YouTube or Vimeo? Which is best for your Short Film?
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YouTube or Vimeo

Note: This post was originally published in November 2012 and has been revised and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

So you created your short film, finished your post production, and you are now ready to post your film online. But where do you upload it?

Some might say it’s easy, upload it as many places possible. I say that’s not such a great idea, at least not for the first stages of your release. You want to try to point all your viewers to the same place, not scatter them around over 2 or 3 places. This way it will be easier to calculate stats, and if all your stats are concentrated, users will see the bigger number of likes, or plays and will be more enticed to press play themselves. After your initial launch push, and start seeing your stats lowering into a steady pace, you can upload your film onto the other platforms to maximize your audience.

The YouTube vs Vimeo Battle

Before starting I would just like to point out that there are no rights or wrongs, there are situations that can be viable for each platform. There are dozens of articles online that repeat the same thing, in our case, we are dealing mostly with artists and short films, so I will focus on these aspects.

First thing you need to think of is your main goals for your film. Are you posting the film as an artist or as a person that makes videos? If your goal is to get as many clicks and views as possible, than perhaps YouTube might be a better resource for you. But be careful, of course everyone wants the most views possible, but you need to differentiate between catering to thousands of random people, or to hundreds that actually care. Vimeo certainly has the smaller market while YouTube reaches over millions, but your audience is much more concentrated in people that are looking for creative films, as for YouTubers usually look for entertaining clips.

Quality Control

High Definition Video: The EscapeWe artists like to see our own work in the highest quality possible. In this, both Vimeo and YouTube have high respectable quality compression which keep your videos to an almost seamless loss. YouTube picked up its game since introducing HD videos, but most of the time the video is played in low 360p for faster rendering at first – with a non-obvious settings pane to turn to highest quality. You can set your player to always get the best quality somewhere in the settings, but let’s face it, your average user will never bother to go there. On the other hand, Vimeo has always put more emphasis on video quality and size, and keeping things simple with an easy to find on/off HD toggle. Loading time was considered to be a bit slower, but since the introduction of the new HTML5 player, loading times are quicker than ever.

Submission Stats

Over the years we have gathered interesting submission stats on Film Shortage, see our infograph on where our featured shorts come from.
Where are the quality shorts?

Ads & Monetization

Ads and Monetization

These days people make an honest living just by monetizing videos online. Living off short films however can be a little more difficult. YouTube offers monetization by placing ads on your videos, which can generate a few bucks if you get thousands of views, however if you are trying to make a name for yourself the monetization can backfire. If you are creating a short film your main target will always be at first short film enthusiasts, which are usually other short filmmaking artists. And artists usually tempt to grunge at interruptions or distractions. – I quickly learned my lesson when I first uploaded the trailer for my short film After The Rain, I monetized the video out of curiosity, but within 3 days I got several comments by viewers saying it was an amazing video, but the ads take some value away from it. I immediately watched my video from an outside perspective and completely agreed, so I removed all ads from my videos (I generated a wealthy 1 cent).

The beauty of Vimeo and the reason for its success is that the videos are ad-free, something that artists love. Vimeo introduced the “Tip Jar” as an un-intrusive way for artist to monetize, instead of making a percentage of revenue on ad clicks like YouTube does, Vimeo gives the viewer a chance to donate directly to the artist any amount they like. It’s hard to see how well the Tip Jar is working out for filmmakers since it is private, but Vimeo’s initiative is an insightful one.

Vimeo now also offers Vimeo on Demand, a platform where you can charge people to rent, or buy your movie. Its easy-to-use tools is reserved for Vimeo Pro members alone, and only holds 10% of the profits leaving you the rest of the 90%. Some great films are currently featured on Vimeo on Demand, but like their Staff Picks, only top-notch movies make the cut.

Aesthetics

We are artists, designers, filmmakers, we constantly examine our surroundings subconsciously and the web is no exception. Vimeo does a great job at keeping their site clean and making your video the largest and most evident part of the page. With no visual distractions and an easy navigation viewers are more likely to watch your film to the very end. YouTube did a nice job at completely redesigning their site a few years ago for a much better user experience, however the amount of information and clutter can be greatly overwhelming. Your eyes wonder constantly through the pop up ads, suggested videos and comments, not to mention everyone’s favorite the “oh-so-lovely” ads before videos.

