Written by StreamYard
How to Compress A Video and Retain Quality (Top 5 Methods)
As our cameras get more powerful, our video files are inevitably increasing in size, too. The average one today can, in fact, weigh a few gigabytes. So, if you’re looking to share your videos - say, by uploading them to a platform like YouTube, you need to consider this problem.
Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce your file size without losing video quality, including compression. Let us show you our five favorite methods in this step-by-step guide for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
What is Video Compression, and Why Does It Matter?
Video compression is the process of reducing the file size of a video while still maintaining an acceptable level of visual and audio quality. The advantages of using this method are varied but relate mainly to storage, transmission, and playback efficiency.
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that compression can be a delicate balance between reducing file size and maintaining acceptable video quality and bitrate. Specifically, overcompression can result in a noticeable loss of quality, artifacts, and pixelation (and under-compression in just a very large file!).
So, when you compress video files, it's crucial to use appropriate settings and formats to strike the right balance between file size and visual integrity for your use case.
The Advantages of Using a Video Compressor
Before we move on to the best five techniques, here's a deeper look at video compression and its significance:
- Compression reduces file size: Video files can be enormous, especially those recorded in high resolutions like 4K or 8K. Compression reduces the file size, which means your videos become more manageable for both storage and sharing (as smaller files are easier to work with and consume less storage space).
- Compression offers more efficient transmission: Compressed videos require less bandwidth to transmit over the internet. This is crucial for streaming platforms, as it allows for smoother playback, reduced buffering, and better performance on various devices, including those with slower internet connections.
- Compression allows improved playback: Smaller video files load faster and play more smoothly on a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers. In other words, compressed videos are better suited for mobile devices with limited storage and processing power.
- Compression saves bandwidth: The process can be essential for streaming services, which deliver content to millions of viewers simultaneously. By compressing videos, these platforms can minimize bandwidth usage and ensure a consistent streaming experience for users.
- Compression helps your editing workflow: In video production, professionals often use proxy files, which are compressed versions of high-quality footage, to facilitate the editing and post-production process. Proxy files are more manageable and less resource-intensive.
Two Types of Video Compression
There are two main types of compression. These are lossy and lossless.
Lossy compression, as the name hints, can reduce the file size, but it does it at the expense of some loss in data quality. This type of compression is particularly effective in significantly reducing file sizes while maintaining an acceptable level of visual and audio quality.
Lossless compression, on the other hand, achieves compression without sacrificing any data quality. In other words, it retains all the original data, allowing for perfect reconstruction of the video and audio.
One crucial characteristic of lossy compression is that it is irreversible. Once data is discarded, it cannot be fully recovered (so each iteration will make you lose some video quality).
However, lossy compression is still commonly used for various multimedia applications, such as video streaming, video conferencing, and video-sharing platforms like YouTube, because it can strike somewhat of a balance between file size reduction and acceptable quality for playback.
Since no data is discarded in lossless compression, it is entirely reversible. You can compress and decompress a video as many times as you want without any loss in quality. So, lossless compression is typically used in situations where preserving the original quality is essential. For example, medical imaging, scientific data analysis, and video editing workflows. \
Top 5 Compression Methods for Video Editing
We’ve covered all the basics having to do with video resolution and compression. Now, let’s go through the five best methods to convert your large video files into more digestible elements, shall we?
Method 1: Zip Your Video
The easiest method for compressing a file is just to zip it. This is a good option if you just need to send a video in, say, an email.
Creating a zip file is very straightforward. All you need to do is choose the files, and your OS will take care of things for you.
- If you’re using a Windows PC, just right-click on your file and select “Send to > Compressed (zipped) folder”.
- If you’re on Mac, right-click on the file and, on the menu, select “Compress [file name]”.
That’s it! You can now share your video more easily.
Method 2: Trim Your Video
Although this is not strictly a compression technique, it’s still quite an effective way to reduce your file size. We’re talking about trimming.
Trimming basically means cutting your video so you only retain the part that you want to share or upload (and you get rid of the rest).
There are several ways to trim your video. For example, Windows has a Video Editor that comes with the operating system and that you can use to do your trimming. Mac also has good options, including iMovie and Quicktime, both of which can trim videos too.
