Compressing a video helps you host the same video in much less space. Sounds like magic right? It isn’t. Tools that compress a video file encode the data into a format that makes them smaller. And most viewers won’t notice the barely noticeable differences between the two videos.
The only problem? Sometimes you need to make do with lower file quality. But this post isn’t about generating videos of lower quality. You’ll learn how to reduce video file size without losing quality.
Here are some tools that will help make a video file smaller:
- VEED (Web)
- iMovie (Mac)
- Quicktime (Mac)
- VideoSmaller (Web)
- VLC (Windows, Mac, Linux)
- Free Convert (Web)
- Wondershare UniConverter (Desktop)
Here’s a quick comparison table of the video compression tools:
Here are the advantages of making videos smaller:
1. Occupies less disk space
The basic idea with compressing video files is to do it in a way that you get more-or-less the same quality but with lower space requirements. Zipping reduces video file sizes by about 50%. You can save money on hard drives by storing all your compressed files together.
2 . Bandwidth and transfer speed
When you compress a file you reduce the bandwidth required to transfer the file over a network. Bandwidth measures the transfer rate in megabytes per second. Compressed files have fewer bytes than non compressed files and transfer quickly.
Things to Know About Video Compression (Before you Start Compressing Videos)
Before you start compressing videos you need to know about the factors that influence video size. Most of us imagine that resolution is the single-biggest factor deciding video sizes. You may be in for a surprise. There are plenty of factors other than resolution that determine video file-size.
Let’s take a look:
Sometimes the video itself is static and it’s the heavy audio and background noises that contribute to the file size. Simply removing the audio will result in a light-weight file. Most tools we discuss below let you completely erase the audio from the file.
Frames per Second (FPS)
The frame rate can determine file size. Ideally for tv viewing the frame rate is 24 fps but sports videos that have a lot of motion can be at 36 fps and are usually higher in size. You can switch to a lower frame rate to reduce video file size.
Video size is a measure of the number of bits in a frame, called the bitrate.
Bitrate implies the number of bits processed during a particular period of time, say seconds. Bitrate can be measured in bits per second (bit/s), in kilobits per second (Kbps) or megabits per second (Mbps). Bitrate tells you a lot about the quality of a video file. The higher the bitrate— the higher the quality of the video. If you decrease the bitrate when compressing a video that directly impacts video quality as well.
Video encoding is the process of compressing video files. Encoding saves the file as a fluid video and not as a series of photos. A video is a collection of photos shown in rapid succession. That gives us the illusion of motion. A video recorded at 30 frames per second has 30 photos per second of footage. Naturally, with these many images— video files of a few minutes would have several thousand images swelling it to ridiculous sizes.
That’s the reason uncompressed video files are quite large and are very difficult to be streamed over home internet connections. The average uncompressed movie file might require a 5000 Mbps connection speed to stream over home internet connection. A typical home broadband connection is around 25 Mbps.
Encoding enables you to stream that big file over your connection using codecs. Here’s why we need video codecs. Videos tend to have different parts: the video itself, the audio stream, metadata plus subtitles.
All these things have to work together to make video viewing an enjoyable experience. The final video format considers all these different parts and the codec compresses and then decompresses your video inside a container that keeps everything together and makes it possible for you to play the video on a video player.
To deliver great user-experience over different devices a single input file might be encoded to several different output files at varying resolutions and bitrates.
Here are the most common codecs:
And finally, there’s resolution:
Resolution tells you the number of pixels in your video. Video resolution is rectangular and measured in lengths x width. An HD video is generally of 1920*1080p resolution. This is the standard for high-definition videos.
When you scale down videos to lower resolutions the video occupies much less screen space on a 1080p screen. There’s a corresponding decrease in video file size.
16:9 is the default aspect ratio.
Here are the video resolutions for this aspect ratio:
Next, let’s look at compression methods we can use:
What compression methods are available?
You can compress a video file using a few methods. The most commonly used are lossy and lossless compression.
