Thanks to Dave Miller, in the comments of an earlier post, for recommending the Xiph's XipQT package for QuickTime. With that, converting videos to Theora for Firefox's new <video> element is a breeze.
I tested out this new conversion with the Barack Obama weekly address which is available at YouTube and at www.change.gov.
I just took the higher resolution QuickTime movie, scaled it down to the size of the YouTube version and exported it with the option "Movie to Ogg" and it came out pretty nice.
There were a number of quality options and the "low" quality option (number 2 of five levels) got the size down to roughly what the YouTube Flash version is and at about the same quality. But YouTube quality sucks. It's surprisingly bad. So, I went with the "high" quality setting which is just about twice the size of the YouTube Flash version but sooo much easier to watch.
I just discovered that they have an even larger version of file, not linked, but available here, so maybe I'll try again starting with that. I'm gonna presume that starting with the highest quality file I can get will lead to a higher quality result. Then again, maybe that's not the case. If the compression on the original file is the same and we're just talking about the number of pixels, maybe it won't make much of a difference. I guess I will investigate and see.
update: The audio sync seems off a bit. It's not off like that when I play the video in VLC but it is in Firefox both in this page and locally. Not sure why that is.
update2: I've replaced the earlier version with a new one that has a better audio track. I'm hoping this fixes some of the problem with the audio and video syncing.
update3: OK, final update. I grabbed ffmpeg2theora, which boasts a newer theora encoder and made one more version of the file. I'm still seeing sync issues in Firefox that I'm not seeing in VLC so I'm going to chalk those up to Firefox problems. This latest version of the file is about 20% smaller and looks and sounds a good bit better than the previous one so I'm encouraged by the move to a newer encoder. Now we just need a new version of the QT plug-in and a simple GUI for the ffmpeg2theora app. It sure would be nice to have those for the Firefox 3.1 release.