How much space do you save by downloading 720p movies instead of 1080p movies?

“I’d been wondering about this,” Kirk McElhearn writes for Kirkville. “My bandwidth is somewhat limited: I have a 50 GB per month limit on my satellite internet, and my DSL is only 2 Mbps.”

“So I had switched iTunes to download 720p movies instead of 1080p. (You can do this in iTunes > Preferences > Store),” McElhearn writes. “But I saw today that the iTunes Store has the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy in HD for only $30. I don’t have them on disc; I used to have the Blu-Rays, but gave them to my son. I wanted to buy them, and was curious to see how much difference there is between the two different qualities.”

McElhearn writes, “A difference of 1.4 GB; or about 5% more to get the 1080p versions instead of the 720p versions. And that affects not only your download size, but also the amount of storage you need.”

Why the difference is so slight in the full article here.


    1. Ah I see you want the extended vs regular theatrical Hobbit movies. Well 1080p better than 720p and that’s a personal decision to need bigger bandwidth and more storage. Is this guy thinking out loud for crying out loud?

        1. Much too hard. Not to be rude (as you were) but it would assume I cared to or it was an important enough issue. This is not an area that would ever concern lucky me. Glad you worked it out for yourself though and your limited resource needs.

            1. How about you first take a long walk off a short plank over the Indian Ocean jerk and do the world a big favor? We’re waiting.

              We could do with a few less nincompoops with little going on upstairs (the type just waiting for any excuse for a knee jerk opportunity to interject assholery) like yourself.

            2. Wow. I cannot believe that MDN users really like peterblood71 on this thread – despite some problems, they are not that terrible.
              peterblood71 started off rude and dismissive of something that actually affects a lot of people (bandwidth and disk space). The author pointed out that you actually do NOT save much of either by going with (slightly) lower-quality video, and peterblood71 didn’t even seem to understand that. The author took the trouble to defend himself here and got attacked for it by an asshole.
              Either MDN readers totally misunderstood what just happened, are worse than I thought, or peterblood71 is gaming the vote system.

            3. Thanks for pointing out who is and isn’t an asshole like you know me personally. Maybe I was being glib (God forbid!) but the “asshole” was the writer of the article who could have been a little more gracious just stating his point instead of egotistically thinking I read his every word with bated breath. Saying “Did you read the article? Or is that too hard?” is not exactly the nicest way he could have put it. Real writers avoid putting their readers on the defensive.

              I suggest you are the prime asshole for making assumptions and not reading the progression of events yourself. Just maybe that would have clued YOU in.

      1. You’re so cutting edge!!! I still haven’t brought myself to move away from handwriting each bit on paper (legal, more bits per page) for my backups. It takes awhile, yeah, but when you don’t have a DVD drive available, you’ll be wishing you did the same!! 🙂

  1. Depends whether you want a real close up of the Bushmaster IMV* or not.

    I usually like to get down and dirty on the V**.

    *Infantry mobility vehicle

      1. No, they’re both H.264. In his example the 1080p is encoded using High Profile H.264 while the 720p is using Baseline or Main Profile H.264. There may be other codec settings affecting the file size as well. Other movies will have different size discrepancies.

        If Apple starts using H.265, it’s going to be a big deal.

  2. So according to the article, Apple uses different a compression for the 1080p so you really can’t compare the two file sizes accurately because the 720p is less compressed for legacy devices.

  3. Lazy journalism.

    When all things are equal, then the difference in file size between a 1080p and a 720p move is simple math.

    What goes without saying is that different CODECs and settings result in both audio compression and video compression. And that’s before we even get into multichannel audio, high resolution audio, and so forth. The full color palette and grey shadings are significantly reduced in most streaming formats.

    It is true: if you have the display to show it properly, then the very best video source that a consumer can get is Blu-Ray.

    It is disappointing how Apple seems content to be the laggard on video. Just as MS attempted to tie all things to Windows, Apple is not attempting to tie all things to iTunes. That is a horrible mistake. Apple needs to split iTunes into separate audio and video programs. Moreover, both should be offered in basic and deluxe versions. Remember, back when Quicktime Quicktime was a useful standalone program, it was offered in a “Pro” version with some really useful features.

    Note also that the consumer will soon have 4K video cameras available at a reasonable price. But what does Apple offer? Now that iDVD, iMovie, and Quicktime are all dead or screwed up, the home video editor has no choice but to look elsewhere. Pros already went elsewhere or had to endure that miserable screw-up in FCP workflow. Apple clearly has taken its eye off the ball by not listening to its customers needs. Cook just wants to keep cashing in on low-quality iTunes downloads.

  4. This is terribly misleading

    Using the exact same compression settings (except resolution), a 720p video will be significantly smaller than an 1080p.

    You’ll most likely see that videos in iTunes that allow 1080p or 720p do in fact have a significant difference in file size. You can easily check before downloading by going to Preferences->Store and choosing 720p or 1080p and then refreshing the movie page (Command+r).

    In his example, The Lord of the Rings used High Profile H.264 encoding 1080p and Baseline or Main H.264 encoding for 720p.

    This meant that they could decrease the bit rate for the 1080p and still achieve the same quality as if they had had used Baseline or Main.

    Likewise, it meant that they had to increase the bit rate for 720p to achieve the same quality as if they had used High Profile encoding.

    Still as misleading as this article is, it does point out that it’s worth checking to see what the file size difference will be because based on the H.264 profile and other settings, it may not be that much of a difference in size, but a significant difference in quality.

    This really isn’t anything new. Anyone dealing with video codecs knows that resolution is only but one of many variables that determine file size.

  5. I always down load in 1080p hard drives are cheap and you can always transfer your iTunes library to an external drive. Yes, 1080p takes longer to down load, but I run it over night if I have to.

  6. Question: The 1 hour download is still ongoing. I am going to assume that we are at about 33% after about 5 hours. I chose 1080 p, as opposed to 720 p. Was this an error on my part? Thank you, in advance, for any assistance you can provide…..

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