What Does It Mean When a Video Is Being Processed on YouTube?

By Aaron Parson

Professional cameras can save uncompressed video to allow for high quality after editing.
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All digital videos have some form of encoding. Encoding often compresses the video, reducing its file size, and provides a standard for computers to decode and play the video. When you upload your company's videos to YouTube, the site will re-encode the files to conform to its own video standards. This helps Google serve the videos to viewers more quickly and provide a product compatible across all types of computers.

Video Encoding

When you shoot video, the camera saves the data with the highest possible quality for later editing. After editing the video, the editing program will encode the video using one of several codecs, such as H.264 or MPEG-2. This process integrates your edits into the video, and cuts down the video size by a significant factor at the cost of some image quality. It also provides compatibility with media players supporting that particular encoding scheme.

YouTube Processing

For the sake of ease of use, YouTube supports a wide range of codecs during upload, including Windows Media Video files and Apple's .MOV QuickTime files. Rather than play the uploaded files – which may have very large files sizes and not be compatible with all devices – directly back to viewers, YouTube re-encodes the files after uploading, further reducing file size and aligning them to a unified standard. YouTube also creates multiple versions of each video to allow playback at different resolutions.

Processing Delays

The time it takes YouTube to process a video will vary according to the video's original size and length, its formatting and the site's backlog. Unlike during encoding in your video editor, you can't see the current progress of your video encoding on YouTube. After the upload, YouTube will show a placeholder on the video's page until processing finishes. The entire process can take anywhere from minutes to several hours. If your video has not finished processing after eight hours, Google recommends deleting it and starting the upload over.


YouTube will create several versions of your video, starting with low-quality, low-resolution copies and working up to the highest resolution your original material supports. If you're in a hurry, you can share a video as soon as the low-resolution copies, such as 240p and 360p, become available. If you want your viewers to see the best quality, however, wait until all versions have finished processing before sharing a link to your video. You can check which resolutions have finished by clicking the gear icon below your video.