Aesthetics between Vimeo & YouTube

Vimeo also has, in my opinion, a much prettier video player interface. Although they both have very easy and accessible ways to share and embed videos, a Vimeo video seems much cleaner and more professional embedded on a website, compared to YouTube embeds which are cluttered with options. However, some options can be very useful for short films, like the Closed Captioning [CC] for subtitles, can easily integrate and change languages as your watching, but which is now also available on Vimeo.

Pro

The beauty of no ads on Vimeo does come at a hefty price. Limited to only 500mb of uploads a week, to get the full features you need to sign up to a Plus account (59.95$ a year) or if your a bigger studio, the Pro account at 199$ a year. The Plus and Pro does grant you full features including mobile viewing, access to monetization and full stats, which can be essential for some, YouTube on the other hand offers all of this on their free account.

Conclusion

So what’s the verdict? I’ve always been a big fan of Vimeo ever since I discovered it. I find more related and quality videos for what I enjoy watching, the Vimeo Staff Pick channel is a great place to find awesome videos, including shorts, which I find hard to find on YouTube. What I find much more difficult on Vimeo is actually searching for something, the results hardly ever have anything to do with what you typed, or even writing the title exactly won’t show you what your looking for. So if an external link does not bring you to your video page, there is hardly any chance of people seeing your video.

Without any surprise, YouTube excels in searches, and people stumble on your video by accident and intrigue way more often.

The Plan

What to do if you don’t have a budget for a Plus account?

Still use Vimeo, even though you don’t have all the options, an attractive video presence will give your short more professionalism. Launch your film on Vimeo, point everyone to the same link for the first few weeks, and once your first wave of hits passes, upload your video to YouTube as well, so you have a link for mobile users, and for random searches.

Ultimately the choices come from your needs, so study your situation and choose wisely. Let us know your opinion and experience with either, or any other platforms. Good luck with your launch and don’t forget to submit us your film!

  • http://www.giacomo.sardelli.name/blog/ Giacomo Sardelli

    Hey Marco! Nice to read interesting stuff again on your website. This post is very welcome, as I’m releasing a new video next monday and I was wondering where to publish it.
    I’m going Vimeo, but I was planning to post the full 2K version later on on YouTube, as Vimeo recompress your HD videos to 1280×720 (regular user) or 1920×1080 (plus+pro users).

    Thanks for the hints!

    • admin

      Thank you Giacomo, glad you enjoyed the read and that it was of help to you!
      Best of luck with your new video!

      • http://www.giacomo.sardelli.name/blog/ Giacomo Sardelli

        I have to say that that you were right. I went Vimeo and by day 2 I was featured in the staff picks, which means 10K views (growing) in 6 hours and – most important – lots of comments, likes and email from professional filmmakers. Thanks for your advice!
        Here’s a link to my video: https://vimeo.com/54269169

  • http://Website(optional) Paul

    I think suggesting Vimeo wins on video quality is a bit wrong as YouTubes resolution switching is very smooth. With Vimeo you are forced to choose 720p or 1080p which is very frustrating. The bitrate at 720 on vimeo may be a bit higher so maybe that’s what was being alluded to. Not having your video available for smartphones is a crazy thing to do in this day and age as so much traffic comes from mobile and tablets. I’m not sure what the limitation is on standard Vimeo and mobile versions of videos but that is surely a big reason to either go pro or use YouTube. One thing not mentioned is how frustrating YouTubes content is match thing can be for audio. I’ve had GarageBand samples id’ed as copyright material and had ads forced on YT vids, very annoying! Even when you license a track trying to tell the owners via YT you have the rights can be pretty futile.
    Stereoscopic 3D support on YouTube is very good and nonexistent on Vimeo. 4k video on YT is possible despite being mostly impractical for most average users. Being able to have a custom poster movie for your first folding frame is a small but massive reason to use Vimeo if you are embedding on a site you want to have design control over. The lack of this feature unless you are a partner on YT is very annoying. The privacy and embedding controls are pretty advanced on Vimeo.
    Overall though I do totally agree that Vimeo just has that special something that adds a bit of class to your video and I’m a massive fan and use it on a daily basis.

