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DEEP DIVE ARTICLE TIPS & TRICKS YOUTUBE

What is the Best Bitrate for YouTube?

Providing the best experience for your viewers is a worthy goal that all YouTubers should strive for, and one that can take many different forms.

There are times when it is blindingly obvious what steps you should take. For example, if you are recording your audio using a built-in laptop microphone and the results are fuzzy, tinny, and a whole host of other adjectives you don’t necessarily want to associate with your audio, a decent microphone is a clear step in the right direction.

There are more subtle steps you can take, however, and one of those is the bitrate you upload your video at. Finding the right bitrate is a balancing act between quality and viewing experience. Fortunately, YouTube makes things easier by processing your video to ensure that the content being delivered to your viewers is up to scratch. That being said, as a general rule, the less work you leave YouTube to do, the better. Any time YouTube has to make changes, be it to the volume levels, the bitrate, the resolution, or any aspect of your video, there is a chance the results will not be to your liking.

So, what is a bitrate? And, more importantly, what is the best bitrate for YouTube? We’ll get to what it is below, but as for the best bitrate for YouTube (Source)

Type Bitrate (Standard Framerate) Bitrate (High Framerate)
2160p (4k) 35-45 Mbps 53-68 Mbps
1440p (2K) 16 Mbps 24 Mbps
1080p 8 Mbps 12 Mbps
720p 5 Mbps 7.5 Mbps
480p 2.5 Mbps 4 Mbps
360p 1 Mbps 1.5 Mbps

Please note that the above values are applicable to SDR video only. If you want the numbers for HDR, check that link above the table.

Uploading videos at these bitrates will ensure you are giving your viewers the highest quality you can while not hitting YouTube’s bitrate cap, which will cause them to lower the bitrate in processing. If you’d like to know more on this topic, however, keep reading.

What is a Bitrate?

Bitrate is the name given to the measurement of data encoded in a unit of time which, for video, is typically Mbps, or megabits per second.

As you might expect, the higher the bitrate, the better the quality of the video.

However, that higher bitrate comes with additional bandwidth requirements, which can mean a lousy viewing experience for people whose Internet connection (or computer hardware, for that matter) isn’t up to the task. They will be getting choppy, stuttering playback which is not fun for anyone.

A variety of factors affect how much bandwidth is necessary. For example, a video running at sixty frames per second will need twice as much bandwidth as a video running at thirty frames per second that is otherwise identical. Another significant factor is the codec used since that will alter the amount of data an individual frame requires.

And if this sounds like a foreign language, don’t worry, we’ll go over codecs in a little more detail shortly.

What Happens if I use a Bitrate that is too Low?

Using a low bitrate will result in a lower quality stream for your viewer. Now, whether or not this is a bad thing is subjective; if you are happy with the quality of the video at a particular bitrate, it doesn’t matter if it is low by any other standard.

In fact, the lower you can get your bitrate without bringing the quality down too far, the better since it means a smoother experience for your viewers.

Even if a viewer has the connection for a high-bitrate video, it doesn’t hurt them to view it at a lower bitrate if the quality is good enough.

What Happens if I use a Bitrate that is too High?

Higher bitrates will result in more bandwidth requirements for your user, which, may be necessary for certain video qualities. For example, streaming 4K at 60fps in anything approaching a decent quality is going to result in a lot of bandwidth; there’s no getting around that fact.

In cases where the bandwidth requirements are higher than your viewer’s connection can handle, they will get choppy, stuttering, buffering playback.

Unlike having your bitrate too low, we do have an objective consequence for having it too high. As you increase the bitrate of a video, you will reach a point of diminishing returns where the bump in bitrate results in a barely noticeable—or completely indistinguishable—improvement in quality.

In this case, the increase in demand on your viewer’s Internet connection is not worth it for the minimal improvement it grants them.

Match YouTube

As we mentioned above, anytime you force YouTube to make changes to your video, you run the risk of them doing so in a way that you are not happy with.

It is better to aim for YouTube’s preferred properties wherever possible, which in the case of bitrate, can be found in the table above.

That being said, YouTube put a lot of effort into making their platform work as smoothly as possible. The fact that the processing stage could alter your video in a way you are not happy with doesn’t mean it will. It is also worth noting that YouTube will be making more significant changes to your video at other resolutions, so this is something you will have to make peace with one way or another.

