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Video is less than 5 minutes long, standard 4:3 aspect ratio (@ 640x480), imported from a digital camera, edited in Mac OS X with iMovie '09 and has a stereo, musical soundtrack.

What encoding method should I use to get the best quality possible when played back on YouTube?

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I would try the original file, if it would work. Let them re-encode it. – Brad Gilbert Jul 17 '09 at 1:32
up vote 6 down vote accepted

As you are using iMovie 09 you really don't need to worry about it.

When you go Share > youTube it has 4 different sizes to choose from (480x360, 640x480, 720x540 an 1280x720).

Depending on your input video, not all the options may be available.

You should pick the highest quality that you can, iMovie will then export and upload, and youTube will post process your file down smaller if necessary.

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Youtube have a guide on ideal video settings for uploading: "Getting Started: Optimizing your video uploads"


  • Resolution: Recommended: 1280 x 720 (16x9 HD) and 640 x 480 (4:3 SD)

    There is no required minimum resolution - in general the higher resolution the better and HD resolution is preferred. For older content, lower resolution is unavoidable.

  • Bit rate - Because bit-rate is highly dependent on codec there is no recommended or minimum value. Videos should be optimized for resolution, aspect ratio and frame rate rather than bit rate.

  • Frame rate - The frame rate of the original video should be maintained without re-sampling. In particular pulldown and other frame rate re-sampling techniques are strongly discouraged.

  • Codec - H.264, MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 preferred.


  • Codec - MP3 or AAC preferred
  • Sampling rate - 44.1kHz
  • Channels - 2 (stereo)

Stick to that, and Youtube shouldn't do any further transcoding on your video, thus the quality should be the same as what you upload..

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YouTube recommends MPEG4 compression. I'd try the mpeg4/improved profile (if you're using the export using quicktime option). iMovie also has a built in export to YouTube setting (at least it did in iMovie '08) which is probably more than adequate.

YouTube is going to re-compress the video in any case, so you don't really have to worry about file size and compatibility, which are the two big hassles/tradeoffs when doing compression.

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