What do you guys think about replacing WMV with H.264

When our first site launched back in 2002, WMV was state of the art. Now, however, it’s an old format that doesn’t play well on non-Windows devices and compresses poorly.



So I was wondering what issues you guys would have if we dropped WMV. And before you say “wait, the biggest files are WMV so they’re the highest quality”, be aware that file size and file quality are two different things.



Specifically, our 640×480 H.264 files are 3-4 times smaller than our DVD resolution WMV, but they’re comparable in quality (both formats exhibit their own compression artifacts).



Are there other reasons you like WMV? Does H.264 not play as well for you?



I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

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55 Responses to “What do you guys think about replacing WMV with H.264”

  1. ropeadope Says:

    Hi Josh,

    I’ve been downloading the H.264 encoded files exclusively for a good couple of years now. I no longer download as many files as I once did, but when I do download, it’s always H.264. Personally, I wouldn’t mourn the loss of the wmv option.

  2. rj Says:

    Ditto!!

  3. Shawn Says:

    WMV has always looked smoother than H.264 on this site IOM.I’m not a video editor or a proficient encoder,and I use Windows 7, so my opinion may not matter.I have downloaded MP4/H.264 on other sites in HD and looks great.Is there a way to up the bit rate of H.264 a bit and then do away with WMV? VB would still have some bandwidth savings,which I suppose is the reason they are proposing this with their taxed servers.

  4. simonsen Says:

    I agree with what Shawn said. Up the quality on the H264 a little bit and we will not cry about loosing WMV.

  5. J-Man Says:

    Been a fan H.264 since I’d join VB. I can’t tell the difference between WMV and H.264. Smaller files is a plus for me. If WMV bites the dust, I say improve the quality of the encoding for H.264, say 800×600 or HD? Also, notice scenes get cut a tad short in H.264, but you find the rest on the next scene. Minor annoyance, but still plays on all of my devices.

  6. xtcbyme Says:

    I think it would be fine with the following caveats: 1) provide an in between file size better than iphone but not DVD and 2) have very clear instructions for those users who might not have Quicktime or VLC or some other H.264 player readily on hand. I think the H.264 format is great, I use it almost exclusively on my MAC and PC systems for video files.

  7. Boki Says:

    Hi Josh, I know a lot about video editting, and I can tell you that as mentioned above you can up the bit rate of the h.264 video formats. Ideal would be 854×480 which is true Widescreen and it works great on a lot of the devices without leaving black bars on the side. Rifgt now WMV does look smoother. So yah, consider increasing bit rate and size to 854×480. Also for newer videos on the site, h.264 will be fine, and same goes for newer HD content that you’re planning to bring out soon. You can always leave WMV option on the older videos from. Hope this helps.

  8. josh Says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    The native source resolution of most DVDs is 640×480, so we’re stuck with that resolution (barring HD, of course).

    But we can definitely add new bitrates, like something higher or in between the current two H.264 resolutions.

  9. asdf Says:

    I would totally appreciate that. H264 saves your and our bandwith, download times, hard disk space etc. and grants a much better quality when done right.
    BUT you should offer an additional option with increased bitrate and use of H264-main-profile encoding features. Also, with H264 you can get rid of the aspect ratio issues with many of the WMVs.
    The current H264-option has only 15 frames per second, sometimes a lower resolution and propably only uses H264-baseline features. The quality difference to WMV is clearly visible. So replacing WMV with the current H264-settings should not be an option.

  10. Taric Says:

    I don’t touch the .wmv, and never plan to. Something like H.264 with a mid-range size would definitely interest me.

  11. Chernobog Says:

    wmv looks better than the H264 option on this site.

    Increase the bitrate for the H264-option so it matches (or betters) the wmv files and I will switch.

  12. garbman Says:

    With the crap for content these days who the hell cares.

  13. Microphone Says:

    As long as the same ‘Quality’ options are available, the format isn’t important.

    I am not just talking about resolution. The quality of the WMV when compared to equal H264 video seems to be better. This might be due to Windows Media Player or Windows itself, but there is a clear difference between them at the moment.

