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How to Make YouTube Videos Look Great

Updated on December 24, 2014

Why Do My Videos Look Terrible on YouTube?

The key for YouTube to display your video the best possible way, is to upload the best possible quality video that meets or exceeds their requirements. That is by encoding videos the right way. 

I'll show you a few ways on how to encode, compress or optimize your videos before uploading them to YouTube.

But first, let me tell you why your YouTube videos look awful.

Two Reasons Why

1. Poor Transcoding: In Normal Mode, YouTube converts anything you upload to Flash 7 video (250 kbps) which isn't so great by today's standards. However most installed browsers will play Flash 7.

2. Scaled Up Player: YouTube expands the video for viewing to 480x360 pixels in its website, thus degrading the actual video resolution of 320x240 pixels, namely the video looks softened and sometimes pixelated. It's the same effect when you view a DVD at full screen in your computer. You're not increasing the number of pixels, just spreading them out further.

They made a decision that most users would favor size over quality. They know what they're doing, they're overwhelmingly popular!

High-Quality YouTube Videos

So do you want your videos to look as good as these YouTube videos?

Read more, keep watching and then try my encoding recipes!

Optimizing Your Videos For YouTube

Important Facts on How to Encode Videos

1. Read How To Shoot and Edit Videos For The Web.

2. YouTube (newest) recommended settings are:

  • H.264, MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 format
  • 640x480 (SD) or 1280x720 (HD) for 4:3 & 16:9 aspect ratios.
  • Frame rate should be the same as original video
  • Sampling rate: 44.1KHz for MP3/AAC audio

3. Your source video needs to be ideally high resolution. For instance: MOV or AVI file, NTSC 720x480, HDV 1080i, 720p or VGA 640x480.

4. It's very important that you keep an aspect ratio of 4:3 or 16:9, otherwise the quality of your video will be degraded. Flash 7 codec performs best when the frame width and height use multiple of 16. This is optimal for video playback.

5. If you want to fit the player perfectly, encode at these 16:9 resolutions:

1080p: 1920x1080

720p: 1280x720

480p: 854x480

360p: 640x360

240p: 426x240

6. You need to get a high quality video encoder. Keep in mind that most video editing programs such as Apple Final Cut Pro, iMovie, Adobe Premiere Pro, Windows Movie Maker or Sony Vegas, come with an encoding engine so you can export your videos directly from the timeline.

7. YouTube has updated its technology, and now you have the option of watching some videos at a higher quality or in HD 720p Mode. Read YouTube High Definition for more in-depth info.

8. In Hi-Res Mode, YouTube creates 2 new copies of your video:

  • 448x336 pixels, Flash 7 video @ 900Kbps. Audio @ 44.1KHz Mono.
  • 480x360 pixels, H.264 video @ 512Kbps. Audio @ 44.1KHz Stereo.

So now you're ready to watch the tutorials, try my recipe settings and you'll be on your way to optimize the quality of your videos for YouTube.

Compressing Videos for YouTube Tutorials

The following tutorials will give you an idea on how to compress videos for YouTube, but you need to understand that the key is to input the right settings.

Compressing Videos for YouTube Using Sorenson Squeeze - This is my favorite compression tool!

Very user friendly. You can encode your video to the most popular formats in the video industry (H.264, WMV, RM, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MOV, MP3, MP4, SWF, On2 VP6 and Spark FLV) with a variety of codec compression settings. Recommended for intermediate or expert users.

Squeeze is a little bit pricey, although it's worth every cent.

But you can always get a copy for a fraction of its regular price, $500, on eBay. Check it out!

Produce and Convert YouTube Videos

Wondershare

Video Converter Ultimate is an all-in-one DVD Video Converter, by providing you a one stop solution for family video/DVD conversion. You can convert both SD and HD videos to any video format for your portable media player or cell phone including iPod (Classic, Nano and Touch), iPhone, Apple TV, Zune, PSP, Pocket PC, Creative Zen, Archos, and 3GP mobile phones, etc.

Compressing Videos for YouTube Using Sony Vegas 2 - Tutorial

DVD to YouTube Converter

Looking for an easy tool to do the job?

iSofter DVD to YouTube Converter is fast and easy to use DVD to YouTube video converter software. It helps you convert home DV or DVD to YouTube supported video MPEG-4(DivX,XviD) with excellent image and sound quality.

The YouTube converter tool also supports convert VOB to MPEG-4(*.avi). It supports audio formats such as MP3, WMV, M4A.

