A few months ago I posted a shortcut that let you see better quality encodes from YouTube (add &fmt=18 to the end of the URL). That was part of YouTube re-encoding all their videos to a better codec: H.264.
They’ve now been re-encoding videos that were uploaded to YouTube at higher resolution than standard definition. On videos that are available in higher quality, you’ll see a link below the video: ‘Watch in high quality”
To see the differences zoom the videos to fill the screen. You’ll see that YouTube may be using the better resolution than SD uploaded but its users, but it isn’t displaying HD on it’s site or in embedded videos yet.
This sort of content seems tough for the Flash encoder. It isn’t been optimised to deal with primarily dark video. Although Vimeo is better, there are problems:
Of course in the case of Vimeo, you can click their logo to see the video in higher resolution on the Vimeo site, but even the SD embedded version looks better here. If I was based in the US, I could also have the option of paying $60 a year to have the HD versions of my videos embedded on my blog.
PS: If you want all the videos you see on the YouTube site to default to the higher quality version and you have an account, click ‘Account’, ‘Playback Setup’ and ‘I have a fast connection. Always play higher-quality video when it’s available.’
Followup 23 November, 2008 by Alex
As you can see from my comment below, YouTube is encoding 720p videos – an HD resolution. It just takes a few more hours for that version to be available.