  14. Sam M Says:

    I had discussed this with one of the encoders there by email about a year ago. He agreed that the wmv files were the highest quality so obviously that would need to be improved on H264. I would prefer H264 but also like to play these videos on my big screen tv via apple tv but the current H264 files do not allow that. I download the wmv and then re-encode them as m4v that reduces the size and allows them to be played. That is a key for me, a much higher quality version I can play on my apple tv. Maybe multiple versions of H264 like you have multiple wmv now. Would love not to have to use handbrake on each file I download

  15. passerby Says:

    Isn’t the native DVD resolution 720×480 (US/NTSC) or 720×576 (EU/PAL) and definitely not 640×480? Back when I was a member the WMV files were 720×480 pixels and I had to fix the aspect ratio of each file with a program called “wmvarchanger”, after which they looked fine. Haven’t been a member for a while, but might be tempted go come back if the HD videos start coming. As far as the format goes, I like H264, _if_ the quality is good enough for TV (i.e. not noticeably worse than the source DVD.)

  16. rawxxx54 Says:

    Like some others, I download the WMV and re-encode as H.264 due to higher resolution and higher bit rate and would love not to have to do this but you need to upgrade your existing H.264 files.

    thanks for seeking user input!

  17. boeber Says:

    IF files are going to be smaller then go for it. Otherwise its a big NO

  18. josh Says:

    What I’m hearing from you guys is: cool to get rid of WMV, but make a higher bitrate H.264 that plays on TVs. I thought our current hi res H.264 played on TVs, but I can check that.

    asdf: where did you get 15 fps? The videos should have the same framerate as the source, usually 30 fps (or 29.997 fps if you want to geek out :) ).

    passerby: DVDs are 720×480 on TVs, but TV pixel aspect ratios are wider than computer monitor aspect ratio. For the first year or so we had DVD resolution, I didn’t know that and incorrectly encoded the videos at 720×480 rather than 640×480.

  19. passerby Says:

    Well personally I have a PC hooked up to a 1080p TV screen via HDMI so anything that plays on the PC plays on the TV. (Or alternatively I could use a USB hard disk connected to a Blu-ray player which is able to decode the most common media formats, including h.264, wmv, xvid etc.)
    My concern was about picture quality and if that can be achieved with reduced file sizes, I’m for it.
    About the resolution: I had thought the choice to preserve the original 720 horizontal pixels was deliberate. Especially if the source material is anamorphic widescreen, forcing it to 640×480 would severely reduce the quality and introduce unnecessary black bars at the top and bottom.

  20. Santa Says:

    WMV is not needed.

    HOWEVER! You should increase bitrate of h264 encoded videos to 2k and use better compression settings.

    cheers

  21. Chris Says:

    The WMV files on videobox actually are that big because they are encoded with the very old WMV2/8 codecs from microsoft and not WMV3/9 (VC-1). You can improve compressibility by a lot if you switch to WMV9/VC-1 (you need Microsoft Expression Encoder 3 or 4 for that). With Expression Encoder you can also go all out and use your new HD sources for great VC-1 encodes. Still, the current WMV encodes are looking really good, because there´s basically no filtering at all.

    Please do not remove WMV and replace them with lower quality H.264 encodes just to save on file size. The current H.264 encodes are looking heavily noise filtered and extremely low bitrate.

    And the native resoution of NTSC DVDs is 720×480 (MPEG2) not 640×480. Like passerby already said, you´re actually losing a bit on quality if you encode to 640×480.

  22. Boki Says:

    Also, when encoding to h.264 720×480 resolution can be changed to 854×480 which will allow the full widescreen playback without leaving black bars on the widescreen TVs and monitors, image does get stretched a bit but it is barely noticable, also I’ve noticed with some DVDs there are black lines visible sometime on bottom/top or left/right, when encoding the videos to h.264 in the future depending which software and hardware you guys use there should be option to crop the image so please try and play around with some settings, the outcome can be surprising, I’ve done this with some of my videos and they look amazing, I can post some settings that I’m using if you like just to get an idea!!! For streaming to TV I stream my videos through PS3 or sometime xbox360 and h.264 works with no issues at all on both!!