In lossy compression, a single file is split into several smaller files and the unnecessary data is deleted. The downside is that the extra deleted data can’t be recovered so the process is irreversible. The loss signifies the amount of data lost in the new compressed file versus the original file.
Now let discuss the second kind of video compression.
This method doesn’t delete any data but still reduces file size. Lossless compression removes repeating data patterns, keeping just one instance of data that repeats. This method removes the metadata in the file.
The downside with this method is you can’t compress files that are very small in size.
Unlike lossy compression, this method is reversible and you construct the original file from the compressed file. Lossless compression doesn’t result in any loss in video quality or content.
The picture quality you get from the compressed file and the original file are similar.
7 Best Ways to Compress a Video in 2021
In this post we discuss a number of free and paid tools that you can use to quickly shrink video file sizes. Videos can be an important component of your content marketing strategy. As such, it’s important you use them efficiently. The tools we discuss here are for Windows, Linux, and Mac or completely web-based and will help you create optimized videos for your campaigns. Ultimately, video marketing will help you drive more traffic back to your site.
Here are some of the best tools you can use for faster video compression. Let’s go into details regarding each tool:
1. VEED (Web)
VEED is our favorite, not just because it’s our tool but also because it has several features other tools lack. It’s intuitive, does a lot more than simply compressing videos and is generally easy-to-use. Plus, we offer plenty for free. VEED is a video editor that lets you crop and edit videos while automatically adding subtitles.
Speaking of compression here’s what VEED can do.
VEED’s video compressor tool supports video files in these formats: MP4, MOV, MKV, AVI, WMV or FLV. Alternatively the compressor supports Dropbox links so you can connect your account, paste a URL and upload videos almost instantly.
After you compress a video and click on the Export settings on the top right you’re presented with a number of preset export options.
Here are the different preset options:
- Draft: This is for smaller files and give you the quickest render times
- Standard: The standard format is slightly better than the draft option with slightly higher render time.
- HD: This option gives you a high-definition video with higher render times.
- 4K: The highest video quality option with the highest render time.
- YouTube 4K: Export a video with YouTube recommended settings at 60fps.
- YouTube 1440p: Export a video with YouTube recommended settings at 1440p. Similar options are available for 1080p and 720p.
In the same way you can export videos with Instagram, Twitter, Hootsuite Twitter, and Super-8 recommended settings.
VEED’s video compression tool is part of the entire suite of video editing tools. The tool is compatible with both Windows and Mac computers since it is cloud-based.
Here’s how to use the tool:
Step 1: Either upload the file from your computer or paste in the Dropbox url. Once you upload the file you get a page with a sliding scale that lets you adjust between video quality and compression. The golden rule being: the higher the video-quality the bigger the file size.
Don’t start stressing yet. For each option, VEED also shows you what the file size is going to be after compression. The advantage? You get a no-nonsense way to estimate how far to compress the video even if you don’t understand what the sliding scale does. This is an intuitive feature that makes it fairly easy for you to use the tool even if you’re using it for the first time.
The intuitivity barely ends there. VEED tells you if the video is small enough to be sent as an email attachment. This is especially helpful if you plan on sending a video attachment with your weekly newsletter or as an attachment on social media messaging platforms (most platforms limit attachment size to 25 MB). For instance, if you’re a marketer sending video proposals to outreach targets it’s much better to send target prospects a light-weight video.
Step 2: For advanced users, there are even more options. You can play around with the frame rate, bitrate, the CRF and the video resolution. Hit the advanced settings to access all these options.
With these options you can greatly reduce file size and you can then proceed to editing the video or downloading the video. If you click on the edit option— the main editor lets you add subtitles, progress bars and plenty of other things.
2. iMovie (Mac)
iMovie is a default installation you find in your Mac computers. Here’s how to compress a video on iMovie.
Step 1: Edit or upload a video to iMovie.
Step 2: Click on the share icon and you see a window with multiple options. Go for the one that says File.
Step 3: Look at options that let you change video resolution and quality. Here you can adjust the different options to bring a file that is between 2 to 3 GB to under 500 MB.
