Last Updated: January 4, 2022
You want to start uploading on YouTube, but you have to choose an appropriate format for your video.
Suddenly you see things like “.mp4” or “.avi”. Confusion sets in.
I’m here to explain all about the best video format for YouTube.
What Is the Best Video Format for YouTube?
According to YouTube, the best quality video format to upload in is the MP4 container. Google advises using the H.264 video codec, and a 16:9 aspect ratio for the best results.
What this all means is, in pretty much all cases, the .mp4 file type is the best format for YouTube videos. The H.264 codec is typically used in the MPEG-4 container format, which is then classified as an .mp4 extension.
Of course, this is just one of the possible YouTube file types that the website permits.
Not a fan of it?
What Video Formats Does YouTube Support?
Depending on your preferences, the following video formats for YouTube are also supported:
- HEVC (h265)
What Video Size Should You Choose for Your YouTube Videos?
When it comes to the dimensions of a YouTube video, the options are literally endless.
To sum up:
Content creators are recommended to use a 16:9 aspect ratio for their uploads. This ensures that your video will fit perfectly on most monitors and video displays – most of them also share the same dimensions.
If you are uncertain what aspect ratio you should use, 16:9 is your best bet.
Using 21:9 would make your video appear wider, giving it a sort of cinematic feel.
Another common one is 4:3, which was more frequent before the onset of widescreen displays. It makes the video appear more like a square than the other aspect ratios we mentioned.
There’s more where that came from.
The lowest possible YouTube resolution is 144p, while high-definition videos are typically uploaded at 1080p. If your file is in 16:9 and you want to upload in high-definition, you should try to encode it at 1920 by 1080 pixels.
720p is also considered a good alternative for high-quality content. By encoding at 1280 by 720 pixels, your video will not look as crisp as 1080p, but it would still be nice and sharp. If you want your videos to look professional and of high quality, your goal should be 720p and above.
YouTube also supports higher dimensions, however, like 4K. If you are looking to upload at the highest possible YouTube video resolution, your target is 2160p. In a typical 16:9 ratio, that translates to 3840 by 2160 pixels. And recently, the website has also introduced support for 8K resolution at 7680 by 4320 pixels, if you really want to push the limits.
Why Is It Important to Choose the Right Video Format?
The best video format for YouTube is the one that is best suited for the target audience you are trying to reach.
Let me explain why.
Aspect ratio is important – if you intend your content to mostly be watched on a computer monitor or a TV, then it would be best to opt for 16:9. The size of the display also means you will have to encode in a higher resolution, since lower quality videos do not look good on a large screen.
On the other hand, if you want to offer the best experience on smartphones, it would be best to use an aspect ratio that fits modern mobile displays. Another option is to make your video compatible to watch in portrait mode by using a 9:16 aspect ratio. This ratio keeps the dimensions of the screen the same as 16:9, but uses portrait mode instead of landscape.
If your target audience is in an area with slow internet speeds, lower quality can actually be a plus. A smaller YouTube video size uses less bandwidth. So, if you are looking to take advantage of that, encoding at 720p or even lower quality is a good option.
Also, an FLV format is more suitable for smaller file sizes than MP4. That is because FLV specializes in higher compression in order to make videos playable through web browsers with minimal effort.
On the other hand, if you are looking to create a cinematic experience, like a movie trailer, then try to upload in the highest quality you can. Using an MP4 video format is most recommended for the highest quality compression results. H.264 is by far the best codec for YouTube, and the most common one, making up 92% of streaming formats.
You may also try encoding your video in a different format like 21:9, which would make it fit on widescreen displays.
What Is the Difference Between File Containers and File Codecs?
This is where things get a bit technical.
Simply put, a video format consists of a file container and a file codec.
People use the latter to compress or decompress a digital video file. The MP4 format uses the H.264 codec to compress files, which is also the standard YouTube video format.
So, the purpose of compressing a file is to make it smaller in size and faster to transmit.
