Video files are almost always the ones that take up the most storage space. But whether you need to free up some of that space (but keep the videos) or want to send this video to someone else but can’t wait for hours for it to load, here’s how you can compress file and convert files gigabytes at megabytes.
There are several options, and one of them is the Software the video editor you used to create it in the first place. Often the default settings save it in high quality (or in an inefficient format), which means the rendered file is much larger than necessary.
Rendering it at a lower resolution, and perhaps at a lower bit rate, will go a long way in making the resulting file much smaller.
If you’re not sure which resolution or bitrate to use and are worried about how that will affect the quality, an alternative (and the only option if you didn’t create the video in the first place) is use Software video conversion.
There are many such utilities that can be downloaded for free, and here we are going to use a tool called Handbrake to show you step by step exactly what to do to reduce your file size.
We think Handbrake is the best option – it’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and being open source, it’s completely free.
There are of course alternatives. One is WinX HD Video Converter. It has a bit simpler interface than Handbrake and does not put a watermark on the compressed video. However, it will constantly ask you to update to the full version.
How to reduce the size of a video in Handbrake
First, go to the Handbrake website, download the appropriate version, and install the app on your computer.
Now open the Handbrake app by double clicking on the shortcut on your desktop, and you will see the following screen.
You can drag and drop a video file or a selection of video files into Handbrake from the file explorer. But if you prefer, you can click the “File” or “Folder” options on the left and navigate to the video you want to shrink. Select one or more video files and click “Open”.
Then choose where you want the smaller video to be saved. You can change the location by clicking “Browse” at the bottom right of the screen and change the highlighted file name if you don’t want it to be named the same as the original with a “- 1 ”at the end.
Now you can do several things. One of the easiest is to use the Handbrake presets. As you can see in the screenshot above, the original resolution of the video is 1920×1080. It’s “1080p” in video jargon, and it’s also called “Full HD”. Depending on who you send it to, you may want to keep this resolution or reduce it to “720p”, or 1280×720 pixels.
The quality will remain good and the file will be noticeably smaller.
To choose a preset, click on the Presets menu and you can choose from General, Web, Devices (and two more that are not relevant here). A good option to reduce file size is “Very Fast 720p30”, but you can also choose “Fast 720p30”, which will take longer but will produce better quality video.
The “30” means 30 frames per second, so if your existing video is not at 30 frames per second, Handbrake will remove the frames if they are above 30, or add them if they are below 30.
Changing the frame rate will affect the file size, as you can guess. For example, if you recorded an HD video at 60 frames per second, reducing it to 30 will remove half of those frames, and this in itself is a good way to reduce the size of the video file, even if you keep the original resolution and you don’t reduce it to 720p.
If you need to send the video through Gmail, there are two presets in the web menu as well as others for YouTube, Vimeo, and Discord.
After choosing a preset, you can click “Start Encoding” and Handbrake will process your video and save it to the folder you originally chose.
Open the folder where the video was saved, select it and you will see the new size at the bottom of Windows “File Explorer”. Hopefully, it will be small enough to be uploaded to cloud storage quickly, via email, or shared via weTransfer.
If not, you can try the following settings to make it even smaller.
Cut out the beginning and the end
TIP: If you don’t need to share the entire video, cropping the start and end is a quick way to reduce its size. This feature is somewhat hidden in Handbrake and is much easier to use in other software, such as Freemake.
To do this in Handbrake, first watch the video and write down when you want it to start, say 31 seconds, and when it needs to end, say eight minutes, 29 seconds.
Click on the “Chapters” drop-down menu and choose “seconds”. You can now enter these times as 00:31:00 and 08:29:00. When you click on “Start encoding”, only that part of the original video will be processed.
Adjust settings manually
You can also use the tabs under the Presets menu to manually configure video settings. In Dimensions you can specify the resolution, but it is in the Video tab that you can choose the codec and frame rate.
Codec is the method used to compress video and some codecs are more efficient than others. H.264 (x264) is a good choice because it is highly supported, but H.265 will create a smaller file that might not play on your recipient’s device.
On the right is a slider that allows you to change the overall quality of the video. Be careful with this: too far to the left will result in a video that will not be visible.
Fortunately, you can click the “Preview” button on the top bar to see what the final video will look like, so that you can make adjustments before saving the entire video.
TIP: For a really long video, Handbrake lets you choose what happens when it finishes compressing your video (s). In the lower right corner, click the When done: menu and choose your preference.