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Final Cut Pro to YouTube

Learn how to get the best YouTube videos from Final Cut Pro

By Richard Harrington | May 19, 2008


What people tend to forget is that you are sending YouTube a master for them to compress; therefore, send the highest quality you can, that fits within their limitations. is well know for being the busiest video-sharing site, but unfortunately, YouTube uses the much older Sorenson Spark codec for their video encoding. This was the "improved" video format for Flash 7 but is based on the very old H.263 video conferencing codec. Even when new, this was an old, inefficient codec.

Many people send YouTube an already compressed video, and are disappointed when they see the quality that results on YouTube. That's because most of the information was first thrown away by the encode before upload, so there was little quality left to be encoded to Flash 7.

The goal is to give YouTube a master that they can use for encoding:
• YouTube has two limitations: no more than 10 minutes per video and no larger than 100 MB per video.
• YouTube converts everything that is uploaded to Flash 7 video at 320X240 (although they've started to also do 640X480 in H.264).
• Remember the good old days of VHS distribution? You wouldn't give the duplicator a VHS copy of the show to duplicate. No, you'd give them the highest quality master you could. Therefore, to get the best quality from YouTube, give them a high quality "master" that is close to 99 MB.

Here's how to pull this off:
1 Use QuickTime Pro or Final Cut Pro to exports to .mp4 with H.264 video.
2 Export as MPEG-4 with H.264 and set the size to 320X240. There is no point providing more resolution than YouTube's finished size. By going direct to that size means that you can devote bandwidth to making that master look great, instead of sending excess size that will be scaled down. The bonus is that you get to control de-interlacing and scaling.
3 From here on there are two choices: calculate the maximum data rate that will keep the file under 99 MB, or use some general purpose settings.

Thanks to Phil Hodgetts for this guest tip.


Like this tip? It comes from the book
Final Cut Studio On the Spot from Focal Press.

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Ben Ramsey: | May, 20, 2008

This info is a little outdated. YouTube has changed the compressor to H.264 and they allow files up to 1GB.

Here is some more info from YouTube

Richard Harrington: | May, 21, 2008

Not exactly….  the 1 GB is ONLY allowed if you use their batch loader application (if using the web-based form the 100 MB limit still applies).

PLUS….  you need to have a special account to do this…  and it ONLY works on Windows

the rules still apply…

As far as H.264…  we mentioned that….  they compress to both formats….  Flash for the site…  H.264 for Apple TV and iPhone delivery.

Joseph Moore: | May, 22, 2008

Actually, they are rolling out H.264 on the site, not just for Apple devices. (It’s the “high quality” option you’ll see below certain clips.) Recent versions of the Flash 9 player support H.264.

Richard Harrington: | May, 22, 2008

Hence the line that says

“(although they’ve started to also do 640X480 in H.264). “

I realize all this guys…  the point of the article is that no matter HOW you encode…  YouTube RE-ENCODES…

I know this having done video or Google corporate.  Their system will not (and CANNOT) accept a video even at right specs.  Everything submitted is re-encoded.

Thats all.  Okay?

Mike Curtis: | May, 22, 2008

My understanding was that you could provide a file that fit their maximum specs and that they would NOT re-encode if you were correct codec, size, and within datarate/time/filesize limits - I thought that was the best way to go…

Richard Harrington: | May, 22, 2008


We were hired by Google directly for a multi-video project… and we asked to do JUST that….

But nope…  their system re-encodes…  even if it exactly matches their specs.

J. Smith: | May, 25, 2008

Curious that you say that you have to use the batch uploader to upload files bigger than 100Mb - I have uploaded several videos by individual web form that have been well over 300Mb a pop. On Mac OSX. I did use the batch uploader, but found that the uploads crawled down to about 20k, but individually uploading files they went at a nice fast 55k.
Either way, I’ve been doing this for the last two months. I’m required to upload a local soccer serial and I always export to MJPEGs that are a few hundred Mbs each and upload each show in two sections. At least seven hundred Mb is uploaded between the two sections, and YouTube has always let me do this, either with the batch uploader or without, and I don’t have any kind of special account (as far as I’m aware)

Richard Harrington: | May, 26, 2008

“What is the YouTube Uploader?
The YouTube Uploader is a way for you to upload video files larger than 100MB or upload many files at once. To use the Uploader, you’ll need to download our application to a Windows computer.”

Now even though it says that…  a Mac link is here for a beta version of uploader -

But it still says
“Each uploaded video is limited to 10 min and 1 GB”

Truth be told.. you can go a littlel over 10 minutes…  Longer videos have generally been.

There are a few loopholes for older accounts… director pages, etc.  But none for anyone recently.

“Your video is limited to 10 minutes and 1024 MB.”

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