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Rendering and Encoding

Once you have edited a video, the next part of the production process is to render and encode the video into a shareable and usable file format.

In the earlier exercise on editing we just used the quick, default encoding. It turns out this type of encoding works pretty well for most situations. Adobe and other publishers have picked a good compromise for quality and size.


Rendering is the process taking the tracks in your timeline and mixing them into a final image in every frame, and adding the audio track.

A raw render would lead to an enormous file size, too bulky to be easily used. A more useful way to share files, either directly or by uploading to a host like YouTube, is to compress the files.

Just as your phone can take a photo with 12 million pixels and shrink it down into a file that's closer to 2 Mb, videos can also be compressed.

Compressing a photo or video into a smaller, but readable format is called encoding.

You will usually obtain the best quality output by encoding at the end the the project and minimizing the number of times clips are re-encoded. In other words, try to avoid editing individual clips separately, then importing those clips into your final editor, and then encoding them again.

If you have space on your recording device, save the edits for later.


There are many methods used to compress files. The popularity of each method waxes and wanes over time. 

Recording devices save video files as different file types. Every device seems to have their favorite. The most common in use now are .mov and .mp4. Apple devices and some DSLRs save their files in the .mov format. Older .mov files can be a little harder to open on non-Apple devices, but these issues are now rare. The other main file format is .mp4. This is a cross-industry standard and is the most common used in social media. 

These file formats are essentially containers, much like storing milk in paper cartons vs. plastic jugs. It's still just milk. If given a choice, we recommend saving in .mp4 format even if you are using a Mac.

As the video is being rendered, it is then encoded into a format that saves file space and is viewable by a video player, either as a file loaded into the player, or streamed from a service. This process of encoding or decoding a compressed video file uses software (or hardware) called a codec. Codecs related to a standard called MPEG-4 are very common. For best use by streaming services, use the H.264 codec. This codec plays nicely with mobile devices of every manufacturer.

Unless you're using professional-grade video editing software, you will probably have to do some work to encode video into something other than .mp4 H.264 format, so don't worry much about this. 

Most programs create sensible default settings for exporting files, but you may want to think some about output quality issues for special situations.

Output Quality

Your ultimate file size is directly related to the final output quality of your video. There are many factors that contribute to output quality. These include:

  • Screen size (High Definition vs NTSC television)
  • Frame rate (images per second)
  • Audio quality (bit rate, stereo vs mono, etc.)

In a perfect world, we would want the absolute best video and audio quality options, but for some projects these are not appropriate. Huge files can take either a long time to download or fail to stream properly on connections with limited bandwidth.

YouTube adjusts its output quality to the end user based on the stream's bandwidth so in these cases, it's always best to encode in high quality and let the service sort things out for you.

If, however, you wish to share a video file (.mp4) with someone directly, you may want to create a smaller version. Adjusting options in your editing program will allow you to reduce file size. Try a smaller format and lower frame rate. For example 480p at 12 frames per second will be a vastly smaller file than a full HD-quality file, but it will not look great. You may need to experiment. 

For videos more than a couple minutes, changing the audio quality settings doesn't seem to affect overall file size much.

Recommended Settings

For most social media platforms such as YouTube we recommend the following settings:

Option Setting
File Type: .mp4
Audio Codec: AAC-LC
Video Codec: H.264
Video Type (HD): 1440p or 1080p
Frame Rate: Use what you recorded video in, but if you have differences or need to decide on a rate use 23.97 fps.

Adobe Premiere Elements will use these settings on "Quick Export" mode or the option to directly export to your own YouTube Channel.

Exporting with Premiere Elements

Rendering can take a long time. It's important to make sure your video is ready to export before rendering. While you can always re-render it if there are any issues you missed, it's usually faster to correct them before exporting the video. This is especially important in longer videos.

It is a good practice to review the entire video.

First, check that the entire area of the video you want to export—usually the whole thing—is active in the the Work Area. There are 2 gray elongated hexagons that represent the start and end points of the video on the timeline. These should align with the very beginning and the end of the final clip. 

In the picture below, only 4 about minutes of the 6 minute video is selected. Your preview will usually only show this portion.

Premiere Elements' Work Area

Second, press the ENTER key to render previews. It should immediately begin playback after rendering previews. If everything looks great, then export the video.

TIP: Sometimes the sound's sync on the previews is off. If the original clips are in sync and you didn't unlink the audio and video, then the final video should be correct. Don't worry about that now. Do watch for things like missed transitions, hidden text, clips that are the wrong length, unwanted sounds, or lower layers showing through to the top. 

To export videos in Adobe Premiere Elements use Export & Share on the top right corner of the page to open the export tool.

It will usually open up to quick export. On my version, the quick export will render the entire video. Yours is probably the same.

The Quick Export will almost always work to output a useful file.

There are other options to export your video. The Devices tab gives the most options. The Custom choice is where you can enter any rendering options that you want. You can created animated GIFs even! 

Here is what that window looks like—Custom is highlighted:

Premiere Elements' Devices Export Screen

Rendering with one of the options in Devices will export the entire video unless you check the WorkArea Bar only option. This is a way you can share a small part of a video.

An export option that may be of interest to you is the Online tab. If you set up a YouTube account, you can directly export to your channel. The program will walk you through the steps. This is a simple way to get a video online in one step.

If you wish to post to UC ANR's main YouTube channel, do not use this since you need to submit a file directly.

Rendering can take a long time depending on your hardware, size of the video, and compression options chosen. Remember, it's better to render a correct video than go back and redo it. 

After you export a video, you should play it back. It should look good, but this is a good final check on quality.

Both Window and Macs have built in video playback apps, but consider using the free VLC player to play videos instead. It can play almost anything, and if it can't, it will at least try. It takes less time to open than the built-in options, and its willingness to play almost anything from anywhere makes it a one-stop-shop for any media files.