How to Choose the Optimal Bitrate When Exporting Video in Premiere Pro CC

There is a lot to know about video editing and finishing. Editing and color grading tend to get the most attention as they are the flashiest bits of the process. That doesn’t mean you can forget about the final step of making a video: export. This is where things can get very complex, especially if you are trying to deliver in multiple formats.

While codec may be fairly straightforward with most people opting for a standard H.264 encode, there are a lot of settings you can tweak to adjust the overall quality of your final product. Filmmaker Josh Olufemii is ready to talk about bitrates when exporting out of Premiere Pro CC in a quick video. He also provides some of his recommended settings for different projects.

Bitrate sounds simple, it’s essentially the amount of data held in each second of video. You’ll usually see this expressed as Mbps, or megabits per second.

Don’t get this confused with MBps, which is megabytes and is very different. Generally speaking, the two things with the biggest impact on bitrate are resolution in frame rate, with higher ones corresponding with higher bitrates.

Determining what you need on your own is basically going to rely on guessing, though many places have published the recommended bitrates for most use cases. Assuming an H.264 export at 24/25/30 fps, these are the recommendations based on resolution:

  • 4K (2160p): 44-56 Mbps
  • QHD (1440p): 20 Mbps
  • Full HD (1080p): 10 Mbps
  • HD (720p): 6.5 Mbps

To use this, in the Export window you’ll go down to bitrate settings and adjust the target bitrate and maximum bitrate. The maximum is important because the software will adjust the bitrate automatically to account for busier scenes that may benefit from having more data.

Olufemii recommends going about twice your target bitrate as your max. This does assume you are using VBR (Variable BitRate) with 2-pass encoding for best quality.

As the video is quite short I want to jump into something else – codecs. Bitrates are good for setting baseline quality, but different encoding and decoding techniques mean that not everything is equal. For example, with H.265, which is quickly gaining popularity, you actually get a higher quality video at the same bitrates as H.264.

This can be helpful for sending files without losing quality or saving on upload space. However, H.265 is usually more demanding on computers to encode and decode them as they are more heavily compressed. It can be very helpful to determine the best codecs and settings for you depending on your final output.

Do you think these guidelines for bitrate make sense for most projects?

[source: Josh Olufemii]

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