Vimeo, the video sharing site geared at amateur filmmakers, launched a new hi-def channel late last week, featuring some quite stunning clarity for web-based video. If you’ve come to accept the grainy pixelated quality of most online videos, these HD flicks may well get you excited about web video again.
Vimeo hasn’t released many details about the new HD capabilities and there isn’t a lot of content in the channel thus far, but with HD cameras continuing to drop in price, you can expect higher quality videos to start trickling onto the web. Try watching one of these HD videos in full screen mode and you’ll quickly see why HD web video is a great thing.
To use Vimeo’s new HD movie player all you need to do is upload a 1280×720 video and it will display in HD auto-magically. Vimeo has promised an FAQ in the near future.
We can’t say for sure, (see update below) but the Vimeo player might be using the new H.264 capabilities in the latest version of Adobe’s Flash Player.
Unfortunately the new HD player on Vimeo doesn’t seem to work for embeds, you can embed the videos but they won’t play in HD (Vimeo confirms that this will be case for the time being. Primarily for bandwidth reasons, Vimeo is keeping HD content on the site). Still, Vimeo’s HD player gives me some strange sense of hope for video on the web.
Update: I spoke with Vimeo founder Jakob Lodwick this afternoon about the new features and as it turns out Vimeo is not using Adobe’s new H.264 video support in Flash for the new HD content. Lodwick says that Vimeo most likely will, barring any issues, move to H.264 in the future, but the current videos are encoded using On2′s VP6 codec. That way Vimeo can offer HD, but still keep the Flash Player requirements down to version 8 (by contrast YouTube’s player only requires Flash Player v7).
Bandwidth, which has been a concern when it comes to HD video on the web, doesn’t seem to faze Vimeo, though it is limiting HD to the site for now (in other words, no HD embeds). Lodwick says “we noticed that the lower quality were not pushing the limits of most people’s connections.” He goes on to add, “we sort of found the sweet spot where the quality is really good, but also the files size is small enough that people can just start playing it.”
As for the creation and uploading process, Vimeo simply looks at the resolution of your movie and if it’s HD, then it gets encoded in HD. The promised FAQ on the uploading process, along with an official announcement will be on the Vimeo site later this week.
Vimeo has a sort of monopoly on HD video on today’s web, but eventually YouTube and others will probably catch up. Still, at the moment, thanks Vimeo’s new features that shiny new HD camera footage you’ve been shooting won’t be lost on the web.