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Recommended video-encoding settings

Last Updated: Jan 11, 2014 09:31AM GMT

We offer a Premium Transcoding service that transcodes whatever videos you upload and ensures they are in the correct format for streaming via the Distrify player on a range of devices. While our premium encoder accepts many common video codecs, some things can cause problems, so please follow these instructions and upload a high-quality video encoded with H.264 video and AAC audio.

Here's a list of common mistakes, i.e. what NOT TO DO:

  • De-interlace your video before you resize or encode. Do not upload videos with interlacing.
  • Do not upload videos in Apple ProRes format.
  • If you are exporting direct from Final Cut Pro, read this article to find out how to prevent framerate bugs from Final Cut Pro.
  • Do not upload videos with chapter markers. They will prevent your video from streaming. Read more about chapter markers here.
  • Do not upload videos with uncompressed PCM audio. You should compress audio with AAC at 320kbps or lower.
  • All videos must have stereo audio. Do not upload videos with no audio (if you have a silent film, please add a silent stereo audio track to the video). This is essential for streaming on some devices.
  • Do not upload videos with surround sound. All uploads should have audio mixed down to 2-channel stereo sound.
  • Do not upload files that are bigger than they need to be. Video data rate should never be more than 7000kbps (and should normally be much lower - see recommendations below). A 2-minute HD trailer should never be more than about 55MB. An SD video should be much smaller. The maximum file size we accept is 5GB, but typically your files should be much smaller. 
  • Do not upload letter-boxed or pillar-boxed videos (this means no black bars above or below or on the sides of the image). All videos should be in their correct display aspect ratio with square pixels. See our recommended dimensions list below.
  • Preview trailers cannot be longer than 5 minutes. A good trailer is typically less than 2 or 3 minutes. Films or extras you are selling can be any length, as long as the file size is below 5GB.
  • If you upload files that don't meet our recommended settings and the transcode fails, do not upload the file again. The problem is almost always related to your file or the software you used to encode it. You'll need to go back to the master and re-encode according to our recommendations. It never helps to upload the same file more than once.
  • If you upload incompatible or overly large files, not only does it take you a long time, but it also costs you more money and makes your transcode more likely to fail. You're much better off following our guidelines below.
  • Don't upload videos with color bars, countdown clocks, or any other pre-roll at the start. A viewer doesn't want to see that technical stuff.
  • Do not edit your video after you've encoded it. If you accidentally left the countdown or some other pre-roll at the start of the video, don't try to remove it with Quicktime Player - this will appear to work fine on your machine but once we transcode it, it may go out of synch. You should do all your edits in the NLE before you export, and then encode the final export version and upload it.
  • Do not upload MPEG2 or VOB files ripped from a DVD. These can cause unexpected problems.
  • If you don't know what you're doing, find a local professional who can help you. It's too difficult for us to troubleshoot your encoding issues via email.

Recommended Encode Settings

To make things easier, we have recommendations to prepare your files for Distrify. Just click your source format below to see the recommended maximum quality settings. If your film is not 4:3 or 16:9 and you are using a different aspect ratio, you should set the width and height to the native aspect ratio with square pixels (see our aspect ratio guidelines below).

The encoding recommendations below are guidelines for most common video formats:

High Definition Widescreen (16:9)

  • Codec/Compression format: H.264
  • Multipass: On
  • Frame rate: Current or Same as Source (with constant framerate)
    This should be either 24, 25 or 30 fps - whatever you edited in.
  • Video data rate: 5000kbps for 720p or 7000kbps for 1080p (Note: if your film is longer than 90 minutes, you will need to use a lower bitrate to make a file smaller than 5GB)
  • Resolution: 1280x720 or 1920x1080 pixels (or see below for if your video is 2.35:1 or another aspect ratio)
    The pixels should be square or 1:1.
  • Interlacing: Video should be de-interlaced or progressive
    If the source video is interlaced, be sure to select the "Deinterlace video" option, but if the source is progressive or already de-interlaced you don't need to do this again. It's important to select the right de-interlacing option or your video will look bad on the web.
  • Sound: AAC Codec, Stereo, 48khz, 320kbps

Standard Definition Widescreen (16:9)

  • Codec/Compression format: H.264
  • Multipass: On
  • Frame rate: Current or Same as Source (with constant framerate)
    This should be either 24, 25 or 30 fps - whatever you edited in.
  • Video data rate: 3000kbps
  • Resolution: for PAL videos 1024x576 or for NTSC videos 854x480
    The pixels should be square or 1:1.
  • Interlacing: Video should be de-interlaced or progressive
    If the source video is interlaced, be sure to select the "Deinterlace video" option, but if the source is progressive or already de-interlaced you don't need to do this again. It's important to select the right de-interlacing option or your video will look bad on the web.
  • Sound: AAC Codec, Stereo, 48khz, 320kbps

Classic Academy Ratio (4:3)

  • Codec/Compression format: H.264
  • Multipass: On
  • Frame rate: Current or Same as Source (with constant framerate)
    This should be either 24, 25 or 30 fps - whatever you edited in.
  • Video data rate: 3000kbps
  • Resolution: for PAL videos 768x576 or for NTSC videos 640x480
    The pixels should be square or 1:1.
  • Interlacing: Video should be de-interlaced or progressive
    If the source video is interlaced, be sure to select the "Deinterlace video" option, but if the source is progressive or already de-interlaced you don't need to do this again. It's important to select the right de-interlacing option or your video will look bad on the web.
  • Sound: AAC Codec, Stereo, 48khz, 320kbps

 

All videos must be in the correct aspect ratio with square pixels!

Your videos MUST be in the correct display aspect ratio with square pixels. Otherwise your video will playback stretched or squashed. Many video formats use non-square pixels, including DVDs, DV, HDV, and a lot of other HD formats. These pixels are stretched on some TVs, but screens don't always stretch or squash the image back to normal correctly, so you need to correct the pixel aspect ratio and image aspect ratio before uploading. Note: you should NEVER use letter-boxing or pillar-boxing (these are the black bars that appear above/below or on the sides of the video to "fake" an aspect ratio on a different display). If we see a video uploaded to our system that is letter-boxed or is in the wrong aspect ratio, we will ask you to re-upload, and there may be a penalty for this. So, to help you avoid these pitfalls, here's a handy guide to help you set the correct frame dimensions when outputting your video from your non-linear editor.

Aspect Ratio Guide:

Source Format / Aspect Pixel dimensions (w x h) - in square pixels
PAL 4:3 768 x 576
NTSC 4:3 640 x 480
PAL widescreen 1024 x 576
NTSC widescreen 854 x 480
HD 16:9 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080
2.35:1 1920 x 816


You can upload higher quality files, but it will take a lot longer to upload and process. Our current file-size limit is 5GB, but some web browsers have trouble with files larger than 2GB. Since HD feature films are often larger than 2GB, we recommend you use the Chrome browser since it will support larger file uploads.

If you don't have professional encoding software, we recommend Handbrake or MPEG StreamClip because they are free, relatively simple and deliver good quality encoding. Handbrake has a useful feature that lets you set quality by "target size" instead of bitrate, ensuring your encode will be the maximum quality that fits under our upload limit. If you use Handbrake, make sure you de-select chapter markers before encoding.

Distrify can play higher than DVD quality videos so you should normally work from the masters and not from a DVD, but if you don't have the original files and only have the DVD to use as a master, you can use Handbrake to rip the DVD, including subtitles.

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