How To Export HD Video in Premiere Pro CS6, CS5.5, and CS5 for YouTube and Vimeo

I often receive questions about filming and editing, and have decided that I will post the answers to the most common questions here to help others.  Expect more posts like these in the future and please let me know what questions you would like to have answered.

UPDATE: I have created two new blog posts! One is an updated blog post with export settings for 4K video in Premiere Pro. The other is an updated blog post with export settings for 1080p video in Premiere Pro CC.

Before digital cameras became popular, editing a video was as simple as cutting the actual film strip and splicing it to another film strip with tape.  With the advent of digital video, there are literally hundreds of programs to use to edit and even more video formats.  Choosing the proper export settings is one of the most important steps when editing video and it can be very confusing due to lack of a standard at this time.  Thankfully, both YouTube and Vimeo both offer guidelines on what types of video they prefer, which does make things a bit easier.

There is a lack of photo and text tutorials for the exact settings to use in video editing software.  YouTube may say it recommends h.264 at 1920×1080 but without knowing how to choose those settings in your video editor it can be very confusing.  Below you will find the exact settings needed for encoding the best quality high definition YouTube and Vimeo videos while still keeping a small file size.  This tutorial will work for Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, CS5.5, CS6, and CC.  Earlier versions of Adobe will work with some tweaks and you can definitely adapt these settings to other video editing programs such as Final Cut Pro and Sony Vegas Pro.

Photo and Text Tutorial:

Before you even begin editing, you must create a new sequence in Premiere.  This will prepare the program for the kind of video being imported.  For the sake of this tutorial I am using footage from a Canon 7D at 1080p at 23.976 frames per second.  Because my footage was filmed at these settings, I will select the “Digital SLR>1080p>DSLR 1080p24” sequence preset.  Make sure you select the correct sequence preset or else this will cause problems when you export your footage.

Sequence Settings

Once you have imported your footage using the correct sequence settings and edited it to your liking, it is time to export your video.  With the timeline selected you can either go to “File>Export>Media” or hit “Ctrl>M” on your keyboard.  Both options should bring up the export settings window.  The entire left side of the window is devoted to a preview window and cropping settings etc. and can be ignored.  All your settings will be chosen on the right side of the window.

Export Settings Overview

Under “Export Settings” select Format: “H.264”.  You will see there are several options for H.264 but if you are exporting for HD on YouTube or Vimeo, the H.264 option offers the best quality with the best file size.  You will see in the picture that I have already created a custom preset for my settings.  Once you have changed all of your video settings, it would be a good idea to do the same to speed up your workflow.  For now, if you are using CS6, select the “Vimeo HD 1080p 23.976” preset.  This will speed up choosing the rest of the settings but if you don’t have that as an option, don’t worry and just skip it.  Click “Output Name” and select where you will save your file.  Make sure that both “Export Video” and “Export Audio” are checked.  I’ve made the mistake of forgetting the audio checkbox and having to re-render.

Export Settings

Select the video tab  and you will see we are at the actual video settings window.  First, go down to “Profile” and set it to “Main”.  Then go to  “Level” and set it to “5.1”.  When you do this your video “Width” and “Height” settings will automatically change to “1,920” and “1,080”.  It will also change the “Frame Rate” to “59.94”.  Leave the video Width and Height at 1,920 and 1,080 and change the “Frame Rate” to “23.976”.  Make sure the Aspect Ratio is “Square Pixels (1.0)”.  “TV Standard” should be “NTSC”.

Your “Bitrate Settings” should be the following: “Bitrate Encoding: VBR, 2 Pass” – This will take longer to render but result in a better quality file because the encoder will run through it twice.  “Target Bitrate [Mbps]: 10” and “Maximum Bitrate [Mbps]: 40”.  You may see different settings that other people use for Target and Maximum Bitrate and even Vimeo recommends a Target Bitrate of only 5Mbps.  Please keep in mind that you are choosing VBR which stands for “Variable Bit Rate”.  This means that the video adjusts the amount of data needed depending on what is happening in a scene.  If everything is changing rapidly, and there is a lot of colors in the scene it will need a higher bitrate.  I set my Maximum Bitrate to “40” to make sure when it needs extra space for high intensity scenes it has room.  This results in a better looking video overall.  Feel free to adjust these settings if you need to.

Lastly, Make sure that “Render at Maximum Depth” is checked and “Use Maximum Render Quality”.  If you used previews when editing your video, you can check the “Use Previews” box to speed up rendering a bit.

Video Settings

The only other settings you need to worry about are the “Audio Format Settings” under the audio tab.  Your “Audio Codec” should be “AAC” with a sample rate of “48000 HZ”.  “Channels” should be set to “Stereo” and “Audio Quality” to “High”.   The “Bitrate [kbps]” should be set to “320” which is the equivalent of high quality CD audio.  Under “Advanced Settings,” make sure “Precedence: Bitrate” is selected.

