I guess I owe Vimeo an apology. Come to find out the problem with the video wasn’t their doing after all.
Sorry Vimeo. (Your bedside manner still kind of stinks, though.)
It’s pretty funny to me that the only really human response I was able to get from anyone didn’t come from either of the websites I’ve spent years paying for, but from someone affiliated with a site I’ve never given a dime. A dude named Falcon (is that a great name or what?) told me — again — that my best bet would probably be to re-encode my video as an MP4 file, but he said HandBrake would probably take care of that without any noticeable dip in quality.
He was right. And after converting my WMV file into an MP4, I discovered those same stuttering issues were present in the very same spots they showed up on Vimeo.
I thought if I re-encoded each video segment from scratch on Vegas and made them all MP4s I could just stitch those files together to make one big MP4 file and we’d all live happily ever after. I spent two days doing that, only to learn Vegas is incapable of spitting out a reasonable-looking MP4 file. It doesn’t matter how high you set the resolution. The results are unusable. So that was a complete waste of time.
Then I thought Steeper was the culprit. Maybe when it joined all those smaller WMV files together it created a larger file that wasn’t very agreeable to the MPEG-4 codec. If I used HandBrake to re-encode each individual WMV file and then joined all those MP4s together with a program like Avidemux, I assumed I would have a single glitch-free MP4 ready to upload to Vimeo, or Wistia, or wherever I wanted to put it. So I started re-rendering each segment from scratch again — this time as higher quality WMV files to minimize whatever small amount of degradation the re-encoding stage might introduce. The first time around I rendered everything at 640×480 to keep the file sizes down. This time I opted for a frame rate of 1280×720 and doubled the video and audio quality.
It was going pretty well. The occasional stutter was still showing up even in the smaller individual files after I converted them into MP4s, but there weren’t nearly as many of them, and they were pretty unobtrusive. Just when I thought I’d turned a corner, HandBrake decided a few 1280×720 videos weren’t 1280×720 at all because some of the Mini-DV and public domain footage didn’t satisfy those dimensions. There was no way to work around that, which made fusing those MP4 files together impossible, since their aspect ratios no longer matched.
All this for something only twelve people will ever see.
Back to the drawing board again, then. I thought I found another potential solution in the JWPlayer (those are my initials, for crying out loud!). It sounded like just what I needed. You pay ten bucks a month for a bunch of server space and an embeddable player, and they support WMV files. Beautiful. All I need is to be able to upload this file somewhere that will allow me to connect it with an embeddable player, and if I can somehow bypass the re-encoding stage this stuttering issue will no longer exist.
I did a little more reading and found out they re-encode anything you send them as an MP4. Of course they do. For the low price of $2,400 a year you can pay them for “customized video solutions”, but I’m not willing to go that far.
It doesn’t help that no one will tell me what a timestamp overlap is or how to fix it. The best I’ve been able to get in the way of constructive advice is the very useful information that WMV is a shitty format and I should use something else. IT’S ALMOST AS IF I CAN’T RENDER TO ANY OTHER FORMAT AND I’M STUCK WITH THIS ONE.
I would be happy to pay someone to take my WMV file, perform some technological wizardry, and make it into an MP4 file that isn’t buggy. No one seems to have any interest in offering any serious assistance. So I persist, coming up with one idea after another, and each idea leads nowhere.
If I knew this was going to happen, I would have set Sony Vegas on fire, pissed on its charred remains, bought Final Cut Pro, learned how to use it, and saved myself a whole lot of grief. I’d go ahead and do that now if I thought I could re-edit the whole thing from the ground up and render the results as a nice-looking MP4. But I refuse to believe there isn’t some way to pivot around this. If two pieces of something are overlapping, you should be able to pull them apart so they line up the way they’re supposed to. And if there’s nothing wrong with your original file(s), the re-encoding process shouldn’t be fraught with so much difficulty.
One thing’s for sure — however it plays out, I won’t be working on anything video-related for a good long time after this.