For example, you could upload a 4K video with the encoding settings so perfectly aligned with YouTube that it needs no processing whatsoever… to display in 4K. YouTube is still going to have to process a 1080p version, and that will be the version that most YouTube viewers see—though 4K is gaining traction.

In truth, the benefits of making your video match YouTube’s desired encoding settings apply more to other aspects, such as audio levels. But that doesn’t mean there are no benefits to making sure your bitrate lines up with what YouTube wants.

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Audio Bitrates

Bitrates don’t just apply to video, of course; there are audio bitrates to consider as well. In terms of what these are and how they behave, for simplicities sake, just think of them as exactly the same as video bitrates but applied to audio.

The primary difference here is the amounts we are dealing with. Audio is considerably smaller than video, so the bitrates are also smaller. For video, we typically measure bitrates in megabits. For audio, it is kilobits. If you are not familiar with the naming system of “kilo” and “mega”, a kilobit is a thousand bits, and a megabit is a million bits. That makes a megabit a thousand times more bits than a kilobit.

Using the same link that we supplied above regarding YouTube’s preferred video bitrates, we can tell you that their preferred audio bitrates are as follows;

Type Audio Bitrate
Mono 128 kbps
Stereo 384 kbps
5.1 512 kbps

Codecs, Wrappers, and More

There are a number of other terms to deal with when talking about encoding a video, some which we have mentioned already in this article. We could probably fill an entire post on each one, but it’s worth touching on them here since they are important terms to get familiar with when dealing with video encoding.

Container or Wrapper

The container of your video is a type of file that allows multiple streams of data to be stored in a single file. Typically, a container will include metadata that can tell a player information about the file, such as the title. There are many examples of container files outside of the world of video and audio, but the important information that is contained in a video wrapper is the video and audio data. Different combinations of audio and video codecs can be embedded within the wrapper file.

YouTube’s preferred container is MP4, though the codecs you use will play a more significant role in how well YouTube processes your video.

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Codecs (Audio and Video)

Codecs are the method by which a piece of video or audio is compressed. This is necessary to reduce the size of the data so that it can be more feasibly streamed across the Internet.

I have a full deep dive in the best codecs for YouTube and the surprising differences in my blog.

Compression—and, as a result, codecs—work by reducing the data in a video or audio stream as much as possible. As an example, a stretch of video that is just blank screen and silence, if left uncompressed, will take up the same amount of space as a stretch of video of the same length that has plenty of action going on onscreen. With compression, that stretch of blank, silent screen can be significantly reduced in size since there is no need to store hundreds of frames of identical data.

Different codecs handle this compression in different ways. For example, some focus on preserving as much detail as possible, which gives the best results visually, but doesn’t necessarily achieve a great reduction in data size. Other codecs might focus on getting the size down but, in the process, lose a noticeable amount of fine detail.

As with many things in life, choosing the right code is about finding a good balance between those two aspects. That being said, YouTube’s preferred audio codec is AAC-LC, and their preferred video codec is H.264.

Framerate

The framerate is the number of frames of video that are shown per second. A single frame is essentially a still image at the resolution that the video is processed in. So, for a 1080p video that is running at thirty frames per second, you are looking at a slideshow of thirty 1920 x 1080 images every second. No wonder video takes up so much data!

The more frames your video has, the smoother a viewing experience it will be. That being said, it is not always a case of more is better. There are certain stylistic elements to consider. For example, twenty-four frames per second are the standard in cinema, and so video in this framerate tends to have a more cinematic look. If the video is footage of a video game, on the other hand, you would probably want sixty frames per second where possible.

The most common frame rates are 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, and 60, though YouTube does not limit you to one of these options.

Resolution and Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio and resolution of your video are not quite the same things. The resolution is fairly straight forward, and even those with little knowledge in this area are usually familiar with the concept. The resolution of a video is the number of pixels being shown on screen, displayed as width and height. For example, 1080p video is 1920 x 1080, or 1,920 pixels across and 1,080 pixels down.