Audio Settings

With those settings all chosen, you are ready to render.  You will not need to mess with the “Filters, Multiplexer, or FTP” tabs if you are planning on only uploading your video online.  The video I used in the example photos was 3 and a half minutes long and came to an estimated file size of “260 mb”.  This is a great size for an HD video that will be uploaded online.

If you don’t own Adobe Premiere Pro I would highly recommend getting an Adobe Creative Cloud membership. Try out a 30 day trial of Premiere Pro CC and see how you like it!

To Summarize this article I’ve put all the settings below for easy reference:

Export Settings:

Format: H.264
Checkboxes Export Video and Export Audio

Basic Video Settings:

Width: 1,920
Height: 1,080
Frame Rate: 23.976
Field Order:Progressive
Aspect: Square Pixels (1.0)
TV Standard: NTSC
Profile: Main
Level: 5.1
Checkbox Render at Maximum Depth

Bitrate Settings

Bitrate Encoding: VBR, 2 pass
Target Bitrate [Mbps]: 10
Maximum Bitrate [Mbps]: 40

Checkboxes Use Maximum Render Quality and Use Previews

Basic Audio Settings

Audio Codec: AAC
Sample Rate: 48000 Hz
Channels: Stereo
Audio Quality: High

Bitrate Settings

Bitrate [kbps]: 320

Advanced Settings

Precedence: Bitrate

Please let me know if this tutorial was helpful to you and if you have any questions you can contact me or leave a comment.

Now that you know how to export your video in HD, learn how to export in the Cinemascope 2.35:1 aspect ratio to make your videos look more like movies.

It is a big help to me when you use any of the above product links to Adorama, Amazon, and B&H and when you get anything. It costs you nothing, and helps me keep my site running. I have bought from all of these websites and I highly recommend them for their service, quality, and shipping speed.  I recommend them all personally.

155 Comments
  1. Thank you for posting this! Question: I just tried using these setting to export and and a 30 second clip is going to make 4 and a half hours to export! That's just nuts… Is this normal? How long does it normally take when you export with these settings?

  2. I have a question, when I exported on these settings my entire audio was lost? My computer did hibernate during the process however im confused why my video was muted?

    • Thanks! I think they look that good because that video is actually 1080p but just downconverted using YouTube. If you look there you can actually see that you can choose 1080p as an option when watching it, meaning that it wasn't actually encoded at 360p. Maybe try upping your bitrate more? It also depends on what lens you are filming with.

  3. Very useful instruction! As a software developer I highly appreciate such recognition. I'm about to build a software and planning to promote my new soft video on Youtube and Vimeo. This tutorial will help me a lot to accomplish that quest. Thanks.

  4. Adobe are saying if you use CUDA “Use Maximum Render Quality” is automatically set at high quality scaling, so this is only required if your used CPU, otherwise its 4 times slower!!!

    "Render at Maximum Depth", well whats the point of keeping 32bit floating point for a 8bit Vimeo video?

    Thank you for the rest of your post, it was helpful!

    Rueben

  5. Thanks for a nice tutorial. I have a problem though. I've exported but I don't know where the video is. How can I export and know where the video will be?! Thanks!

  6. I recorded at 1920×1080 but now editing i think i put the wrong settings when creatin the project and when i export i loose a big part of the image. On the preview screen is ok but not on the editing one. Do i have to create a new project and do all the editing again or there is someway to fix this without loosing the project??

    Thanks!!!

    • You should be able to create a new sequence at 1920×1080 and then select all the clips in your old timeline with the bad settings and copy and past them into the new sequence. See if that helps!

  7. how do you burn this file to a dvd once you've exported it with these settings, is this possible? if not, can you do a tutorial on settings to use for purposes of burning ot a dvd?

    • Yes, you would use Adobe Encore to export the file to DVD. Be aware that it would not be in High Definition though. There are workarounds to this which I will have to make a blog post about. πŸ™‚

  8. I used your setup but changed the Vimeo HD 1080p 23.976 to Youtube HD 1080p 23.976 and the video is 00:03:12:13 should it take 4 hours to export

  9. YouTube and Vimeo is my favorite list!!! And I wanna export video for a long time but have no idea. And this time this idea make me a sense that I can work by it. Thanks for this tutorial concept as well!!!!

  10. Would there be any issues on youtube or vimeo if I kept the fps at 59.94? I've shot video at this speed and would like to maintain it. What do you think?

    Thanks!

    • I think YouTube and Vimeo will encode your video as an FLV at whatever frame rate you uploaded it at. But I'm not positive about this, your best bet would be trying it out and then re-downloading the FLV from Youtube and checking its frame rate.

