I mainly record "screencasts" of MMO games.

Which of the various video formats that YouTube accepts will result in the smallest file size and what settings for that file type would I use?

Of course this is also constrained by a desire to have video quality that is not noticeably worse that the other options.

3 Answers 3


YouTube support a number of different options for uploading:

  • WebM - VP8 for video, which really isn't that great
  • MPEG4 (h264) - pretty much the standard
  • AVI - a container format, not a codec
  • MPEG2 (DivX, XviD) - higher filesizes for similar quality as compared to h264
  • WMV - not used by many outside of Microsoft for good reason
  • FLV - previously used to contain VP6, but currently uses h264

Really, for general-purpose video, everyone should be using h264.

The audio codec you choose is not going to make much a difference for a standard YouTube-length video, as long as it's lossy. I don't believe that YouTube accepts any lossless audio anyways, not to mention that it would be a ridiculous waste of disk space.

Realistically, if you want to produce really small encodes that don't take up much disk space, you'll have to spend many hours tweaking settings. I assume that your upload bandwidth is not capped enough to make this kind of effort worthwhile, but it would be nice to see what kind of change you're hoping for.

See also Google's help article on optimizing videos for upload.

  • Due to spam prevention, I am not allowed to post more than one hyperlink in my answer, which is rather irritating. A page describing the downfalls of VP8 is at x264dev.multimedia.cx/?p=377 , and Google's help article is at google.com/support/youtube/bin/… . Commented Jul 7, 2010 at 23:05
  • +1 good answer. Don't worry about the posting limitations. They're one of the main reasons there's no spam on Stack Exchange sites. Once you break the 100 threshold, any Stack Exchange site you sign on to will automatically start you @ 100 rep. Commented Jul 7, 2010 at 23:12
  • Just link your accounts and set up a biography you start at 100 then. Commented Jul 8, 2010 at 1:46

The .wmv format seems to be the smallest. As an addition try to be on a fast connection. Do you know anyone who has a symmetric connection? It was also reported that using public wi-fi (especially on airports) seem to provide a fast upload speed.

  • I just wanted to point out that Airport internet connections usually aren't free to access so that might not be the best option. Commented Jul 7, 2010 at 23:14

If you use h.264 as a codec, Handbrake lets you fine-tune the bitrate of the video.

Handbrake bitrate

Wikipedia has a list of the bitrates of common mediums for comparison. With some experimentation, you'll eventually be able to decide which bitrate provides the best tradeoff between quality and size.

  • Or you can specify "quality", which makes for less dicking around (once you find what number corresponds to what you're looking for). Depending on the type of thing you're encoding, you probably want something in the range of CRF 22 to CRF 13 or 14. Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 20:13

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