Exporting for the web

I’m often asked what settings I use when I’m exporting my video for the web. Until recently I used different settings for YouTube than Exposure Room and Vimeo, but now that YouTube are also delivering HD content I use the same settings for all three of the sites.

The following describes my workflow using Final Cut Studio 2, this will obviously be different if you’re using another NLE or compression software but all I can describe is how I do things with my software.

The first thing I do is export my finished Final Cut sequence using Compressor. This is done by going to the file menu, and then choosing Export > Using Compressor.

Compressor will open with a blank Job.

The first thing I do is set the destination for the exported video, in this case I simply chose to export to my desktop by dragging that option from the Destinations panel into the job pane.

Next I go to the settings panel. This is where I’ll be choosing the video format and options for the exported video. For web video I choose the H.264 format from the Quicktime folder and drag that into the job panel.

Next we need to configure the options for the H.264 quicktime file. This is done by double clicking the H.264 icon in the job panel which launches the settings inspector.

The first tab in the settings inspector shows an overview of the default H.264 options.

In order to set video options I’ll click on the second (Encoder) tab. From the encoder window I click on the video settings button to launch the video compression settings window.

In video compression settings window I set the options as follows…

  • Frame Rate: Current
  • Key Frames: Automatic
  • Frame Reordering: Selected
  • Quality: High
  • Encoding: Best quality (Multi-pass)
  • Data Rate: Restrict to 5000 kbits/sec (for 720p)
  • Optimised for: Download
Once these are set just click OK.

If I don’t need to change the size of the video the job is ready to go. I usually leave the audio on the default value. If I’m exporting 1920×1080 or I need to crop to a different aspect ratio I’ll use the 6th tab in the settings inspector to resize the output accordingly. I usually export to nothing wider than 1280 for uploading to the web.

Once all the settings are done, submit and go make a coffee while the mac does it’s thing.

Once the H.264 quicktime move has exported I’ll usually just watch it through and then if it all looks okay I’ll upload that file to YouTube, Exposure Room and Vimeo where it’s re-encoded to flash or whatever formats they use for delivery.

I’m sure this won’t answer everyone’s questions so please leave a comment if there’s anything else I can help with relating to exporting your videos for use on the web.

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11 Responses

  1. Stephen de Vere says:

    Handbrake, as of only a few months ago, now supports ProRes input and is probably a much better solution than older versions of Compressor like v3, and possibly even v4, because it is totally up-to-date, has the latest H264 implementation and is 64-bit so can utilise more of your processing power.
    I’m using FCP7 and a 2008 MacbookPro and it works really well – export your ProRes sequence to Quicktime, making a referenced movie, not a self-contained one, and give Handbrake that.

  2. H says:


    Such a great site – this worked wonderfully for an upload to vimeo –


    However, that same file seems to have a stutter issue on my whenever I’m playing it off the hard disk on my MBP – itunes, quicktime, and vlc all seem to process it with different results – got a handy trick for clean videos that just lives on the disk?

    Cheers for the post


    • Paul Joy says:

      Hi there, is the poor playback on the MBP due to lack of performance? If so then maybe try an export at 3000kbps.

  3. Joel Benson says:

    Hey!!! I got it finally!!! Looked very closely at your sample and realised I was creating two targets instead of one….exporting right now! Thanks for everything.

  4. Joel Benson says:

    hi, av followed every single instruction in your exporting for the web workflow and still cant understand why the same message pops up….even had to use a new system….same story. first of ll i drag a file to create a job, then i drag a destination (usually the desktop) to the job pane, which is at the top lefthand corner of the screen, then drag the settings (i.e H264 from Quicktime) to the job pane. Next I click on the submit button and the message pops up! EACH TARGET ASSIGNED TO A JOB MUST HAVE A SETTING & DESTINATION. What target are we talking about here? Cos I just dragged a setting and destination to the job pane. Please help….

    • Paul Joy says:

      Hi Joel, sorry your having so many problems. Can you confirm that once populated with a setting and a destination your job in the batch window looks like it does in the 6th image down in my guide above?

  5. Joel Benson says:

    Hi Paul….tried to export a short clip for the web using ur Compressor guidelines and each time I got to the submit button, this message pops up: Each target assigned to a job must have a setting and destination.” What am i doing wrong?

    • Paul Joy says:

      Hi there, That message simply means that you haven’t dragged both a compression setting from the settings tab and a destination from the destinations tab onto the job.

  6. Joel Benson says:

    Hey Paul,
    Stumbled on your site while looking for some info on indieslider/glidetrack.
    just wanna say ur doing a great job with the advice yu put up on ur site…am gon be a regular visitor these days.

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