      • YouTube will re-encode your video to 30 FPS. It doesn't allow you to play 60 FPS *yet*.
        I don't know Vimeo so I can't answer this part.

        • In addition youtube will lower the bitrate. I uploaded a 419 mb 5-1/2 minute video with a bitrate of 10319 kbps (created with all the settings in this blog article) to youtube. I then downloaded the same video from youtube and got back a 68bmb file with a bitrate of 1676 kbps.

          The funny thing is the quality between the two mp4 files was barely noticeable viewed in Windows Media Player on an 11"x17" lcd monitor set to 1680 x 1050 resolution and 125% magnification. I even took screen shots of the same frame to compare them side by side, and the difference was barely notiiceable.

          I then tried re-exporting the same video changing the average and max bitrate from 10 & 40 as recommended, down to 2 & 4. This resulted in a 91mb mp4 file, but the export time was exactly the same – 150 minutes!

          I'm using a new HP Pavillion desktop with a 3.6 ghz intel core i7-3820 cpu, 10gb or ram, a video card with 1.25 gb of ram, and am alotting 8gb of ram to cs6. After changing the cs6 Memory preference from Performance to Memory my cpu utilization went down from 99% to 70% during the export on the Windows Task Manager performance graph. I also export to a 500bg ssd usb pocket drive instead of my C: drive. I also changed my computer hibernate time from one hour to never. Running a CS6 export overnight, I found the export had been suspended less than half way through.

    • Hey Nik,

      You'll want to select TV Standard: PAL and then set your frame rate to 25.00 fps (as long as that is what your camera was shooting at) in the Export Media Window.

  11. YouTube and Vimeo is my favorite list!!! And I wanna export video for a long time but have no idea. And this time this idea make me a sense that I can work by it. Thanks for this tutorial concept as well!!!!

  12. Thank you Matt
    I found this very helpful when I am using my Canon 5dmk2. I was wondering if you can help me further . I have been filming my sons skating and have been using the gopro 3 black on different frame rates . Do you have any helpful tips on settings when editing on premier pro. like the above examples.
    Or do I have to go threw Cineform and covert it to a avi file first. And then work on that file , to get the best quality from the Gopro.
    Any help would be appreciated.

    Kind Regards
    Alex

    • i have the same problem about Gopro 3, i cant get the exact quality that i want when i render it in Adove PP cs6. but i didnt convert the video to AVI , i just import the orginal footage, and heres the result https://vimeo.com/89996585 hoping for any video tutorial …. muchas gracias!

  13. Love the tutorial! Easy to follow and love Amazon and will be happy to buy through the link that helps you!

  14. Hi, Nice tutorial, I'm trying to export a sequence using Premiere Pro CS4 I followed all the instructions and tried a lot of times with different settings using the H264 and using all the settings you recommended.
    My original video is from my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone at 1080p, when you watch the original clips from the phone on the computer, they play smooth but when exported, the resulting video is not smooth and seems to skip frames, I tried to play it with Windows media player and Quicktime with the same result. I tried my sequence at 29.97 and 30 fps but still same result.
    Any clues?? Thanks!

    • Hi Edward,

      Are you sure you are rendering out your video clips at the same frame rate they were originally shot in? It's important to match frame rates otherwise things can get rough. Open one of your clips in Quicktime player and select "Window > Show Movie Inspector". Try to match your sequence and export settings to the native settings listed in the movie inspector. Let me know how it goes.

  15. Thank you so much for your suggestions and help! You've explained everything so well and you've had the courtesy to help everyone with their queries! Definitely bookmarking this page in case I ever need to refer to it again πŸ™‚

  16. This tutorial was very helpful, thanks. I have an almost 2 minute HD video that I want to embed in my website (the present one is of inferior quality). The H.264 is way too large, and the 3gp format won't be accepted. Any suggestions? Your help is greatly appreciated.

  17. nice tutorial, please while setting my sequence setting on CS6, i couldn't find DSLR there. pls what can i do ?

  18. Sup Matt how do you make your videos go in reverse using adobe premiere? I like that effect but I don’t know how to do it

  19. Great guide but I have to disagree with using the H.264 format. I used it for years and have since changed my mind.

    Check out this guide here: http://goo.gl/8GZq4i

    There are some examples of the color differences when exporting in H.264 vs. QuickTime.

  20. The video I'm working with is 60fps. What "preset" should I use in that case? I'm using "match source high bitrate" right now, but the final video is still glitchy!

  21. Thanks so much for this. I looked quite a while before finding this tutorial and it was exactly what I needed.

  22. okay, using your tips to export my first ever video…will share a link if it works! have seen some other tips: yours seem the best

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