Content Creation

Best Video Format for Uploading to YouTube

Vukasin Ilic 6 min read
Best Video Format for Uploading to YouTube

When uploading videos to YouTube, you want to give your audience the best possible experience.

However, knowing which formats work best can be tough, especially if you don’t know much about video resolution, frame rates, bitrates, codecs, or containers.

You may be asking yourself: what is the best video format for uploading to YouTube?

This guide aims to explain which format works best, what other ones are accepted by YouTube, how you can convert your video to another format, and to clarify what some of the technical terms you will come across actually mean.

Once you’re finished reading, you should feel ready to choose the best format for your videos and start working towards creating an incredible YouTube presence.

Short Answer - This Is the Best Video Format for YouTube

The best video format for YouTube is .MP4. You can upload videos in other formats, or use video converters to convert your video to your format choice.

Along with H.264 video codec and AAC-LC audio codec, this makes up the recommended encoding settings straight from YouTube’s guidelines.

The aspect ratio should be set to 16:9. If you follow these tips, your video will be displayed correctly in high-quality without taking up too much space on your account.

However, YouTube also recommends uploading videos in the original format (or as close to the original as possible), especially when dealing with HD content.

Converting your video to .MP4 might not be the best option in this case.

There are plenty of other formats which are acceptable and which might work better than converted files.

So, when possible, set your recordings to .MP4 for the best results on YouTube.

Most smartphones are automatically set to record videos in this format, and the best digital cameras give you the option to select the desired format.

What Video Formats Work On YouTube?

Despite .MP4 being the best option, YouTube accepts plenty of other video formats. Here they are:

  • .MOV
  • .MPEG-1
  • .MPEG-2
  • .MPEG4
  • .MP4
  • .MPG
  • .AVI
  • .WMV
  • .FLV
  • 3GPP
  • WebM
  • DNxHR
  • ProRes
  • CineForm
  • HEVC (h265)

If you’ve ever tried to upload a video to YouTube and got the “Invalid file format” message, it’s probably because it wasn’t in one of these formats.

To get around this, you can convert your video using editing software on your computer or an online converter.

There are a few suggestions later on in this guide.

Why Do Video Formats Matter For YouTube?

One of the main reasons why video formats matter for YouTube is because there are a countless number of them being used throughout the world.

And for every one that the platform accepts, YouTube’s engineers need to program a new kind of encoder so that videos will be played in the best way.

By restricting the number of accepted formats, they require less additions to their systems.

Having said this, YouTube does accept a large number of formats, including the most common ones like .MP4 and .MOV.

Also, seeing as each format needs to be processed with different encoders, they need to focus on maintaining the best quality and visual experience possible.

This is achieved when a standardized group of formats is used.

Finally, different formats mean different file sizes. And the bigger the file, the more space it will take up on the YouTube servers.

It will also affect how videos are shared on other social media platforms.

By restricting the formats used, YouTube can better guarantee high quality across the different platforms.

How To Convert A Video To Another Format

As mentioned above, you can use your video editing software to convert videos from one format to another.

However, if you don’t use this kind of program or want an easier way to convert files, you can try online converters. Here are a few examples:

Aside from these options, there are plenty of other online converters. Many are free, but some require you to create an account to start converting.

Several websites allow you to make changes to other aspects of your video, such as codecs, aspect ratios, and more.

If you don’t know much about these concepts, avoid making any changes as you might lower the overall quality of your video.

Diving Deep Into Video Tech

When dealing with video uploads, some of the concepts can be confusing, especially if you don’t have much of a technical background.

Here are a few quick explanations on some of the terms you might come across when making and uploading videos.

File Size

When talking about formats, the term file size regularly comes up.

One of the reasons .MP4 is recommended by YouTube is because it maintains high quality while also allowing for smaller file sizes.

This means that the file takes up less space in terms of bytes (higher values of bytes are translated into megabytes and gigabytes).

The smaller the file size, the less space the video will take up on your camera, on your computer, and on YouTube’s servers. It will also consume less mobile data for those users.

Logically, YouTube platform wants to have as many videos as possible, so it needs ton of server resources to store them all.

The smaller the file sizes, the less servers YouTube will need to store all these videos.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio is the comparison between the width and the height of the video.

When writing it out, you put the width, a colon, then the height (x:y). YouTube recommends using an aspect ratio of 16:9. So the width of the video should be 16 and the height should be 9.

Other common aspect ratios are 4:3 for old televisions, 9:16 for smartphones displayed vertically, and 1.85:1 for cinema displays in the US.

Contrary to popular believe, 360 videos for YouTube are also uploaded in 16:9 aspect ratio.

Video Resolution

Videos that are shot in digital are made up of thousands of smaller parts known as pixels.

When you hear about resolution, it’s related to the number of pixels in each frame of the video.

Older cameras had much lower resolution levels, so the pixels were more noticeable.

As technology advanced, the pixels became smaller and smaller, making the image clearer and more realistic.

The minimum resolution on YouTube is 144p.

The recommended minimum resolution today is 720p for a 16:9 aspect ratio, and 480p for 4:3.

However, the platform recommends uploading your videos in the highest resolution possible.

This gives YouTube more flexibility for encoding and playing the content back.

Frame Rate

A video is made up of many still images that are played back very quickly.

The frame rate is the number of images that are played in one second.

So, if your video has a frame rate of 25fps (frames per second), you will see 25 images in a second.

60fps is a high frame rate and is becoming more common. It means that your eyes will see 60 images in a single second.

Seeing as they flash by so quickly, you don’t see them as individual images, but as one clear video.


Bitrate doesn’t refer to how you see the video, but to how fast the information stored in the video can be transmitted.

It’s a common term for different digital systems. It refers to how much of the file size is transmitted in a second.

When uploading videos to YouTube, the recommended bitrate will depend on different factors, including frame rate and resolution.

For example, a 720p resolution video at 25fps should have a bitrate of 6.5Mbps (megabits per second), while at a higher frame rate of 60fps, the bitrate should be 9.5Mbps.


Transmitting files such as videos across the internet would take very long if it weren’t for codecs.

These programs are used to compress and decompress files so that they can be sent and read quicker.

By compressing a file, codecs make them smaller while still retaining all the information contained within the file at a high-quality level.

This way the file can be transmitted more quickly.

The program then decompresses the file, returning it to its original size.

The best codecs can maintain a video’s quality throughout the compression and decompression phases.

YouTube recommends the H.264 codec for video and the AAC-LC codec for audio.

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the maximum file size I can upload to YouTube?

The maximum file size that you can upload to YouTube is 128GB.

In terms of length, the maximum is 12 hours. However, you need a verified account to do this. Non-unverified accounts can only have videos that last up to 15 minutes.

How do I upload a video in AVI format to YouTube?

Uploading an AVI video is the same as any other format. You can follow these steps:

  • Select Create, then Upload Video.
  • Drag and Drop the video or press Select Files and browse for the correct one.
  • Input all the necessary details about the video.
  • Click Save and wait for your video to upload.

These steps don't change for different formats, making it a simple process to go through.

Bottom Line

Understanding YouTube’s guidelines on uploading videos is essential if you want to share fantastic content.

This article aimed to explain technical terms that are common when working with video, like aspect ratio, frame rate, codec, etc., as well as which formats are valid for uploading to this platform.

Most importantly, its goal was to reveal YouTube’s preferred format: .MP4.

This format can guarantee smaller file sizes while maintaining great quality visuals.

So, if you want to upload videos to YouTube, set your camera to .MP4 for the best results.

Do you have a preferred video format? Let us know in the comments.


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