The easiest way to improve streaming quality

It sounds obvious, but good streaming quality starts with good video quality. While it’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspects and minutia of compression, sometimes improving your quality is much, much easier.

I was approached by a client unhappy with the smoothness of their video, which I resolved by adjusting some compression-related settings. Looking at the video, however, it appeared faded, which was surprising because the overall quality of the shoot – camera positioning and framing, audio levels and quality, background and clothing, was very good.

Now, compression (in this case Windows Media) can cause some fading, but typically you can correct for this by boosting contrast and saturation. That’s what I did in the upper and lower shots on the left, before encoding back to Windows Media format for comparing the video to the original.

As you can see, the difference was quite striking, and it took all of about two or three minutes to produce in Sorenson Squeeze, which was the client’s encoding program of choice. Like most encoding programs, Squeeze has brightness, contrast and color adjustments that you can easily add to your compression parameters.

When possible, I prefer to perform this work in my video editor, usually either Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro, so I can take advantage of their waveform monitors. Truth be told, however, with minor adjustments like these, simply eyeballing it, and working without these tools will still deliver a significant quality boost. 

Overall, if your video looks a bit faded after compression, usually some tweaks to contrast, brightness and/or color saturation can dramatically improve post compression appearance in a matter of minutes.

About Jan Ozer

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I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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