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Flickr video goes HD, tells time

Flickr is rolling out high-definition video to its paying pro users, while free users now get to upload standard-definition clips, too.

A little under a year ago, Flickr began hosting video alongside its online photo service. One of its shortcomings was that it did not support high-definition video, which in the past year has become a major feature on point-and-shoot and digital SLR cameras, as well as popping up on major video-hosting services like YouTube. Video was also only available to Flickr users who were subscribed to its $25 annual professional membership.

On Monday, both of these limitations have been lifted. HD is now available to paying pro users, whose previously uploaded clips will be re-processed to fit inside the new 16:9 HD player by the end of the week. Flickr is also opening up its video feature to free users, although their HD videos will only play in the SD player.

Flickr's Pro members will be able to upload HD videos and view them in an updated 16:9 player. Flickr

While beautiful looking, two large limitations remain: videos must be 90 seconds or less in length and be under 150MB in size. With standard definition videos this size limit is fine, but in a 1:30-minute test clip I did on my Nikon D90, the file was well above that limit at 252MB, meaning whatever I was shooting in HD would have to be much shorter, or be compressed in a third-party piece of software before uploading. For most people, neither of these options is ideal, and Yahoo should really address them in a future update. I have the feeling many folks will simply continue to go to YouTube, Vimeo, or another service to offload that footage instead.

Along with the bump to HD, Flickr is rolling out a new feature as part of its explore section called the Flickr clock, which will let viewers browse videos by the time of day they were recorded. The company opened up a special group for video submissions back in late January, and the process involves users manually adding a special "machine tag" to their clips to let the system know when it was taken. The clock was designed by Stamen, who is also responsible for Trulia's real estate visualizations, and more famously Digg's live activity visualizations.

The new Flickr 'clock' lets you view videos by what time of day they were taken. Flickr

Update: There are a couple of things worth noting that we didn't know at the time of posting this. The first is that Flickr has taken off the limit of sets free users can create. The previous limit was three, so this is good news. The bad news is that free members can only upload two videos a month as part of the new rules. If you were planning to do this using Flickr's software Uploadr, you'll need a new version of it to do so. Users who upload through Flickr's Web interface need not bother.

Also, streams to the HD videos have already been made available to services using Flickr's APIs, meaning you'll soon be seeing them in third-party browsing and posting applications.