How to Professionally Compress Video for YouTube or Vimeo

How to Compress Video for YouTube

June 20, 2014

How do the pros compress video for YouTube at the highest quality? Listen to this interview with specialist Jeff Greenberg.

Final Deliverables: Compressing for YouTube or Vimeo

Ripped from the Tao Color Correction Home Study

This Insight is being shared from my Color Correction Home Study for DaVinci Resolve over on In that Home Study, the final Lesson is on Deliverables. And one of the deliverables I talk about is YouTube and I interviewed an expert on this topic, Jeff Greenberg. I enjoyed his interview so much I thought it should also be shared, here on

Why is this topic being discussed on a website dedicated to the craft of color correction? As a professional Owner / Operator colorist I’ve found it necessary to understand how to compress video for YouTube upload. It’s a frequent client request for a deliverable and I want that product to faithfully reproduce what I’m seeing in the grading suite as closely as I possibly can.

In truth, throughout my career I’ve found compressing for YouTube to be a frustrating exercise. It usually involves endless tweaking inside multiple compression softwares with endless test uploads and endless visual comparisons.

As part of the Color Correction Home Study I decided to revisit this topic and come up with a solid suggestion for my members on how to specifically compress video for YouTube.

After completing a bunch of testing on my own – I decided to enlist the help of the one person I know who has spent an enormous amount of time developing an expertise in compression… and almost as much time teaching it to other professionals. That person? Jeff Greenberg.

Jeff helps me deliver a very simple, easy-to-remeber rule to compress video for YouTube when its part of our deliverable package.

Interview: Jeff Greenberg

After you log in to this website (not a member? Sign up for a free 24-hour Test Drive) you’ll be able to hear my 30+ minute Skype call with Jeff where we dig into two overall topics:

1. Compressing video for YouTube as a final client deliverable

2. Understanding h.264 compression options

If you want to reach out to Jeff with questions or thank him for this interview, you can find him on his Twitter handle: @filmgeek

He’s always happy to interact.

Compressing for YouTube and Vimeo

In most of this interview I’m asking Jeff specifically about YouTube as a deliverable – but what he says about YouTube can also be applied to Vimeo. But the truth is, if our clients want their videos to be found by Google then they need to put their videos on YouTube. Most of my clients understand this and YouTube is almost always our target video streaming deliverable, hence its emphasis here in this discussion.

YouTube: Two Instruction Sets

One of the most fascinating lessons I’ve learned from Jeff is that YouTube actually has two sets of ‘compression specifications’: One targeted at Consumers and one targeted at Professionals.

Their rationale? Consumers want the YouTube experience to be fast, easy and brainless. Consumers are more concerned with instant gratification. Professionals are willing to tolerate longer uploads and longer processing times if it means even a small increase in final image quality.

In the Show Notes below, you’ll find the links to these two sets of instructions. Listen to the podcast to hear Jeff and I emphasize what this means for us as professional content creators.

Compression 101

Also in this interview I dig into a two core Compression concepts when using tools like Apple Compressor or Adobe Media Encoder for creating h.264 videos:

1. Which should I choose as my h.264 profile: Baseline / Main / High?

2. When should I use 2-pass VBR versus 1-pass VBR? Are there times when 1-pass will give us higher quality than 2-pass?

Jeff offers a solid rule-of-thumb for when you should choose 1-pass VBR over 2-pass VBR.

Show Notes

At several times in this interview Jeff shares a few links with me, which I click on and we discuss. Here are those links:

YouTube User Upload Specs: Notice this page lists two different data rates for h.264. The first is a very low data rate and then the recommended data rate for ‘enterprise quality internet connections’. These data rates are almost the same as the YouTube Professional specs for h.264 deliverables and dovetail nicely with what Jeff says concerning 1-pass VBR and 2-pass VBR.

YouTube Professional Upload Specs: Jeff and I are both unclear if uploading ProResHQ without being a ‘certified’ professional channel partner results in their processing following a higher-quality path versus their User upload path. But we both agree, any User – as long as you’ve verified your YouTube account to upload videos longer than 15 minutes, YouTube seems to be quite able to process your ProResHQ uploads.

Wikipedia h.264 Profiles: What are the different h.264 Profiles and what do they mean? Scroll down to see a handy-dandy chart.

• Wikipedia h.264 Levels: Jeff introduces us to the concept of h.264 Levels in this podcast, this is a link to the chart.


Audio editing and sweetening by Tom Parish. Thanks Tom!

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Homepage Forums How to Compress Video for YouTube

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  • This is very valuable, thanks Jeff. I’m loving this approach to compression based on ‘rules’. Also in the podcast, Jeff mentioned an ebook he wrote about his experience & strategy : any way to have the link on this page Pat ? Thanks.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Christophe – Jeff’s ebook is still being written. You can bet when it’s ready I’ll talk about it here on MixingLight. I’m looking forward to it myself.

  • Thank you, this is very useful information. Less trial and error and more control. Great stuff!

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Excellent. Glad you enjoyed it! And I’m glad I posted this interview here in the Insights Library.

  • Martin Nelson

    At around 14:45, Jeff says YouTube’s recommended data rate is 60mbs/sec, but then at 15:45 Patrick says the expected bit rate is 220mbs/sec. I don’t understand the different numbers.

  • Martin Nelson

    Also, can we upload ProRes and DNxHD directly to Vimeo as well?

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Martin – the expected bit rate of h.264 deliverables, according to YouTube, is 60mb/s. If you’re delivering ProRes422HQ, then it’s 220mb/s – and that’s what I’m referring to at 15:45.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Vimeo does not explicitly allow uploading of professional codecs the way YouTube does. And neither Jeff nor I have tested it. Here are the Vimeo compression specs:

  • Martin Nelson

    Got it. Thanks Patrick.

  • Margus Voll

    I usually upload Prores HQ to both Youtube and Vimeo. It says something something but then uses the files.

  • Margus Voll

    Not sue if link sharing is ok here otherwise i would show you a file on my vimeo.

  • Dugdale

    Thanks, this was very helpful. Can you talk about “Use Maximum Render Quality” in Premiere? What exactly is that doing?

  • RobbieCarman

    So Maximum Render quality can be found in two places in Premiere – first is in your sequence settings and the other is in the export settings dialog box. This setting basically governs high quality scaling. Turn it on you’ll get better quality scaling either from motion settings for an individual clip on the timeline (seq settings) or if you’re scaling on output (export settings).

    The funny thing about this option is that it essentially sharpens the video a tad. So you have a heavily compressed format that already exhibits macro blocking you can actually make the macro blocking worse!

    The other thing to consider is that checking this box on can significantly increase your render time.

    BTW the check box in sequence settings for use maximum bit depth is a key one in premiere. By default Premiere does things at 8-bit quality turn this option on and now you access higher bit depth footage (pro res, dnxhd etc). In addition this lets some effects (those marked with the 32 on the folder icon in the effects panel) to operate in up to 32 bit precision – which is huge for color related filters.

  • Dugdale

    Thanks Robbie.

  • Jeff Greenberg

    As far as I know, Vimeo doesn’t like ProRes at all – I haven’t tested it in over a year…While YouTube handles HQ just fine, you’re not getting much better than 422 – and you’re nearly doubling the size. If you have a big enough upload pipe? Go for it!

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