File types supported by YouTube


YouTube can accommodate videos in various file formats. Different video formats have their own benefits and drawbacks, depending on the device, computer, or software used.

Here are the video formats YouTube currently accepts:

  • 3GP for mobile phones;
  • AVI for Windows Operating Systems;
  • FLV;
  • MOV for Macintosh OS;
  • MP4 for media players (such as the iPod and PSP);
  • MPEG;
  • SWF for Shockwave Flash;
  • and MKV.

One of the website’s recent developments allowed YouTube users to watch videos in high-definition resolution if the uploader has HD content. This enhancement, YouTube states, is currently in the experimental stage. Videos are accessible to users in “normal” quality, as well as HD. The user can click on a panel near the lower right portion of the viewscreen to toggle between HD and normal video quality. Note that watching a video in HD may necessitate longer loading times for the said video.

Preferred Specifications

Here are YouTube’s recommended specifications for audio and video. The information below lists the optimal requirements for uploaded files.

Video Details

Bit Rate – Factors for consideration for video should focus on aspect ratio, frame rate, and resolution as opposed to bit rate. Codec basically dictates bit rate, and as such, there are no recommendations for it.

Codec – MPEG4, MPEG2, and H.264 are ideal.

Frame Rate – Avoid re-sampling the video frame rate and stick to that of the original. “Pulldown”, among other methods of re-sampling frame rates are not advised.

Resolution – The recommended resolution for videos is 640 x 480 (4:3 SD) and 1280 x 720 pixels (16 x 9 HD). High resolutions such as High Definition or HD are preferred. Keep in mind that YouTube does not have a minimum resolution requirement. This allows old content (of low resolution) to be uploaded to the service.

Audio Details

Channels – Stereo or 2 channels

Codec – AAC and MP3 are ideal.

Tips and Tricks

If an uploader is unsure about a video format’s compatibility with YouTube, the file can be converted to MP3 audio-enabled MPEG4 video.

FFMPEG-type software is easily available on the Internet. This command line utility can translate a video into a compatible format. This software is available as freeware or paid software.

Transcoding a greatly-compressed video file into an accepted format is discouraged, as this creates sub-par results. Apply the utilized video editing program (used in the initial video edit) to export the file in formats such as MP3 audio/MPEG4 video. If this cannot be done, the video file may be exported uncompressed, and then encoded via a peripheral program.

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