    • admin

      Hey Paul thank you for your honest opinion and your interesting input. You are right the YouTube resolution switching is smooth, but also seems a little more complicated and harder to find than Vimeo.

      I agree that not having mobile availability is a big negative, but when I launched my short I thought to myself; do I really want people to watch my short on a mobile phone? My answer, and I am sure many filmmakers think the same, was simply no! You do not get the same experience from watching a movie on a small mobile screen, you also lose a lot of audio detail. Again, this is my opinion for when you first launch your film… Aiming for extra views later on (including from mobile) is just fine. But at least the main core of people you aimed this film for has watched your film on a larger screen.

      • http://Website(optional) Byron

        yeah, but you are presupposing that everyone has a large screen… my tablet has higher resolution than my 5 year old laptop… It is also connected to speakers and it is ever so annoying that half the content is not available on android because “artists” have certain views and attitudes.

  • http://erickolelas.wordpress.com Eric Kolelas

    Thanks for this!
    I think I will release my film on Vimeo to start with! :D

    you can check out the trailer here: http://vimeo.com/33811915
    (looking to release it in early April, if all goes to plan)

  • http://Website(optional) Francisco

    I’m the creative director of a new magazine, and it’s the first time we filmed a behind-the-scenes video of one of our editorial shootings. The model it’s an actual Broadway and tv actor (he’s supporting cast, but still) and we want to drive traffic to our magazine for the upcoming issue where the actor will be featured. Is it better to upload the film in Vimeo or Youtube?

    • admin

      Hey Francisco, your case is a little different from short films. As a magazine I say your videos would look more professional on Vimeo, however if your sole purpose is to drive traffic to your magazine then you might get bigger numbers on YouTube.

  • http://Website(optional) Jana Boyko

    Thanks for the amazing review! Very insightful. Would it be possible to get the authors full name? I am completing a marketing project regarding the execution of advertising campaigns. I would like to properly reference this article.

    Thanks!

    • admin

      Hey Jana,
      Of course, it’s Marco Luca. Thank you for the kind compliments,

  • http://Website(optional) Daniel Bull

    I have little experience with YouTube, and I generally use Vimeo, with which I am well satisfied. I do have some issues with Vimeo, at least using the free account. The videos I upload are not mine but originate with a client, although I do edit her videos. She is basically broke, and all the work I do for her is gratis. Having no funds, she is pretty much limited to the free version.

    The client has comparatively little interest in the videos on the Vimeo site per se; rather the videos are all embedded on her Web site. With the free account, there is no way to embed a video without allowing _anyone_ to embed it elsewhere as well. Even more problematic, with the free account you have no control over what happens when the video ends. Vimeo shows a screen that shows choices to watch _all_ other videos you have uploaded. This is definitely not desirable.

    Thanks.

    Maybe I am missing something, but I don’t see any way around these problems without going to Plus. Plus on the other hand offers far more than we need at this time, so we would be using precious resources for only small changes.

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  • http://www.divxfilmeonline.com Maricruz

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I
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  • http://Website(optional) Nick Funnell

    Interesting stuff, but unfortunately you completely missed one absolutely critical point- YouTube’s totally out-of-control flagging & community guideline enforcement policy.

    Anecdotal experience has shown that video producers posting to YT are likely to find themselves persistently and aggressively flagged for completely false or spurious reasons, no matter how uncontroversial their content. There is an ‘appeal this strike’ button, but it usually results in simple confirmation of the strike within minutes.

    The producer will then find him/herself labelled & defamed as a pornographer or producer of unsuitable content (such as graphic violence or ‘hate speech’) in YouTube/Google permanent records. There is no guarantee this information won’t be shared with law enforcement authorities at some point in the future, and only a lengthy legal challenge can alter this status.