Free Software for Compressing YouTube Videos - Tutorial

VirtualDub (Free)

Very powerful video capture/processing utility for Windows platforms. Easy to use interface, although compression codec settings are somewhat for knowledgeable compressionists. Recommended for expert users.


VirtualDub or VDub is a very sophisticated encoder for those who have experience with compressing tools. A straight forward approach using Xvid codec.

A Must Read

Real World Video Compression
Real World Video Compression

The book begins by describing the basic concepts of video compression, explains why you might choose a particular compression tool over another, and covers important workflow practices. A valuable learning tool for anyone learning to encode video, whether they are bloggers, DVD authors, video editors, or students.

 

Convert Your Home Movies Into YouTube Movies - Video Capture Your Analog Movies Into Your Computer

Convert your VHS, S-VHS, Hi8 and 8mm analog tapes to DV into your computer.

The Best Encoding Settings

Coming up next, I will explain to you few techniques, in detail, on how to encode high-quality videos for YouTube. If you follow them correctly, your videos will be greatly improved. Enjoy!

PS: Please let me know how it went with your videos.

Steve Jobs Talks About H.264 Codec

1. Encoding H.264 Videos For YouTube

Tips For The Hardcore Compressionists

If you got to this stage in the article then you are probably pretty serious about getting the best settings and filters compressing videos for YouTube using QuickTime Pro or Sorenson Squeeze.

1. Use H.264 codec, the best MPEG4 codec in the market today.

2. Set Quality to Best and encoding to Multipass.

3. Set key frames to Automatic.

4. Set data rate to Automatic.

5. Uncheck Frame Reordering.

6. Set aspect ratio to 640x480 for NTSC or PAL, or 1280x720 for HD video.

7. Set frame rate same as original video.

8. Set audio compression AAC: 48 KHz, 128 kbps, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) 16 bits, stereo.

9. De-interlace your NTSC or PAL source videos, especially if it's high motion.

10. Apply filters to improve the look of your video: a bright/contrast filter and/or an image sharpening filter.

11. The section Prepare for Internet Streaming must be set to Fast Start.

Remember, all these compression settings are the best compromise between keeping the video smaller than 1GB and keeping as much information as possible from the original video file.

2. Encoding DivX Videos For YouTube

Tips for The Hardcore Compressionists

The best settings and filters compressing videos for YouTube using VirtualDub. Remember VirtualDub is a very sophisticated encoding tool.

1. Buy and install DivX Pro Codec.

2. Open VirtualDub and "Open video file" so it loads into the viewer.

3. From Video menu, choose Compression and it opens a new window. Select video compression: Divx 6.x codec (2 Logical CPUs) and click Configure.

4. Then it opens the Divx Codec Properties which has 3 tabs. Please use this DviX tutorial as reference.

5. On the Main Tab. Set Certification Profile to Unconstrained. Set Encoding Presets to 10. Set Rate Control mode to 1-pass quality-based, and Fixed quantizer to 4. This action will set the bit rate to about 10Mbps.

6. Leave Codec Tab the way it is.

7. On the Video Tab, Set Format In to the appropriate value, depending on your source and Format Out to Square Pixels. Check "No resize or format conversion". Leave everything else as default, since Filters will be used to resize, deinterlace, etc. Click OK twice to close the DivX settings.

8. Now we're ready to apply some filters. From VDub's Video Menu select Filters...Then apply deinterlace filter if your source is NTSC ot PAL video, resize filter to set aspect ratio to 640x480.

9. From VDub's Video Menu select Frame Rate...If your source is 29.97fps or 30fps, set "Frame rate conversion" to No Change. If not, click "Change to 30 frames per second". Leave everything else the same.

10. Install the MP3 codec for VirtualDub LAME MP3 encoder. Once the downloaded file is extracted, select, right click the LameACM.inf file and do Install.

11. From VDub's Audio Menu select "Full processing mode", then select "Compression...". The choose 44.1KHz 128kbs Stereo CBR.

12. Apply other Filters to improve the look of your video: a bright/contrast filter and/or an image sharpening filter.

13. From VDub's File Menu select "Save as AVI" and your source file will be processed.

Remember, all these compression settings are the best compromise between keeping the video smaller than 1GB and keeping as much information as possible from the original video file.

DivX Encoding Example

Watch YouTube Hi-Res version here.

Or watch YouTube Lo-Res version below.

For The Hardcore Video Compressionist

Video Coding for Mobile Communications: Efficiency, Complexity and Resilience (Signal Processing and its Applications)
Video Coding for Mobile Communications: Efficiency, Complexity and Resilience (Signal Processing and its Applications)

This book considers how to enable real-time, mobile video communications by raising coding efficiency, reducing computational complexity, and improving error resilience. The solutions are based on video source coding, and use a motion-based approach to address the problems.

