If you aren't sure what file format to use to upload a video to YouTube, you are certainly not alone. There are a number of file formats to choose from, and ways to convert them to other formats, so finding the best one to use might feel like leaving it up to chance. You may be wondering if it even matters which format that you use. There are, though, some formats that will work better than others.

Formats that YouTube supports

YouTube supports sixteen different file formats. You can upload your video in any of the following formats:

  • .MOV
  • .MPEG-1
  • .MPEG-2
  • .MPEG4
  • .MP4
  • .MPG
  • .AVI
  • .WMV
  • .FLV
  • 3GPP
  • WebM
  • DNxHR
  • ProRes
  • CineForm
  • HEVC (h265)

If your file is not in any of the above formats, you'll have to convert it. YouTube's help page has information on how best to convert your file if it isn't in one of the listed formats. There's also a free Google Chrome extension called Video Converter that will convert your files for you.

Each of the formats listed above have been developed to play video and audio simultaneously, though some might be better than others. Don't just pick one and convert your file. You need to know what is recommended for YouTube.

Best file format to use on YouTube

YouTube itself recommends using the .MP4 format for the best high quality video uploads, so that should be your first choice. If, for some reason, you can't use or don't want to use .MP4, there are a few others that you can use instead.

If you need a second choice, the .MOV format works almost as well.

If, for some reason you can't use either .MP4 or .MOV, it is suggested that you convert your videos to one of those two formats, or find another way to record your videos. Other formats won't hold nearly the quality of both video and audio that you will need to upload to YouTube.

These two formats are the best way to keep your content clear and high quality during upload. YouTube has additional recommendations, as well.

Other things to know

When uploading a video, you'll have several choices to make regarding codecs, aspect ratio, and more. Stick to what's recommended by YouTube for the best video file. Those recommendations are:

  • H.264 codec
  • 15-20 mbs
  • Audio codec AAC-LC

Both the video and audio codecs are designed to keep as much integrity in video and sound in your video as possible while uploading. If you stick to YouTube's recommendations, you should not have any trouble with losing video quality, or with audio not lining up with the video.

YouTube's standard aspect ratio is 16:9, so make sure that your file, in whatever format, uploads at that ratio. Otherwise, you'll have an oddly formatted video, with dark bars along the sides or top, and you may lose subscribers if your video fits oddly in their playback screens, or if they can't make out details.

YouTube's max file size is 128 GB, or a length of 12 hours. They will take whichever is less. Though, if you want consistent viewers, try not to cram too much information into one video. If you're sticking to one topic per video, you'll likely never have a problem with a file being too large to upload to YouTube.

Despite YouTube having multiple formats that you can use, the recommended .MP4 or .MOV are the best ways to keep the integrity of your video and audio. The added recommendation by YouTube will ensure that you upload the best quality that you can to your channel. Having high quality videos is one of the best ways to keep subscribers, and make yourself stand out in a sea of other channels, and these file formats are the best ones to use to upload your videos.

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