Aspect ratio, on the other hand, is the ratio of width to height, which describes the shape of the video screen. For example, the above mentioned 1920 x 1080 is a 16:9 screen ratio, which is the most common aspect ratio used on YouTube, but any resolution where the ratio of horizontal pixels to vertical pixels is the same is classed as 16:9. For example, 4K, which is 3840 x 2160, and 240p, which is 426 x 240, are both 16:9.

For comparison, a square video, where the width and height of the resolution are the same, would have an aspect ratio of 1:1.

Final Thoughts

Bitrates are one of those things that can be a significant problem, but probably shouldn’t be. By keeping your bitrates around the numbers suggested by YouTube, you shouldn’t have any issues with the quality of your video.

Granted, there will always be some special situations where YouTube’s recommended defaults just don’t work for you, but if you are encountering that kind of situation, you are probably knowledgable enough to figure out the best course of action. For the rest of us mere mortals, the best bitrate for YouTube will often be the one that they suggest.

Top 5 Tools To Get You Started on YouTube

Very quickly before you go here are 5 amazing tools I have used every day to grow my YouTube channel from 0 to 30K subscribers in the last 12 months that I could not live without.

1. VidIQ helps boost my views and get found in search

I almost exclusively switched to VidIQ from a rival in 2020.

Within 12 months I tripled the size of my channel and very quickly learnt the power of thumbnails, click through rate and proper search optimization. Best of all, they are FREE!

2. Adobe Creative Suite helps me craft amazing looking thumbnails and eye-catching videos

I have been making youtube videos on and off since 2013.

When I first started I threw things together in Window Movie Maker, cringed at how it looked but thought “that’s the best I can do so it’ll have to do”.

Big mistake!

I soon realized the move time you put into your editing and the more engaging your thumbnails are the more views you will get and the more people will trust you enough to subscribe.

That is why I took the plunge and invested in my editing and design process with Adobe Creative Suite. They offer a WIDE range of tools to help make amazing videos, simple to use tools for overlays, graphics, one click tools to fix your audio and the very powerful Photoshop graphics program to make eye-catching thumbnails.

Best of all you can get a free trial for 30 days on their website, a discount if you are a student and if you are a regular human being it starts from as little as £9 per month if you want to commit to a plan.

3. Rev.com helps people read my videos

You can’t always listen to a video.

Maybe you’re on a bus, a train or sat in a living room with a 5 year old singing baby shark on loop… for HOURS. Or, you are trying to make as little noise as possible while your new born is FINALLY sleeping.

This is where Rev can help you or your audience consume your content on the go, in silence or in a language not native to the video.

Rev.com can help you translate your videos, transcribe your videos, add subtitles and even convert those subtitles into other languages – all from just $1.50 per minute.

A GREAT way to find an audience and keep them hooked no matter where they are watching your content.

4. Learn new skills for FREE with Skillshare

I SUCK reading books to learn, but I LOVE online video courses.

Every month I learn something new. Editing, writing, video skills, how to cook, how to run a business – even how to meditate to calm a busy mind.

I find all of these for FREE with Skillshare – Sign up, pick all the courses you want and cancel anytime you need.

5. Shutterstock helps me add amazing video b-roll cutaways

I mainly make tutorials and talking head videos.

And in this modern world this can be a little boring if you don’t see something funky every once in a while.

I try with overlays, jump cuts and being funny but my secret weapon is b-roll overlay content.

I can talk about skydiving, food, money, kids, cats – ANYTHING I WANT – with a quick search on the Shutterstock website I can find a great looking clip to overlay on my videos, keeping them entertained and watching for longer.

They have a wide library of videos, graphics, images and even a video maker tool and it wont break the bank with plans starting from as little as £8.25 ($9) per month.

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DEEP DIVE ARTICLE TIPS & TRICKS YOUTUBE

Good Places to Record Videos in Your Home

YouTube might be an excellent medium for expressing your creative side, educating people, and even just making money.

Still, it is not exactly a low footprint medium when it comes to creating those videos. At least, not all of the time. We’ll get into that.

Finding a space to make your YouTube videos can be tricky, especially if you live with other people, or have a small home. Or both! Fear not, however, there are always options. They’re not always free options, but there are options.

In this post, we’re going to go into detail on how to choose and prep a place for recording your videos. What makes a great space—and what you need to do to prepare it—will vary greatly depending on the kind of video you make.