Step 4: Tweak the resolution and quality until the file size is less than 500 MB
Set the resolution to 960 by 540 (as an example) and the quality to “high” if you wish to scale down the video.
Click on “Next” to proceed with this.
Step 5: Save the file as a compressed movie and choose a location for the file.
Step 6: Wait for export to finish. There’s a progress icon on the top right that indicates how well you’re doing. When the video finishes exporting you get a message that says share successful. You will be taken to the page where you can see all exported videos.
Make sure the file size is what you wanted.
3. Quicktime (Mac)
As a Mac user, you will find Quicktime as a default installation on your Macbook. There are only a few video compression options inside. So, Quicktime isn’t as feature-rich as other tools we talked about but yes you get things done with the tool.
To compress your video here’s what to do:
Step 1: Open the video file on the software by going to file option.
Step 2: Go to file>>export as and pick an option you like
Step 3: Finally choose the resolution. You can try 1080p or lower resolutions.
Here’s what the export as options mean:
- 4K: This gives you 3840 x 2160 resolution.
- 1080p: This generates an output file with 1920 x 1080 resolution.
- 720p: This generates an output file with 1280 x 720 resolution.
- 480p: This generates an output file with 640 x 480 resolution.
4. VideoSmaller (Web)
VideoSmaller is simple to use, and a completely cloud-based tool. It’s free.
When you visit the site you get an option to upload a video from your PC. You get a few basic options for compression and scaling.
The tool supports AVI, MPEG, MOV formats, and allows you to upload video files of up to 500 MB.
There are two ways in which you can compress videos.
With Option #1 you choose a low compression level(that’s the only option). If you go with this you get a better quality video but the size of the compressed video is almost the same as that of the original video.
Option #2 is where you can scale down the video.
Scaling down reduces video quality but to really answer if the reduced quality is worth it, ask who your audience is. Are they going to watch the videos on TVs or on mobile phones? If they watch videos on phones, scaling down in an option. Another thing to do is to remove audio from the file. This can reduce video file size.
5. VLC (Windows, Mac, Linux)
You might remember VLC as the default installation on Windows: your first choice to play media.
VLC has plenty of not-so-well-known features— one of which is compressing video files. The good news? VLC is available on Windows, Mac and Linux.
Step 1: Once you install the software, click media>>Convert/Save. The shortcut is Ctrl+R.
Step 2: Click Add and choose your video file. Another option that VLC gives you is to batch-select a number of video files and convert them all at the same time.
Step 3: Once you have added the file move your mouse below and click on Convert/Save.
Step 4: A new window appears. In the “Profile” dropdown menu you can choose the conversion you want from options like: video for MPEG4- tv/device, video for iPad, video for Android and so on.
A serious drawback I find with VLC is you don’t get estimated file sizes so you need to simply guess which conversion option to choose.
But the profile dropdown menu offers a few pointers. As in MPEG4 720p video quality for television viewing and video options for iPad/iPhone.
Step 5: To reduce video size further, tweak the resolution of the video. Click on settings(the wrench icon next to the profile you chose) and you see options to change the resolution, and the video codec(bitrate). Changing the resolution to a smaller resolution makes the video file much smaller.
Step 6: Once you’ve done that, choose a destination file name and then just hit Start.
It takes a lot of time to compress a big video but at the end of the conversion you have a video that’s much smaller. It’s worth the investment in time.
6. Free Convert (Web)
Free Convert is a cloud-based software to process huge video files, say those above 1 GB or more. It’s also free. The advanced settings let you play around with video codec settings, adjust screen size, aspect ratio, bit rate and frame rate.
You can choose from four different compression methods.
- By percentage of file size
- By file size (MB)
- By video quality
- By video resolution
- By video bitrate
For each option, the sliding scale lets you adjust the target file size denoting the reduction on the right as a change in percentage, file size, video quality, resolution or bitrate.
You can also make modest edits by cutting the video, rotating and adding subtitles to it. The tool supports a number of video formats like ASF, AVI, MOV, MPG, RM and WEBM.
