Using Premiere Pro & Handbrake To Create YouTube-Friendly Files

A couple of people have asked me recently how I deliver finished files to my clients for web use (typically YouTube). Until recently, I simply used the Premiere Pro “YouTube 1080p HD” preset. However, uploading these files to YouTube often delivers or both of the following warning messages:

youtube errors

Neither of these make sense, since H264 is most certainly a “streamable file format,” and I’ve never actually had any audio/video sync issues with the files I’ve uploaded. Nevertheless, these warnings are annoying and disconcerting to clients.

So, what I have started doing recently is to export my files from Premiere as ProRes files, and then using the free video encoder Handbrake to crunch them down to YouTube/client-friendly files.

The nice thing about this process is that you can use presets to make it easy. Premiere actually allows you to share presets, so you can easily import the one I’ve made for myself. Right-click and “save as” here to save the prores.epr file.

Inside the Premiere export dialogue, select “Quicktime” as the format, and then click the “Import” button (the little folder icon next to the “preset” option box). Import the file called “prores.epr.”

import epr

Once you do, Premiere will prompt you to name it, helpfully suggesting the name I called it.


I use ProRes 422(LT) rather than other flavors of ProRes because I find it to be the best compromise between quality and filesize. If you prefer ProRes 422(HQ) or Prores 4444, you can easily change the codec and save your own preset.


From now on, this preset will be available to you, anytime you select the “Quicktime” format in the export dialogue window.

Once you’ve exported the ProRes file, you can dump it directly into Handbrake. If you don’t have it, Handbrake is available freely here.

Handbrake comes with some very nice presets. I usually use the “High Profile” preset, which creates an .m4v file. Interestingly, the “Normal” preset creates an .mp4 file, and I’m not sure why the extensions are different, but “High Profile” is supposed to be better quality, so I use it.


Premiere defaults to 16,000 kbps (also known as 16 Mbps) for 1080p YouTube files, and for a short project (like a TV commercial), I’ll use the same number. For a longer project, I’ll drop the bit rate as low as 2500 kbps to get a reasonable file size. This is particularly useful when a client wants to use a video in a PowerPoint presentation. PowerPoint running on a laptop chokes and stutters on high-quality video, so while a 2Mbit video may not win any eye-candy awards, it’ll play smoothly and still look pretty good.


Handbrake is very fast, so I usually turn on “2-pass encoding,” in an effort to get every bit of quality possible. Once the file is finished, I check it to make sure nothing strange went wrong, and then call it done!


  5 comments for “Using Premiere Pro & Handbrake To Create YouTube-Friendly Files

  1. June 2, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Your page is one of the few *actually useful* ones about video compression and quality. Thank you.

  2. Azee
    October 17, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    I would like to know how you proceed with a PC 🙂 do you have some suggestions? I really like your post and I think you should also do a post about pc settings to export for handbreak because I’m facing a lot of issues with 4k raw or at least a nice compressed export.

  3. kadajawi
    September 24, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I have to disagree with your Handbrake settings. 2 pass and a target bitrate are not ideal, as it very, very much depends on the source material.

    What I would suggest is x264, with constant quality. Depending on the resolution and size requirements I’d pick between 18 and 21, i.e. for 4K I’d lean towards 20 or 21 (lower quality), while 720p would be 18 as even small losses will be visible. That ensures optimal quality and file sizes. If your computer is fast enough and you actually want every bit of quality possible, select one of the slower encoder presets. Slower is quite decent, though I usually use Placebo (which is very, very slow though). You will at least notice the difference between fast and slower, for example. Not just in processing speed but also in terms of quality.

    As for Windows… I wouldn’t compress the exported file. DNxHD is supported by Handbrake AFAIK, but doesn’t do 4K. Cineform isn’t supported by Handbrake (yet, the next version may very well support it), and DNxHR seems to be in the distant future. Or maybe vice versa. Lagarith does work, and is lossless, however it is very slow to encode and very slow to decode (if you do 4K, for FullHD performance is ok). As the intermediate file is only needed temporarily, file sizes shouldn’t matter too much.

    • Alexander
      September 25, 2017 at 6:05 am

      Many thanks for the detailed explanation! Media Encoder has gotten a lot better since I originally wrote this blog post, so it would be interesting to do a head-to-head comparison again, using the settings you recommend.

  4. David T
    October 20, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Don’t use an intermediary codec to prepare your files–you are then resampling your video. Simply export in a format that has the proper streaming tags, or losslessly–and quickly–rewrap your file as MKV.

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