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Does Google Drive Reduce Video Quality?


We all use Google Drive to store and share documents, videos, and whatnot. But if you have tried watching an uploaded video on the site, it usually seems low-quality and sometimes even blurry. It could make you wonder whether Google Drive has reduced the quality of your video files.

Google Drive does not reduce video quality. It renders the video in different resolutions like 360p, 720p, etc. Then, you can play it at any resolution you like. So while it may look like the video quality has been reduced, what’s happening is that you’re playing the same video at a lower quality.

Although it’s a useful feature, the overall video player falls short in some places. Read on to learn why Drive does this and how you can play the original file to overcome some of the shortcomings of the web player.

Google Drive and Video Quality

You’ll have an easier time understanding Drive if you’re familiar with Dropbox. Dropbox is a storage service from Google that you can use to upload and share all kinds of files. Google Drive is essentially the same service, a storage unit where you can upload and share files. It just supports a larger variety of files to be previewed online. 

Google Drive does not touch any of your files. If you were to download your file from Drive and do a hash check against your original file in your PC, they would be identical. So your uploaded videos stay the same, and their quality is not reduced.

But then the question is, why do video files seem to play at a lower quality when you preview them on Drive? Well, it has to do with Google trying to give you a seamless, low-bandwidth video playing experience.

When you upload a video on Google Drive, have you noticed that it takes some time to process it? The bigger the video file, the longer it takes Google Drive to process it. In the meantime, you can download the file back to your PC, but you can’t play it online.

During this period, Google Drive is creating different versions of your media file. Several transcoded versions of your video are being stored for your convenience. Once the processing is complete, you’re able to watch the video as usual.

However, notice the little gear icon on the bottom left. When clicked, it’ll show you a couple of options, one of which is Quality. Opening it will give you a list of resolutions you can switch to, such as 360p, 720p, 1080p, etc. These are different copies of the video file you uploaded, and you can choose to watch it at any quality.

The same thing happens with YouTube as well. It processes the video after uploading and makes it available in different formats to save user and server bandwidth.

Why Does Google Do This?

You might be wondering why Google does this. Well, the number one reason is to save bandwidth. For example, if you uploaded a 4K video on Google Drive and try to watch it on a mobile phone, you may not have the required network speed for it to play smoothly. In that case, Google Drive and YouTube will automatically lower the video quality to suit your network. 

That way, you’ll be able to watch the video seamlessly. Google also saves bandwidth by doing this because they don’t have to send you the whole 1GB 4K video file. Instead, 200MB, or perhaps even less, is transferred from the server.

Sometimes you may notice that even when you upload a high-quality video, such as 1080p, the player on Google Drive or YouTube only allows you to play at lower resolutions like 360p. This is because Google is still in the process of storing transcoded versions of your file. It has finished processing 360p and will keep moving up, eventually making it to 1080p.

How Can You Play the Original File on Google Drive?

Google Drive conveniently offers you a media player with some cool features. While it’s suitable for streaming presentation videos or things like that, it falls short when you want to stream a video file with specific requirements.

For example, Google Drive is not good at displaying subtitles. It only supports the simple SRT and SUB file formats for captions. And you may not see more than one subtitle file being rendered. Also, if your video has multiple language tracks, you won’t be able to switch between them as Google Drive doesn’t support more than one audio.

However, you can get around all of this by streaming the video from Google Drive directly to your device. For PCs, the process is complicated. Sure, you can just download Backup & Sync from Google, but it will take up space on your hard drive. This means you will have to download the file before playing it.

There are a few options to stream video files from Drive, though. The most popular solution is to mount Google Drive using Rclone. Here is the official step-by-step guide for it. This method will let you play videos straight from Drive in any video player like VLC or PotPlayer.

For mobile devices, it is much easier. The first step is to download VLC on Android or IOS. Then, you simply have to look for the Google Drive option in remote storage. After logging in and granting permissions, VLC will access all your media files for you, and you’ll be able to stream directly from Google Drive.

What About Google Photos?

Now that we’ve seen how Google Drive handles your videos, an interesting question arises. Does Google Photos also work like Drive? Are my photos the same quality as the ones I uploaded?

The answer is no. Photos and Drive work differently. Google Drive only stores your videos and creates different versions of it. However, with Google Photos, you have three options when backing up your images:

  • Backup in original quality. This means your pictures will be backed up just as you uploaded them. Google Photos will work as a storage unit and not touch your images. However, photos uploaded under this setting will count against your 15GB free Google Drive storage.
  • Backup in high quality. This is the preferred option as it offers unlimited storage for your images. If chosen, Google Photos will optimize and compress your pictures to reduce the size without compromising quality. Almost always, the difference is insignificant, and the images look just as good. But just know that your backed-up photos won’t be the exact copies of your local files.
  • Express backup. This setting offers faster backups over mobile data and WiFi. Unlimited storage is provided like the previous setting, but your images will be compressed further, and there may be visible differences between original and uploaded pictures. To give you an idea, high quality resizes all the big images to 16MP, while Express Backup resizes all photos to 3MP.

Conclusion

Google Drive is a fantastic service that allows for a lot of options. When we play our video files in the YouTube-like viewer, we may feel like the video-quality has been reduced. But in reality, Google has given us different options as to what quality we want to play the video in. It saves bandwidth and makes for a smoother user experience. There are ways you can play the original media file as well.

The same cannot be said for images, though. When you backup your pictures to Google Photos, they’ll be compressed to save space and offer unlimited free storage.

Sources

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