The Best YouTube Export Settings in Adobe Premiere

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YouTube…it’s the most popular video destination in the world, the second most popular search engine (behind Google), and the third most popular website (behind Google and Facebook). Love it or hate it, YouTube has quickly become the go to place to consume video content. This means that if your videos/films aren’t on YouTube yet then chances are you’re not reaching the audience that you could. Unless your projects are for large scaled distribution on TV or in theaters, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have your videos on a YouTube channel.

But before you decide uploading that massive wedding video that was meant to be played back on DVD, you should really reconsider how it will play out on the web, where streaming speed is king. Keep in mind that the wrong codec, or too large of a file size can greatly hinder your video’s stream-ability on YouTube and other video sharing sites. Not to mention that certain codecs just don’t play nicely with video streaming. In this post, I’ll cover each step to exporting an HD video in 1080p to YouTube in detail below. Keep in mind that this guide is a general guide and may or may not need to be altered depending on your pre-production settings and other various variables. However, these settings should work in virtually any production environment whether the footage was shot on iPhone, DSLR, XD-CAM, or any other format.

Step 1 – Export Media


First, we’re going to need to call up the export media dialog box in order to get started.  Simply go to File > Export > Media or you can hit Command/CNTRL + M to bring up the dialog box so we can export our project.

Step 2 – Export Settings and Sequence


This is the first portion of the dialog box that you will encounter and it is perhaps the most important. Here you will find a summary of your output settings and your source settings. You’re going to want to pay attention to this and make sure they match the same settings for both output and source. Your source settings are what you selected when you first started editing the sequence(s) and usually match the camera settings that you shot on. Another important note is that if you shot in 720p, do not try to force the output to 1080p (1920×1080) because it will just distort the video further if a user selects “1080p” on YouTube’s playback quality. Additionally if you want to play it safe, check the “Match Sequence Settings” check box to make everything work together. The last important area to look at is the “Format” drop down box , right now it’s set to H.264 which is essential.

Step 3 – Codec/Format Selection


As mentioned in the previous step, you’re going to want to use H.264 codec for streaming video. This is the defacto standard for most video today, and for DSLR shooters is the native codec that clips are shot in. YouTube and other video sharing sites specify H.264 to be the best option for web video.

We won’t go into the explanation of what codecs are or what each one does, as an entire book could be written on that but just keep in mind your various options in this dialog list. If your format/codec wasn’t preset to H.264, simply select it from the drop down list and you’ll be set.

Step 4 – Frame Rate, Standards, & More


This step is almost self-explanatory. Make sure to set your TV standard to NTSC if you’re in North America, and PAL if anywhere else. Your frame width and height should be 1920x1080p if you’re planning to show your video at full 1080p quality.  The pixel aspect ratio should be set to 16:9 to show a nice full widescreen and don’t even think about touching the iMax setting for 2:21:1 , YouTube just doesn’t support that…yet.

Step 5 – Bitrate encoding. Very important!


This step has to be the MOST important step of them all. This step could make or break your video quality and its ability to even be uploaded. The general rule here is to keep your bitrate maximum target at less than 18 Mbps, that way you don’t end up with a massive file size that will hinder your video’s potential ability to even be uploaded depending on your account limitations. Keeping your target and maximum under 20 usually will give you a very high quality output and will look great streaming on YouTube. All of my YouTube videos are set usually around 13 – 15 for the maximum bitrate and look good even when blown up to a 55″ LED Samsung TV. Now if you were trying to export this for a DVD or Blue Ray you would obviously have a larger bitrate, but for the purpose of Youtube lets keep it small.


Keeping the bitrate around 13 keeps my nice 5 minute video at around 416MB which is a good size and will upload fairly quickly to YouTube.  Ideally your files are 500MG (0.5GB or less) unless you have a really fast upload pipe.

Step 6 – Audio Settings


The audio settings are usually pretty simple to deal with. By default for the H.264 codec they will be locked in at AAC, which is the perfect companion for streaming web video. Make sure your output channel is set to stereo, and your audio quality set to high for optimal audio. The most important feature here though, is the bitrate (Kbps).


Here, I have my bitrate set to 192 which is pretty high quality for audio but it isn’t the best. Keep in mind typical mp3 quality is 128 kbps and usually anyone can that tell it’s a junky mp3.  Most of the low quality stuff was rendered at 128 which to most people won’t sound good, especially on the YouTube where the audio is further compressed. You’ll want to go with 192 kbps or higher. 320 kbps is the standard for “CD Quality” and will make your total output file size a few megabytes larger but it won’t do any real damage to the file size. Consider how important the audio is in your video and select the appropriate bitrate.

Lastly, don’t forget to hit the “export” button to start rendering your video file and you’re all set.


Hopefully that tutorial was helpful to you. Happy YouTubing everyone and good luck!  If you have questions, please leave them for me in the comments section below.

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  1. Pingback: Color Correction Quick Tip: Better Talking Heads and Interviews in Premiere Pro

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