ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

My New Little Youtube Buddy, Format 18 —

So some time ago, over a year ago really, it was announced that YouTube, that paragon of unbelievably shitty video and instantaneous access, that delightful example of “if you can’t be best be first” and “people will suck down anything if it’s free and quick”, was going to start improving the quality of the video on their site. Basically, they were going to have alternate higher-quality encodings and go back and make stuff look good, and so on.

Over time, this has trickled in and out of stuff, and I kind of forgot about it for a long while, but let me tell you, it’s starting to pay off.

I’m shooting in High Definition. I shot a music video in high-def and a documentary in high-def and let me tell you of the personal pain felt when I go to youtube versions of stuff I shot and it looks like a courtroom sketch artist got drunk and tried to animate my work using crayons. The widescreen gets squashed and the motion looks like poop and the sound is generally OK but only until you notice again how horrible the video is and then you kind of flip to another browser tab to ignore the travesty you’re seeing.

It turns out the option for turning on higher quality in a YouTube video is adding a “&fmt=18” at the end of the URL for a YouTube video. This says, basically “please to be not the sucking”.

I give you my MC Frontalot Music Video as a clear example:



The differences are obvious and intense: better motion, use of widescreen, sharper images. Obviously it helps if the source video is not sucktastic, and in this case I know it’s not sucktastic. I do believe I will never link to a youtube video without &fmt=18 attached to the end ever again.

It’s nice when, in a rare display of the world working out, the dominant crappy thing becomes optionally less crappy.

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  1. oh god thank you.

    too bad the videos load slower… not only is the payload larger, but it isn’t as well-distributed.

  2. James says:

    Note to self: Remember to disable the YouTube HD script when comparing quality.

  3. Jim Leonard says:

    Vimeo allows *real* HD uploads and playback. You should look into it. You get a cap of 500MB a week, but that’s easily enough for 10 minutes or more of 1280×720 if you encode it right.

  4. Chris E says:

    Sweet. Thanks for the tip. I’m going to start appending that to every YouTube video I watch.

  5. Chris E says:

    Sweet. Thanks for the tip. I’m going to start appending that to every YouTube video I watch.

  6. GregM says:

    Under what circumstances does htis work? I’ve tried uploading my film trailer at

    and it looks the same (lousy) whether &fmt=18 is appended or not. (The original source video is definitely high-quality, so that’s not an issue.)