 

FLV Encoding Example

I compressed the clip below using the techniques described in the previous section. I even added stereo sound, check it out!

By the way, if you are an expert compressionist you can check out the excellent VideoHelp forum to learn how you can improve the quality of your YouTube videos using advanced techniques.

Camtasia Studio Videos - TechSmith Codec into H.264 Codec for YouTube

If you want a better looking Camtasia video, you would need to re-encode it to H.264 or DivX before uploading to YouTube.

Can I Use Similar Settings For Other Video Sharing Sites?

Absolutely. The video compression settings shown above will improve your videos as well on Web 2.0 video sites such as: AOL Video, Blip.tv, Dailymotion, Flurl, Google Video, iFilm, Metacafe, MySpace, Revver, Stage6, Veoh, Vimeo, Yahoo Video, etc.

Thanks for your comments

What Do You Think of My YouTube Encoding Techniques? - Rate this lens, if you don't mind...

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    • profile image

      getupandgrow 3 years ago

      Thank you-this lens is so clear and helpful. I'lll be returning to it a lot to getvideosset up better from the start

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Your idea is good and helpful!

      It's a great honor if you could also check mine:

      http://www.squidoo.com/vimeo-tips

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks for the helpful hints

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      omgg this info was so great!

    • strategylab profile image

      Jeph Maystruck 4 years ago from Regina, SK

      Very helpful thanks a lot!

    • profile image

      forextrading2000 4 years ago

      Very informative lens, Many thanks for sharing the great info

    • mannasugar profile image

      mannasugar 5 years ago

      What an important Lens....

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I luv when people give awesome helpful info!! I'm excited to do my next Tube video..I hope it looks as awesome as yurs up top:):-) thanx and stay blessed!!

    • profile image

      yogendrachavda 5 years ago

      currently i am using camtasia as it gives more functionality to add more advanced effects to the video

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent job! Clear and explained well. Helped me upload my 3rd HD video (out of 7 total) to YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/AndyBeFree)

    • HomeDecorKnight profile image

      HomeDecorKnight 5 years ago

      Thanks for your tips to make YouTube videos look great, Nice lens.

    • madmike1 lm profile image

      madmike1 lm 5 years ago

      Great lens, Im getting ready to start a new Youtube channel, and I definitely want it to look it's best !!! Thanks a lot !!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      yo

    • acisni lm profile image

      acisni lm 5 years ago

      Great tips - this was just what I was looking for. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I used your 1080 suggestions and my video is already looking better. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Tnks 4 posting this :)

    • OrlandoTipster profile image

      OrlandoTipster 5 years ago

      Great to have specs.

      Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      That was really helpful I am kept encoding it at the default 320 resolution and the quality was awful!

      320 is okay for mobile devices but you recommended 640 and it looks better on laptops!

      My Blog:

      Finger Monkey Wire

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Ya, I can't get mine to look like other people's HD videos either, even though they look perfect before I upload them.

    • profile image

      BetterBloggingWays 5 years ago

      Very useful lens. I learned a lot about YouTube encoding

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks! I will use this for my next youtube video.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I followed all of these steps and yet my video still looks substantially worse on youtube than it does when I play it off quicktime or VLC. Am I missing something?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      cheers! : )

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for this info. I appreciate it.

    • equilibria profile image

      equilibria 5 years ago

      Just the info I was looking for... Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      thank you, x

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      great info, I'm going to give it a try now.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      FRankly I am not familiar enough to comment.

    • profile image

      MagooDancer19 5 years ago

      great lens! 2 thumbs up!

    • profile image

      denysaputra 5 years ago

      Nice and quite interesting lense! Good luck and hanks for the interesting stuff you've mentioned above.

      Cheers! get views on YouTube

    • profile image

      douglasglair 5 years ago

      Thanks⦠and cheers to your effortsâ¦

      videosurveillance

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      EXCELLENT Info.

    • awestricken1 profile image

      Ken Parker 5 years ago from Tacoma, Wa

      Great Work on the lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent article. I have a better understanding now. Which commercial Video Editor (or in general) would you recommend?? Thanks!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i still really don't get it.. i don't have the options of putting in aspect ratios in media edit 3.. just width and height and frame rate..video looks good there only when rendered and exported to mpeg4 ..it gets all pixelated

    • stevedouglas lm profile image

      stevedouglas lm 5 years ago

      great info, thanks

    • KangarooJase1 profile image

      KangarooJase1 6 years ago

      I can really see the usefulness in how you have put in this information. I didn't realize until now that is also a wealth more information under this comments module. Great lens.