Once the compressed file is transmitted, it is then decoded in order to make it watchable. A tool that can only compress, or encode files is called an encoder. The opposite of that is a decoder, a device that can only decode video files.
After a video is compressed, it is stored in a file container format, also known as a wrapper, or a metafile. A file container uses the audio and video streams, along with metadata, and combines them into a single multimedia file. This can then be played back using media playback software.
The name of the file format usually follows the name of the container, like MP4. YouTube uses the H.264 codec and MP4 container format for most of its videos.
Helpful Tips for Uploading Video on YouTube
General requirements and content type
The maximum allowed file size of YouTube video is 256 GB, and the maximum length is 12 hours.
If you want to upload content longer than 15 minutes, however, you will need to verify your Google account. In order for a channel to be able to monetize their videos, they need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours.
The YouTube Community Guidelines also prohibit content of hateful, violent, or sexual nature. The content you post must not be harmful, or promote the sale of illegal goods or services, like stolen bank accounts and drugs.
Use a custom thumbnail and presentation
Once you have made sure you cover all necessary requirements, you can start uploading.
If you are unsure, film your video in a high resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Furthermore, make sure to use an appropriate YouTube upload format. Creating a custom thumbnail and title is also very important for attracting attention to your content.
Make your thumbnail stand out by using bright colors and large text which is noticeable in a smaller size.
Make sure not to include any offensive, violent, or sexual content in your thumbnail or video title as well. Avoid using copyrighted content, Avoid using copyrighted content, if you don’t want copyright strikes against your channel. If you want to use music in your video, opt for a track that is royalty-free.
Choose the appropriate format
You might remember, out of the compatible video formats for YouTube, MP4 is the most recommended one. It is also best to use a H.264 video codec for video compression and AAC-LC audio codec at a sample rate of 96khz or 48khz.
Frame rate is also important. The most common ones on YouTube are 30 frames per second, or 60 frames per second. However, it also supports other ones like 24, 25, 48, and 50 frames per second.
If you want your video to look as smooth as possible, target a higher frame rate.
In terms of bitrate, I’d recommend:
- SDR uploads
- 5 Mbps at 720p in standard frame rate (24, 25, or 30 frames per second)
- 7.5 Mbps at 720p in high frame rate (48 frames per second or higher)
- HDR uploads
- 6.5 Mbps at 720p in standard frame rate
- 9.5 Mbps at 720p in high frame rate
At the end of the day, the format you should use is the one that is best suited for the purpose of your video. In most cases, that means using MP4, a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a quality of at least 720p or higher.
If you want viewers to watch your content on a large screen, consider using higher than standard YouTube video dimensions, like 1440p or even 4K.
If your video is best suited for smartphones, or targets regions with low internet speeds, you can afford to upload at a lower resolution and frame rate.
To maximize your chances of your content being promoted by the YouTube algorithm, you should upload at a high quality and avoid showing any offensive or violent content anywhere. Using a custom thumbnail is important for attracting viewers and obtaining clicks. Pair that with a good title for the best results.
Also, make sure your video is running at least 24 frames per second, and avoid including copyrighted material like music.
So, what are you uploading next?
The MP4 video format is generally considered the best YouTube video format. Additionally, 16:9 aspect ratio is commonly found on most displays, so encoding a video at that ratio will ensure the entire screen is filled up.
AVI and MP4 are both appropriate for YouTube, however MP4 is the format that produces more high-quality video.
The compression techniques used by MP4 do not result in as much of a loss of visual and sound quality as compared to AVI. Furthermore, YouTube themselves recommend uploading in MP4 format whenever possible. That being said, the website also supports AVI.
There are many nuances to choosing the best suited format for your video. In most cases, uploading in an MP4 format in a high resolution like 1080p is the best video format for YouTube content. The H.264 video codec is very popular, due to its compression that does not impact visual quality much.
YouTube supports a wide range of file formats, but the most common are MP4, AVI, MOV, FLV, WMV, MPG, among others.
If you are unsure whether YouTube supports your file type , you can find the full list of formats above.