  23. B. Rubble Says:

    i think you should listen to Chris up there as he sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.

    one of the things i like about VB is the many DL and viewing options – currently at 5 diff sizes per scene compared to that Z site that only offers one AVI file to DL or one Adobe file to stream, which is kind of pathetic…as 99% of people are only going to DL or view 1 file size and i’m guessing that the main cost is not in storage these days but in sending the data over the internet, it seems like continuing to offer several(5+) file sizes would be an easy call, especially if its just an automated process…

    i don’t particularly care if its H.264 or WMV so long as one or a few of the main players like VLC or Media Payer Classic will play it…

  24. landover80 Says:

    h264 for the win

  25. asdf Says:

    josh: for instance, the codec information tool “GSpot” shows 15 fps. also, the player-software “zoom player” can display “listed fps” and “actual fps” during playback. listed fps is constantly 29.997 but actual fps is around 15 (value varies slightly).
    the actual fps values of h264-files from other sources or your wmv-files equal the listed 29,997 fps or are at least considerably closer.

  26. deadip Says:

    I use Windows Media Player to play back all of the DVD Videos I download from all the Sites I belong to. So, I’m NOT in favor of doing away with WMV since that is the Format I have always downloaded from here. I also do NOT wish to clutter my Hard Drives with other Video Player Programs.

    The only way I would ever consider NOT using Windows Media Player and stop downloading WMV Files is if any of you, know of a Player Program, that acts exactly like a VCR.

    This is what I’m looking for in a Player other than Windows Media Player. In Playback Mode when you hit the or grab the You can still see the Video Playback, but in FF or as fast as you are moving the Slider with your Mouse.

    The only Player Program I have seen do this, is PowerPlay, that you sometimes get, when you buy a new DVD or CD Burner Combo for your Computer. V-L-C Player, QuickTime, RealPlayer, Media Player Classic, and even Windows Media Player doesn’t do this feature I’ve been searching for. The only other player, that did this feature was called XMingPlayer and it only played back MPG Files.

    Another reason I use Windows Media Player is sometimes the Video you are playing back is very dark. Windows Media Player allows Video Controls of Brightness, Contrast, Hue, and Color, that you can set to lighten the Video up with and see better what is going on in the Video.

  27. ropeadope Says:

    @ deadip – The FLV player will allow you to view the video playback without distortion as you move the slider across (forward and backward) the screen. This is my preferred player for mp4 (H.264) and flv files. I think this is (at least in part) a function of your computer hardware. For example, on my ancient computer, the FLV player does this operation perfectly, but the VLC player yields distorted playback. On my new computer (better cpu, memory, video card), both the FLV and VLC players perform the task flawlessly.

  28. stook Says:

    I think VB has really slipped at this point in terms of video download quality. I am currently a member of 2 other sites as well, both of which offer dramatically superior download quality. One site offers up to 6k bitrates, the other site offers up to 12k bitrates. The video quality differences between these sites and VB are stark to say the least. This is the future. Bandwidth is widely available and storage space is cheap as hell (bought another 2tb drive for $70 last week).

    My experience has been that once you get high quality content it is very difficult to go back. I have honestly considered canceling my membership after several years here because of this. The only thing holding me back is the sheer volume of content.

    I could really care less which format you offer but given the choice I prefer the smallest size, highest encode quality possible.

  29. Sam M Says:

    I would have to agree the overall video quality could be improved. The H264 for sure. Smaller file size is nice and very important to some users and smaller files should be an option. Others don’t mind adding another 2TB external drive and would prefer the highest quality available. Regardless of the format there should be at least one option with a higher quality image than is currently available. Hopefully the HD content whenever it becomes available will not have this issue.

