To HD or Not to HD…?

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// February 20th, 2009 // Blog

Mujahideen Ryder brought up a good point on my MuslimMatters crosspost about the drawbacks of HD video. Something I happened to be thinking about just last night:

Sidenote: linking to HD videos is not a wise decision. Most PCs can't handle HD streaming on YouTube, unless they wait at least 5-15 minutes depending on their connection. Then after that, the playback will be choppy if they don't have a good graphics card.

Providing two links would be better. One for HD and one for regular quality.

I realized the same problem last week when I tried to watch one of my videos on a display MacBook at the Apple Store, and the playback was “choppy”; a sign that the graphics card was not suitable for HD (which is not good show for Apple, come to think of it).

The problem is that YouTube only provides two viewing options for HD resolution videos: normal quality, or HD. Normal quality looks like the piece had been filmed using a webcam from the late 90s. I.e., not good. HD is obviously the best option, but as MR pointed out, it is not widely accessible by the masses just yet.

So, should I forget HD for the short term?

Or should I upload two versions of my work: one in HD, and one in stand definition that can be viewed in “high quality” mode, which is the next best viewing option?

Will the latter strategy mess up my viewing stats?

How many people even care about HD right now?


P.S., I am not sure if it makes a difference to use a different video host either… HD is HD, right? Plus I'd prefer to continue using YouTube as it has an established online community of users and subscribers, which means more exposure for my work, inshā’Allāh. Hmm…

16 Responses to “To HD or Not to HD…?”

  1. MR says:

    High quality YouTube videos. The ones that are not HD and the ones that are not the normal quality.

  2. MR says:

    Optimizing the normal quality would also be good.

  3. hfm says:

    I think HD is amazing but it takes forever to load for the viewer and upload for the user.

    Personally, I think normal quality is alright as long as you get rid of the black bars, so it fits the widescreen.

    I’m not good at the tech-y side of things, but widescreen videos are appeasing to the eyes.

    Whatever you decide, all the best!

  4. ibn Halal says:

    assalam alaikum,

    I was going to tell you that sending HD links doesn’t work for all people :)

    Good that someone else also pointed out the same.

    YouTube gets you traffic, so you can put there the short promo version and whoever is interested they can visit your site for the HQ/HD version.

  5. Sumera says:

    Yah the video was sticking when viewing it using the HD option. I dont think it really matters, HD or otherwise – the bog standard stuff is always better :D

  6. iMuslim says:

    So you’re saying: forget HD?

    How would one optimize normal quality? YouTube algorithms are responsible for the degradation, not me.

  7. iMuslim says:

    Thanks hfm… the non-tech-y opinion is also valid, as it’s all about the average user experience. HD is great, but if the majority can’t access it, it doesn’t really help my viewing figures. :)

  8. iMuslim says:

    Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah

    If I make two versions, I could use the annotations feature to point viewers to the HD version at the start of the standard definition video, for those who may be interested.

    Having trialled this technique using my next few videos, insha’Allah, if I find that only a small proportion of the total number of viewers click through to the HD version, I can assume that either:

    a) most viewers can’t handle HD videos,


    b) people are happy with the Hiqh Quality, standard definition version, even if they have the ability to watch the HD version,


    c) the annotation technique wasn’t successful in pointing people to the HD version.

    I don’t have enough dedicated viewers to carry out a meaningful survey right now, so this might be a half-decent alternative?

  9. Media Guy says:

    With regards to the internet broadcasting to the largest possible audience and maintaining the best possible visual quality are mutually exclusive at the moment.

    If the intended purpose of broadcast justifies a larger audience over a better viewing experience then sacrificing high definition may be the better option. And vice versa. But that is the producer/distributors decision to make.

    Given all the feedback you seem to have if I were in your position I would be inclined to republish on YouTube to allow for an HQ version at best, rather than an HD version. But I would provide a link for a free download of the video from my own website, not just at standard definition and 720p HD, but also at 1080p HD, much like the Apple Trailers website.

    Feel free to disagree, for I will momentarily be facing the same dilemma.

  10. iMuslim says:

    Thanks for the input. But what would be the point of allowing for a free download in my case?

    My work is more along the lines of “news reporting”, which requires instant access, as provided by streamed viewing.

    However, for your kind of work, i.e., documentaries and such, downloading a file to one’s computer would be acceptable, especially as the film is likely to be longer than ten minutes, and viewing a partitioned work is quite annoying. ibn Halal’s idea of hosting a short trailer video on YouTube makes sense here.

    I think I only wanted to use HD cos of the ‘bling’ factor. It looks good, and stays true to what you intended the viewer to see. But for news reporting, high quality isn’t so bad either, and HD is certainly not essential.

  11. bedou says:

    It’s very simple for now:

    If you’re looking for maximum exposure, then you have to go high quality (Standard Def) on Youtube.

    If image quality matters to you, you’ll most likely want to switch to vimeo, which provides HD, and their sd version of the hd does not look like a pixellated mess.

  12. Ibrahim Hafidh says:

    Assalam Alaikum,

    You can have a very good quality video on YouTube without going the HD route. Sure YouTube compresses all videos but it depends on what quality you start off when you upload the video. Using the correct video codec is key in optimizing your videos.

    For example, this video of Charlie Rose interviewing Bill Gates is in good quality even though it is “Normal View”:

    The Charlie Rose production always has good quality videos in normal view. I’m sure they spend a lot of time (and money) optimizing their videos.

    Here is a great resource to optimize your videos. I really recommend it. I have used it for 30 min Google videos and was quite pleased with the quality.
    “How to make YouTube videos look great”

    Also, very useful; recommended settings from Youtube:

    Hope that helps,

  13. Manas Shaikh says:

    I have a fairly fast connection. Even then, I had trouble downloading the HD version. I will recommend that provide the ordinary video link on top, and then, as an addition, provide the link to the HD version.

  14. Personally, I still haven’t been able to fully upload one of my HD videos to YouTube, it always had some error. But, in my experience of viewing HD videos, it hasn’t been very good on YouTube. What I’d do, (and probably what I already do, I think), is post up my videos in regular quality, (which enables the “higher quality” version to be there), and then post a link in the description to the same video in HD on
    Vimeo, I believe, was the first site to feature HD videos and I must say, it’s playback and quality is very good. Even if some people have problems viewing the HD version (which doesn’t usually happen), you can easily turn off the HD and the quality stays pretty good, even better than YouTube’s “high quality.”
    So, that’s my suggestion:
    Put up standard videos on YouTube
    Provide a link in the description to HD video on

    You can look me up on YouTube (jawaadahmadkhan) and you can also find me on Vimeo (Jawaad Khan). (By the way, if you do join Vimeo, you can join a group I created called “Muslim Filmmakers” because it’s very small at the moment, but Alhamdulillah)

    Wasalaamu Alaikum

  15. iMuslim says:

    JazakumAllah khair everyone for your recommendations and suggestions. I will definitely be researching the options you have provided, insha’Allah.

  16. […] in the last week, I was reading on the iMuslim blog, and came across a post called To HD or Not to HD…?. It got me […]

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