Today, YouTube is among the highest quality video streaming services. In fact, it’s one of the only services to feature 8k videos, making it ideal for filmmakers looking to monetize their art. However, if you’re trying to make a career out of it, you have to know the best video format for YouTube.
A ton of content creators ignore the ideal video format and size when uploading videos. This is counter-productive to the entire process since the video turns out looking just plain bad, even if it was shot well.
It’s to the point where you can ruin your production value by not considering the format and dimensions.
To help you figure out the format conundrum, we’ll look at the best YouTube video format, and discuss the ideal dimensions and standard aspect ratio for video content.
Let’s get started.
Best Video Format for YouTube
The best video format which YouTube recommends is the MP4 format as the ideal video file type, along with the H.264 video codec and the AAC audio codec.
The MP4 format features high-quality videos at smaller video file sizes, compared to MPEG2 (standard DVD format).
Although YouTube recommends MP4 files, there are also other video file formats you can use, such as:
To ensure an optimal combination of quality, processing accuracy, and detail, convert your video to MP4 without excessive compression.
Best Video Size for YouTube
Here are the optimal YouTube video sizes according to resolution:
|426 x 240||240p||Minimum YouTube video size|
|640 x 360||360p||Standard website video resolution|
|845 x 480||480p||Standard YouTube resolution|
|1280 x 720||720p||Minimum HD video resolution|
|1920 x 1080||1080p||Maximum HD video resolution|
|2560 x 1440||1440p||2K video quality|
|3840 x 2160||2160p||4K (UHD) video quality|
Since 6K and true 8K screens are still quite rare and expensive, the suggested video size maxes out at 4K.
Here’s a visual representation of the typical YouTube video sizes:
Additionally, the maximum file size for a YouTube upload is 128GB and the video length limit is at 12 hours.
Ideal YouTube Upload Encoding Settings
YouTube recommends the following encoding settings for video uploads:
- NO Edit Lists: The video might not get completely processed.
- Fast Start: The MOOV atom should be in the file’s front.
Video Codec: H.264
- Closed Group of Pictures (GOP)
- Progressive scanning (non-interlaced)
- Twin B frames
- Context-adaptive binary arithmetic coding (CABAC)
- Chroma subsampling at 4:2:0
- Variable bitrate
Audio Codec: AAC-LC
- The sample rate should be 48khz or 96khz.
- Channels should be Stereo or 1 + Stereo.
- Standard frame rates are 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, and 60 fps. Although, a few other frame rates are also accepted.
- The content needs to be encoded before being uploaded in the same frame rate as it was originally recorded.
- Any interlaced content needs to be de-interlaced before For example, 1080i60 content has to be de-interlaced to 1080p30.
Following are the bitrates for video uploads. Please note how the audio bitrate is not correlated to video resolution.
Here are the recommended video bitrates for Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) uploads:
|TYPE||BITRATE FOR STANDARD FPS (24, 25, 30)||BITRATE FOR HIGH FPS (48, 50, 60)|
|360p||1 Mbps||1.5 Mbps|
|480p||2.5 Mbps||4 Mbps|
|720p||5 Mbps||7.5 Mbps|
|1080p||6 Mbps||12 Mbps|
|1440p (2K)||16 Mbps||24 Mbps|
|2160p (4K)||35-45 Mbps||53-68 Mbps|
Here are the recommended video bitrates for High Dynamic Range (HDR) uploads:
|TYPE||BITRATE FOR STANDARD FPS(24, 25, 30)||BITRATE FOR HIGH FPS (48, 50, 60)|
|360p||Not supported anymore||Not supported anymore|
|480p||Not supported anymore||Not supported anymore|
|720p||6.5 Mbps||9.5 Mbps|
|1080p||10 Mbps||10 Mbps|
|1440p (2K)||20 Mbps||20 Mbps|
|2160p (4K)||66-85 Mbps||44-56 Mbps|
Here are the recommended audio bitrates:
|Stereo 5.1||512 kbps|
Ideal YouTube Video Format According to Resolution
YouTube generally prefers HD video quality. Uploading videos in the highest possible resolution provides a ton of flexibility due to two prime factors:
- Playback processes
Both free and ad-supported videos should have:
- Minimum resolution of 1280 x 720 for a video with a 16:9 aspect ratio
- Minimum resolution of 640 x 480 for a video with a 4:3 aspect ratio
YouTube supports lower quality videos with a small file size too, as long as they’re only uploaded to provide a Content-ID reference, or in case they won’t be visible to the general public. Videos like these can be 320 x 240 (quarter resolution), however, they need to be more than 200 lines to provide an eligible reference.