The right equipment can make a huge difference to how and where you can record – but it doesn’t have to cost the earth. That’s why I made a deep dive blog into YouTube Equipment on a Budget – spend a little, get a lot of freedom in your recording options.

Before we talk about the types of video, let’s go over some of the attributes that make good places to record videos in your home.

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What to Look For

If you are lucky enough to be in a position where you have a large room to yourself, a spare room you can make use of, or even the ability to build something new, then you’re already most of the way there. For the vast majority of us, however, we have to make do with what we got.

The first thing to consider when looking for a place to record your videos is permanency. That is, somewhere you can set up recording equipment and leave it in place.

Granted, this might not be an option, but if it is, it should be a strongly considered option. A space that may seem far more appropriate for recording videos isn’t necessarily the best choice if you have another area that you could set up permanently.

For one thing, it makes the time required for recording a new video considerably shorter, because you don’t have to worry about setting up or tearing down your equipment.

An example of this would be a large room with nice acoustics and natural lighting that you could use, but couldn’t leave your equipment in versus a tiny room—even a closet—that you could claim for the long haul.

The larger room would undoubtedly be better, but you could make the small room work. As with many things in life, it is a matter of deciding what best suits your situation.

The next thing we would recommend you consider before moving your gear into a particular area is how much control you have over that area. Similar to the previous example, a space that you can modify may prove to be better for you than a space that you can’t, even if it doesn’t look that way, to begin with.

After that, the main things to consider are environmental. For example, areas that are subjected to a lot of noise, perhaps from traffic. There are things you can do to mitigate that, but if you have other options, maybe consider something with less noise.

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Camera-less Videos

Not all YouTubers need a big, adequately lit set up. If you make software tutorials where you’re not on camera, such as list videos that consist of clips and still images, or any other type of video where you are not actually filming yourself, you have a higher degree of flexibility in terms of the areas you can record in.

As your primary concern will be the quality of your voice over recording, it will actually benefit you to record in a smaller space, such as the closet we mentioned before.

Your main goal for the recording space should be to cut down on acoustic reflection and in a smaller room. This is much a much easier prospect. For one thing, you can always coat the entire space in acoustic foam tiles, which will all but eliminate reverb and echo.

If you do not have such a space—a common situation for YouTubers is recording in their bedrooms—then you will need to be smarter with your preparation. Thick packing blankets can act as excellent acoustic insulation and can be draped over any number of household objects to create a capable acoustic screen around your recording area.

Having issues with echo? You’ll be amazed what you can do from home for next to nothing to make your videos sound professional. For a more comprehensive guide to soundproofing check out my deep dive blog.

Soundproofing Tips for YouTubers 2

Shared Spaces

Now, assuming you are on camera but you don’t have anywhere you can claim in the name of YouTube, what are your options? Firstly, if you are going to have to pack up your gear when you’re not using it anyway, you may as well opt for the best spot you can find.

This may mean recording at inconvenient times so as not to irritate family members or roommates. Not to mention avoiding having people walking through your shot in their dressing robe!

You will be a bit limited in terms of your “set”, as the people you share a the space with won’t necessarily be happy about you putting up acoustic treatment and set dressing while they’re trying to watch Netflix!

One thing you can do in these cases is to use the room as your set. It might require doing a bit of tidying up, but most people wouldn’t complain about that. Even a drab looking space can be a serviceable YouTube set with the right focus and a bit of lighting.

Soundproofing Tips for YouTubers 4

Dual Purpose Spaces

This is the kind of situation most YouTubers find themselves in; you have somewhere to yourself, but you can’t dedicate it to your YouTube exploits.

The most common instance of this being a bedroom. Sure, you have the bedroom to yourself, but you do have to sleep in there. The good news is it’s your space, and you can do as much to it as you can endure.

You’re probably not going to want to hang set dressing over your bed, forcing you to take it down anytime you want to go to sleep. But you can certainly put things on the walls, arrange lighting in a way that suits the video, and move furniture around.

Good Places to Record Videos in Your Home 1

The Attic

…or loft, depending on what you call it.

Unless we’re talking about a converted attic, the chances are you’re going to need to do a lot of work to get things going up there. You will need lighting, acoustic treatment, and you will probably be sharing your recording space with decades of accumulated boxes.

