Best Output Settings for Vimeo, and how to achieve them

Best Output Settings for Vimeo, and how to achieve them

Today it doesn’t matter what editing software you use to edit and export your video, what is important is what settings you use. With most video content eventually being packaged for release on online platforms, it is important for editors to know how best to package this content for optimum viewing results.

Vimeo is the online platform most used by filmmaking professionals, here’s how to best export and upload video content to Vimeo

Size

Vimeo now supports Ultra High Definition video (3840×2160) uploading for its pro members, so if you are a pro member and shoot with UHD you can take advantage of this feature and Vimeo will automatically downscale your video for optimum playback. For the rest of us, we’re looking at Full HD uploading (1920×1080).

Although Vimeo says you can upload your video of “all shapes and sizes” it recommends uploading your video with 16:9 aspect ratio. This best conforms to the dimensions of their player. Always bear in mind, depending on the viewers’ bandwidth and streaming preferences, it is most likely that your video will be played back anywhere from 360p to 720p.

However, it is important to export your project in the highest resolution possible for uploading to Vimeo. If you are going for that cinematic movie look, it would be ideal and the recommended framing and exporting is 1:85:1 which is pretty close to a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Frame Rate

Although Vimeo will support a variety of frame rates up to 60 frames per second, it is recommended to export your video in either 23.987, 24p, 25p or 29.97, 30p frames per second which are the standard frame rates.  Anything above 60 reduced by default.

Vimeo recommends exporting the video in the same number of frames that you edited in. Though you have the flexibility to shoot at whatever you want don’t go shooting at a funky frame rate if you want it to look good on Vimeo.

Vimeo gives you have the option of uploading interlaced (i) content, as well as progressive (p) but since most professional cameras shoot progressive, it is recommended to shoot and upload in progressive as you will be uploading more ‘visual’ information this way.

It’s also worth noting that, it is always important to choose “constant frame rate” over “variable frame rate” when exporting to ensure that your video plays back at a steady frame rate.

Codec & Wrapper

As a default Vimeo suggests H.264 as the preferred codec for uploading.  Although their website says, they accept “most industry standard codecs” including Apple’s ProRes codec and mentions using it for archival purposes,  try and stick with H.264 for the upload CODEC, and use ProRes for the archival version after your video is online and racking up views.

ProRes is a large data intensive codec that takes a long time to upload. There is nothing worse than realizing there is an error in the upload after spending hours waiting for your video to upload and convert only to repeat that process over again.  H.264 is light, quick and the industry standard for web playback content. Although you can upload video with a variety of wrappers – or file extensions, since Vimeo suggests using the H.264 codec, it is recommended to use either the .MP4 or .MOV (Quicktime) wrapper for uploading.

Bit Rate

Bit rate, or data rate deals with the visual quality and size of the video. The lower the bit rate, the poorer the quality of the visual image, higher the bit rate the better the visual quality, yet larger file size.  Choosing the right bit rate is a bit of art for web playback as you want to have a video file that has the best quality visual image, yet is not to heavy size wise for web playback.

Depending on your videos frame size, Vimeo recommends several bit rate options as good places to start: 40-50 Mbps for 3840 x 2160, 10-20 Mbps for 1920 x 1080, and 5-10 Mpbs for 1280 x 720.  You can also choose “variable bit rate” in your export settings. These settings let your computers shipping program choose which bitrate is the best to create an optimum file size for your project. If you are going to choose this option, Vimeo recommends making sure you export with a VBR 2 pass export.

Bit rate is an experimentation game. What is best is to do several test exports of your video and to compare those to your archival master exported in the highest quality you have. As a general rule of thumb, if you have lots of detail or movement in the image, it is best to stay on the high end of bit rates when exporting.

Audio

Since there are so many parameters that need to be considered to make your video ‘look good’ when uploading for web delivery, filmmakers frequently forget about the audio which is just as important, as sound conveys most of the emotion and feeling in your video. People can ignore poor image quality if the sound is good, but will not tolerate poor sound. With that in mind Vimeo recommends AAC-LC (Advanced Audio Codec Low Complexity) as the audio codec at a constant rate of 320 kbit/s and a sample rate of 48 kHz.  If you are working with audio that has a lower sample rate such as 44.1 kHz, leave it as is. Upscaling frequency may make worsen the sound.

Final Thoughts

Often finding the ‘right’ export settings for your project can create a lot of anxiety for editors and filmmakers, but Vimeo makes it easy by following these guidelines.  They also provide a huge list of video tutorials that show you how to export in a variety of NLE editing software from iMove to Avid to ensure that your video looks the best.

Ideally, sticking to the settings Vimeo recommends is best, as they say, that they accept a variety of codecs, frame rates, and wrappers, sometimes errors happen when uploading, and that is not fun. Although filmmaking is all about creativity and experimentation, for exporting to Vimeo stay within the rules, and leave the creative energy for the editing.

– Video Caddy