Aspect Ratio Guidelines
Your videos should not have Letterboxing or Pillarboxing bars (black bars on the top and bottom or sides of the window).
No matter which video size and player you prime the video for, YouTube implements automatic framing. This is to ensure that the video is displayed without being stretched or cropped.
For example, the YouTube player will automatically frame 4:3 videos with vertical bars on each side (pillarboxing) whenever you play them on 16:9 (widescreen mode).
Similarly, the player will frame 16:9 videos with the horizontal letterboxing bars if they’re played on the standard 4:3.
Here are a few points to note regarding aspect ratios:
- If the aspect ratio of the total video frame size and the video’s native aspect ratio is 1.77:1, use the 16:9 widescreen matting with square pixels, but without a border.
- Alternatively, if the video’s native aspect ratio is 1.77:1 but the ratio of the total frame is not the same, use widescreen matting with square pixels and a unicolor border with no variations over time.
- Furthermore, if the native aspect ratio and total frame size ratio is 1.33:1, use the standard 4:3 matting with square pixels without a
- Lastly, if the native aspect ratio is 1.33:1 but the total frame size aspect ratio is not the same, use the standard 4:3 matting with square pixels and a unicolor border without any variations over time.
Video Formatting Guidelines
As mentioned earlier, the ideal video file extension (.mp4) has to use the H.264 codec.
However, you can also use the two major MPEG-PS (program streams) i.e. MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 since they both render very well.
In any case, YouTube will always encode a video automatically to optimize the playback quality.
YouTube recommends using a 1080p HD broadcast format along with the .MPG extension. However, if you’re unable to submit videos in MPEG-2 format, then you have MPEG-4 as an alternate.
Here are the optimal specs for MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 playback:
|MPEG Layer II or Dolby AC-3 as the Audio codec||AAC audio and H.264 video codec|
|128 kbps or higher audio bitrate||128 kbps or higher audio bitrate|
Check out YouTube’s own video formatting guidelines for a more comprehensive breakdown.
5 Pointers for Creating High-Res YouTube Videos:
- Don’t include letterboxing or pillarboxing bars, since YouTube does it automatically.
- Upload videos in the highest available resolution, ideally one that’s close to the source format.
- Make sure the video is uploaded in the original aspect ratio.
- Include the right metadata for the videos, since incorrect or false tags may cause your videos to get flagged or removed.
- Make sure to choose the optimal resolution for online video streaming.
How to Optimize Your YouTube Channel
Having the perfect video format is just one aspect of a great YouTube channel.
There is so much more that goes into creating an engaging and interesting series of videos.
To expand on that and help you make a mark on the platform, here are some tips on optimizing your YouTube channel:
1) Edit in Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro
Both editing platforms offer high-quality video modification and manipulation, and both support up to 8K video.
It may be tempting to opt for a cheaper alternative when starting out, especially if you’re creating shorter videos with fewer editing requirements.
However, the possibilities that you can access with either of the two platforms are worth the investment.
2) Have the Ideal YouTube Banner Image
Your banner is a visual representation of your entire channel. It’s the first thing viewers see when they visit your channel.
For those two reasons alone, it’s important to create a stunning YouTube banner image.
Pixelied helps you do that via a simple and streamlined process.
Head over to Pixelied’s free editor to get started. You’ll see this window:
You’ll see all the templates for YouTube channel art on the left. Just choose one to get started.
What’s great about the Pixelied editor is that you can take a base template and modify it as much as you want; adding various elements to it and making it your own.
3) Create a Uniform Aesthetic
Everything about your channel from the name, video color palette, to the sound design in the video should be primed to your general channel aesthetic.
Think of some of the biggest individual-led channels such as MKBHD, Dave 2D, and 5-Minute Crafts. They all have their custom channel aesthetic that’s just as popular as the videos themselves.
Follow that example and find your own art style.
Additionally, you can use a YouTube name generator to create a channel name that matches that same aesthetic.
Whether you’re a new content creator or an established artist looking to explore the YouTube realm, you can definitely benefit from having the right sized and formatted videos.
Not only does it have an impression-specific effect on your audience, but it also ensures a higher number of subscriptions and likes.
Luckily, platforms such as Pixelied offer a ton of customizability options for channel graphics.
With Pixelied, you can rest assured that the ingredients of a great YouTube channel are taken care of, aside from the video quality and content.