Preparing Videos for YouTube and other Video Sites

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If you have a finished video to share online, you may need to encode the video in a format that is accepted by YouTube and/or other sites. Often, the video editing program you used to edit and score your video will have built-in export features that have standard encoding options.

YouTube accepts .mp4 (MPEG4), .mov, .avi, .3GPP, .flv, .wmv, MPEGPS file formats (more details). The video must be less than 2GB in size and less than 15 minutes.

Some typical video dimensions:

16:9 “widescreen” video:

  • 1920 x 1080 – Full High Definition
  • 1280 x 720 – Commonly Used High Definition
  • 640 x 360 – Widescreen web video

4:3 “fullscreen” video:

  • 640 x 480 – Standard Definition
  • 320 x 240 – VCD, webvideos
  • 176 x 144 – 3G Content (mobile phones)

The Interzone uses the H.264 codec (MPEG-4 Part 10) to encode web videos in an MP4 (.mp4) container. H.264 is an industry standard for video compression. We usually use either MP3 or AAC encoding for the audio.

You can vary the data rate and resolution to produce bigger or smaller file sizes for different viewing devices. Higher bitrates and resolutions make bigger files and are appropriate for viewing on computer or TV monitors or other large displays. Lower bitrates and resolutions make smaller files and are appropriate for viewing on handheld devices like iPods, mobile phones or other smaller displays.

Basic guidelines for choosing a data rate when encoding with H.264:

For full HD (1920 x 1080) video, use data rate ca. 7,000 – 8,000 Kbps
For common HD (1280 x 720) video, use data rate ca. 5,000 – 6,000 Kbps
For SD (640 x 480) video, use data rate ca. 1,000 – 2,000 Kbps

Some other video codecs include Xvid, 3ivx, DivX Pro Codec, etc.

YouTube has some additional guidelines for optimizing videos which are good practices in general.

  1. Minimize re-encodings. If possible, only encode your video once because each encoding process results in a loss of quality in the video.
  2. Use the frame rate of the original video.
  3. Use the highest resolution possible.
  4. Check the audio and video quality before you upload.
  5. Maintain the original aspect ratio of the video.

If your video editing software has limited options for exporting videos, there are plenty of other applications you can use to encode your videos.

On a Mac, you can do any kind of encoding using Quicktime Pro together with Perian, an open source QuickTime component that adds support for most popular video formats. For more controls and encoding options, you can also try

Windows users can try these video encoding applications:

Ubuntu users can try:

You can also use web-based video converters like:

2 Comments

  1. MondoAnon says:

    Nice article! Do you have a favorite video editing program?

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