Video files are always the ones taking up all your storage space. But whether you need to free up some of that space (but keep the videos) or you want to send that video to someone else but you can’t wait hours for it to upload, here’s how you can compress the file and turn gigabytes into megabytes.
There are a few options, and one you might prefer to use is the video editing software you used to create it in the first place. Often, the default settings will save it out at a high quality (or an inefficient format) which means the rendered file is much larger than it needs to be.
Rendering it again at a lower resolution and, perhaps, a lower bitrate will help a lot in making the resulting file much smaller.
If you’re unsure what resolution or bitrate to use and are worried how it will affect quality, then an alterative ( and the only option if you didn’t create the video in the first place) is to use some video conversion software.
There are many such utilities available to download for free, and we’re going to use a tool called Handbrake here to show you step by step exactly what to do to make your file smaller.
We think Handbrake is the best option: it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux and, being open source, is completely free.
There are, of course, alternatives. One is WinX HD Video Converter. This has a slightly simpler interface than Handbrake and won’t put any watermarks on the compressed video. It will, however, constantly nag you to upgrade to the full version.
How to make a video smaller in Handbrake
First, head to the Handbrake website, download the appropriate version and install the app on your computer.
Now open the Handbrake app by double-clicking the shortcut on your desktop, and you’ll see the screen below.
You can drag and drop a video file or a selection of video files onto Handbrake from File Explorer. But if you prefer you can click the File or Folder options on the left and navigate to the video that you want to make smaller. Select one or more video files and click Open.
Next, choose where you want the smaller video to be saved. You can change location by clicking ‘Browse’ at the bottom right of the screen and edit the highlighted filename if you don’t want it to be called the same as the original with a ‘-1’ at the end.
Now, you can do various things. One of the simplest routes is to use Handbrake’s presets. As you can see in the screenshot above, the original resolution of the video is 1920×1080. That’s ‘1080p’ in video speak, and is also called ‘Full HD’. Depending upon who you’re sending it to, you might want to keep that resolution or reduce it to ‘720p’ which is 1280×720 pixels.
That should still be good quality, and the file will be noticeably smaller.
To pick a preset, click the Presets menu, then you have a choice of General, Web, Devices (and two others which aren’t relevant here). A good choice for making files smaller is ‘Very Fast 720p30′, but you could also choose Fast 720p30, which will take longer but generate a higher-quality video. The ’30’ means 30 frames per second, so if your existing video isn’t 30 frames per second then Handbrake will remove frames if it’s more than 30, or add them if less than 30.
Changing the frame rate will affect the file size, as you might guess. For example, if you had an HD video recorded at 60 frames per second, reducing to 30 will remove half of those frame, and that in itself is a good way to reduce the size of your video file, even if you keep the original resolution and don’t reduce that to 720p.
If you need to send the video via Gmail, there are two presets in the Web menu, along with others for YouTube, Vimeo and Discord.
After choosing a preset, you can click ‘Start Encode’ and Handbrake will process your video and save it to the folder you chose at the start.
Open the folder where the video has been saved, select it and you’ll see the new size in the bottom of Windows File Explorer. Hopefully it will be small enough to quickly upload to cloud storage, send via email or share via weTransfer.
If not, you can try the settings below to make it even smaller.
Trim the start and end off
TIP: If you don’t need to share the whole video, trimming off the start and end is a fast way to shrink its size. This feature is somewhat hidden in Handbrake and it’s far easier to use in other software, such as Freemake.
To do this in Handbrake, first watch the video and note the time when you want it to start, say 31 seconds and when it needs to end, such as eight minutes, 29 seconds.
Click the Chapters dropdown menu and choose seconds. Now you can enter those times as 00:31:00 and 08:29:00. When you click Start Encode, it will only process that portion of the original video.
Adjust settings manually
Alternatively, you can use the tabs below the Presets menu to configure video settings manually. Under Dimensions you can specify the resolution, but it’s in the Video tab where you can choose the codec and framerate.
The codec is the method used to compress the video and some codecs are more efficient than others. H.264 (x264) is a good choice as it is very compatible, but H.265 will make 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 unwatchable video.
Fortunately, you can click the Preview button in the bar at the top to see what the final video will be like, so you can make any adjustments before you resave the whole video.
TIP: If you’re dealing with a very long video, Handbrake lets you choose what happens when it’s finished compressing your video(s). At the very bottom-right corner, click the When Done: menu and choose your preference.