The Best YouTube Video Format for Your Channel

Best YouTube Video Format

YouTube admittedly takes a little more work than most other social media marketing platforms. Here, long-form video content, similar to IGTV, dominates, and video takes a significant amount of time to plan, create, and edit, even before you factor in things like keyword research or adding in closed captions. With so many big details to tackle before you can even upload a single video, it’s easy to overlook one tiny detail that may seem inconsequential but that actually has a big impact on your content: the best YouTube video format.

With YouTube supporting so many different file formats, it’s easy to overlook this detail and just choose the first option that looks good, but this can impact the quality of the video once uploaded. We don’t want your content or your campaigns to be negatively impacted, so in this post, we’re going to take a look at the best YouTube video format and everything technical that you need to be keeping in mind.

Why Does The YouTube Video File Format Matter?

Different types of video file formats exist for a reason: each one has slightly different methods of organizing the content within them, so it can affect playback, even if only slightly. Different types of file formats and file containers may or may not be compatible with certain types of players.

Some file formats can take a single video and create a larger file size than others, which can impact the ability to upload it to certain platforms, too.

Since YouTube is all about video, it’s of course important to choose the video file format that will benefit you most.

The Difference Between File Containers & File Codecs

One thing that we want to look at really quickly is the difference between video file containers and video file codecs, because this will be relevant in a few minutes.

Video file containers will include how the video content is organized, and will include options that most people are familiar with, like .MP4 or .MOV which are used for Facebook video and Instagram file formats. Most file formats are ultimately named after their container.

File codecs, on the other hand, is what’s used to compress and then decompress the file. Certain, low-quality codecs can result in poor compression and decompression; though they can create smaller video files in many cases, the video quality is also much poorer.

As long as your video file is under YouTube’s maximum limit, always opt for the lossless codecs that yield the highest quality of video, even if it takes a little longer for it to upload.

What Video Formats Does YouTube Accept?

YouTube accepts the following video formats:

  • .MOV
  • .MPEG4
  • .MP4
  • .AVI
  • .WMV
  • .FLV
  • 3GPP
  • WebM
  • DNxHR
  • ProRes
  • CineForm
  • HEVC (h265)

Almost all video editors and creators will give you the option to choose what file format you’d like to save your content in, and the majority at least over .MOV, .MPEG4, and/or .MP4 file formats.

What’s the Best YouTube Video Format?

The best YouTube video format based on the platform’s recommendations is the .MP4 file type. Additionally, YouTube also recommends opting for the following in order to be able to create high quality 1080p HD content:

  • H.264 codec (which is one of the most efficient options out there, allowing for a small file size without sacrificing video quality)
  • 15-20 mbps
  • A standard aspect ratio of 16:9 (this is particularly important for mobile)
  • An audio codec of AAC-LC
best YouTube video format

That being said, if you absolutely can’t upload .MP4 files for whatever reason, .MOV files can work well, too. However, try to keep the H.264 codecs and aspect ratios consistent for ideal video quality on the platform.

YouTube accepts a number of different video formats, but they have recommendations for what can generate the best results and most high quality video on their platform.

What Other Technical Requirements Do I Need to Know

When you’re creating your YouTube video and getting it ready for upload, there are a few more technical requirements and general best practices that you’ll want to be aware of in order to 1) be able to even upload your video on YouTube and 2) ensure that it looks great and is most likely to be well received by your audience.

Here are the other technical requirements that you should be keeping in mind to help your channel skyrocket to success:

  • The maximum file size that you can upload is either 128GB or 12 hours, whichever is less. Some older videos may be longer than 12 hours, but that cut-off has been reduced. (Although really, that’s for the best; you’re going to lose people like crazy if you’re going more than 12 hours and it sounds like a nightmare to edit).
  • Stick to that 16:9 aspect ratio. You really want your videos to show up well when users are watching, whether they’re watching on desktop or mobile. It’s particularly important on mobile– especially with 70% of views coming from mobile— so that the video can scale properly to full screen, making it easier for users to see and engage with.
  • Create customized YouTube thumbnails instead of using screen grabs. As your video is uploading, YouTube will automatically generate potential thumbnails, but they do this at random and they can easily look like this:
    create customized youtube thumbnailsInstead, use drag-and-drop design software like Snappa to create uniform, recognizable thumbnails. It will help your channel look great, build brand awareness, and prevent that fun we-look-drunk phenomenon you’d like to avoid when representing your brand.
best YouTube video format for your channel


YouTube is an outstanding marketing platform, but it’s also one that requires a big time investment. Creating video isn’t easy and it typically isn’t super quick, so you don’t want to throw all that hard work away at the last minute by choosing the wrong file format.

Stick to .MP4 video formats for YouTube, and don’t forget to double check all of the other recommendations for best results. It’ll take a little extra work, but it’s well worth the effort, especially as you start seeing your channel grow and drive off-platform results, too.

Need a little help updating your YouTube channel’s visuals so that it will look great before users even start watching your videos? Learn more about how to do this with Snappa here.

What do you think? Which YouTube file format has worked best for you? What video length has performed well on your channel? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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