Page Updated: October 2014
Versions: Premiere Pro CS3, CS4 and CS6
if you are using other versions, you may still find the information on this page useful.
Summary of Settings
If you are uploading a lot of videos, I suggest that you go through the whole article, but if you are in a hurry, here is a summary of the main settings:
- Format & Container: H.264 & MPEG-4
- Resolution (Frame Dimensions): 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720
- Pixel Aspect Ratio: Square pixels (1:1)
- Field Order: None, non-interlaced, progressive (different terms for the same thing)
- TV Standard: NTSC or PAL (depends on your original footage and/or settings in your video editing program)
- Frame rate: 29.97 (for NTSC) or 25 for (PAL) (depends on your original footage and/or settings in your video editing program)
- Bitrate Encoding: (Updated October 2014) YouTube and Vimeo now recommend Variable Bit Rate (2 pass)
- Video Bitrate: At least 5,000 kbps for 1280 x 720 , 10,000 kbps for 1920×1080 video. (Updated May 2014). These are the recommended settings for what YouTube calls ‘normal quality’. They videos should look fine. For even higher quality, for what YouTube is now calling “High quality uploads for creators with enterprise quality internet connections” (Advanced encoding settings), they are recommending 30,000 kbps for 1280 x 720 videos and 50,000 kbsp for 1920 x 1080 videos.
- Audio Code and Channels: AAC, Channels: Stereo
- Audio Frequency: 48 khz
- Audio Bitrate = 320 kbps or 384 kbps
For Premiere Pro users select Render at Maximum Quality and Render at Maximum Depth.
For exporting high-definition video (HD video) using Adobe Media Encoder. In Premiere Pro, this is accessed by selecting File – Export – Media or Media Encoder. However, make sure you have clicked on the timeline first. Also you need to make sure that you have selected all the clips that you want to export (as shown in the following image).
I have found the following settings to work well with YouTube and Vimeo videos, giving you reasonable quality, relatively small file sizes, smooth playback, quick encoding and no audio synchronization problems.
Main Workflow Principles
There are two main principles. One is to try to minimize the number of times the format of the original video is altered. Therefore, the project settings you choose when you open a new Premiere Pro file and your export settings for creating the final video for uploading are based on the format of your original video. If you want to know more about project settings you can refer to these posts:
The second principle is to export your video in a format YouTube handles particularly well; that is, in a format that doesn’t need to be changed very much when being converted.
Four Main Choices
For HD video on YouTube, there are two choices: 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080. You can create HD video in other dimensions, but YouTube may not handle them as well (and will convert them to one or both of the default resolutions).
- If you are working with 1440 x 1080 anamorphic* HD video, it is best to downscale the resolution slightly to 1280 x 720 and change the pixel aspect ration to 1:1. (*anamorphic pixels are rectangular.
- If you are working with 1920 x 1080 video, you can keep these larger dimensions for your output or downscale to 1280 x 720 if you want smaller file sizes.
- If you are working with 1280 x 720 video, just export the video at this resolution.
It is possible to upload anamorphic 1440 x 1080i video directly to YouTube. YouTube will convert everything for you and the YouTube video will be available for viewing in 720p (1280 x 720) and may also be available in 1080p (1920 x 1080); however, there won’t be much difference in quality between these two versions (that is, if the original video is 1440 x 1080). Also, you will not have any control over how well YouTube converts your video. Therefore, I would recommend exporting anamorphic HD video in 1280 x 720 (i.e., do the conversion yourself).
b) TV Standard
There are two main standards: PAL and NTSC. If you are creating a video for YouTube, just maintain the same video standard through your whole workflow. For example, if your camera produces PAL video, use PAL project settings and export to a PAL video. In HD video meant to be played on computers, the main difference between the two formats is frame speed (PAL = 25 frames per second, NTSC = 29.97 frames per second).
c) Use of Render at Maximum Quality, (CS4 and CS6), Render at Maximum Depth (CS6) and Frame Blending
CS4 and CS6 feature a maximum render quality setting. This is useful when exporting video with lots of movement, but it will greatly increase the video rendering time. You can see the difference in the following still images taken from the same timeline. The image from the left is from a video exported without this function enabled. The image on the right is with the Use Maximum Render Quality setting enabled.
