How Long Does YouTube Take To Process a Video?

If you’ve just finished creating a great video, you’ve uploaded it to YouTube, the processing time can seem like it takes ages. But how long does YouTube take to process a video actually?

I’ve uploaded thousands of videos, from short videos that were only a couple of seconds and were only in 1080p, to videos that exceeded the hour mark and were in crisp 4K. One thing that never seems to get old is the time it takes for YouTube to process videos.

What is video processing and why does it take so long?

When you upload a video to YouTube, a number of things are happening which can take a lot of time to complete. YouTube is compressing your original video file, this is why you may notice some quality loss when you download your original file from YouTube. Here’s a great example of this from MKBHD.

Additionally, YouTube is making copies of this file in a number of different formats. If you click on the gear icon of a video, you’ll see that you can watch a video in 240p, 360p, 480p, 720p, 1080p (HD), 1440p, etc. all the way up to the maximum quality that you uploaded the video in. This means that if you uploaded a standard 1080p video file, YouTube needs to make 5 different versions!

Different video resolutions YouTube needs to process videos in

Now YouTube is a global service and depending on where you are in the world, you expect a video to play immediately. For this, YouTube has a number of data centers around the world (5 or 6 from Google) where all of this data is sent and stored, and popular videos are put into YouTube’s CDN (Content Distribution Network) which is a network of servers around the world that allows you to access the video files as quick as possible. 

And if all of that didn’t sound like quite a lot of work, YouTube is constantly doing this for the 400 hours of video that is uploaded every minute.

Why does video processing on YouTube take so long? Because YouTube has to compress files, store the files, create multiple versions of the files, and then prepare the files so they can be consumed by viewers in their best quality.

How long does it take for a video to process on YouTube?

In general, for every minute of video uploaded, it can take between 30 seconds and 1 minute to complete processing for HD videos. This means that a 10-minute video can take between 5 minutes and 10 minutes to process completely. 

The time it takes to process depends largely on how long the video is, the resolution your video has been exported in and the video quality (i.e. size). For your 4K video, this time can take quite a bit longer as the video is 4 times the size. 

YouTube says that a 4K video with a frame rate of 30 fps that is 60 minutes long can take up to 4 hours to finish high-resolution processing. I’ve found this to be quite a bit shorter, but it all comes down to the video quality.

As you’ve seen though, there is quite a lot of processing that YouTube needs to do to your videos in order to make them accessible by the vast majority of the world, so I think we can accept a couple of minutes of extra processing.

How long does a 20 minute video take to process on YouTube?

When it comes to longer videos, it can seem like it takes exponentially longer, but that could just be a matter of your internet being slightly faster than the processing speed. The same processing time applies to longer videos.

Generally speaking, 20 minutes of HD video can take around 10-15 minutes to process, while 20 minutes of 4K video can take anywhere from. 15-20 minutes to process, up to 80 minutes or more if it’s exported in a higher frame or bit rate.

How Long Does YouTube Take To Process a Video

Why are my videos blurry on YouTube after uploading?

A common occurrence when you upload a video to YouTube and then immediately watch it is to find a much blurrier and lower quality version of the video you actually uploaded. Before you go and delete the video, this is normal and happens very often. 

Your videos are blurry on YouTube after uploading because YouTube hasn’t finished processing the HD version of your video yet. It’s finished making the lower quality version and got them ready to distribute, which is why you see a video often in 240p, 360p, or 480p quality, even if you uploaded a 4K or HD video.

Another common problem could be that you have a poor internet connection, or had a poor internet connection at the time of watching the video. YouTube tries to cater to people all around the world, from viewers with high-speed internet to viewers who access the app on their phone with a 3G connection. To make sure videos play smoothly for all users, YouTube automatically selects the video resolution that best matches your internet speed. 

If you have a slow connection, this means you will most likely be put onto a 240p or 360p resolution version of the video. If you select a higher resolution in the settings, you may suffer from video buffering as your internet cannot download the video data fast enough for it to play smoothly.

Top tip to make sure your videos are fully processed when publishing

Whenever you upload a video to YouTube, schedule your video at least an hour in advance. This should allow enough time for the high-quality version of your video to process entirely and for early viewers to get the full quality of the video and stop some complaints about poor video quality. 

If you have a popular channel, this is something you can experience where people will watch your video within the first couple of minutes after uploading. Make sure they also have the best experience by scheduling your videos an hour or two (at least) in advance.

Ideally, however, you would want to schedule your video well in advance for when your viewers are most active. You can use TubeBuddy for this, the free extension will let you know the majority of your audience is active, and then you can schedule the video in advance so it is published at the best time possible so they can help push its performance initially. 

(You can also find when your viewers are most active in your analytics if you don’t want to try TubeBuddy)

P.s. Another tip for reducing the processing time if you just want to publish your videos immediately is to spend the video processing time optimizing your video title, tags, descriptions, and thumbnail. This is something you should do regardless, but if you find yourself twiddling your thumbs waiting for it to finish, try improving your video optimization in the meantime.

What to do if your YouTube video processing is stuck

If your video hasn’t finished processing after a couple of hours then it may be stuck. This could be due to your internet connection, a heavy upload time period, or a complicated file format. If you find your video to be stuck processing, I recommend uploading your file again.

Do not delete the first upload as it may just be processing slowly. Once one of the uploads has finished uploading and processing, you can delete the other one. These files are all private until you publish them, so you don’t have to worry about your viewers seeing double.

If you, however, see that both uploads are stuck, then it may be time to check whether you have a good internet connection, try uploading again at a different time, or the main cause is probably the format that you’re uploading the file in. 

Check out this article from YouTube for a list of the best settings for exporting video files on YouTube.

Out of the 925 - What we do
Out of the 925 - What we do