The good news is, if you can get all of that sorted, you have a secluded space all to yourself. Just bear in mind that you will have to climb in and out of the attic any time you need to record, which isn’t always the easiest prospect depending on how the is laid out property.

Of course, if we are talking about a converted attic, there is no reason to treat it differently to any other room in the property.

Good Places to Record Videos in Your Home 2

Garages and Sheds

Let’s face it; nobody uses garages for cars anymore. And garden sheds are being converted into secluded getaways all the time. If you have access to such a thing, it can make a great recording space. But there are things to consider that you wouldn’t have to think about in a regular house or apartment.

Firstly, in the case of a typical garden shed, it is considerably easier to break into. If you leave a bunch of expensive recording equipment in there, you will have to weigh up the risk of it being stolen.

You can add security to the shed, remove the equipment when you’re not recording, or just hope that you never face that problem.

Another concern to think about with garden sheds (and, to a lesser extent, garages) is things like damp. These structures are not designed for use in the same way a typical home is, and they are prone to things like condensation and leaking. As you can imagine, this isn’t ideal when you have a potentially expensive computer, and a bunch of recording equipment sat there.

The other problem you will face is acoustics and set dressing. Having your own dedicated little space is great, of course, but your typical garage or garden shed is terrible from an acoustic point of view, and not exactly pretty to look at. Be sure to factor all of this in before moving your gear in.

Think Outside the Box

While not strictly in your home, gardens can provide an excellent backdrop for a video (depending on the video, of course).

You will need to do a little research into your gear if you want to record outdoors, as getting the best video and audio in the midst of Mother Nature is not quite the same as getting it in your bedroom.

The weather may also be a factor. If you live in a particularly wet region, the garden might not be very practical when you have to wait for the one dry day a month to shoot a video!

And The Rest…

It is also essential to put some thought into the rest of the video-making process, as you will need somewhere to do this as well. If you have set up a nice little audio recording booth in a closet somewhere in your house, it may not be the best location for slaving over endless hours of editing. Assuming, of course, you edit your own videos, but things like scriptwriting can go down in this category as well.

If you can split the various aspects of YouTubing across multiple machines, it might be worth having a dedicated device for the recording that can be left in place. If not, portable devices such as laptops are always great for those times when it’s not possible or feasible to edit and record in the same place.

Of course, if your set up is a big, roomy desk with a nice, comfortable chair, there’s no reason not to use that same location for your off-camera work.

Essentials

Any space you choose can be made into a serviceable YouTube recording space with a few essential tools.

Firstly; lighting. The amount of difference lighting makes to a video cannot be overstated. It is often the case that a cheap camera with good lighting can do a far better job than an expensive one with poor lighting. Lighting doesn’t need to be expensive, and it can come in very portable form factors, and with the right placement, it can be used to effectively remove the background entirely. Perfect if you are recording somewhere with a less than ideal look for your videos.

Acoustic treatment is also essential, though a little trickier to make portable. If you have a dedicated space, consider getting some acoustic foam tiles on your walls and ceiling, and perhaps a thick rug for your floor.

If you need more help in soundproofing your newly discovered record set I have a deep dive in my blog on soundproofing tips for youtubers – this should get you started and can be amazingly cheap!

If your setup needs to be portable, thick packing blankets are always a good option. Draping them over something around your recording space will make a massive difference to the acoustics, and you will be able to easily take them down afterwards.

Finally, for those times when the space is just not fit for screen time—or just because you want to—there is a green screen. Green screens can be picked up relatively cheaply on Amazon, or sites like Wish, and there are free options for implementing Chroma Key (the name of the green screen effect) either live or in editing.

Don’t Be Discouraged

It is essential to remember that, ultimately, it is the content you produce that will make or break your YouTube career, not the space you are recording in. If you can’t make a great looking set to record in, do not let that stop you from making videos.

Just do the best that you can do with what you have and then set about creating great content. Always be on the lookout for ways you can improve your recording space, of course, but don’t wait until it is ready, because it may very well never be ready. Especially if you are a bit of a perfectionist.

Viewers will forgive you for less than perfect backdrops, or subpar video quality. And as you progress, if your content is good enough, you may well find that is financially practical to upgrade.