You have shot a couple of video clips. You did some basic video editing, and you are looking to deliver your masterpiece to the world. But first, you need to encode it in a format that the internet likes.
Should it be in MPEG4? A MOV or an MP4 file? A huge ProRes file that will take ages to upload? Here's how I export videos quickly that look best and upload fast.
Why video compression is essential in video editing
Usually, you shot your video in MP4 format. That's the most popular format when making videos with a smartphone or a consumer camera. It's also a compressed format.
Video compression comes in many flavors, and MPEG4 compression is the one that the filmmaking industry has accepted as the norm.
However, video compression comes with its downsides. Namely, it produces video files that need to be decompressed to edit. Hence why your computer fans start spinning wildly while you are video editing. Your CPU is decompressing and playing the video clip on your editor's timeline at the same time.
Professional video editors and filmmakers prefer an uncompressed format for that reason. And their weapon of choice is the ProRes formats. But after they finish their video editing process, they too need to compress their final video again before uploading it to the web. That's because the internet can only work with compressed video files due to bandwidth limitations.
A 5MB file is much more easily transferred compared to a 100MB file that is only 1% better in quality. And if we consider the millions of people watching online, those megabytes can quickly add up to terabytes. Video could really cripple the internet if it weren't for video compression.
I used to export videos for the web like everyone else, and it's wrong
People go to the publish or deliver pages of their video editing program, pick the "YouTube" preset with their preferred resolution, and the encoding starts. Encoding is nothing more than converting the timeline they edited into a single video that can play everywhere.
Most often, that built-in preset results in an MP4 or MOV compressed file. The MP4 and MOV file extensions are simply the containers of the video file. It doesn't correspond to the kind of video compression that took place when exporting the video. They simply mean the file is a video file.
Until recently, these files implemented the same video compression format as our cameras. The H.264 video compression codec. Usually, that's the video compression that your smartphone or camera applies to your video files. Nothing wrong with that video compression, it's just that there's a new, better player in town.
How to export videos with H.265 video compression in Davinci Resolve
Davinci Resolve is a free video editing software. I have been using Adobe Premiere Pro before that but switched as I found Blackmagic's program faster and a lot more reliable. I got fed up with Adobe's crashes that took away the joy of video editing and only frustrated me.
The workflow to export videos is similar to all video editors. So, if you are not using Davinci Resolve, I firmly believe this workflow will work with your favorite video editing software. Yet, I would strongly suggest giving Davinci Resolve a shot. It's free and very powerful after all.
So, when I'm looking to deliver my final edit to the public, I used to choose the MP4 format and h.264 video compression as well. Nowadays, you can select the h.265 compression in the software itself.
But only if you are lucky to have that option. It turns out I don't.
Why the H.265 video compression may not be available to you
As you start to realize, I ran into quite a few problems all this time I'm creating videos for YouTube and the web in general. In an effort to help people with their creativity, I am sharing my experience and what I have learned.
And what I came across is that Nvidia, the graphics card I am using, offers two different drivers for Windows.
Yes, I was equally shocked. They are called Nvidia Game drivers and Studio drivers. One is tailored towards video gaming and the other for creatives that work with photos, videos, illustrations, and so on.
Uninstalling graphics drivers from a system has never been fun. I had to go into Windows' safe mode, do a clean uninstall of the drivers, reboot with no networking so that Windows doesn't reinstall drivers automatically, and do a fresh install of the Studio drivers.
And that's just for my laptop that includes an Nvidia 1050 video card. Studio drivers turn out to not be available for my Nvidia 970 card on my desktop computer!
But even with the Studio drivers installed on my laptop, there is still no option for H.265 video compression in Davinci Resolve. If I understand correctly, the option is available only in the paid version of Davinci Resolve! Or for some other unknown to me reason.
But wait. Where's a problem, there's a solution.
How to export videos in H.265 video compression on (almost) ANY computer
Let me introduce you to another free software: the Handbrake.
