Video Formats

This is a big question we hear: "What do we do with all this video!? What format is "archival"?!"
Believe it or not, this is a question that even digital media departments at big museums have to deal with, video is still quite young and the technology is always changing, so we are still developing various best practices models.
Here we outline some workflow options including more realistic protocols for file storage and processing than the "archival" approach.
If you are recording video on consumer products like we recommend here, we don't see a reason to make excessively large archival quality motion jpg's or DNXHD files, unless you have an abundance of space and professional software for processing.

Format Container vs. Codec

Say I have a file called test.mp4 that is encoded as an H.264, for purposes of basic understanding, the format of this file is an .mp4 and the codec of the mp4 formatted file is an H.264 codec.


How many Megabits per second of video? So if you have a Jpg that is 40 mb that is the same resolution as a jpg that is 1 mb, the 1 mb jpg will have distortion from compression, this also applies to video, but since video is a collection of frames we measure the size of data as megabits per second, mbps.
So just as important as your decision of what format and codec to use is bitrate. This determines how compressed your file will be. You could use an H.264 codec with a bitrate target of 2 mbps and limit of 5 mbps and the quality will be terrible, if you were to have a limitless bitrate the encoding will allow there to be as many bits as needed per second of video to maintain the quality, this could mean 30 mbps.

So what to use?

Mac products are very Quicktime friendly, this is the container you know as .MOV, quicktime products are available to both PC and Mac users so it is a pretty generally accepted format. As for which codec you use, quicktime operates with many types of codecs. H.264 is a very popular codec because it keeps file size small and visual quality quite good. It is NOT archival, but being a popular codec used by many cameras on the market there is an assured longevity of this codec's playability.
Another option is the YouTube ready H.264 codec contained in an .MP4 container, this is similar to the above file type except the mp4 container is more compatible across players. This also happens to be the recommended specifications for uploading to YouTube.

Recommended bitrates, codecs, and resolutions, and more straight from YouTube:

Container: .mp4

Audio Codec: AAC-LC

Sample rate 96khz or 48 khz

Video Codec: H.264

Progressive scan (no interlacing)

Variable bitrate. No bitrate limit required, though we offer recommended bit rates below for reference


Frame rates

Frame rates should match the source material. For example, content shot in 24fps should be encoded and uploaded at 24fps. Content recorded at 30fps should be uploaded at 30fps. Content shot in 720p60, should be uploaded at 720p60. Content at 1080i 60, should be deinterlaced, going from 60 interlaced fields per second to 30 progressive frames per second before uploading.


Standard quality uploads:


Video Bitrate

Mono Audio Bitrate

Stereo Audio Bitrate

5.1 Audio Bitrate


8,000 kbps

128 kbps

384 kbps

512 kbps


5,000 kbps

128 kbps

384 kbps

512 kbps


2,500 kbps

64 kbps

128 kbps

196 kbps


1,000 kbps

64 kbps

128 kbps

196 kbps



YouTube uses 16:9 aspect ratio players. If you are uploading a non-16:9 file, it will be processed and displayed correctly as well, with pillar boxes (black bars on the left and right) or letter boxes (black bars at the top and bottom) provided by the player. If you want to fit the player perfectly, encode at these resolutions:

  • 1080p: 1920x1080
  • 720p: 1280x720
  • 480p: 854x480
  • 360p: 640x360
  • 240p: 426x240

The YouTube player automatically adds black bars so that videos are displayed correctly without cropping or stretching, no matter the size of the video or the player.

For example, the player will automatically add pillarboxing to 4:3 videos in the new 16:9 widescreen player size. If the player is re-sized (i.e. when embedded on another website), the same process takes place so that 16:9 videos are letterboxed when the player is sized to 4:3. Similarly, anamorphic videos will be automatically letterboxed when shown in either 16:9 or 4:3 sized players. The player can only do this if the native aspect ratio of the video is maintained.

You can adjust the fit of your video in our player after uploading your video by using formatting tags.