The Best Settings & Formats for Capturing Videos for YouTube

capture youtube videoYouTube seems to be among the leading sources of entertainment (and distraction, for me at least) on the web, as there are innovative channels, hilarious spoofs, comedy skits and tutorials, you name it. Regular users have even been receiving the fame treatment (at least on YouTube, with lots of views).

It’s really not that hard to upload a video (it’s just hard to get noticed, but here are some tips), but if you want to actually get started, you might need to know a few things beforehand, such as acceptable formats, lengths, settings, etc.

Capture YouTube Video Straight From Devices You Already Own

Cell Phone

You can start capturing a video even if you don’t have a camcorder. Nowadays, most people have cell phones with decent video-capturing capabilities. If your mobile plan allows you to MMS or use e-mail, you can even send it straight to YouTube via your personalized upload email address (you do need to be signed in).

capture youtube video

You can even check out YouTube’s mobile version that can “record and upload DVD-quality videos“.


If your computer has a built-in webcam, or you have an external webcam you can connect to your computer, head to the webcam upload option in YouTube, give YouTube the OK to use your webcam and microphone and off you go!

how to make youtube videos

You can also use something like Manycam (Windows) or Cheese (Linux) to record from your webcam and then edit in your preferred video-editing program.

Digital Camera

Your digital camera will most likely come with different settings that you might need to experiment with to obtain a video with good enough quality and that fits in your memory card, of course. It’s always better to capture with the highest settings or resolution possible to ensure less pixelated captures.

Even in my older Nikon CoolPix L14, there are options for “TV movie 640” (640×480) that produces a decent-quality, standard-definition 480p video. After your capture, import the video into your computer, head to Youtube’s upload page, and select the AVI video.


You have a wide variety of choices to record from your desktop.

how to make youtube videos

To get started fast, try Screenr (see above screenshot), or ScreenToaster that I have found to be enormously useful as it records in HD and gives you a downloadable and Twittable video. For the serial screen recorder, there’s Camstudio (Windows), Copernicus (Mac), and recordMyDesktop (Linux).  Additional screen recorders include Jing (Windows and Mac) and Wink (an excellent tutorial or demo creator), although these record SWF files only, which YouTube doesn’t process and thus, can’t allow.

As a Camstudio user, I recommend that you download the Lossless codec 1.4 (find it immediately below the Camstudio beta download link on the download page) and check the Autopan feature so your viewers won’t have to squint or put your video on full-screen.

how to make youtube videos

Digital Camcorder

If your digital camcorder records in Digital8, MiniDV, HDV, or any of the DVD formats, then you shouldn’t have too much to worry about because you’re all set to capture Youtube video. For HD videos, make sure you’re recording at least in 1280×720 (for 720p) or 1920×1080 (for 1080p). If your camcorder’s not HD-capable, you can always shoot in the highest settings and resize it with video-editing software later.

Your raw footage can be uploaded directly without any editing, but a bit of editing can go a long way. Maybe your clip can do better without a redundant segment (just make sure it’s shorter than 15 minutes!), or the audio should be louder.

Let’s see the best free options you have to get your videos ready for YouTube.

Publishing With The Best Settings

Most capturing devices have pre-set resolutions and settings so if you go with the highest settings possible, you’ll usually do fine with some minor editing.

Dimensions & HD Settings

YouTube recommends dimensions of 640 x 480 for standard-definition videos and 1280 x 720 for high-definition videos that will dance around the site with the HD logo. Original videos of 640 x 480 will have black bars on the side in the video page.

youtube video capture

To have no bars on the YouTube page only, a dimension of 640 x 360 can do the trick (or you can resize it to an HD dimension), but you might see black bars on your SD video if it’s embedded elsewhere.

youtube video capture

To upload an HD video, your video needs to be pretty large, specifically 1280 x 720 (for 720p) or 1920 x 1080 (for 1080p). If you have SD videos, they could also bear the HD logo as long as you resize them and use a codec in your video editor that outputs the best quality possible, such as DivX or Xvid.

Codecs For Compression

DivX is a propietary codec that uses the H.246 standard to encode (or convert) HD videos while retaining reasonably-sized files. Xvid is the open-source alternative MPEG-4 video codec that also compresses videos and “allows for more efficient storage” which means it also makes the video smaller at the best quality possible.

When you use either of these and configure them in video editors (like the very capable VirtualDub), you can create ultra-clear videos that don’t ‘weigh’ a ton of MBs, but for most people, the 2GB limit is more than sufficient.

youtube video capture

Frame Rate

If you’re using Camstudio for example, you can set the frame rate (as opposed to cell phone video recording that doesn’t usually offer frame rate options) of the video you’re about to record, which should be a number in the 24-30 FPS (frames per rate) range, though 30FPS is standard. You can also set the frame rate in the post-capture process.


The more popular video containers (AVI, MP4, MOV) are supported in YouTube. Most cameras output to AVI, which is freely ready for upload and to be edited in most free Windows video editors, such as VirtualDub and Avidemux. Other uploadable formats include 3GP (videos from cell phones), MPG, Flash videos (in FLV, FLV1, and the newer F4V formats, but not SWF), as well as WMV (which you get when you make a video in Windows Movie Maker.)

Now Make Your Own Videos

If you run Windows on your machine, you will most likely have Windows Movie Maker (if not, you can download it here), which you can use to make home movies from your pictures.

If you’re satisfied with your product, press Ctrl + P (or go to FilePublish Movie). Choose whether you’re saving the movie to your computer, as an e-mail attachment, DVD, etc. Then give your file a name, and in the Settings screen, select More Settings and Windows Media HD 720p in the drop-down menu, which will generate a video with dimensions 1280 x 720.

capture youtube video

Click on Publish.

For a how-to on Windows Live Movie Maker, check out YouTube’s official tutorial that also has additional tutorials on iMovie, Final Cut Pro and Sony Vegas:

To render HD videos in VirtualDub, check this short video:

Now you can try your hand to make some HD videos, but it’s up to you to inject some creativity in your pieces to garner more views. If you have more recommended settings to help people capture better Youtube video, be sure to tell us in the comments!

Image credit: jonsson

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