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.

156 Comments
  1. Hi friend I got a sony z7u I’m try to export my video to the best hd quality 1080 60i can you tell me what to do for best hd quality plz

  2. why i have a poor video quality (HD) ??

    Hello,

    in the last days ive been struggling with a new videocilp i uploaded to youtube.

    its a 1280X720 HD video, and it looks great on my computer,

    the problem comes after its on youtube:

    the first 4 sec are very Pixelate and after 4 sec its getting better but stil,

    the whole video is lower quality then the original file.

    and im playn it in 720P.

    im a video editor so i know some. im very frustrated. i uploaded a 5-6 versions

    of diffrenet formatcodecsexports: WMV, quicktime, mp4

    its still the same problem: 4 sec and then better.

    on a mobile it looks ok.

    so i read the youtube recomondation upload and did as told – but still.

    ive put here the media Info so you can see my export details.

    the video was shot and edited in 59.94 Fps

    and i tried 30 fps an 59.94 as well

    maybe anyone can help me, whats wrong ?

  3. It says 12 hours and 30 minutes until done encoding, I have a 2011 13" MacBook Pro, 8GB of RAM, 2.3 GHz Processor.

  4. Please help me, I use these settings and I get an export estimate of 48 hours for a 15 min. video, how can I reduce this?

  5. Hi. I have a 9 minut footage, but PP keeps shutting down while i export, and it would take like 20 hours or something, if it didn't. Any ideas? thanks

  6. Thank you very much for this post. I did notice a bug however in the software that I wanted to mention. It seems when I profile and level to your specs that the frame rate changes from 23.976 to 59.94. So make sure you double check or you'll waste hours of exporting! (Like I did…) :S

  7. you are great – after 20years of doing video work I received a lesson in minutes – thank you so very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. 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!

  9. I'm Australian and we use PAL.. So does everything else stay the same as what you said if i change NTSC to PAL ?

    Thanks

    • This all depends on how you shot your footage. If your camera shoots in PAL that means it probably shoots at 25.00 frames per second. In the video settings you need to set it to "PAL" and make sure that your frame rate matches what you shot it at.

  10. when i use these setting i lose my audio?
    i still have the audio box checked and everything lines up with the same settings as your tutorial.
    do you know whats causing the problem?
    thanks!

  11. This is literally the most helpful thing on the internet! I use it every time I export a video! 🙂

    Question.. is there a way to make it faster? I find that a lot of my uploads take a LONG time to export (up to 8 hours for a 9ish minute long video).

    • So glad it helped you Louisa! How fast of a computer do you have? Render times depend mainly on how fast your CPU is and how much RAM you have. Look into getting an intel i7 quad core CPU with more RAM.

  12. Hi Mat,

    Have you tried to download your videos from youtube and see what bit rate they compress it at.
    No mater what compression I used up to 60Mbps then always compressed 1080P to 4.5Mbps.
    I'll give your a try.

  13. Hi,
    i filmed @ 48 fps in HD resolution (1920 x 1080) by using a GoPro Hero 3+ (Black Edition).
    After video editing, i need to export at 48 fps by keeping high quality (similar to original video).

    If i flag "keep the sequence settings" i can export @48 fps but just in AVI format and, since the size of file is big, i have to convert in MPEG to reduce the size.

    If i wanted directly export @ 48 fps in MPEG what i should do???

    And about bitrate???

    Thanks so much

    ps: sorry for the english

    • Just choose all the same settings I used above, but you'll have to select 50 instead of 48fps. The only reason I could think of you shooting at 48fps was if you wanted to slow it down to 24fps while editing to have good slow motion.

      Keep in mind that the max FPS that YouTube and Vimeo will show is 30fps, so any higher is wasted and just encoded back down to 30fps when you upload it.

      • Thanks so much.

        Interesting the setting about bit rate.

