Encode HD video for Vimeo or YouTube (Media Encoder CS4)

In this article you will find the optimal export/encoding options you can make voor YouTube/Vimeo HD quality movies. Media Encoder CS4 comes with a few standard presets, however they contain not always the best settings. In this article I assume that your source material is PAL video (25 frames a second). If you have the newest ME (Media Encoder) you’ll have a YouTube Widescreen HD preset. I started modifying this one. Make sure you select H.264 as the video format.

Video settings (video tab)

Setting Explanation
TV Standard : NTSC/PAL doesn’t matter for web video. Don’t click it however since it will change the Frame Width/Height values to SD video size.
Frame Width/Height : 1280 x 720 HD 720p resolution. If you cannot set this width and height, please check if the Level (see screenshot) is set to 3.1.
Frame Rate [fps]: 25 Same rate as the source material you’re encoding (to check open the file in Quicktime and press CMD+I) to see the frame rate properties.
Choose 25 fps when you encode PAL video, choose 30 fps when you encode NTSC video.
Field Order: None (Progressive) Always choose None(progressive) for web video (since it doesn’t support interlacing). ME CS4 will automatically de-interlace interlaced source material.
Pixel Aspect Ratio: Square Pixels Always square pixels for web video.
Profile: Main The ‘Main Profile’ has the best compatibility with different mobile devices. High Profile is an option too, but its not officially supported on the iPad/iPhone (however YouTube and Vimeo, will re-encode the video, so it can be played on these devices).
Level: 3.1 This H.264 Level supports a resolution of 1280×720. Wikipedia gives a good overview of the different H.264/AVC Levels.
Bitrate Encoding Choose ‘VBR, 2 Pass’ for better encoding efficiency (better quality for the same filesize). If you want faster encoding pick ‘VBR, 1 Pass’.
Target Bitrate The average bitrate the encoder can use in Mega bits per second. This multiplied by the time gives an indication of the file size.
One minute of video with this setting would be :
5 Mbps * 60s = 300 Mbps. 300Mbps/8 (from bits to bytes) = 37.5 Mb.
Maximum Bitrate The encoder can use a higher bitrate for difficult parts in a video image (lots of movement, noise) to improve the quality. This implies directly that other ‘simple’ parts are encoded with a lower bitrate than the average bitrate.

Audio settings (audio tab)

In the audiotab you don’t have to make a lot of changes. The audio codec used in combination with H264 is AAC (Advanced Audio Coding). Depending your demands you can change stereo to mono (a bitrate of 64 kbps would be sufficient then ), when you want good quality stereo music it’s better to choose 128kbps or higher (the higher the bitrate, the better the quality). Use 44.1 kHz as an audio bitrate, 48 kHz (most camera’s record with this frequency) can give distorted audio playback with YouTube/Vimeo now and then.

Export settings summary

Look at the settings in the Export summary and compare them with the summary above. Make changes when necessary.

To save this preset you can press the disk icon next to the preset name ( automatically changes to Custom when you changed an existing preset ).

Final note

The encoded video will be re-encoded in Vimeo or YouTube. However with these settings you have good quality HD movie as reference and for archive purposes.