Compressor 4: Compress Video for YouTube

[ I have an entire video tutorial on how to compress video for the web. To learn more, click here. ]

Compressor scares a lot of people because video compression can be very complex. However, if all you want to do is compress a video for YouTube, Compressor makes the process very easy; especially if you plan to post more than one movie.

Let me show you how.


The trick to compressing for YouTube, and many other social media sites, is to remember that they ALWAYS recompress your video into their own format. This means that you need to send YouTube a compressed file which is designed to be compressed again.

We do this by creating an intermediate movie with a high data rate. While you could build your own compression setting file, it is faster and easier to just work with the YouTube settings built into Compressor. That way, we don’t need to understand anything about data rates or compression to make our movies look great.


Start Compressor.

There are five windows in Compressor:
1. Task. Where movies go to be compressed.
2. Preview. Where you can preview your movie.
3. History. Where you monitor compression, or locate past jobs.
4. Inspector. Where you make changes to settings.
5. Settings. Where setting and destination files are stored.

The workflow is simple:
1. Create a new batch using a template
2. Import the movie you want to compress
3. Apply a destination setting
4. Enter your Youtube account and movie information
5. Compress

At which point, Compressor will compress your file and automatically transfer it to YouTube – marking it private, if you want, so you can review the results before making it public. Plus, it stores the compressed movie in a folder on your hard drive so you review it, file it, or share it to another site.


Select File > New Batch from Template. The template window opens. Click Publish to YouTube, then click Choose.

This loads a new Task into the Task window, and automatically configures it to compress your file for YouTube. There are three settings applied to each file you want to compress:
1. Compression setting
2. Destination
3. File name

Also, notice up in the top right corner it says Publish to YouTube. This is a Job Action, which is something that is performed when compression is complete.

Select the Task that contains the settings and do one of the following:
* Type Shift+Command+I
* Select Job > Source > File
* Right-mouse-click and select Source > File

Select the movie you want to compress and click OK.

You movie is now added to the task. The compression setting is correct for YouTube and the file name of the compressed file defaults to the file name of the source file.

However, by default, the compressed file is stored locally on your system in the same location as the original movie. While this isn’t a bad thing, I prefer having all my compressed files stored in the same place. So, I created a custom destination for all my compressed files. Changing destinations also prevents conflicts where the compressed file has the same name as the source file.


To create a new destination, click the Destinations tab in the Settings window.

Then, click the Plus button to create a new Destination. There are two types:
* Local
* Remote

Local is a folder on one of the hard drives attached to your computer.

Remote is either an FTP or iDisk server.

For maximum speed, I always save my compressed files locally, then transfer them to a remote server later. So, select Local.

On my second drive, prior to starting Compressor, I created a folder called Compressed Files. We’ll use this for our example, but you can make any folder on any hard disk a custom destination.

Select the folder you want to set as a custom destination, then click Open.

The new custom destination is now available in the Destinations tab. If you don’t see it, twirl down the Custom folder to display its contents.

Right-mouse-click on the middle setting (Source) and change it to the new destination; in my example, Compressed Files.

Although this sounds like we are taking a lot of time and steps to get this file compressed, you only need to create a custom destination once.


In fact, if you change a preference setting, Compressor will automatically apply this custom destination to all your compressed files so you never have to think about this again.

Select Compressor > Preferences and change the Default Destination to Compressed Files, or whatever you called your local folder. Now, whenever you import a file, Compressor will automatically set the destination to this folder.


See that yellow warning in the top right of the Task Window? It means that Compressor needs a bit more information before it can publish your file to YouTube.

This, too, only needs to be entered once.

Click the yellow warning in the Task window, then, down in the Inspector, click the Job Action tab.

Enter your YouTube User Name, password, and information about your movie. Compressor will remember your user name and password whenever you compress another movie for YouTube.

You’re now ready to compress. Click Submit, in the low-right corner of the Task Window.

Accept the YouTube Terms of Service by clicking Publish.

And click Submit once more to start the compression process. (If you are wondering why you click Submit twice, this second option allows you to send the file to a compression cluster or compress on your local system. Compressing locally is the default.)

A thermometer appears in the History window that shows the status of your job. To continue monitoring your job, leave Compressor open until compression and file transfer are complete.


Once you’ve set a custom destination as a preference and entered your YouTube account information, the process of compressing files for YouTube is amazingly quick — less than a minute from import to start of compression.

Plus, by starting simply with templates and learning more about the power of Compressor, you will be able to quickly graduate to more complex projects like adding watermarks, timecode, cropping, scaling, and audio effects to your projects.


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32 Responses to Compressor 4: Compress Video for YouTube

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  1. Kent Jakusz says:

    Hi Larry great article.
    What is the difference in the published video as seen on YouTube if you use FCPX to publish directly or Compressor 4?


    • Larry Jordan says:

      In terms of the image, publishing thru FCP X or Compressor should be the same.

      However, Compressor allows you to modify the final version – watermarks, burned in timecode – using filters that aren’t easily available through FCP X.


      • Kai says:

        Yes in terms of quality does compressor improve the quality of the video? WIll compressor fix the fuzzyness in the backround of my videos?

        • Larry Jordan says:

          Compression – the process of making a file smaller – will not fix quality. Unless you are careful, it always makes the quality worse.

          Our goal, in compression, is to make the file as small as possible, while doing as little damage to the image quality as possible.


