Here to start? Here are a few of the aesthetic and technical solutions for making your own Small-File EcoMedia!
In this years Small File Media Festival we are encouraging the use of obsolete technologies. Upwards of 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste is generated globally each year and that number is only going to climb higher in the face of planned obsolescence.
Old cell phones, webcams, mini-dv video cameras, scanners and and point-and-shoot cameras are a great place to start.
Not a lens-based media artist? Great! We encourage the submission of any moving image that can be displayed on a screen, from GIF art to demoscene. Interested in submitting something and don’t know where it fits in? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will let you know.
SHOOT FOR SMALL FILES
Certain techniques are more suited for small file clarity. Try techniques that reduce the amount of information captured, this will lead to less compression further down the road. Examples of this are recording and editing in mono, using minimal camera movements or a tripod to capture a still shot (static backgrounds result in the overlap of data form frame to frame) and using a shallow depth of field.
STILLS AND SOUNDS
Be creative with stills and sound! Entries don’t need to be video files but we do need to be able to play them somehow – contact us! How far can you stretch a medium?
Below are a few stills from the experimental short film La Jetée (1962) by Chris Marker. In this science fiction piece a post apocalyptic narrative unfolds via photomontage, music, voiceover and one brief instance of moving images. Inspired? Intrigued? What can you do in five megabytes or less using only still images?
According to Wikipedia, “The demoscene is an international computer art subculture focused on producing demos: self-contained, sometimes extremely small, computer programs that produce audio-visual presentations.”
We encourage you to defy planned obsolescence and come up with your own demoscene projects on vintage and outdated hardware! Have a concept and aren’t sure how we can pull it off? E-mail us at email@example.com
Watch Joey Malbon’s lecture on the Demoscene
Watch Radek Przedpelski’s lecture on Datamoshing
You’ve created your small file masterpiece but now what? Head over to our technical solutions page and discover how compress those bits!
Dave Lojek’s Compression Guide
When I discovered your call, I was fascinated and intrigued by the concept of limiting the file size of short works to 5 MB. I understood why you wanted that, but was it even possible to have anything remotely acceptable and discernable in an age of exploding file sizes, where the poster png and jpg files would be bigger than the whole film file? The answer is yes.
I contacted my friend and encoding / compression expert Patrick, who saw this limit as a challenge, too.
In the last few weeks he experimented with codecs, compressions, filters and produced a few 5 MB versions of my very short films (each under 5 minutes), which I would be honored to have presented in the program of your festival. A very small Bear Trophy would be a wonderful addition for my collection.
We took the uncompressed master files and used the encoding Software “Hybrid” on an old 2012 laptop in Linux, with the HEVC codec, some divx encoder, a quarter of the frame size, and several measures of filters both for sound and video artifact softening. We give you mp4 and mkv containers. After some excruciating experimentation (and battle against the inner perfectionist) each of the films was compressed in approx. ONE HOUR.
We tested the resulting small files on both Windows 7, Windows 10 and Linux in VLC and MPC-BE players and on a new Samsung Smartphone. The films are now very very small. We are not sure they will stream on vimeo or youtube.
640x360p is the resolution for the 16:9 films, and 640x264p for the cinemascope ratio 2.4 : 1. We use 25fps frame rates in Europe.
The player of google drive can display them, but they look nicer in the offline software players I mentioned above. When you make your forums and presentations, I suggest you take the MPC-BE player.
ANY VIDEO CONVERTER
Any Video Converter is another program with a free option that also allows you to compress a video into a super small size. These steps enabled us to take the same video file as above and compress it to 1mb per minute. Any Video Converter is one of the best programs for keeping image quality while reducing CPU workload
First, drag and drop the video you wish to compress into the task window and under profile and select customized AVI Video.
Next, click on the AVI icon to change the video compression settings.
The settings should be as follows:
Once these are set click OK to go back to the main window.
Once the settings are correct click CONVERT NOW and your video will be compressed to a Super Small File Size. If your video isn’t shrinking properly try reducing the dimensions of the image even further.
Because we are doing strange things to video files they may not open in all video players. We found that VLC Player is able to play most video formats.
Handbrake is a free, open source utility that allows you to compress a video file into an incredibly small video file.
Download Handbrake here:
Don’t know where to start? EngageMedia offers a tutorial into the basics of handbrake here.
Feeling confident and want to jump right in? Here are a few settings we used to compress this video of the short film The Hotel (2018) from a 147 MB, 1080P video file with lossless audio to a 2.9 MB, 480P video with 48KBPS MP3 audio. The video was shot using a smart phone.
Below is a side by side comparison showing the stills from both the compressed and uncompressed version of The Hotel.
Reducing the Frame Rate
Clint Enns writes, “For regular HD videos with a standard resolution, bitrate is between 2,500 to 4,000 kbps. I can imagine it being much, much lower. Lowering the bit rate substantially would produce some interesting results. Also, making videos that are ~14 fps and really small like 352 x 240 or even smaller might be interesting.”
An example of this can be seen in Putting Yourself Out There
Handbrake has the ability to reduce frame-rates and this can also be done in most video editing software as well. Here we shrunk down a 5:25 long short film Gristle (2016) from a 183 MB, 24FPS 1080P video file with lossless AAC audio to a 5.3 MB, 15FPS 720X480 video file with 48KBPS MP3 audio. The video was shot using a DSLR camera.
The following Handbrake setting were used to achieve this:
Here is a side by side comparison of stills from the compressed and uncompressed versions of Gristle.
Radek Przedpelski gives an overview on how to use Handbrake
Avidemux is another open-source video editing and compression tool that is free to use.
AVIDMUX can be used to compress video files to under 1MB a minute. This 55 second long video file was compressed to under a megabyte with a resolution of 720X404 from a 148mb 1080P video file. The following settings were used to achieve this.
Set VIDEO OUTPUT to Mpeg4 AVC (x264)
Set AUDIO OUTPUT to AAC (lav)
Ser OUTPUT FORMAT to MP4 Muxer
Next, on the main panel under the VIDEO OUTPUT > CONFIGURE set the ENCODING MODE to AVERAGE BITRATE (Two Pass) and set the AVERAGE BITRATE to 75 KBIT/S
Next, on the main panel under AUDIO OUTPUT > CONFIGURE set the Bitrate to 56
Lastly to resize the video dimensions you have to apply a FILTER under OUTPUT FORMAT > CONFIGURE on the main panel. A new window will pop up. Select TRANSFORM and a series of video filters will populate. Scroll down to VERTICAL and drag it over to ACTIVE FILTERS. Lastly, double click on swsResize and the following panel will open.
Under Resize Dimensions set the width – height will automatically be adjusts to maintain the original aspect ratio – for example this video was set to 720 pixels wide and the height was automatically set to 404.
Lastly click the SAVE icon and choose where you would like to save the file. Your video will then be compressed to a super small size!
Watch Part 2 of Radek Przedpełski’s Avidmux tutorial
Radek Przedpelski takes a deep dive into the use of FFMPEG for Small Files!