    So overall, my advice is to steer well clear of YT.

    • admin

      Thank you Nick, very valid argument and I must say I completely agree

      • http://Website(optional) sergi

        If “anecdotal evidence” — always a great source of facts — was correct, and all short film content on YouTube was “persistently and aggressively flagged”, there would presumably be none to be found on YouTube. Logically, under Nick’s premise, it would all have been flagged away.

        And sorry, but that’s simply not the case, or even close to being correct.

        Nick states that this is “likely” to happen, regardless of how “uncontroversial” the content is, then makes a leap to assume that the film maker is then labeled as some sort of pornographer, on some sort of database with potential legal consequences.

        Are you positive you completely agree with this premise? It’s really not that hard to find content on YouTube that would simply not be there if this were to be the “likely” result of people posting content.

        As regards content flagging on YouTube, nudity and sexually suggestive content often draws flags (though the end result can be as simple as age gating the content). And admittedly, the appeal process can be fairly opaque — you’re not going to get someone on the phone to plead your case to. But considering the amount of content posted to YT hourly, if your content is genuinely uncontroversial, the chances of this happening are not so much “likely” as “infinitesimally small”. Big, big difference.

        Obviously, Vimeo works well as a place to keep a well-presented portfolio of work, and I am sure that new film makers post work there because they believe that that’s what one is “supposed to do” to be taken seriously as a film maker. At the same time, as noted in this article, Vimeo is not the best place for “video discovery”. To be honest, neither is YouTube in the sense that if you just post your video there and fail to make a good job of meta-data (tagging) etc., it’s not like you’re turning on a traffic hose of views.

        However, the reality is that YouTube *is* one of the world’s largest search engines. It is where some people go to look for content (yes, even short films), it reaches places that have probably never heard of Vimeo. It allows for Closed Captioning (and even generates some hit and miss ones automatically) so it is a significant resource for the hard-of-hearing community. Not posting your content on YouTube is effectively turning your back on *some* of an audience who *may* appreciate or enjoy your work. If that’s a trade-off you’re willing to make because “serious film makers *only* post on Vimeo” (or some similar philosophy) well, good luck to you…..

        YouTube is a content delivery platform. For some parts of the world, it’s *the* content delivery platform. Avoiding being on it because of some of the other content on it (cat videos, whatever….) is kind of like saying, “I would never do a documentary on PBS, because the cable company that carries PBS also carries Fox News.” YouTube is basically the cable company. Get over it.

        Not putting your content on YouTube because you believe it’s more likely than not that you’ll be placed on some government watch list for pornographers….. um…. I have no argument that will penetrate that tin foil hat……

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  • http://Website(optional) James

    Another point: YouTube comments often drift into spiteful, diabolical ad hominem tirades whereas the Vimeo community has a much better vibe.

    • Michael Keyser

      Give it time. Once they gain more traction, they’ll have the same ratio of trolls as YouTube, does.

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  • thewinelake

    A bit late to this, but one advantage of Vimeo (or a disadvantage of YouTube) is that Vimeo allows you to modify your content after uploading without changing the URL or losing any comments etc. For me, it means I can quickly upload a rough cut and then refine it without a massive proliferation of interlinked content (“See here for an improved version”).

  • Kasimir Zierl

    heavily biased towards Vimeo though, they seem to win every category in this discussion

  • James Kim

    Awesome. Awesome.

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  • bob

    check out Raging Retards on vimeo

  • Lish Lash

    If Vimeo’s transcoded 1080p bitrate is 20Mbps, then how do you explain the fact that Vimeo’s streaming videos look dark and muddy? I am paying the Vimeo’s premium rate, upload 20Mbps H.264 1080p videos produced by MainConcept’s pro encoder and upgrade each video to 1080p after it is uploaded. Every one of them looks like crap after Vimeo is done transcoding them.

  • http://www.iSaumya.com/ Saumya Majumder

    Beside everything is Vimeo is payable and costly. Unlike YouTube is 100% free.