Apple is asking video podcasters to increase the quality of their productions and start formatting their videos for HD devices like the Apple TV. The official request was sent out via email to all major producers of video podcasts. Since the launch of the Apple TV (full review here) in March 2007, the device has been selling like hotcakes and subscription numbers are skyrocketing from video podcasts.
Apple TV owners, who don’t necessarily want to spend lots of money in the iTunes Store on content, are gobbling up video podcasts like never before. Even though there currently isn’t any HD quality videos for sale in the iTunes Store, the Apple TV is capable of HD video playback. So several popular video podcast producers, including The Washington Post, TWIT, Revision3, and Vintage Tooncast, have decided to fill the void of HD content by distributing their podcasts in HD or hi-res quality.
More Expensive To Produce HD Video
Why hasn’t everyone started distributing their video podcasts in HD? Money. Producing HD video podcasts requires extra hard drive space (roughly 4 times more). Special cameras and editing software are also required. But the biggest cost for content creators is hosting and distributing these giant video files. The costs involved can be enough to bankrupt your entire production. For example, the iPod Video version of MacBreak episode 63 is 21 MBs. The HD version is 93 MBs. To help alleviate increased HD production costs, many podcasters have reached out to HD television manufacturers like Samsung and Panasonic to get them to sponsor their new HD podcasts.
For video podcasters who are still producing content at 320×240 but want to do something to increase quality, there is an intermediary step before going HD. Podcasters can start by migrating their productions to 640×480, or even 640×360 (letterbox). This way their video files will still be compatible with portable media players like the Zune and iPod. And will also work on the Apple TV. If the material is carefully encoded, it will look as good or better than a typical TV broadcast.
Video Podcast Production Tips
Apple listed the following tips and recommendations in their email to all video podcasters:
- Encode at 640×480 or 640×360. This will look much better than 320×240 on HDTV, and will still port to the iPod. While 720p looks great, they say, it won’t work on an iPod.
- Don’t make two formats for different resolutions – it dilutes the popularity of the podcast and reduces exposure in charts.
- Don’t add letterboxing to make videos to a 4:3 aspect ratio. Leave them at 16:9.
Apple’s Sales Goals For The Apple TV
According to both the Taipei Times and Cnyes.com, Inventec, the Taiwanese vendor Apple selected to manufacture the Apple TV, is drastically increasing production on several Apple products including the iPod, iPhone and especially the Apple TV. Apparently, Apple plans to sell over a million Apple TVs in the US before the American Thanksgiving holiday, and at least another million by Christmas.