You can also add a Google Drive URL or a Dropbox URL and the tool will automatically upload the video.
For a free tool there’s both advanced conversion settings as well as batch conversion options. That’s rare. However, there’s no option to export the video to Google Drive or to Dropbox.
7. Wondershare UniConverter (Desktop)
Wondershare Uniconvertor is a software with which you can convert both video and audio. Uniconverter is also a powerful editor, the downloading tool helps compress and share videos.
The user interface makes sure you waste no time to get to the task you came for. It’s as simple as clicking on the button next to a task. You can do a lot more with the tool than compress videos. Add features, crop parts of videos and trim videos to different lengths.
Add subtitles to either part or whole of your video. They offer a free trial with which you can access the entire tool. But compressing videos when on the trial adds a watermark to them.
Here’s how to compress videos with Wondershare UniConverter.
Step 1: Start the software on your PC and choose the video compressor feature from the left panel.
Step 2: In the next step, add videos to be compressed. To do this, click on the plus sign on the folder button above to browse and choose videos to add.
You can choose multiple files by adding an entire folder. The videos appear with details like the name of the video, file format, runtime and file size. You also see the “Compress” button to the right. Along with that you get a thumbnail image to the left. Clicking on that will compress the file with the default settings.
Step 3: But you don’t want that. Click on the settings icon to the right and a new pop-up window appears. Move the slider towards the file size to choose the desired size and quality. The bitrate changes in tune. You can also change the format of the file MP4, MPEG, WMV or MOV.
You can also tweak file resolution starting from 260p which is the lowest resolution to 2160p, the highest resolution. Once happy with the selection, click on the OK button. Click on the preview button to check the output file.
Step 4: The desktop location saves the file from the file location tab. Click on the compress button to start processing the video.
Check the finished tab to find all compressed videos.
How to reduce video file sizes-FAQs
How do you compress a video file for email?
You can use any of the tools to zip a video file. In addition here’s how you zip a file from the email client itself.
Step 1: Compose the email and click on Attach file
Step 2: Choose the video you want to attach
Step 3: Right-click on the file and click Send to>>compressed folder. This zips the file
Step 4: Attach the zipped file to the email and send it.
How do you know what are the best compression settings for your file size?
Finding the best compression settings is a matter of trial and testing. You need to play around with different settings, compress the file and view the quality on your own before you understand what’s best. For instance, if videos are part of your mobile marketing strategy, you can use custom QR codes to send people to your mobile-optimized videos and see how they engage with these videos.
VEED has a number of presets you can use to export video files with different settings for YouTube and social media platforms and for your mobile marketing strategy.
Which of these 7 solutions is best for me?
A tool like Free Convert (cloud-based) or iMovie/Quicktime (for Mac) helps you compress a video with the most basic settings.
VideoSmaller doesn’t fare any better and the tool only supports smaller file sizes. VLC is a lot better but lacks the intuitiveness that can make things simpler for someone who’s getting started. Plus, the editing options are fairly limited on VLC. Not to mention the huge space it takes up on your PC.
Wondershare Uniconverter has a lot of advanced options. But I dislike a few things in the tool. First, it’s not a cloud-based solution meaning it takes up space on your PC and can drag its performance when you’re rendering files. Two, you get advanced editing options but the learning curve is steep. Three, the free trial adds a watermark to your videos and the pricing is much higher than what you get with VEED.
If you do plenty of things with video like compress videos, wish to automatically add subtitles, add music, crop parts of the video etc then VEED is the complete solution you’re looking for. Another thing I like are the preset options that let you export videos matching the recommended settings on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Also, VEED is completely cloud-based and doesn’t take up space on your PC or drag your system down as you export large videos. It's also really simple to use.
I guess by now you have learnt how to compress video files without losing quality. These are some of the quickest ways to compress video files to smaller sizes. This way you end up saving plenty of space on your disk while also retaining video quality.
What do you think of the tips and tricks for reducing video file sizes? Do let us know in the comments below.