The downside of filming with DSLR cameras is that your file sizes can sometimes be huge. To help you reduce those file sizes and save your valuable storage space, I’ve put together this guide on how to compress DSLR videos without sacrificing quality.
So how do you compress DSLR videos without losing quality? The best way to compress your DSLR videos without a noticeable reduction in quality is to use the video compression software Handbrake. Handbrake uses GPU accelerated video encoding to recompress your files and reduce the file size. However, it isn’t perfect, and there may be a very small reduction in quality, but this will be largely unnoticeable.
I’ll explain exactly how to compress DSLR videos using Handbrake later in this guide. But first, there are a few important points you should know about video compression.
Can You Compress DSLR Videos Without Losing Quality?
First, let’s clear something up: it’s not possible to compress your DSLR videos without losing any quality whatsoever.
You see, DSLRs already compress their own footage using the H.264 video codec. If they didn’t, file sizes would be ridiculously enormous. The files you import from your camera are, therefore, already compressed. To make them even smaller, you have to recompress them with your codec of choice using your computer.
And while it might theoretically be possible to do that without changing the quality, the software out there just isn’t capable of it yet. The goal should instead be to maintain as much of the original quality as possible while reducing the file size.
Personally, the rule I live by when it comes to recompression is this: if I can’t see any difference after compression, I’m happy. A very minor reduction in quality won’t be noticeable to the untrained eye and is perfectly fine for most purposes.
But is the trade-off worth it? Let’s find out.
Benefits of Compressing DSLR Video Files
There are lots of reasons you might want to compress your DSLR videos, despite the teeny-tiny reduction in quality it can cause. Here are some of the main benefits:
- Save storage space – when you compress your files, the file size becomes smaller. This means they’ll take up less storage space in your hard drive.
- Faster uploads – if you’re uploading your footage to cloud storage or a video hosting platform like YouTube or video, smaller file sizes are usually preferred as it takes less time to upload them.
- Less data-intensive uploads – as the files are smaller, you also have to transfer less data to upload them. If you’re on a limited internet package and don’t have unlimited upload data, it might be worth compressing your videos
- Happy clients – if you’re a professional videographer, editor, or filmmaker, your clients will probably appreciate smaller video files.
Alright, now you know why you might want to compress your DSLR videos, let’s talk about how to do it.
Compress DSLR Videos Using Handbrake
Handbrake is probably the best video transcoder on the market. It’s open-source, multi-platform, able to convert videos to pretty much any format and can compress videos with little to no reduction in quality. But here’s the best part – it’s totally free.
Here’s how to compress your DSLR videos using Handbrake, step by step.
Step 1: Download the app
The first thing you’ll need to do is download and install the app on your computer. To do so, visit this page, click the download button, then run it. Follow the installation instructions to set it up, then open the program.
Step 2: Find your video file
Next, you’ll need to import your uncompressed DSLR video file. To do so click on ‘Source’ in the top left of the Handbrake window, then click ‘open file’. Find your DSLR video file on your computer and click ok.
We might as well name our new, compressed file while we’re at it. On the main screen, next to where it says ‘destination file’, click browse and type in the name you want for your new, compressed footage. I like to name it the same as the original file and add [COMPRESSED] to the end to avoid confusion.
Step 3: Change your compression settings
This is the most important step, we’re going to change a few of the settings to optimize the compression of the DSLR video file.
The first thing you’ll want to make sure is that the format is set to MP4 and that the dimensions/resolution is the same as your source file.
Click the ‘video’ tab and change the frame rate to match your source footage. You can find out what your frame rate is in the properties of your original DSLR video file if you’re not sure. After that, make sure the video encoder is set to H.264.
You should also see a ‘constant quality’ scale that slides to the left and the right. You can use this to adjust the quality. The further to the right, the higher the video quality will be, and the larger the file size will be. Moving it to the left has the opposite effect. I’d recommend leaving it in the default position, but you can experiment to find the perfect settings for you.
You can also tweak the preset speed’ under ‘encoder options’. The ‘very slow’ setting will produce the smallest file size but will take a very long time to encode, I’d recommend choosing this setting.
On the audio tab, change the bitrate to 128, then go back to the summary tab. You can also experiment with ticking the box that says ‘web optimized’, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Just click start and wait for it to finish compressing
Once Handbrake has finished compressing the video, it should be as much as 10 times smaller as the original file, depending on the settings you used.
You can check the new size by right-clicking both files and clicking ‘properties’, then comparing the file sizes. To compare the quality, just open both files side by side in your video player of choice and see if you can tell the difference. I’d recommend looking at scenes with lots of detail, like waves or leaves, as it’s easier to see quality differences.
If the file is still too large, or if the quality isn’t good enough, try compressing the original file again with different settings (change the constant quality and preset speed). Experiment until you find something that works for you.
Other apps like Handbrake
I’d definitely recommend using Handbrake, but it’s not the only program out there that can help you with video compression. There are lots of other apps like Handbrake, such as:
Plus a few others. I can’t vouch for any of these compressors as I haven’t tried them; I haven’t needed to. Handbrake is widely regarded as the best free video compressor tool out there, but if for some reason you can’t use it, FFmpeg is probably the next best choice.
Alternatives to DSLR Video Compression
If you’re a total quality purist, and even the slightest reduction in video clarity is too much to bear, it’s probably better that you don’t recompress your DSLR video files at all.
Instead, there are other ways to get around the problems caused by large file sizes. For example, you could try using a cloud storage solution to store your video files so that you don’t have to worry about running out of space on your hard drive.
You could also try filming at a lower frame rate, as this can reduce file sizes without reducing quality, as long as you don’t drop below 24 fps.
That concludes this guide on how to compress DSLR videos without losing quality. For more great tips about video production, make sure you check out our other articles.
And if you have any questions, let us know in the comments. Good luck!