video drift.

    keyframe rate should have little or no real impact on file size!

    Current score: 0

    [Reply]

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