How To Compress Your Video For YouTube, Vimeo and Other Video Sites

By Megan O'Neill Comment

Have you ever spent hours and hours working on and perfecting a video only to discover that it looks terrible once you upload it to YouTube, Vimeo or other online video sites? If so, you have suffered from bad compression. Read on for some compression tips, and a video, that can help you to upload great looking video to the web every time.

Before we get into how to compress your videos for maximum picture quality on the web, let’s talk about what video compression is, exactly. Wikipedia defines video compression as “reducing the quality of data used to represent digital video images.” However, let’s try to understand compression in layman’s terms. Basically, when you create a video in the video editor of your choice and export it at full quality you are likely to get a pretty large file. Depending on the length of your video, your file could be several GB, which is pretty darn big.

While you can upload videos to YouTube that are up to 2 GB in size it takes a long time. Aside from taking time, if you haven’t compressed a video then YouTube compresses it for you and (no offense YouTube!) the final quality is often much less desirable than if you had compressed it yourself.

Earlier this week a Howcast video about how to compress your videos for the web went up on the YouTube blog. In the video, ‘Professor Compressor’ teaches you the basics of how to compress and upload a great looking video for the web. Professor Compressor does a great job of explaining how video compression works and how to trouble shoot when your video looks less than appealing. Check it out below, and then read on to find out about the compression settings that I like to use when exporting my own videos for upload to YouTube, Vimeo and other sites online.

I always find it easiest when I’ve got an outline of exactly what settings I should use when exporting a video for the web from After Effects, Final Cut, iMovie or whatever program I happen to be using. Following are the settings that I use most frequently when exporting video. These settings can be found when exporting or rendering your video in whichever video editor you are using.

File Format: MP4 (this is the type of file that will result, i.e. yourfile.mp4)

In the video settings choose the following specifications:

Video Format: H.264 (this is the compression type)

Data Rate: Choose a number between 8000 and 10000, Optimized for: Streaming

Image Size: If you want to export HD, choose 1280×720 HD; otherwise, choose whichever size you have been working with (usually I choose 640×480)

Frame Rate: 24

Keyframe: Every 24 frames

In H.264 video options, choose the following (if you have the option):

Restrict profile(s) to: Main

Encoding mode: Best Quality (multi-pass)

In the audio settings choose the following specifications:

Format: AAC-LC (music)

Data Rate: 320kbps

Channels: Stereo

Output sample rate: 48.000 kHz

Encoding quality: Best

Of course, everyone has their own formula that works best for them when exporting and compressing video for the web. As you compress your own videos you will be able to fine tune your compression settings to get the perfect combination for your needs. What compression settings do you use when you export video? Feel free to share them with us in the comments!