Enjoying YouTube in High Definition

February 1, 2011, By Christian Cawley

YouTube is the world’s most popular online video site, featuring billions of files from around the world ranging from clips from people’s weddings and births to, sadly, people dying in horrific manner.

Somewhere in between you will find far more interesting and entertaining content such as amateur animations and WROCK not to mention material about various conspiracy theories, Lady Gaga’s latest perfume and pirated TV shows.

Basically, if you can watch it, it’s somewhere on YouTube (unless some powerful copyright lawyers have said otherwise). But if it’s on YouTube, the quality isn’t necessarily going to be great.

Why YouTube uses Standard Definition by Default

By default, videos on YouTube play back at standard definition with mono soundtracks, regardless of how they were uploaded. These days, most of us have some form of HD camera to upload video from and the ability to record audio in stereo (even if we don’t know we’re doing it) so it might come as a surprise to find that these qualities are not replicated in the online playback of your content.

The reason for this is one of bandwidth – there simply isn’t enough of it about for YouTube to make every single HD quality video available by default. However this is obviously going to be a feature that will be used in future, so YouTube have been quite clever, making HD content available if the source material is good enough, but requiring viewers to select the option to view in high definition.

This way the average viewer will select default standard definition video, while others can choose high definition quality video.

Enjoying YouTube in High Definition

There are several ways to enjoy YouTube videos with increased definition, a useful set of tricks that can be added to the URL of the YouTube video in question.

Naturally as described above, increased definition depends on the camera and options used to upload the content, so don’t expect to get full HD from a low resolution file!

As an example, we’ll use this clip from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ETDE0VGJY4, displayed in the normal resolution.

In order to alter the resolution of the image there are several amendments that can be made to the URL.

To display the video above in a higher resolution, a small adjustment should be made to the URL by adding &fmt=6. The URL will then read http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ETDE0VGJY4&fmt=6, with this option used to display the clip in Flash 7 video format.

Increasing the resolution further still can be achieved by adding &fmt=18, with the resulting URL of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ETDE0VGJY4&fmt=18 displaying in H.264 with stereo sound.

Finally, full H.264 720p HD can be achieved with the URL condition &fmt=22, thereby changing the URL to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ETDE0VGJY4&fmt=22; this option features audio at a high rate of 232Kbps.

For the best results with all of these resolutions, take advantage of the full screen option on the YouTube video you are viewing – and use a HD monitor!

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