Flickr Video Artifacts

Flickr has its flaws, and has come in for some warranted criticism from photographers such as Thomas Hawk in San Francisco for its management practices and failure to keep up with Google+ and other photo-sharing communities. However, I find it a cost-effective service that still meets my needs for both blogging and photography. At last count I have nearly 19,000 images on Flickr.

There is one flaw in Flicker that has really jumped out recently, though. That’s with it’s video compression routines. Video uploaded to Flickr looks horrible. Period.

I’m more of a photographer than videographer. I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of video compression, etc., etc. I also get that Flickr is primarily a photo sharing site, and has limited functionality as far as video uploads are concerned. However, there are some times that it’s quicker and easier to upload to Flickr. I also like the control over privacy, which tends to be an all-or-nothing proposition with YouTube and other video hosting.

In a recent blog post, Jettero Heller sums it up this way…

Ever since Flickr rolled out the feature to upload videos as well as photos, Flickr has been the first place I put up videos. Why? Most videos I take are part of the same stream as my photos – part of a set of vacation shots, or are usual daily uploads like this one – and I love being able to view them in the same context as the rest of my photos – instead of telling people to go to YouTube if they want to see video. I also get frustrated with the way YouTube does advertisement overlays.

But, at this point, the video codec that Flickr is using is a straight-up embarrassment and due to the distractingly-bad compression artifacts, is so utterly contrary to the whole reason Flickr stated that they rolled out video to begin with.

In the past this wasn’t a problem. Because of the time constraints (90 seconds) I only used Flickr for quick videos, and uploaded longer clips to YouTube. However, with the GoPro and other new cameras I’ve been working with higher definition videos. As I’ve uploaded videos to Flickr I’ve noticed a severe degradation in video quality. At first I thought it was my imagination – that I just didn’t have playback set to HD or my connection was too slow or something. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

So, I did an experiment. I took the same 1080p MP4 video and uploaded it to Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo. For best results, make sure you view these in full screen mode, set to HD…

Flickr:

YouTube:

and Vimeo:

I selected a single frame (or as close to it as I could get) for comparison. Here’s the sample frame in Flickr…

Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 2.11.06 PM

…in YouTube…

Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 2.17.23 PM

…and in Vimeo:

Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 2.09.11 PM

Pixelated artifacts are very pronounced in the clouds in the Flickr screen capture. These become even more apparent when you zoom in.

Flickr:

Flickr-Cap

YouTube:

YouTube-Cap

Vimeo:

Vimeo-Cap

So, even with HD on, the compression Flickr is using just kills the video integrity.

I’ll probably continue to use Flickr for quick little videos, and I’ll certainly continue to use it for my photos. However, if I want better quality I’m going to have to go with one of the other services. YouTube is OK, but I really despise the advertising and other junk on the site. I love Vimeo. It was the first to offer high quality video, and is targeted more toward the artistic market. Unfortunately, premium features come at a premium price. If you want more than what the limited free account provides, prices start at $199 per year (compared to Flickr’s $30 per year.)

Solutions? I’d love to see Flickr correct their compression rates so that it doesn’t completely destroy the video image. Barring that, I’d be willing to pay a comparable amount to YouTube per year for video storage if that meant no advertising. Maybe if I start producing more videos I could justify the cost of Vimeo, but I’m not there right now. So for the time being I guess I’ll just have to rant and hope that things improve.

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Comments (2)

  1. Bengt Nyman

    Hi,
    It’s not just the video that is affected by flicks’s new image compression. Since early January 2013 the colors of the sky in a still photo becomes divided into bands of blue with dirty looking streaks in between.
    Please Flickr, fix it !

    Reply
  2. Dale F

    Curious if you’ve been able to find out any more about this? I’m amazed at how bad the Flickr Video quality appears to be (and in general, how few people are complaining about it online!)

    Reply

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