You’ve worked hard to create an awesome video for YouTube. The script is tight, there’s humor thrown in, and your message is clear.
But when you hit upload, try to replay the video on YouTube, it looks like garbage!
We’ve got you covered: in this post, we’ll take a look at the best settings for YouTube uploads.
Here’s a quick overview for what your upload settings should look like. While this doesn't cover every use case, these settings will be effective for the vast majority of videos.
Videos uploaded to YouTube should be exported as MP4 files with an H.264 codec. Resolution and frame rate can vary according to your original footage, but make sure to export the video by matching the output to the source. YouTube supports many different frame rates from 24 to 60 FPS. The bitrate can also vary, but keep it as large as possible. For audio, stick to a 384 kbps stereo bitrate and an AAC-LC codec.
Which video formats does YouTube support?
YouTube supports many different file formats, including MP4, MOV, AVI, WMV, FLV, 3GPP, and others.
For best results, you should use MP4.
Should you upload in 4K?
YouTube does support 4K video, but not everyone has access to a 4K-compatible device. Most modern laptops can handle 4K, but not all smartphones are capable.
Also, most newer TVs can handle 4K, but older TVs are HD compatible.
Many content creators like to shoot in 4K but upload in 1080p. This gives them a bigger frame to work with, so they can crop videos where necessary without messing up the resolution. However, creators who focus on visuals or film on-screen tutorials may do better with 4K uploads.
There are many different codecs available that are used for encoding and rendering video files. While it may be tempting to experiment, stick to the codec YouTube recommends: H.264. It renders very well, and does so at a decent speed.
Bitrate and compression go hand-in-hand. There are constant bitrates and variable bitrates. You can get away with using a constant bitrate, but a 2-pass variable bitrate is best as it does not let YouTube’s compression algorithm alter your content.
A 2-pass variable bitrate takes a lot longer to encode, but the final result will be well worth the wait.
Flex your creative muscle
Aside from the essential settings like file format, resolution, codec, and bitrate, you’re free to use your creativity and color grade the video as you please. Just make sure that you use a high value for color depth, which will render the best video possible. It will take a little bit more time to finish the file, but time is the price of quality.
Upload a trial video
Before you upload your final video, export the video you’re working on and upload it as an unlisted or private video just to make sure the quality is what you expected. This way, you can save face from uploading a video, finding an error, and then having to take it down and upload it again. And if some viewers have seen the original one with the error, they may not come back to view the update which could impact your video's discoverability and ratings.
If you upload a private video, you’ll be able to make sure the compression and quality are OK before publishing it to your channel. You can experiment as many times as you need to in order to dial in the settings.
Don't forget to write down your ideal configuration, or better yet, save it as a preset!
How long should a YouTube video be?
Have you ever noticed how most YouTube videos are 10 minutes or longer? That’s because a change in the advertising algorithm made it so that videos 10 minutes long were ideal for monetization.
If you’re planning on generating a good chunk of ad revenue from your videos, try to shoot for 10 minutes per video.
Some videos and especially interviews are even longer, but it depends on what your viewers are used to. Never elongate a video at the expense of quality content.
The longest possible video you can upload to YouTube is 12 hours.
Which video editor should you use for YouTube videos?
It may come as no surprise but we recommend Video Editor as the best video editing tool for new YouTubers starting their channels. Video Editor is a web-based video editor, meaning that all your information is automatically saved, you have a HUGE amount of storage space, it's easy to share your unfinished videos to others for feedback, and you can upload your videos directly to YouTube!
If you already use Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro, here's some more information about streaming settings.
Presets to use for Adobe Premiere Pro
When you start to edit your video in Adobe Premiere Pro, make sure you’ve chosen the correct settings for your sequence and that they match your source video. If you misconfigure this step, the rest of your video will not turn out correctly.
Once you’re done with your edits, go to File=>Export=>Media. Choose the YouTube 1080p HD preset. This will adjust most of the settings for you, but there are a few settings that you want to change
Make sure of the following:
- Format: H.264
- Bitrate encoding: VBR 2-Pass
- Target bitrate: 35
- Maximum bitrate: 35
- The box marked Export video and audio must be checked
- The box marked Use maximum render quality must be checked
- Dimensions must be 1980 x 1080
Presets to use for Final Cut Pro
If you’re using Final Cut Pro on Mac OS X, here are some presets you can take advantage of.
Go to File=>Share=>Master File.
Make sure of the following:
- Format must be computer
- File format must be MPEG-4 movie
- Resolution must be 1920 x 1080 for 1080p or 4K for 4K
- Video codec must be H.264 Better Quality
Getting your settings right on YouTube takes time, and depends largely on the type of content you're producing, but it's a worthy investment that all new creators need to consider. Remember, there is no substitute for quality content, but getting discovered on YouTube can be difficult, so do everything you can to make sure your channel has the best chance of success!