How To Export High-Quality Video With Low File Size In Premiere

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Exporting is the final step of your editing process. How much data your export will need to encode depends on where you decide to publish the video.

But how can you export a high-quality video that doesn’t eat up your entire hard drive?

To export a high-quality video with low file size, there are three settings you can tweak: the codec, number of passes, and bitrate. If you’re in a hurry, here’s a cheat sheet with some recommended settings for a 1080p H.264 video using only the Bitrate settings tabs:

PlatformResolutionCodecBitrate EncodingPassesBitrate
YouTube1080p (FullHD)H.264VBR1 pass16 MBPS
YouTube4K (UHD)H.264VBR1 pass35-45 MBPS
Facebook1080p (FullHD)H.264VBR1 pass12 MBPS
Facebook4K (UHD)H.264VBR1 pass40 MBPS
Vimeo1080p (FullHD)H.264VBR1 pass16 MBPS
Vimeo4K (UHD)H.264VBR1 pass30-60 MBPS

Now, if you want to learn more about what these settings do and understand how to tweak them yourself, I recommend you keep reading.

In this illustrated guide, you will see which settings affect your videos the most. Let’s jump into it:

Choosing Your File Format

With your timeline selected, pull up the exporting screen by either hitting FILE > EXPORT > MEDIA or by using the keyboard shortcuts CMD+M (Mac) or CTRL+M (Windows).

Check out our guide to Premiere Pro shortcuts [PC/Mac].

Above the “Format” tab, you will notice a checkbox for “Match Sequence Settings.” This setting will encode your exported video with the same settings as the timeline.

We want to have more control over our final settings, so we will not be using this function. Instead, will be tweaking settings on the “Format” and “Bitrate Settings” tabs.

You will then need to decide which file format to render in. The most common format for online video is H.264.

H.264 is used for online video because it’s widely compatible across many types of devices. The small file sizes also make the codec easily playable across different bandwidth speeds. We will be using H.264 for our example because of its ability to create high-quality video files with low file sizes.

Bitrate Settings Tab

Now let’s adjust some settings. One major problem with low file sizes on video tends to be “artifacting.” This is when there will be a lot of large visible pixels on the video.

The fastest way to adjust how much data is in your file is to head down to the bitrate settings.

This is where you can do the rest of the work.

Bitrate Encoding

There are three different settings in the “Bitrate Encoding” drop-down menu: CBR (Constant Bitrate), VBR 1 pass (Variable Bitrate), and VBR 2 pass.

Let’s make the differences of all of these very simple. Constant bitrate will encode at whatever bitrate you tell Premiere. Example, if the bitrate is set for 10 MBPS (Megabits Per Second), Premiere will encode at only that rate.

Variable bitrate means the encoding will change depending on what is happening in your video. For example, if you have a lot of motion happening, Premiere will encode more data to avoid artifacts.

1 pass means Premiere will pass through the video one time while also encoding.

2 pass means Premiere will determine how much data is needed, and then proceed to encode during a second pass. 2 pass will give you a better quality video file, but 1 pass will give you a smaller file size.

Target Bitrate

Target bitrate is a setting used to determine an estimated file size for the final exported video. The amount of data encoded will depend on what’s happening in your video.

Which pass setting should you use? How much data should you aim for?

That depends. If you have a talking-head video you will be okay using the CBR function and keeping it between 10-15 MBPS.

However, if you have a full-on car chase, you should aim for the VBR 2 pass with a range between 20-30 MBPS.

YouTube recommends rendering videos with at least 8 MBPS. However, I’ve had better video files with 10-15 MBPS encoding.

A 10-minute video may put you in the 250-300MB file size once completed. I generally don’t recommend under 10MBPS, but I’ve been able to get away with it in a few cases.

Facebook and Vimeo have similar bitrates as YouTube. Facebook doesn’t have a recommended target bitrate, but 10-12 MBPS should be fine. Vimeo recommends 10-20 MBPS for a 1080p video.

4K Video settings

It’s a great idea to upload your content as 4K (even if you shot in 1080) if you regularly post to any of the platforms we have discussed in this tutorial. The reason is that it will “future proof” your content when 4K becomes to inevitable standard.

Also, uploading in 4K has for a long time been the only way to make sure that YouTube chose the better VP09 codec over the old AVC1.

However, YouTube now also has the possibility to play with the even better AV1 for some videos if you set it up manually. You can read more on how to get the best possible image quality and codec on YouTube here.

Premiere has 4K presets for all of these platforms, so this method will be the simplest way to export in 4K. However, you can also follow similar steps in this article if you want something more custom.

The first step is to make sure the video is in the 4K 16:9 ratio. This equates to 3840 x 2160. You can change this manually under the “Basic Video Settings” tab near the top of the export window in Premiere. (screenshot attached, feel free to use above or below this line)

The next step would be to follow the same procedure previously mentioned with deciding on the pass settings and bitrate. 4K video needs many more pixels than 1080p video, so I would recommend using the VBR, 1 pass settings.

For bitrate, YouTube recommends 35-45 Mbps. Vimeo recommends 30-60 Mbps.

Facebook does not have a recommended setting. I have used a setting of 40 MBPS across multiple types of projects with no issues in my experience.

Presets For YouTube, Facebook, And Vimeo

Under the “Format” tab is a tab labeled “Preset.” Premiere comes loaded with a ton of encoding presets ready to go for several platforms where you may want to publish your video. Most notably are presets for all of the platforms we have discussed earlier: YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo.

These settings are great if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to adjust anything yourself.

However, if the file sizes are too large you can always adjust the bitrate settings yourself. For me personally, I use the YouTube preset daily for my projects. The video file is always high quality and usually plays across any platform.

Conclusion

It’s best to try a few different bitrates to see what works best for you. However, this tutorial should give you a good idea of how to keep your bitrates low without sacrificing video quality.


Alex is a certified Adobe Premiere Pro video editor and independent filmmaker in the US. He is most known for writing, directing, and editing his debut feature film, Cashing Out, which has won multiple awards at film festivals across the US. Currently, Alex is the owner of AWS FILMS and works as a freelance video editor for several large companies and content creators.

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