    • profile image

      Anderotin 6 years ago

      I did really helped

    • profile image

      scenestreams 6 years ago

      thanks so much i just made a video using these tips...could you check it out and tell me what you think??? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVFLKE708Vo thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi, I also found a post that may also help:

      http://www.hiswebhk.com/2011/11/good-video-easily/

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Really great information

    • profile image

      HaroutA 6 years ago

      Helpful information, much appreciated.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I want to just have a picture with a song that i created in the background and i have windows xp. Every time I use windows movie maker and upload the audio with just the picture, the audio quality is so horrible. What should I do?

    • seattle47 profile image

      seattle47 6 years ago

      Wow, practical lens!

    • profile image

      drchica21 6 years ago

      I find this kinda confusing. I make videos for youtube and they come out okay, but the quality does seem to fade on the site. help?

      also, check out my channel, it's... interesting. ;D: http://www.youtube.com/user/drchica21

    • profile image

      TopTenLists 6 years ago

      Very useful! thanks :-)

    • TIRMassageStone1 profile image

      TIRMassageStone1 6 years ago

      Good stuff to know, thanks!

    • FreeHoroscopes profile image

      FreeHoroscopes 6 years ago

      very informative and helpful! thanks for this!

    • AsianMarketplace profile image

      AsianMarketplace 6 years ago

      Very informative lens. Thanks for the guidance!

    • profile image

      jaffarkhan 6 years ago

      @tgnyc00: i like it but i dont now what i us it

    • profile image

      tienlove 6 years ago

      Excellent lens! I've added a link to this on my filmmaking lens, this can definitely help lots of people. :)

    • profile image

      tgnyc00 6 years ago

      Great lens! You deserce a SquidLike!

      When you have a minute dont forget to check mine out...

      http://www.squidoo.com/manhattan-properties

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Pretty nice article, thank you! Will come back when editing next video that will be uploaded to youtube :)

      Regards

      Zap

      Best YouTube Videos

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I found out how you do this, thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      A lot of the terrible quality on YouTube is to do with lack of any filmmaking technique. People can't hold a camera still, pan at breakneck speed, shoot against blinding light and so on. They have no idea about composition either, or the need to fill the frame. The subject is often distant and tiny. For some reason almost all amateur videos are too dark as well. Most of them would be unwatchable whatever the codecs and so on, because they started that way. GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out! My favourite hate by the way, is people not getting the aspect ratio right. I hate things skinny or fattened up. It is so difficult to correct this end.

    • profile image

      RichFTeamLegacy 6 years ago

      GREAT INFORMATION AND THAN YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND EFFORT.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

    • profile image

      YoutubeVideoMarketing 6 years ago

      Hay thank you for very nice video marketing guide and information. I appreciate your effort which you have put in the article. keep up the good work continue. Have a nice day.

      P.S. Learn How He Made $50,000 With Youtube Video Marketing ONLY In Just 2 Months!

    • nukemdomis lm profile image

      nukemdomis lm 6 years ago

      I read up to this comment section and was so happy with the info I couldn't wait to leave a comment. After leaving that comment I continued reading and eventually came to your VirtualDub section.

      You see, it is a great tool, otherwise it wouldn't be on your page.

    • nukemdomis lm profile image

      nukemdomis lm 6 years ago

      I am so proud that a fellow Squid ranks #1 for what I just searched. "How to make my video look better before uploading". You have some great information at the beginning of this lens.

      Have you tried VirtualDub? How about SUPER? I use them both and they are awesome.

      Keep up the good work here Cinetech.

    • profile image

      jseven lm 6 years ago

      Great information, thanks!

    • profile image

      rishabverma 6 years ago

      thank you for sharing this great information.

    • Krafick profile image

      Krafick 6 years ago

      Great information. Thanks

    • profile image

      shiply 6 years ago

      What are your thoughts on vimeo as an alternative?

      --------------------------------------------------------------

      Spedition

    • profile image

      ezpostcard 6 years ago

      very helpful! this can be my top resource for editing and uploading my videos.

    • cineteq profile image
      Author

      John Parr 6 years ago from Montreal

      Nothing. 44.1KHz is more than enough quality.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      what would happen if i encoded my video with 48khz instead of 44? would it be better or worse?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks a lot for this post ! Really informative and helpful...(even for someone who doesn't know a thing bout computers). Thanks!

    • Bluesssman profile image

      Bluesssman 6 years ago

      Excellent lens! I am going to change my YouTube settings!

