How to Make 720p High Definition Screencast Videos for YouTube

This tutorial will show you to how record and produce 720p High Definition (HD) screencast videos (Widescreen) for YouTube using Camtasia Studio, the best screencasting tool for Windows that will soon be available on Mac.

HD video mostly refers to web video with display resolution of either 1280×720 (720p) or 1920×1080 (1080i or 1080p - full HD). YouTube, at the moment, only supports 720p HD resolution with a 16:9 (non-square pixels) aspect ratio and 24fps frame rate. Watch the clip to know how a 16:9 widescreen video is different from the 640x480 4:3 standard definition video.

Ok, so let’s get started. You need the following software to make 720p HD videos for YouTube with any fake black border around the video:

1. Camtasia Studio - download a 30 day trial for free. This will act like a virtual high definition video camcorder for your computer screen.

2. Apple QuickTime - for encoding with the H.264 video codec for HD quality on YouTube.

3. Any computer with a decent processor - long HD videos may take some time to render on a slow machine.

When you begin the screen recording process, make sure that the recording dimensions are set to 1280 pixels x 720 pixels.

From the Camtasia Recorder, go to Tools -> Options, change video configuration to manual and set the screen capture rate to 30 frames per second. Under audio format, use PCM with 44.100 kHz 16 bit Stereo. Save these settings and record your screencast video.

Once you are done with the recording and editing process, it’s time to produce your screencast video in HD format for YouTube. You may either use the MP4 or MOV formats for the output video as they both use the same MPEG-4 / H.264 codec.

HD Using .MOV format

Open the Production wizard in Camtasia (choose “Produce video as”) and select “custom production settings”. Use Quicktime Movie (mov) as the output format and under QuickTime options, use the following settings:

  • Frame Rate: 30 fps; Quality: Best; Key frames: Automatic
  • Export Size Settings (dimensions): 1280 x 720 HD
  • Sound: 44.1 kHz, 16 bit Stereo

HD using MP4 format

Select Flash Output (MP4/SWF)  in the Production wizard and use a template with no controls. Under video, select MP4 with a frame rate of 30 fps and change the audio options to at least 96 kbps. Manually set the video dimensions to 1280 (width) x 720 (height). The MP4 settings are courtesy Matt Pierce.

Upload HD to YouTube

Now that your HD screencast is ready, upload the file to YouTube. Once the video is uploaded and available for viewing, you may not immediately see the “Watch in HD” link as it can take anywhere between 5-15 minutes for YouTube to provide an alternate HD format.

If you see a green bar on the video page that says “this video is still being processed. Video quality may improve once processing is complete,” it means that YouTube could recognize your recently uploaded screencast video as HD.

How to Embed HD YouTube Videos

If you like to embed HD videos from YouTube into a web page such that readers can directly watch the high definition version of the video without having to click the “HD” button in the YouTube player, just add &ap=%2526fmt%3D22 to the YouTube embed code in two places:

<object width="480" height="295">
  <param name="movie" value=";fs=1&ap=%2526fmt%3D22" />
  <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" />
  <param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" />

Linking to HD 720p YouTube Videos 

You now know how to embed an HD video clip on a web page but consider another scenario where you have to link to an HD video on YouTube.

If you use the default video link provided by YouTube, it would only show the standard quality video unless someone hits the HD button on the YouTube player.

To directly link to the high-definition version of the video, simply add &hd=1 to the video URL and anyone who clicks that link can watch your screencast video in widescreen and full HD quality. See example:

Standard Quality:

Full HD:

YouTube HD Alternatives

Other than YouTube, you may upload HD screencast videos to other sites like Vimeo,, Motion Box or even Daily Motion which is not just free but imposes no limits on the video duration and file size. Feeling confused? Check this detailed comparison of HD video sites on CNET by Josh Lowensohn to understand which site would suit your requirement best.

I am quite happy with the HD quality of YouTube videos and best of all, the service is absolutely free with no bandwidth limits. If you are looking to further widen the reach of your HD video clips, check other services that may help you upload videos to multiple sites at once.

Amit Agarwal

Amit Agarwal

Google Developer Expert, Google Cloud Champion

Amit Agarwal is a Google Developer Expert in Google Workspace and Google Apps Script. He holds an engineering degree in Computer Science (I.I.T.) and is the first professional blogger in India.

Amit has developed several popular Google add-ons including Mail Merge for Gmail and Document Studio. Read more on Lifehacker and YourStory


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