Method 3: Change The Resolution of Your Video
The video resolution refers to the number of pixels in each dimension that make up your image. Common video resolutions include 4K, 1080p (Full HD), 720p (HD), and 480p (SD), although there are many more.
Depending on your specific needs, you can consider reducing the resolution of a video to decrease its file size. For example, if you know your audience tends to watch videos on a smartphone, you don’t necessarily need to provide the content in 4K.
Lowering the resolution reduces the number of pixels, effectively decreasing the level of detail and clarity in the video. However, this trade-off allows for a smaller file size. So, the key is finding the right balance between acceptable quality and reduced size for your specific needs.
Because this can be such a popular technique, let’s quickly go through a few scenarios where it could be a good idea to reduce the video file size by changing the resolution:
- You want to do online streaming: When streaming videos online, lower resolutions are often preferred as they can accommodate viewers with varying internet speeds. This ensures smoother playback and minimizes buffering.
- Your audience uses mobile devices: Smaller screens on mobile devices may not fully utilize the benefits of high-resolution videos. Reducing resolution can save storage space and data usage on them.
- You want to share videos on social media: Some social media platforms automatically reduce video resolution during uploads to improve streaming performance. Still, it can be essential to optimize your video resolution to align with these platforms' guidelines.
Method 4: Change the Video File Type
Compressing a video by changing the file type involves converting the video from one video file format to another that typically offers better compression without significant loss in quality. For example, you can convert a mov file to an avi file or vice-versa.
The first step if you want to resize by changing the video file type is to choose the appropriate video converter software. There are several options available, both free and paid. Some popular choices include HandBrake, FFmpeg, and Any Video Converter. Choose one that suits your needs and is compatible with your operating system.
Once you've installed your program, you will typically need to select the output format for your compressed video. The choice of format can significantly affect the compression level. Some common formats that offer good compression include:
- H.264 (MP4): A widely supported format that offers excellent compression without significant quality loss.
- H.265 (HEVC): An even more efficient format that provides high compression while maintaining good quality.
- WebM: A format optimized for web streaming that offers good compression.
Luckily, most video converters allow you to fine-tune compression settings. For example, you can usually adjust the video bitrate, the resolution, the frame rate, and the audio bitrate.
Before sharing or using the compressed video, remember always to review it so you can ensure that the quality meets your requirements. For example, you can play it on different devices and platforms to confirm that it performs as you expect.
Method 5: Use an Online Video Compressor
The last option on our list is to reduce the video file size using an online video compressor. This is a straightforward process, so it's a favorite among many content creators.
There are several online video compression websites available. Some popular options include Clipchamp, Online UniConverter, and Kapwing, all of which have a friendly interface.
The process is very similar for all of them. First, you will need to upload your video (there’s usually a large area where you can drop it). Then, you just choose the format and click on a button. The platform will take care of the compression and let you export as your preferred output. When it’s ready, you can download it to your device.
Here are some common settings and presets you can tweak on these platforms:
- Quality/compression level: You can often choose the level of compression you want, which will determine the balance between file size reduction and video quality. Some compressors use sliders to adjust this setting.
- Resolution: Some online compressors allow you to change the video's resolution. Reducing the resolution will result in a smaller file size.
- Bitrate: You might have the option to adjust the video bitrate. Lowering the bitrate reduces the file size but may lead to a loss in quality.
- Format: Depending on the compressor, you may be able to choose a different video format or codec that offers better compression.
Just as we've mentioned for the other methods, make sure you review your video after you compress and download it to ensure that the quality meets your requirements. If you're satisfied with the compressed video and want to free up storage space, you can then delete the original, larger video file.
No matter which system, device, or social media platform you’re using, video compression is a crucial aspect of modern video production and distribution.
Compression can help you efficiently share and stream video content, and it has the added advantage of reducing the hefty costs associated with storage and bandwidth. Plus, it ensures your viewers can receive a smooth and enjoyable experience, regardless of their device or internet connection.
Although the methods we’ve covered here to compress your videos are pretty straightforward, there is even an easier way to ensure your videos are ready to be easily shared right from the get-go.
We’re talking about StreamYard, the easiest way to record videos and stream directly from your browser!
The best part? You don’t need to worry about the resolution or video size! StreamYard takes care of everything for you, so you can focus on what you do best: Create content.
Sign up today and start spreading your message to the world.