  30. Bronty Says:

    WMV has no place in this “post PC” world of ours. :-)

    I vote get rid of it. I haven’t used it in ages, and the file sizes are pointlessly huge. I download the .mp4 files and watch them on my computer using VLC media player. Works perfectly. (My computer runs XP, so no I am not totally post-PC yet. One step at a time, I guess.)

  31. hobo123 Says:

    I agree, the WMV’s here always look better than the h.264. The h.264 looks way too compressed and you lose quite a bit of detail. I’m fine with going to h.264, but you need to double or triple the bitrate for the highest quality downloads.

  32. Ryan Smith Says:

    The wmvs are much bigger files but i can easily tell the difference in quality over the h.264 files.

  33. Shawn Says:

    I posted earlier in the thread but I have to throw a curve ball,how about becoming the most cutting edge site around with WebM/VP8 files. Google would probably cut VB incentive checks just to promote their pet project.

  34. chad Says:

    hello,

    i was once a member here a long time ago but dropped the site cause of the video quality. i agree with what most people are saying. just post the highest quality version that you can. who cares about file size.( i have used all the media players and windows 7 media player will play all media with the right codecs.)hard drives are cheap and the tight wads will get over it.

    bottom line after you start watching hd porn smallest being 1280X720 is pretty tough going back to standard 680X420 or whatever.

    this site was great when i watched all my vids on an old tube monitor(cmt) monitor but when i switched to a flat screen high pixel monitor the vids look like shit, plus there the size of a post stamp.

    so if you guys have some decent hd quality i would love to join this site agin.

    thanks,

    cr

  35. Frank Says:

    DVD quality H.264/AVC High Profile encoded files instead of “DVD resolution” WMVs would be great.

  36. Chernobog Says:

    What worries me is that the people in charge seem to have no clue what so ever about video encoding.

    The initial question is a great example of this.

  37. B. Rubble Says:

    i think the key is value, as in video quality divided by filesize…some VB users may have unlimited bandwidth but VB still has to pay for it on their side, which effects all of us…i don’t care if its WMV, H.264, MP4, whatever as i’ll get a program that will play it…

  38. Judder Says:

    It had never occurred to me that the h.264 versions were also 640×480, despite it being in plain sight in front of me!

    Anyway, the obvious answer here is to test it empirically. I have selected a scene – A Perverted Point Of View #3, Scene 6 (with the fabulous Gauge!). This is a fairly recent encoding, so tells us what we’re looking at right now. Plus Gauge is usually energetic and she has curves, so it’s a fair test in that regard.

    I have downloaded it WMV, and am now downloading it in h.264.

    I shall, reluctantly I assure you, watch both versions and report back.

  39. Judder Says:

    OK – the very short version: Current h.264 lacks detail. It’s incredibly impressive for a quarter of the size, but I’d take a little more detail and a third of the size as a preference for a sweet spot.

    Overall, if your strategy is h.264, then that’s fine by me. But please do up the quality a little on your current h.264 encodes – the difference is small but noticeable.

    As is the fact that the WMV is actually 720×480, not 640×480. But otherwise, it was fine.

    (Oh, and the WMV has a title metadata item, the h.264 doesn’t. A teensy niggle, but it does make for nicer playlist entries in some software!)

  40. Pleasure123 Says:

    I always download in H.264 as the size is smaller and the quality is better. Also more players can playback in h.264 format as it is a popular format. I would also like to see a choice of HD for some of the videos and a way to find the HD videos.

  41. ve5partine Says:

    If the site were upgraded with this feature I would be very very happy, especially if this meant quality improvement due to improved encoding and/or resolutions. HD when available would also would be really nice. I really like this idea as h.264 really plays nice with a wide range of devices too.

  42. Hodgepodge Says:

    Two questions: 1) What’s H.264. 2) You’ve never listened to your customers before, why would you start now?