If you are interested in finding out more about this function, I’ve added a page here: longzijun.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/premiere-pro-cs4-maximum-render-quality/. The function is in easily found in CS6, but if using CS4, click on the link in the previous sentence to find out where to access it.
The Render at Maximum Depth setting involves the ability to differentiate between different colours. Enabling this function MAY increase the quality of the video slightly, but it probably wouldn’t be noticeable once your video is uploaded and transcoded in YouTube. Many people leave this function disabled (the default setting).
The Frame Blending function comes into play if you have changed the speed of your video in the timeline (e.g., slow motion) or if there is any different in the frame rate between the project settings, original video clip and export settings. It tries to create smoother movement by blurring some of the frames together. Some people like this effect; others dislike it. If your video has any changes in frame rate, I recommend doing trial exports of a small portion of the video with Frame Blending enabled and disabled and see which one you prefer.
In CS6, frame blending disabled by default. You can enable it while exporting or you can enable it on individual video clips in the project (Right click on the clip then select ‘Clip’ in the toolbar at the top of the screen. Select ‘Video Options’ and then ‘Frame Blending’). In contrast, Frame Blending is automatically enabled in CS3 and CS4.To disable it, it seems the only way is to select each affected clip in your project and disable it. (Click on the clip then select ‘Clip’ in the toolbar at the top of the screen. Select ‘Video Options’ and then ‘Frame Blending’)
d) Containers and Formats
I find that H.264/MPEG-4 and WMV files work well on YouTube, though a wide range of other formats are possible. I think the H.264/MPEG-4 combination provides slightly better quality and MPEG-4 is the preferred format of other video uploading sites like Vimeo, though if you also want to create a copy of your video to play on things like Windows Media Player, the WMV file will give you greater flexibility (MP4 files are playable on Windows Media Player in Windows 7; however, they do not always play smoothly).
Usually I export at least two versions of every video: an MP4 file for uploading the video to YouTube and a WMV file for showing the video on computers at work (I sometimes also create mp2 files for making DVDs and an uncompressed avi file to serve as a master copy of any future use).
The MP4 Option (H.264 & MPEG-4)
Format: H.264 (select this option first)
- In CS3 and CS4 for 1280×720 output: You can start with HDTV 720p (then you need to change a lot of the values)
- In CS3 and CS4 for 1920×1080 output: You can start with with one of the the 1440 x by 1080i presets (then you need to change most of the values)
- In C6S: Scroll down and find the appropriate YouTube video setting in terms of resolution (1920×1080 or 1280×720 and select the frame rate of your project setting (e.g., 25 fps for PAL or 29.97 fps for NTSC). the default settings should work fine, though you may want to do some fine tuning.
TV standard: This should match the system used in your original video and in your Premiere Pro project settings (PAL or NTSC)
Frame dimensions: 1280×720 (if you are working with 1440×1080 video). If you are working with 1920×1080, you can keep these dimensions for your output or downscale to 1280×720.
Frame rate (fps): 25 for PAL or 29.97 for NTSC
Field Order: None (Progressive) (i.e., deinterlaced). If you are using CS3, you also need to select the deinterlace function under the output screen. You can access that at top left corner of the Media Encoder window as shown in the following picture. In CS4 and CS6, this deinterlacing is done automatically (interlaced video is meant to played on televisions screens).
