Video by the numbers – Camera settings

Video recording size

High Definition (HD) 720p

Full High Def (FHD) 1080p

4K (overkill for web)

Recording format




Export settings

For your Web site


Online courses

It has taken me a few years to figure out all the numbers and settings associated with video production. I’ve done a lot of testing and made a lot of mistakes! This post will decode some of those numbers for you, so that you can get started creating your web videos.

This post will cover video production using a camera. In a future post, I’ll talk specifically about screen capture video and video slideshows.

The hardest part of video is learning what all the numbers in the camera and editing software mean.

Some of these numbers are:

  • recording format
  • video size for recording and editing
  • video frame rate for recording
  • export settings – the size and compression quality numbers
  • audio settings

Not all numbers are important to know the meaning of. And yes, guaranteed it’s going to be overwhelming at first.

Start with the video capture settings

If you’re using a video camera, get into the menus and find the recording mode in video setup. You will see things like:

  • MP4 or MPEG
  • MOV

So which one should you choose?

video record mode

AVCHD format

  • Professional video producers usually use AVCHD. This format is kind of like the raw version of a photo. It provides the best quality of file.
  • But don’t rush into using this file type, because you will need software that can open and import this kind of file. Software includes: iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier and Adobe Lightroom (if you’re just trimming the ends off your clips and assembling later).
  • It’s hard to locate the AVCHD files on your memory card because this format is actually a group of interconnected files for each video clip. Using just the MTS file alone, often won’t work.
  • If you are using a handycam to record your videos, AVCHD might be the only file format available.

MOV format

  • MOV files tend to be BIG and cumbersome. They will work with Camtasia and Screenflow but it’s a bit frustrating to edit using MOV files because the playback during the editing process is slow, and it’s hard to see if your effects and transitions are working properly. Photographers using video and stills together, often use this format.
  • If you record things like Skype interviews, you typically get an MOV file.

MP4 format

  • I use this format for recording all my video tutorials whether they are on YouTube or for my online courses.
  • For my clients who create online web content, I recommend recording using the MP4 format as well.
  • It’s easy to locate the files on your memory card and the MP4 format works with every video editing software that I’ve tried.
  • Pros and video nerds will probably not recommend using this file format, so if you are doing other research on this topic, consider the source.
  • GoPro cameras also record in MP4 format.

Video quality and size

The video quality and frame size are often bundled in the same menu. You may have a few choices when looking at the quality and frame size for your video recording. The sizes are measured in pixels. Don’t confuse these with the playback size. You set up the playback size in editing.


Common sizes are:

  • 640 x 480 (VGA) – Skype interviews are usually recorded at this size due to bandwidth limitations
  • 1280 x 720 (also known as HD and 720p)
  • 1920 x 1080 (also known as FHD and 1080p)
  • 4K – which at this point in history, is overkill for web video

Other quality settings you have to choose from:

  • 24p, 30p, 60p
  • And you’ll have to choose the frame rate – 10Mbps or 20Mbps works well.

Beginners’ video recording setup

If you are totally new to video recording, I recommend one of the following setups:

  • MP4 mode and 1280 x 720, 30p, 10 Mbps
  • MP4 mode and 1920 x 1080, 30p, 20 Mbps

I realize that not all cameras will have all the options, but get the one that’s closest to one of the choices above. You can experiment with each to see what works best for you.


Editing is a whole other lesson in itself. I won’t be covering HOW to edit, but I will tell you about some software for beginners. Keep in mind, your editing software may determine what video recording mode you use, so check the specs before shooting.

Video editing software:


Exporting is about compromise. You will always lose quality when you export. With some experience and research you can lessen the visible effects of compression.

This is where it gets tricky, but things are much easier than they used to be. When exporting you need to choose a frame size (SD, HD, FHD) and compression settings. The more you compress the smaller your final video file will be and the faster it will play on the web. But the more you compress, the more visual quality you will lose, and you will see more artifacts the more you compress. Typically I export at 1280 x 720 pixels, even though I record at 1920 x 1080 pixels. That saves space and makes playback faster, especially for my online courses.

If you are a beginner, use the presets that are part of your video editing software to start with. Your editing software can upload directly to YouTube as well, though I don’t recommend doing that. It’s better to export a local copy to your hard drive first, so that you can check it for quality before it goes live.

Unless you are doing a high quality TV broadcast, don’t worry too much about getting it perfect when you’re starting out. Your video content is more important than your video quality, and good content with decent quality will still get watched.

  • h.264 is a codec that plays well on the web, and all video editing software will have this option
  • The h.264 file will be in a wrapper that can be uploaded to the web, such as MP4
  • Here is a list of wrappers that YouTube will accept

Steps for exporting

  • Start with the YouTube pre-set – this is handy for many types of playback, not just YouTube
  • Choose a size (640 x 480 for video podcasts, 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080 for YouTube)
  • Export to your desktop
  • Watch the video and check your video image quality. For reference, view full screen too.
  • Look for compression artifacts, which are uneven blocky areas of your video – not to be confused with pixelation which are evenly-sized squares
  • If you’re happy with the result, upload to YouTube, web service or online course
  • Check the video again, once it’s on the web

Keep in mind that YouTube, Vimeo and other web video service providers, compress your video upon upload. What that means is that your video might look fine on your computer, but looks terrible on YouTube or Vimeo. (Vimeo used to be very bad at compressing screen capture video, to the point that it wasn’t worth using them. Things are better now.)

How do you get videos onto your website?


If you’re using a video service such as YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia etc. you can get the video embed code from them. In YouTube this is found in the Share menu. Choose Embed as shown in the image above. You can also choose the size you want your video to be on your webpage. Make sure this is not wider than the width of the column it’s being placed on.

If you’re working with an online course environment like ruzuku, the video player is built into the system. So, all you need to do is upload your video. ruzuku will compress it for their system as well.

If you’re building your own membership site, you will need a video player in your system. I use Easy Video Suite, which includes a WordPress video player, a video compression tool, and has several video marketing features as well.

How changing the numbers will affect your final video playback.

There is always a tradeoff between size and quality, and how well things play on websites, online courses and membership sites.

  • If your video frame size is too small, it won’t look good when played back full screen
  • If your quality is too high, it won’t play back smoothly on your website (or won’t play at all!)
  • If your quality is too low, your video will be soft and you will get lots of artifacts

Test first

I highly recommend doing some tests first before starting your first official video. You’ll save many tears! You need to go from start to finish through shooting, editing, exporting and uploading to your web platform. I didn’t do that, and my first video is really terrible looking. I keep it on my YouTube channel to remind me how far I’ve come. And funny thing, despite the poor quality of my first camera video, it still has over 10,000 views, which goes to show that if the content is good, people will still watch your videos.

Last thoughts about video

Video takes a lot of memory space on your hard drive, and a lot of RAM is needed for editing. If you want to venture into video, especially video from cameras (as opposed to screen capture) you will need to have a fairly new computer that is capable of handling video. A useful thing to do is check the specs in the software list above, as they suggest minimum hardware and operating system requirements for running the software.

Need more help?

If you need personalized help about getting started with video, pricing and a list of services are here.