  2. Jane Duncan says:

    Is there any way to use the YouTube preset in Compressor without automatically publishing to YouTube? In my workplace I do
    not have access to our YouTube password. The workflow necessitates sending the file to my supervisor first.

  3. hi Larry, I thought I followed the instructions on the webinar to compress to youtube a HD video from FCPX using compressor 4. But the job just gets slower and slower. I’ve tried it a few times. Currently after 18 hours its 39% complete with another 28 hours to go! The vid is 28 minutes long consisting of two talking heads on a hark background. We do display a dozen pnf files with Ken Burns effect. I have an iMac with 8GB of Ram. Here’s my Compressor setting:
    Name: Web compress with filters no TC
    Description: 1280 x 720p mono audio
    File Extension: mp4
    Estimated size: 2.37 GB/hour of source
    Audio Encoder
    Sample Rate: 32.000kHz
    Channels: 1
    Bits Per Sample: 16
    AAC encoder quality: high
    Data rate: 64 Kbps
    Video Encoder
    Width: 1280
    Height: 720
    Pixel aspect ratio: Square
    Crop: None
    Padding: None
    Frame rate: 29.97
    Frame Controls: Automatically selected: Off
    Codec Type: H.264
    Multi-pass: On, frame reorder: Off
    Pixel depth: 32
    Spatial quality: 75
    Min. Spatial quality: 75
    Key frame interval: 30
    Temporal quality: 75
    Min. temporal quality: 75
    Average data rate: 5.2 (Mbps)
    Video: H.264 baseline profile
    Hinted for streaming server with
    packet size: 1450 bytes
    and packet duration: 100 milliseconds
    Enhanced Podcast: Off
    Color Correct Midtones
    Red: 3.000
    Green: 3.000
    Blue: 3.000
    Gamma Correction
    Gamma: 1.050

    Compatible with Mac and PC

    • sorry for the typos: ‘dark’ background, and its a dozen png files with Ken Burns.
      I used Mpeg Streamclip to get it up and this is the vid:

    • Larry says:


      There’s nothing here that jumps out at me – and I looked at the movie, it should compress in a couple of hours or less.

      Turn OFF Multi-pass. Set it to Single pass. See if that makes a difference.


      • Yes, overnight it finished in 4 hours. It does look better than what Mpeg Streamclip produced. I’m on an iMac 2.66Ghz Intel Core i5 with 8GB of Ram. It appears with Multi-pass turned ON, clips under 9 minutes will complete, otherwise it will loop ad-infinitum. The same is true of Mpeg if you check-off Multi-pass for HD video, that is, don’t use Multi-pass for HD.

  4. Sofia says:

    Your website is amazing. Why have not here in Brazil!

    I having problem when i try to share to youtube or any destination direct of FCP X 10.6, they always crash. (only works when i export a m4a file, only audio)

    And now when i try to compress using compressor the process never start.

    Can you help me plase?

  5. Sofia says:

    Ok, but even when i try export a master file, the process sudeenly stop. The same happend with video.

  6. Sofia says:

    I restart my imac in safe mode and appears working! Im waiting export 600MB…

    Uhuuuu finally!!

    Thaks Larry!!

    • Chris says:

      Hi Larry,

      i would be very grateful for some help on saving videos and blue ray dvds to my external hard drive for playback through my ps3.

      …given those conditions..what conversion software would you use?

      Thank you


      • Larry Jordan says:


        Playing Blu-ray DVDs on a Mac is a problem. You’ll need third party software and a Blu-ray player. Bruce Nazarian has recommended Blu-Stor drives to me in the past, but I’ve never used a Blu-ray device, so I don’t have a personal opinion.

        As for Videos, saving it as an MPEG-4 file, using H.264 as the compression codec should work. As always, create a test file before the audience shows up.


  7. Roger says:

    Hi Larry,

    This is excellent stuff thank you!

    Question: I manage multiple youtube accounts for different clients. Is there a way to create multiple youtube profiles/templates with their different logins to speed up uploading to the various accounts?

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Yes. All you need to do is create a separate compression setting for each YouTube account, then change the log-in information in each setting. In other words, one setting for each YouTube account.


  8. Roger says:

    When I manually update a file after compressing it with the Youtube Compression Template setting Youtube displays this warning during the upload:
    “For better results, adjust your Quicktime settings to prepare videos for internet streaming. For more information, visit our Help Center.”

    On that page they give this recommendation:
    “Video settings

    Compression Type: H.264
    Frame Rate: 30 is preferred. 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97 are also acceptable.
    Data Rate: Automatic
    Key Frames: Automatic
    Frame Reordering: Unchecked
    Audio/Sound settings

    Format: AAC
    Click Show advanced settings and choose Constant Bit Rate as encoding strategy
    Other settings

    Size: Choose the original size of the video
    “Prepare for Internet Streaming”: Fast Start”

    Should we be updating the Compressor template settings?

  9. Roger says:

    I am having the same problem with Compressor that I had with FCPX when trying to upload to Youtube, the connection keeps timing out. I have instead moved to using compressor to make the compressed file and then manually uploading to Youtube. This seems to be best for setting up the youtube post settings as well.

  10. jesse says:

    Larry I use you a lot to solve my FCPX problems and such but this time you were crazy clutch!! step by step instructions that were easy to follow and the screen shots were a must! Thanks Larry

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