    • Randoggle profile image

      Randoggle 6 years ago

      Thanks for all the help

    • thetubeviews lm profile image

      thetubeviews lm 6 years ago

      Wow, great lens! Do you ever use iMovie to create videos. It is pretty easy to use and I use it all the time. :).

    • profile image

      kally108 6 years ago

      Thanks Friend. That was fast and I appreciate it. CNET had 21 different FLV players and i was getting completely confused. And sorry for all the typos in my last post !

    • cineteq profile image
      Author

      John Parr 6 years ago from Montreal

      Use JW Player:

      http://www.longtailvideo.com/players/jw-flv-player...

      Thanks a lot for your contribution.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks. I was a ctually looking out for a good FLY player for my blog and some encoders (I am a music) and photograp buff. The technology has grown so rapidly, that for guys like us encoders and decoders seem very geeky. This has been well wriitten. But I wonder if all you tube vids are compressed ot only some. I see that my vids which are in mp4 format are shown as HD but other onces which I make using some poplular converts come out very poot on you tube though it looks good on my playe but when uploaded to youtube is pathetic. I just have one question coz I am getting tired of looking at so much of technology. Which would you suggest as the best FLV player for my blog and which is the best encoder for my blog or youtube.. A answer to that will be much appreciated. Thanks and this is good man !

    • profile image

      jocondrill 7 years ago

      Eye opening. - thanks for the details.

    • profile image

      AndyBolton 7 years ago

      Thanks for the information... Its been a great help.

      Pounds to Euros

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Excellent! This lens is excellent!

    • profile image

      taliasmith23 7 years ago

      this is very helpful, thanks :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      thanks for the tips!

    • profile image

      mienfield 7 years ago

      Great tips for youtubers! Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is concise yet thorough. By far the best forum on this subject that I have found. I only found it last week and have referenced it several times. Fantastic work!

    • profile image

      natashadowling1 7 years ago

      Thanks 4 the helpful tips!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great tips on making quality videos on YouTube! I lensrolled to my recently created lens called Turn Pictures into Music Videos. 5*'s, favourite and congrats on all the accolades...I'm a fan!

    • Nicky2Time profile image

      Nicky2Time 7 years ago

      Great advice on video. I'm hoping to incorporate YouTube into my blogging soon and this lens is going to be a great resource. Thanks!

    • brittanyshaf profile image

      brittanyshaf 7 years ago

      great lens! thanks for the info. i like posting movies on youtube, but have found that i am going to need to plan better as i film and post them up there in order for them to look better. thanks for the advice! i hope you'll check out my movies on youtube sometime. my username is baffsmedia.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for the info. Now I know why some of my videos are not up to snuff. 5* and will follow you on Twitter too.

      Cheers,

      Debra

    • profile image

      joseph7384 8 years ago

      You have done a great job here, excellent tutorials and images.

    • profile image

      ATP 8 years ago

      Thanks. Now I better understand YouTube videos. I now feel no guilt when choosing YouTube videos to post at:

      http://www.squidoo.com/ever-expanding-list-of-anno...

      Because sometimes, there's a really funny video that's too pixelated to go on. And now...I know why!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 8 years ago

      Great lens! Thanks for sharing this information. Now I know why my uploaded videos are terrible. Btw, mind visiting my first lens about Toner Refill Kits ? Just tell me what you think about it.

    • profile image

      pamelajacob 8 years ago

      Thank you just what I was looking for. Now I know why my movies look so pix elated.

    • profile image

      dannym29 8 years ago

      Hi,

      Well done this is a brilliant lens, it is very informative and makes for brilliant reading.

    • giacombs-ramirez profile image

      gia combs-ramirez 8 years ago from Montana

      Love your lenses. Blessed by an angel.

      .

    • profile image

      livingonsolar 8 years ago

      Thanks for the info. I have several videos on you tube and on my website. I am always looking for how to make them the best I can.

    • profile image

      Cashbandit 8 years ago

      Great material, man, where do you find the time? Appreciate the info!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 8 years ago

      This lens is featured on A Day of 100 Squid Angel Blessings.

    • profile image

      tcinvestor 8 years ago

      Excellent. Thanks for the details. Have been planning on getting some videos set up to accompany my book, blogs and future audio - dvd products and was looking for some quick detailed key points. You rock.

    • profile image

      ComTecOne 8 years ago

      WOW!!! Awesome Lense. Thank you so much for sharing! YouTube needs people like you!

    • profile image

      mikeitloffe 8 years ago

      Great, great, great. I would give you 10 stars if I could. You will have to accept just 5 and favorites. I am your fan now.