LifeWay Downloads: Decisions about Encoding

As I mentioned in a previous post, LifeWay is beginning to offer some of our downloadable videos in standard definition.  There are a number of things that go into the decision on how to encode these things, but the biggest question is always what we should offer in terms of resolution, bit rate, and file size.  With standard definition, the resolution should be pretty well set: 640x480.  Of course, we shoot with DV cam, so that resolution actually gets bumped up above standard def, to 720x480.  And there's  one project I'm working on  that was shot in 16:9, so the resolution will be even higher (but not hi-def).So today I'm working with some hour-long sessions of a study we've previously released in low-res from Beth Moore.

Since we're making it standard def (720x480), I have to really tweak the bit rate to make sure that the quality is worth the extra money that we will be charging for the video.  However, I have to make the file size small enough that a normal computer and internet connection can handle the download.  LifeWay does not yet have a download manager... so I can't go over the top with file size.

The balance I'm at, for these files, is working at a 2000kbps variable bit rate.  While this is less than I'd like it to be... it's just about the highest quality I can go and still make a feasible product.  Why?  At 2000kbps, the file sizes are hitting 1000MB.  That's a big file to download.  Real big.  When I worked in the technology division, I had customers complain about 100MB files.

The source files I'm working with are averaging 75GB.  So, being able to compress down to 1GB is actually an amazing feat (and one that is averaging 6 HOURS per encode... 12 files x 6 hours = 3 days.  Thank you, Mr. Weekend).

So here's to an experiment in file sizes; is the quality of going from 360x240 at around 800kbps and 100MB worth 1000MB at 720x480 at 2000kbps?