How To Encode Your Videos For YouTube’s New High Quality Option

How To Encode Your Videos For YouTube’s New High Quality Option

You Tube

Now that YouTube has started offering higher quality videos, the old settings for encoding your videos should be tossed out the window. This tutorial will walk you through the steps required to encode your video for YouTube using the free SUPER Video Encoder . If you are using a professional software like Sorenson Squeeze or Apple Compressor, or even the inexpensive QuickTime Pro Player, many of the same settings will be available. Additionally, if your editing software supports H.264 (as either MP4 or MOV) encoding, you may be able to skip the reencoding process and export directly for upload to YouTube using the compression settings below. If you are unsure of the equivalent setting or would like me to include specific instructions for your application, please leave a note in the comments.


UPDATE 12/6/2008

If you are producing HD (16:9) videos for YouTube, you should refer to my latest post on how to encode for YouTube HD format located at:

UPDATE 5/30/09

The default QuickTime H.264 export only supports up to 2Mbps as it uses the Baseline profile. You may want to use SUPER, Handbrake or a professional encoding software like Squeeze or Episode Pro to compress your video.

This guide recommends SUPER, but I now prefer and recommend the free and open source encoder Handbrake (

This tutorial assumes that you already have edited your video and have exported to the highest quality possible.

Here are some tips for exporting from your NLE software before encoding:

  • Export uncompressed video and audio as MOV or AVI
  • Make sure your video is progressive/deinterlaced
  • If your video is SD NTSC, then export as 640×480 (if you are using PAL you will need to crop first)
  • If your video is 16:9 widescreen but less than 1280×720, export as 640×360 (If your video is 1280×720 or above, then refer to the HD guide at
  • Use 44.1KHz Sample rate to avoid audio quality issues

The current high quality resolution on YouTube is 480×360 (4:3 SD) and 480×270 (16:9 Widescreen). During testing I found that uploading a 640×480 (4:3 SD) or 640×360 (16:9 Widescreen) produced a higher end data rate even though YouTube downsizes the resolution during encoding. Using the larger resolution (and data rate) source file also future-proofs your video if they decide to raise the quality level again in the future. That way you do not have to re-upload later if they change the size/quality. Now that they are allowing up to 1024MB (1GB) for uploads, there is plenty of room to go with the higher resolution version.

I downloaded a few of the new high quality videos and most have been approximately 400-500kbps Video and 120kbs for the audio, a nice bump up from the 250-350 combined data rates for the lower quality. One of the reasons that they look so good is due to the fact they are using the new H.264 codec in a MP4 wrapper for the video and AAC audio. The H.264 codec is the de facto standard for high quality video on the web today and the older Flash codecs Spark pro and On2 VP6 just can’t deliver the same quality level vs filesize at the same data rates.

Our goal is to upload the highest quality possible that will take full advantage of the current high quality video encoding as well as give us some headroom for future quality increases.

Enough with the details, just give me the encoding settings!

  1. Open SUPER and import your source video. Make sure you do not change any default settings except for the ones noted below.
  2. Set Output Container as: MP4
  3. Set Output Video Codec as: H.264/AVC
  4. Set Output Audio Codec as: AAC LC
  5. Under Video Scale Size, check the More box and enter 640 : 480 (4:3) or 640 : 360 (16:9 widescreen)
  6. Set Aspect to 4:3 for SD or 16:9 for HD/Widescreen
  7. Set Frames per Second to match the fps of your source video (Note: As long as your Source is progressive, you can use virtually any frame rate 24, 25,30, etc.)
  8. For Bitrate kbps, choose 4080
  9. IMPORTANT: Depending on the amount of movement and color in your video, you may need to raise the bitrate. During testing using a clip with a lot of motion, 4080 provided the best end results. If the video you export has blocks or artifacts, then you may try raising the bitrate to 5000kbps.
  10. Make sure “Hi Quality” selected BUT NOT “Top Quality”
  11. Uncheck 48k Audio
  12. Select a Sample Rate of 44100
  13. Set the channels to 2
  14. For Bitrate kbps, select 256
  15. Click the encode button to encode your video

Below is a screenshot of the SUPER interface with all of the correct settings:

Here is the equivalent settings in Sorenson Squeeze 5:

With the video that I used for this tutorial, I found that if I uploaded a video that was less than 4080kbps, then the end bitrate after YouTube encoded it was lower and if I raised the bitrate to higher than 4080kbps, then the end bitrate was the same as it was when I used 4080kbps.

Here are some details from my tests:

640×360 @ 3000kbps, end result was 480×270 @ 439kbps
640×360 @ 4000kbps, end result was 480×270 @ 501kbps (Sweet spot)
640×360 @ 5000kbps, end result was 480×270 @ 501kbps

For audio, the bitrate capped out at 124kbps.

Here is the final video (High Quality version) on YouTube (

(Special Thanks to My Digital Life for the tip on how to get the embed code to show the high quality version)

If you have any questions or tips for encoding high quality You Tube videos, please post in the comments. Also, if you used these settings to encode your video(s) for YouTube, post links to your videos.

Related posts:

  1. Bigger and Better: Encoding for YouTube 720p HD
  2. 10 Expert Tips for Encoding Web Video
  3. SUPER Open Source Video Encoder & Player
  4. YouTube Tips & Tricks: Formats, Embedded Players, APIs and More

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response.
0 Responses