  43. Steve Says:

    Hey Guys…

    VB 3.0…Not Running (Why…INFOS???)
    HD Content…Not Running(WHY…I know like always technical Issues, maybe you shuold TEST these and then anounce them)

    but you already startng up new things:
    like replacing WMV…roku app…flow mode…

    maybe you should focus on one thing after another instead creating new construction sites.

    thats my 2cents…greets from Germany
    Steve

  44. Jim Says:

    I have never had problems with WMV files and I love the high quality WMV DVD encodings on your site. I have signed up to your site, because you provide the highest quality WMV encodings and I don´t have to buy DVDs again, because they look so good.

    Please don´t remove them and replace them with low quality H.264 encodings. I think that would be a major upset to a lot of your users.

  45. Bosco Password Says:

    There’s no reason to get rid of the WMV DVD seeing as it’s the highest and best quality the site offers. The H.264’s are nowhere near the same quality.

  46. zenemos Says:

    I don’t care about the particular format so much, but I do have one concern:
    Will there still be the custom clip download feature with H.264?
    I live in a rural area where I can’t get really high-speed internet. My poor connection speed means that streaming never really works well for me, and I like to download anyhow. Due to my slow download speeds I usually don’t download whole files unless I really like the scene (plus I like to be able to cut out the often pointless early parts of a scene such as plot or interviews or talking). In other words, I often use the custom clip feature to download certain parts of a movie, and it always does so in .wmv for me (I’m not sure if you can custom download in other formats, I’ve never seen an option to do so). If you change to H.264 will this feature go away?
    If it does, you’ve lost me, if not then I’m cool with it.
    This wouldn’t be an issue for me if I had the kind of awesome connection speeds a lot of the other members probably have, but that’s not reality for me:(

  47. Roland Says:

    please switch over to h.264 – so i can watch VB-files on my tv without problems. an PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE: release 16:9 videos!

  48. dgporn Says:

    I prefer WMV but it seems I’m alone with my reasoning.

    Here’s the thing. I often do a quick edit of the videos with Windows Live Movie Maker which literally takes only a few minutes because no recompression is done with wmv files. Unfortunately and not surprisingly it doesn’t handle H.24 format as efficiently and even crashes sometimes.

    Needless to say video quality always comes first.

  49. t2m Says:

    The WMV video quality seems slightly better, but the vastly smaller file size of H.264 more than makes up for it. I’ve been H.264 exclusive for some time now.

  50. MFer Says:

    I download both, although I have been downloading more H.264 files recently. When I play them on my original XBox using XBMC, the WMV files work much better than the H.264 files. When hooking up a USB hard drive to my Roku box, the H.264 files are a must. (I just added the alpha Roku channel, so we’ll see how that works.) In short, both are good, for different reasons.

  51. Tyler Says:

    You should remove WMV High, because it´s completely unnecessary and keep WMV DVD (best quality) and H.264 (OK quality, small file size).

    That way, everyone who posted comments in here would be completely satisfied.

    Like several people already suggested, Videobox should always strife for the best quality and content. File size is only important when you´re on a mobile device or have a rather bad connection. Providing only average quality would upset a lot of people, because they expect DVD-quality on SD releases and HD quality on 720p/1080p releases.

  52. Steven Says:

    H.264 is all well and good but include various formats. Not a fan of WMV so would be glad to see it replaced but not with MP4 – Windows Media Player, PowerDVD and Winamp don’t play it (hate Quicktime) so why not have file formats such as AVI (Videosz use it – great quality)

  53. Alicia Says:

    Just signed up to your site, because I couldn´t find another site with such a huge amount of great DVDs and high quality WMV DVD files.

    Especially love the Diabolic and Vince Voyeur stuff. You have the best quality of them all. I don´t need the low quality H.264 at all, because the quality isn´t nearly as good as WMV and I have never had problems with WMV. Even my NAS device plays them perfectly.

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  54. ck Says:

    For me, wmv works a lot better than H.264. Unless you improve the quality and smoothness of H.264, please don’t take away wmv

  55. TZG Says:

    I would simply quit.
    Its cause I like editing (cutting) the clips, to remove the stuff I dont like. Cause there are no good editors for H.264 its no option for me.
    Also the files sometimes dont play fine.