Choosing the Best Video Format for YouTube
With over 2 billion users on YouTube1 and numerous methods for monetizing content on the platform, creators know the importance of publishing high-quality video content there. In one study, statistics showed that 77% of viewers stopped a video due to poor quality2. To make sure you’re producing the best media, you need to know the best format for YouTube videos and help your content stand out for the right reasons.
Today, we’re exploring the best video format for YouTube as well as specs to follow and which formats the platform allows. Learn how to optimize your content and boost media performance.
The TL;DR on Best Format for YouTube Videos
Here’s a quick list of “winners” to help you choose the best video format on YouTube. Scroll down for more details about why each option was chosen.
✔ File format: MP4
✔ Aspect ratio: 16:9
✔ Codec: H.264 file container and AAC-LC audio codec
✔ Video resolution: Lowest should be 720p. The highest depends on different factors.
✔ Frame rate: Between 24-30 fps.
Deep Dive Into the Best Video Format for YouTube Content
When it comes to the best video format for YouTube videos, the platform recommends uploading media in the MP4 format3. This video format presents clear, high-quality media for viewers to consume. It also recommends uploading videos that are high-definition for an optimal viewing experience.
File format: The best video file format for YouTube content is the MP4 format.
Aspect ratio: It’s best to upload YouTube video content in the standard 16:9 aspect ratio. If your media has a different aspect ratio, YouTube will automatically reformat it to 16:9 to optimize video quality across the platform as well as based on the viewer’s device4.
Codec: All MP4 video files uploaded to YouTube should have an H.264 file container and an AAC-LC audio codec.
Video resolution: The higher the video resolution, the longer it takes to upload media to YouTube. The best format for YouTube videos balances the viewing experience with file size. Most creators can opt for 1080p, which is considered HD, or high-definition. While the platform allows 4K and 8K video uploads, most people are viewing YouTube videos from their phones or other smaller devices which makes the visual difference relatively imperceptible. Additionally, 8K files will be shown at 4K video resolution on YouTube at the time of this article’s publication. When choosing the best video format for YouTube content, the lowest resolution you should consider is 720p.
Frame rate: You’re able to choose a frame rate between 24-30 fps.
What Is the MP4 Video Format?
The best video format for YouTube is MP4, but what does that mean? MP4 is the shortened version of MPEG-4 Part 14. It’s one of the most widely accepted container formats for devices and streaming formats in today’s media. While it’s commonly used for storing video content, you can also save subtitles and still images.
Other Compatible Video Formats for YouTube
While the best video format for YouTube videos is MP4, the platform is compatible with other video formats. It supports 13 different video formats at the time of this article’s publication.
Aside from the best format for YouTube videos (MP4), the platform supports:
- MPEG4: Dating back to 1998, the MPEG4 format is still commonly used for video compression. Creators are able to export high-quality videos in MPEG4 format to upload on YouTube.
- MOV: The MOV video format corresponds to Apple’s QuickTime player. Exporting video from QuickTime results in .mov being the default file type. The .mov files on YouTube can convert to MP4.
- ProRes: Like MOV, Apple developed ProRes. It’s primarily used to help video editors manage large high-resolution video files that may take up a lot of memory. YouTube downscales ProRes files and will convert them to MP4, so you can get the best format for YouTube videos even via ProRes.
- HEVC (H.265): This video codec is formally known as High-Efficiency Video Coding. It’s commonly used by video editors in order to export super high-resolution videos all the way up to 8K. Because YouTube doesn’t currently support 8K viewing, this is unnecessary and isn’t the best video format for YouTube content. It will downscale H.265 videos as needed.
- WMV: WMV stands for Windows Media Video. It’s a series of video codecs and compressed video container formats originating from Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Most commonly for creators, it’s used in conjunction with selling digital products like online video content.
- AVI: Microsoft also developed Audio Video Interleave (AVI) as a video container. Content creators may use it to save files with synchronous digital audio and video playback.
- WebM or HTML5: WebM was developed by Google as a royalty-free alternative to HTML5 using a VP8 or VP9 video codec and a Vorbis or Opus audio codec. It helps create smaller video file sizes that stream more easily on social media.
- FLV: FLV stands for Flash Video, a legacy format developed by Adobe for Adobe Flash Player. It’s not the best video format for YouTube content, as many web browsers block Flash videos since they can carry malware code so easily. If you upload an FLV video to YouTube, it’ll immediately convert it to MP4.
- DNxHR: DNxHR stands for Digital Nonlinear Extensible High Resolution, a high-resolution codec for use exclusively on high-definition screens. YouTube accepts DNxHR uploads but the file upload times may be longer due to size.
- CineForm: Cineform is a format acquired by GoPro in 2011. It’s most often used by creators producing 3D content. It’s an open source video codec used to edit high-resolution videos without losing quality.
- MPEG PS: This file format is called Program Stream, but is frequently referred to as MPEG PS. It’s not the best video file format for YouTube videos although the platform does support it. This kind of video file format is most often seen used for DVDs.
- 3GPP: The 3GPP video format is a legacy file format that heavily compresses videos to allow them to transfer over 3G networks efficiently. YouTube will upscale these files to MP4, but the video quality is likely to be poor due to earlier compression. Avoid this video format for YouTube videos if possible.
With so many supported file types, it’s important to choose the best video format for YouTube content. Using outdated or bloated video file types can compromise the overall quality of your content and result in a negative viewer experience. Filming content with the best format for YouTube videos in mind will streamline the production process from beginning to end, saving you time and money along the way.
Creator Resources for YouTube
YouTube, and the addition of YouTube Shorts, provides creators with numerous opportunities to publish new content, boost performance, increase monetization, and extend their reach. Check out the resources below to optimize your YouTube and YouTube Shorts media:
- Can You Add Subtitles to YouTube Videos?
- How to Promote YouTube Videos
- Choosing the Best Microphones for YouTube Videos
- What are YouTube Shorts?
- YouTube Shorts Monetization Guide
- Platform Battles: YouTube Shorts vs TikTok
- Platform Battles: Vimeo vs YouTube
Additional References and Resources