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How To Format Your Music Video For YOUTUBE

Here are some tips on the right setting specs and formatting when uploading your new music video for YouTube

Resolution and Pixel Aspect Ratio

You want all of your videos to have a square pixel aspect ratio when you're uploading them to YouTube. For SD 4:3 video, use a resolution of 640x480. For SD 16:9 widescreen video use 854x480, and for HD video use either 1280x720 or 1920x1080. 


The video you upload to YouTube should be progressive. If your timeline is interlaced, be sure to deinterlace the video when exporting. For example, selecting motion compensated deinterlacing in Apple’s Compressor will result in significantly longer render times, but can produce far better results. 

Bit Rate

YouTube doesn't set a bit rate limit for H.264. They recommend 8,000 Kbps for 1080P video, or 50,000 Kbps if you have a really good upload connection and don’t mind waiting. You can get fairly high quality video using H.264 at the higher bit rates, but the file size will increase and at some point you’ll do just as well to upload a ProRes video. 


To reiterate, you want to use the highest quality codec you can. If your timeline is ProRes, but it's interlaced, you don't have to export an H.264. Instead, you can deinterlace to a ProRes file on export, and maintain your image quality. The only reason to export an H.264 is to make the upload and processing speeds faster. But remember, once your file is uploaded, it's locked in and you can't change it. It may be worth a few more hours of upload time if your video is going to remain online for years to come. 

Tools of the Trade

Both Adobe Media Encoder and Compressor, as well as Sorenson Squeeze, Handbrake, MPEG Streamclip and ffmpeg are all capable of encoding H.264 files. Most encoding software comes with a YouTube preset that serves as a good starting point. But remember that YouTube doesn't specify an upper limit for the H.264 bit rate, so you can raise the quality in exchange for upload time. 

Some of the more advanced features to look for if you're trying to get a high quality encode at a low data rate, are noise reduction, multiple passes and banding reduction. Noise reduction plays an especially large role when trying to maximize low bit rate video. 

The Bottom Line

When exporting your videos for YouTube, use high quality video formats. It will take longer to upload, but your videos will continue to be at the highest possible quality for years to come. If speed is of the essence, then export an H.264 MP4 using the YouTube preset in your compression software. You now have all the tools you need to create great looking video on YouTube, use them wisely. 

The Future of YouTube

Currently, YouTube's main video player is built on Adobe Flash, but the future is HTML5. There's an opt-in HTML5 website(link is external) that you can check out right now, that can stream video without a plugin on supported browsers like Chrome.

There's still a lot that the Flash Player can do that HTML5 can't, especially with regard to securely streaming copy-protected video, so Flash isn’t going away any time soon. But the new VP9 codec is making significant progress and should be nearing completion soon. VP9 is targeted to be the new codec for use at YouTube, with visual quality exceeding H.264 at the same bit rate. The future is changing quickly but if you’ve uploaded high quality videos to YouTube, you’ll be ready.

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