Pixel aspect ratio: Square pixels
Profile: I have normally used standard. However, I also upload videos to Vimeo and Vimeo now requires the profile to be set to High, so I will use this setting in Future
Level: Again, I used to use 3.2 for 1280×720 video and 4.1 for 1920×1080 video, but now Vimeo is looking for at least 4.0 for 1280×720 video and 5.0 for 1920×1080 video, so I will be increasing the level to 4.1 or 4.2 (1280×720) for videos to also be Uploaded to Vimeo.
YouTube and Vimeo are now requesting that videos be exported Variable Bitrate – 2 passes (Updated October 2014) and see if there is an improvement in quality. A good standard target bitrate for 1280×720 video would be 5 Mbps which is the default setting in CS6 for YouTube video For 1920×1080 video, you can increase that to 8 Mbps). Update Feb. 2013: Vimeo is now recommending a CBR of 5,000 to 10,0000 for 1280×720 video and 10,000 to 20,000 for 1920×1080 video.
For VBR, (variable bitrate), select the ‘2 pass’ setting and work with the following:
Target bitrate (Mbps) = 5 (higher bitrates may get you better quality, but they might also lead to problems when your video is being encoded by YouTube or being played back on media players. Update (Feb. 2012): YouTube now recommends a video bitrate of 5 for 1280×720 video and 8 for 1920×1280 video.
Maxiumum bitrate = 7.5 (or 8.0) for 1280×720 video. I wouldn’t go higher than 10 (which appears to be the maximum bitrate on YouTube.
Update (May 2014): For even higher quality, for what YouTube is now calling “High quality uploads for creators with enterprise quality internet connections” (Advanced encoding settings), they are recommending 30,000 kbps for 1280×720 videos and 50,000 kbsp for 1920×1080 videos. I am not sure what the benefits of these huge bitrates are as YouTube will have to greatly compress such videos to be able to stream the videos effectively. Perhaps, it is a way of future-proofing your uploads so that they will look fantastic when everyone has super-high speed internet connections.
Frequency: YouTube and Vimeo now prefres 48 khz (though 44.1 khz also works fine)
Audio quality: high
Bitrate (kbps)= I usually use 320
Update (Feb. 2012). For HD video, YouTube now recommends a bitrate of 384 kbps (which isn’t even an option in Premiere Pro CS3 or CS4).
Multiplexing = MP4
Stream compatibility: Standard
The exported file will be an MP4 file and be around 30 – 40 MB per minute (1280 x 720) or 40-50 MB per minute (1980 x 1020). Not all media players (and not all versions of media players) will play MP4 video, however. If your media player can’t read the file and you want to view the video before uploading it, you can download and install the very effective freeware programme VLC Media Player (www.videolan.org/vlc/).
The WMV Option
If you are using PAL settings, you can also create a HD WMV video for YouTube very easily. Just select ‘Format: Windows Media’ and “Preset HDV 720p 25 High Quality” . The video quality will be almost as good as the MP4 file and can play more easily on different versions of Windows Media Player. You don’t need to change any values (but if you are using CS3, make sure the deinterlace option is checked–under ‘source’ in the top left corner of the screen). If you are working with NTSC you can try selecting the above settings and changing the frame rate to 29.97. I haven’t tried this option yet, but it should be OK.
If you have any more information about exporting for YouTube, please let me know. This page is intended for newbies. If there is anything that isn’t clear, let me know so I can improve the page.
My Other Articles on Video Editing
- Exporting HD Video for YouTube: Premiere Pro CS3 & CS4
- Choosing Premiere Pro Project Settings for HD Video: Very important, as it is difficult to change project settings once you begin
- Changing Project & Sequence Settings: Premiere Pro CS3 and CS4: Premiere Pro CS3 & CS4
- Premiere Pro CS4: Maximum Render Quality: For better image quality, especially with video of fast-moving objects
- Exporting Video for YouTube: Pixel Aspect Ratio Basics: How to get a pixel aspect ratio of 1:1
- Troubleshoot Export Failures: What to do when you see the error message: Application Failed to Return a Video Frame
- Exporting Video for Nico Nico Douga: Recommended settings
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