If you’re a sports fan like me, you probably noticed that ESPN recently updated their web site, including adding a new, larger 16:9 video window. Since ESPN is certainly one of the most watched sites on the net, I wanted to present the details of the new video.
By way of background, ESPN had previously produced their VP6 video at 440×330 resolution @ 30 fps encoded at 600 kbps video and 48 kbps audio. In the remodeling, ESPN retained the VP6 codec, but super-sized the video to 576×324 @ 24 fps, encoded at a target of 712 kbps and 80 kbps mono. I tried embedding the video that I tested in this page, but discovered that the video ESPN makes available for embedding conforms to the old configuration, not the new, which you can view by clicking here.
As you can see from the screen grab from Inlet Semaphore, key frames (those little red lines in the timeline) are inserted about even ten seconds or so, and at scene changes, which accounts for the flurry of key frames at the start of the video.
In terms of video, this translates to about .159 bits per pixel, compared to .138 bpp at the old resolution, which should mean better quality. That said, I’m not a bit fan of 24 fps video, having produced at that rate in the past and feeling that the video looked choppy. I can’t say that I’m objective, but the videos I watched looked slightly choppy as well. Have a look and see what you think at www.espn.com.
Of course, the big takeaway might just be that ESPN is telling us that Joe Sixpacks far and wide can successfully receive streams of 800 kbps, and they should certainly know. As always, though it’s unlikely that you’re a direct competitor to ESPN, folks who watch their videos and yours compare the two, whether tacitly or unconsciously. If you’re still at 320×240 @ 200 kbps, you’re going to look like the Tampa Bay Rays (er, scratch that) or Arizona Cardinals (er, scratch that) or Detroit Lions (there’s a keeper) by comparison.