The Best Formats And Resolutions For Online Videos

by Michael

It’s not long ago since videos were first started to be published online, but already, people are adapting to how much everything has changed. If you browse the Internet today, videos are everywhere.

The bandwidth has increased and many webmasters are considering putting up videos online. Since publishing videos on the Internet has recently started, many people are confused about what format they should use for videos online. They’re also confused about what resolution that they should put on their websites where they publish their videos.

Answer: The resolution that has to be used depends on the target audience. If the target audience is very tech savvy and if they’re from a highly developed country, then high resolution videos will be well suited for them.

If the target audience does not have high bandwidth however, the videos should be in a low resolution. In either case however, it’s important that you always create videos in the highest possible resolution. Doing so keeps us prepared for the future because if the bandwidth standard increases, we can create higher quality copies of our original video.

The takeaway lesson here is the following: Create the original video in the highest possible resolution and then encode the video for the target audience. For example; if you’re putting your video on your website you can encode the video with the target audience of your website in mind, however, when you put the same video on a DVD that you plan to distribute you can encode the video at a higher resolution.

There are two different types of aspect ratios; 4:3 and 16:9. 4:3 is the resolution that we have in our old TV’s. The other aspect ratio is 16:9; this one is the more recently used of the two. Here are some recommendations for the resolutions. However, you don’t have to follow these standards and you can modify the resolutions as you wish but for me, I feel that the following are good formats:

Low Bandwidth Resolutions

For Low bandwidth resolution videos and for the 4:3 aspect ratio, the best resolutions are:

  • 320 x 240
  • 480 x 320
  • 400 x 300

The 16:9 is also known as the widescreen format. YouTube has started adopting this widescreen format (16:9). For Low bandwidth resolution videos and for the 16:9 aspectratio, the best resolutions are:

  • 480 x 270
  • 400 x 225

If your website has different dimensions and if you want to fit your video into a particular sidebar that has different dimensions, make sure that the video resolution that you choose is perfect.

Here’s how you do that: For example, if you choose the 16:9 aspect ratio, divide the higher resolution by the smaller resolution (w/h) and the value should turn out to be 1.777…

So basically, if you’re choosing your own resolution and if you want to make sure that the aspect ratio is 16:9, then just simply divide the width by the height of the video and the answer should be 1.777. If you want to do the same with the 4:3 aspect ratio, the answer when you divide the width by the height should be 1.333…

Low bandwidth videos are generally used for videos such as short, quick videos without many details where you’re talking in front of your camera and where only your face can be seen.

Mid to High Bandwidth Resolutions

If you’re creating teaching, training or screencast videos, the Mid to High bandwidth is preferred. The best resolutions in the 4:3 aspect ratio for Mid or High bandwidth videos are:

  • 640 x 480
  • 800 x 600
  • 1024 x 768

If you’re recording the video in the widescreen aspect ratio (16:9) the best resolutions are:

  • 710 x 400
  • 854 x 480
  • 960 x 540
  • 1280 x 720

Again, if you divide the width by the height the answer should be 1.333 for the 4:3 aspect ratio and 1.777 for the 16:9 aspect ratio.

If you are creating a video for training or teaching purposes and if you are embedding the video into your blog or membership website, it’s a good idea to let people download the source file. You can do this by leaving a link below your video that will lead your visitors to the source video. You can put even put it in a higher resolution.

Best Formats For Online Videos

The best formats for online videos are .FLV and .MP4. The .MP4 format is becoming more standard right now and is also more preferred by most. For the .MP4 format there are different types of compression. The most standard and recommended one is the H.264 compression.

Usually it’s available in most video encoders. Using this one could very likely give you the highest compression technology and the highest quality for online videos. When you let people download your video off your website, it’s a good idea to give the video away in the .MP4 format because .MP4 files can be played in most video and media players.

If you’re giving the file away in the .FLV format, then when someone downloads the file they may have to find a new video and media player just in order to be able to play the video because not all video and media players support the .FLV format. Not only that, they may also have to get a new codec.

There are a few formats that you may have seen but that are not preferred for online videos, these are formats are the .avi, the .mov, the .mpg and the .wmv. Videos in these formats usually also make for very large files.

Encoding Your Video

In your video encoder, there will most likely be an option for 2 pass encoding. Always encode videos in the ‘2 pass vbr mode’. This will usually result in higher quality. When you’re encoding the video, you will also be able to select the data rate. The best range of data rate for online video is 350 – 550 kbps. For audiences with low Internet bandwidth you can select the lower end and for the audiences with higher bandwidth you can select the higher end.

The standard frame rates are usually 24, 25, 29.97 and 30. If you are creating a live video where you’re talking in front of the camera, choose the 30 frames per second (fps) option. For other types of screencast videos, 24 or 25 frames per second would be enough.

For presentation style videos, for example if you’re creating a PowerPoint presentation video; you can go ahead and cut the frame rate by 2. When you’re producing the video from your video editing application, there will be an option for key frames; there you can put the key frames as automatic. Most of the video editing applications will have an inbuilt encoder for creating the final video. In the next article I will tell you more about video encoders such as standalone video encoders and cloud encoders.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Blake September 4, 2010 at 7:25 am

Very informative article Deepak.

Thanks for your insight regarding the best formats and resolutions for budding online video marketers
like me. :-)




Michael September 4, 2010 at 8:21 am


Comments like these motivates me to blog more. Let me know if you have questions about videos… I will try to write articles about them. Have a nice day!



Lady Affiliate September 4, 2010 at 10:05 am

Nice blog. Thanks for the great tips. Keep them coming!!! :)


Disney Ornaments September 4, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Good Info! I just picked up your WSO this week (could not resist at 99 cents!). I can’t wait to start kicking out those videos.


Ming Jong - CPA Instruments Bonus September 5, 2010 at 2:48 am

Hi Deepak,

Thanks for the handy tips. I will try out your recommended resolution next time when I make a video!



Riley September 6, 2010 at 12:23 am

Deepak, Nice informative article on the various video formats, choosing a FPS and different resolution. I look forward to your next article on encoders.


jules March 15, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Hi I run a Pocket Video making/marketing course. Can you contact me as I have a proposal for you/



Chris August 5, 2011 at 3:25 am

thank u for sharing these great tips Deepak :) very very useful… all the best!


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