If you’re a YouTube content creator, you know that filming and editing videos takes a lot of time and effort—effort that can be ruined in an instant if the video looks great in your editing software but terrible on YouTube. Today we’ll take a look at the best settings for your YouTube videos to ensure your hard work is not in vain. Taking a few extra steps to verify your settings can help your videos stand out on this competitive platform.
Why Does YouTube Lower Video Quality?
People watch YouTube from all manner of devices: smartphones, tablets, computer screens, and TVs and with different internet speeds. In an effort to limit the amount of time viewers spend waiting for a video to buffer, YouTube purposefully compresses videos which, in turn, lowers the quality.
Which Video Formats Does YouTube Support?
YouTube supports many different file formats, including MP4, MOV, AVI, WMV, FLV, 3GPP, and others. MP4 files are the most common video format and do a great job of providing high quality while keeping the file size to a minimum. For best results, you should upload your videos as MP4s.
Should I Upload in 4K?
While YouTube supports 4K video, it’s important to remember that not everyone owns a 4K compatible device. With 1080p coming out less than ten years ago and 4K requiring four times the pixels, it’s understandable that technology hasn’t quite caught up yet. On top of that, while some viewers may have devices capable of viewing 4K videos, unless they manually change the video quality, any YouTube videos they watch will likely stream in 1080p.
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. Unless you’re catering to a specific genre of videos that requires highly detailed videos, stick to uploading in 1080p for now.
What Frame Rate Should I Use?
Video is basically a bunch of still images played back at a very fast rate. Frame rate (referred to as “frames per second” or fps) determines how many still images are viewed in a single second. Frame rate can be a stylistic choice if a creator wants a video to appear more clunky or more smooth. A higher frame rate does not equal a better quality video because it can sometimes produce an unnaturally smooth result (known as the “soap opera effect”). 24fps is the industry standard for TV and movies but you can use 30fps if your video has more action and up to 60fps if it has a lot of action.
What Are “Codecs” and Why Are They Important?
Codecs are responsible for compressing and decompressing videos for streaming (in other words, being able to stream a video straight from YouTube without having to download any files). The more a video is compressed, the poorer the quality will be upon decompression. H.264 is the industry standard codec and therefore the most widely used. Stick with this and you’ll be good to go.
What Bitrate Settings Should I Use?
Bitrates (measured in megabits per second, or Mbps), are speeds at which video data is transferred across the internet. A video with high resolution will require a fast bitrate in order to appear correctly. If you are uploading a video in 1080p, your settings should be 10-15 Mbps for HDR and 8-12 Mbps for SDR. You’ll need to look up the specs for your specific camera to see if it can shoot in HDR (High Dynamic Range).
How Long Should My YouTube Video Be?
A standard YouTube video can be as short as 60 seconds or as long as 12 hours for verified users (up to 15 minutes if unverified). Due to the YouTube algorithm, advertising requirements, and the fragile attention span of the average viewer, videos between 10 to 15 minutes appear to perform best.
Naturally, this only applies if 10 to 15 minutes makes sense for your content. Try uploading videos with similar content at different lengths to see what your audience prefers. Once you find a time that performs well, stick with it. Take note of successful YouTubers: most of them upload videos that are roughly around the same length.
If your video is shorter than 60 seconds, upload it to YouTube Shorts. While Shorts typically perform poorly from an ad revenue standpoint, these bite-sized chunks have a better chance of going viral due to their easily digestible length and high shareability. Check out our guide for information on the best time (not length) to post your YouTube videos.
How Can I Ensure My Settings Look Good?
Upload a trial video that is unlisted or private before publishing. This way, you can double check that everything looks okay before you share your video with the world. Try viewing your video on any available devices you have, (smartphone, PC, tablet, etc.) and even send the link (if unlisted) to a trusted friend so they can verify its quality with a different internet connection. Tweak your settings as needed and be sure to write them down!
Which Video Editor Should I Use?
Naturally, we think Video Editor is pretty great. Video Editor is a browser-based video editor, meaning there is nothing for you to download. Furthermore, it allows you to export directly to YouTube rather than clutter up your computer with large video files. Without a doubt, Video Editor is the easiest, most user friendly software for anyone who is just starting out with video editing. If you want to give it a try, you can check out our article on how to edit your first video with Video Editor. If you want to add more special effects to your videos as you become more experienced, you can switch to a software like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro down the line.
While the settings we’ve recommended today are not the end-all-be-all for every YouTube video, using presets is a good idea, especially if you’re just starting out. As your video editing skills improve, you can use customized settings to achieve specific effects. Try using our recommended settings to see how your videos look (and perform) and tweak them if you need to. Check out our article on how to get more views on YouTube to learn more helpful tips for furthering your YouTube journey.