        The reason for which i shoot @48 fps is that footage appears more lifelike by enhancing clarity and smoothness.
        In adding, with an High Frame Rate, i could shoot a photo from the video…

        now the question is (maybe it is stupid): why we can shoot until 120 fps and all devices reproduces just @ 30fps???

        it means that i have to shoot just @30 fps and use the high frame rate just for slow motion??? -___-'

  14. I can't tell you how many times I've referenced this guide so I figure it was about time I said thank you.
    There is one thing I do differently and that is instead of selecting HD 1080p 23.976 I choose YouTube HD 1080p 23.976. Maybe it's a new setting they added since you made this guide but it seems to make sense.
    Cheers

  15. I used this format system to export a video to youtube, but it said it didn't recognize the format and is taking a really long time to process.

    • Hey Fahryy! I think you mean 1280x720p 59.96fps. You'll want to export with the same settings as your video and it should look great. Your Youtube video looks about as good as it can get.

  16. Thanks so much for this, it was really clear and helpful. You mention in the comments that you might do a settings tutorial for videos that you want to put on DVD instead of online. Did you ever end up doing that? (I searched around your site a bit but missed it if it's there.)

  17. I’ve tried everything but whenever I export it it’s blurry my footage is 1920×1080 59.94 fps any suggestions?

  18. MATT- Any ideas? I've posted this in the adobe forums and linked this article, but I'm still having trouble.

    HD 1080 Export completes, but freezes at different sections. 720 exported fine

    Community Member Grace Lunsford Aug 22, 2015 8:30 AM
    As the title suggests, I have an eighteen minute video shot in HD 1920 X1080. 23.976 fps, Progressive…
    I exported and published the 720 version straight to Youtube with no problem using the H264 custom Youtube 720 settings and the publish feature.
    When I tried this with Youtube1080 setting, the version looked like the full 18 mins. exported, but the project froze in the last two minutes in the middle of a clip, nothing special, just footage.
    I tried it again with HD 1080 presets and the same issue occurred.
    I then tried to export the footage matching the source and it froze at the 8.28min. mark.
    Everything is rendered, everything is saved. I've just cleaned the cache in hopes that that might change something.
    Also when I try to encode with 2 passes, the export usually crashes around halfway through the second pass.

    After cleaning my cache and restarting Premiere Pro 2014, i am trying to export the video again according to these settings, which does include a second pass.- How To Export HD Video in Premiere Pro for YouTube and Vimeo | Who Is Matt? Matt Johnson Productions

    We'll see how it goes, but I'm posting now incase it fails again and someone happens to now what's going on. This is super frustrating.

    Please note I am a self taught, mostly youtube and lynda Editor so please keep that in mind. I may be making a totally rookie mistake. Also please realize if you go super technical I may or may not know what you're talking about so please throw in a little laymans too.

    THANKS!

    1. Re: HD 1080 Export completes, but freezes at different sections. 720 exported fine
    Community Member Grace Lunsford Aug 24, 2015 7:21 AM (in response to Grace Lunsford)
    The 2 Pass worked and didn't crash this time but SADLY the freezing in the exported video happened again. This time at 1:09 mark. I'm so confused as to why I can't export the full video. I'm now thinking i'll export each sequence at HD settings and then try to put them together in a new project and export that. That seems like a ridiculous move, but I'm now at HOURS wasted on incomplete exports.

    WHY??? Please help.

  19. This is an amazing guide! I like how you don't just list the steps but also explain them a bit. You actually say why we should select those settings. I definitely learned some things from this. Thank you for making this!

  20. Bro, i was about to enter a competition which requires me to render in H264 with PAL format. But the output is bad. Can someone give the best settings for H264 PAL format?

  21. Hi Matt,
    Nice tutorial man, do you know how to get around current Primiere's bug of gamma switch when exporting in h264?
    I have recorded my footage on my iPhone, when I play it in my computer (windows 10, VLC player) My original footage looks a washed out, but when looking at Premiere's monitor I see them with the correct gamma. After exporting my clips they become washed out again.
    This is a pain in the ass since I can't color correct my clips in Premiere since what I'm seeing there is not the same that will be exported.
    Thanks!

    • Thanks Frank! I wasn't aware that Premiere had a gamma switch bug. If you're having problems with your export not looking the same as your video, maybe add a bit more contrast in Premiere and see how the rendered file looks? Hope that helps!

Comments are closed.