This software is transcoding software. You drop in your final video in any format you like, and Handbrake converts it and delivers an optimized final video file.
You have a bunch of options. You can pick a different resolution, opt for more quality at the expense of encoding time and file size, a container that you like, and finally, your favorite video compression. And lo and behold, H.265 video compression is available even for my desktop computer that doesn't have Nvidia's Studio drivers!
And what's even better, in case you have an Nvidia card, you can speed up the encoding process A LOT with Handbrake. Exporting videos in H.264 or H.265 format was five times faster when choosing to encode with the Nvidia card! Some can notice the quality difference, but I myself cannot.
So, here's my final workflow when I'm done editing my video and comes the time to export it for the web.
My complete workflow to export videos in H.265 video compression
On Davinci Resolve's deliver page, I export videos in Quicktime's MOV container. I choose the DNxHR codec, which is a lossy 4K codec, meaning you don't lose quality. It also means a gigantic file size. But no worries, that file isn't meant to be posted online. It's just a middleman before it's compressed to a more internet-friendly file.
Encoding that video file is the most time-consuming part of my exporting process, so be patient.
Once that large file is generated, I load up Handbrake and drop it in there. I have created a preset for encoding the video in the H.265 video compression codec using my Nvidia card. I max out everything in terms of quality and press encode.
Voila! That's the file I am going to upload to YouTube or anywhere else online (it seems Twitter doesn't like H.265 codec, so I have to encode the file again in H.264 if I need to post it there).
Benefits of the H.265 video compression codec
My main cameras shoot video in the H.264 codec at a 100Mbps bit rate. The higher that number, the more data they capture, theoretically leading to better-looking videos. My smartphone or older action cameras record in less than that. Other cameras shoot at higher bitrates.
Thus, when I used to convert the DNxHR MOV file into an H.264 MP4 file, I went for 100Mbps to maximize the quality of my final video. No need to go beyond that, since the original footage does not contain more data than 100Mbps.
As I have been a lot more active on Youtube lately, I considered upgrading my internet connection to upload my videos quicker. My ISP's upload speed is capped at 5Mbps, which sends 500kb every second. Previously, a maxed-out H.264 file of 15 minutes of video would result in a 5GB file, taking close to three hours to upload. My workaround was to transfer the file on my tablet and upload it while I was sleeping. No need to keep my computer running all night!
That same file in H.265 video compression codec is 1GB big! As a result, it takes half an hour to upload! Why is it five times smaller? Because now the file bit rate is capped at 20Mbps, but it still includes all the data that the H.264 encapsulated at 100Mbps! So, same quality, 5x faster uploading!
In effect, it was like I upgraded my internet connection!
Of course, the smaller size also means I need less hard disk space to store my films. But that's not all!
Before I post a video online, I always check it on my 65'' OLED TV. But when I tried playing the big H.264 video files via my NAS, playback was choppy as the Ethernet connection could not keep up with the 100Mbps bit rate and the big file size. Or at least, that's what I think the bottleneck is. Maybe the TV cannot decode fast enough that big file.
Nonetheless, that didn't make watching my movies enjoyable at all.
Upon switching over to the H.265 video compression codec, the videos are playing smoothly once again. I can now enjoy the immersion and spot any mistakes I made in sound or color grading a lot easier.
And let's not forget that encoding in H.265 using the Nvidia card on Handbrake is done almost in real-time. If your final video is 10 minutes long, encoding the video in H.265 should take about 10 minutes, as well. Compared that to 50 minutes for a single pass in H.264 or 2 hours if you opt for the recommended two-pass encoding in H.264, you instantly realize the efficiency of the H.265 codec.
Summing up, ever since I began to export videos in the H.265 video compression codec:
- I am saving hours when encoding
- I am uploading videos five times faster to the internet, and
- I am saving enormous space in my hard drives!
Unless you can notice a quality drop in your final movies, I don't see a reason why you shouldn't start exporting your videos in the H.265 codec! You will save both time and money, as hard disks don't grow on trees. Besides, time is money!