How To: Formatting Video for YouTube

This used to be a much trickier situation to achieve the best results from, but recently, YouTube has made a lot of advancements in their video playback and upload technology to support just about anything you’ve got.

First, and most important thing, is to do the least amount of encoding between the original file and the file that you upload to YouTube. If you are editing in a non-linear program like AVID or Final Cut Studio, you want to export/encode your file within the program to the format you will upload to YouTube. This ensures you don’t degrade the quality. For example, in the days of the VCR and VHS tapes, if you were to record a program onto a VHS and then run it into another VCR and record onto another tape, every time you repeat this process, the quality of the video drops. Same thing applies to encoding video files on the computer.

The best formats/codecs to encode to are H.264 or MPEG2 with MP3 or AAC audio. These are actually the preferred formats YouTube lists on their website. If your original video is shot in 1080P, then keep that resolution for uploading to YouTube. YouTube does support 1080P but depending on your Internet Service Provider’s speed you have purchased, could take some good time to upload. A good option to try to save some time, but remain in HD, is to drop your resolution to 720P. Once again, do this within your editing program if possible. Both 1080P and 720P are 16×9 widescreen formats. This means, if you want to go below HD, you must remain in the 16×9 format.

If you do not have an editing system and are simply trying to take a video you have already on your computer and convert it to a format suitable for YouTube. I suggest a program called MPEG Streamclip. This program is a fast and stable encoding system that is fairly simple to use.

Another optional thing to do before uploading your videos is to de-interlace the video if it was not shot in progressive scan. Progressive scan is best described as individual frames, for example in 24P, that appear sequentially 24 times per second with a full frame every 1/24 of a second. Just imagine a roll of film, each frame is a full image. Interlacing is splitting each frame into two fields; Odd and Even. Imagine blinds on a window, strips that run horizontally. The Odd and Even fields alternate, flashing quickly on the screen to produce an image. Interlacing uses lass data which takes up less space on a tape or allows for faster frame rates in digital cameras. The downside to interlacing is that the images produces are always the clearest and don’t stream well online. Most editing programs and MPEG Streamclip give you the option to de-interlace your videos, I recommend it. You do NOT have to de-interlace if you shot in a progressive format, 24P, 30P, etc… 60i is a common frame rate on cameras and “i” is for interlaced.

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