Exporting HD Video for YouTube (Premiere Pro)


Page Updated: February 2019
Versions: Premiere Pro CS4, CS6 and CC
if you are using other versions, you may still find the information on this page useful.

Summary of Settings

Here is a summary of the main settings:

  • Format & Container: H.264 & MPEG-4
  • Resolution (Frame Dimensions): 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720. If you are working with 4K video that would be 4096 x 2160 pixels, while 2K video would be 2560 x 1440. This article focuses on the most common resolution HD resolution on YouTube: 1920 x 1080.
  • 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) or 24 (depends on your original footage and/or settings in your video editing program). You can also choose the higher frame rate options of 60, 50 or 48. These are especially useful if you want to have very smooth action (e.g., in a gameplay video) and your original footage was filmed at that frame rate.
  • Bitrate Encoding: (Updated October 2014) YouTube and Vimeo now recommend Variable Bit Rate (2 pass)
  • Video Bitrate: At least 6,500 kbps for 1280 x 720 , 10,000 kbps for 1920 x 1080 video. . These are the recommended settings for what YouTube calls ‘normal quality’.  For higher frame rates, you can multiply the figures by 1.5.  You can see YouTube’s recommendations here:  Advanced encoding settings.
  • Profile: High
  • Audio Code and Channels: AAC, Channels: Stereo
  • Audio Frequency: 48 khz
  • Audio Bitrate = 320 kbps or 384 kbps

Select Render at Maximum Quality and consider selecting Render at Maximum Depth and Frame Blending.

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. For earlier versions of Premiere Pro make sure that you have selected all the clips that you want to export (as shown in the following image).

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.

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.

Three Main Choices

a) Resolution
For HD video on YouTube, there are two main choices: 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080 (not counting the 2K and 4K 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 ratio 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.

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 rate. The frame rate of PAL video is 25 or 50 frames per second. The frame rate of NTSC video is 30 (29.97) or 60 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  increase the video rendering time. You can see the difference in the following still images taken from the same timeline.

before_after2
Still image showing video without (top) and with (bottom) Maximum Render Quality selected

The top image is from a video exported without this function enabled. The image on the bottom is with the Use Maximum Render Quality setting enabled.

prem-export-cs6
These three settings are disabled by default

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 might not be very noticeable once your video is uploaded and transcoded in YouTube.

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.

You can enable frame blending 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’).

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 select the most appropriate preset (the one that most closely matches your video footage) . 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 still using CS3, make sure the deinterlace option is checked).

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


~by longzijun

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