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How do you set your YouTube thumbnail…again?

According to this seemingly complicated formula, this is how YouTube sets frames in its videos:

X = Video length in sec.Y = X divided by 4 or X/4 in sec.

via How to Set Up The Right Poster Frame in YouTube.

Okay—admittedly, there’s more to it than that—I just cut it down to that for simplicity’s sake…maybe I should say, for “complexity’s sake” because I thought the Squidoo lense where I found this information had perhaps a bit too involved a way of explaining all this.

So, how do I figure out what video frames YouTube uses as its poster frame?

A simpler (or at least different) way to express that would be to put your poster frames at the quarter marks (1/4, 1/2, 3/4).  But then they make it even more complicated by adding statements about “you’ll have to experiment a little bit.”  Well, which is it?

How do you figure out how to set your YouTube keyframe?  Is it this super-exact formula, or is it “just fool around until you figure it out?”

[If the latter is true] In which case, why did you bother making an article (in this actually a Squidoo lense) about all this?

Video Compression Likely Affects Thumbnails

….but then I surfed a bit more and found these comments in response to a related YouTube video that they had posted:

well i tested this out on my video, “winter longboarding edit” – verdict: doesn’t work. my video is 4:07 long, meaning a thumbnail every 61.75 seconds; while each is Roughly at the minute mark, my first thumbnail is at 0:54, 2nd at 2:00, 3rd at 3:00 – by your calculation they Should have been 1:01, 2:03, 3:05. have they randomized it a bit now?

via YouTube – YouTube Thumbnail Timer Video.

I think the answer is that there is a segmentation used in video compression, where the only actual real “frames” somehow are located at the boundaries of those segments.  This means that for things like DVD chapter (start points) and, I’m guessing, these YouTube thumbnails too, the salient single frame of video must occur at that boundary-mark.   Probably YouTube aims for the 1/4, 2/4, 3/4 (quartermarks) but only can come in as close as possible.

Where (and what) are thumbnails?

These thumbnails are, practically speaking, small JPGs stored on the YouTube server.  So now that you know how to set thumbnails for your YouTube video—where do you find those video thumbnails, once they’re set?

According to the Squidoo lense, you can find them here:

YouTube thumbnails are built like this:
http://img.youtube.com/vi/[video-id]/1.jpg

In this instance, “1.jpg” is only the format…the other thumbnails will be “2.jpg” and “3.jpg” in the same root directory.

Building these Thumbnails into Your Scripts

I have the distinct feeling that, like everything online, this quarter-mark policy will eventually change.  So, you can count on it (roughly) for now, but I’d recommend not making a huge deal about writing your scripts around these special numbers.

Just be aware, things change.

Conclusion regarding this Video Lense

Probably, with a hope to monetize, this lense also included a reference to an eBook you can buy about YouTube marketing.  This book posits that you can do your YouTube marketing taking only “an hour a day.”  A few notes about that statement:

  1. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot from one perspective .
  2. This is actually probably an accurate statement (from that same perspective)
  3. It is not a whole lot from that same perspective.
  4. From another perspective, that is a lot of total time to be invested (think about how many hours that is across five years!)
  5. And, well, see below…

Though I can’t comment on the value of this product, I will go on to say that I did find a great free many, many page report about YouTube marketing at RapidVideoBlogging.com, which seemed extensive (if not exhaustive) and also pretty accurate from what I could tell.

(No, I’m not an affiliate for either of these sites, but I thought I’d just share them anyhow—I just thought there were valuable and thought I’d share them anyways.)

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