I have a new strategy for optimizing video for YouTube. It's a two-stage process but results in movies that are tiny in terms of file size but look great online and stream effortlessly.
For some time now I've been trying to take into account YouTube's own guidelines for compression from Final Cut Pro (FCP). The resulting files were bloated and with our low-bandwidth "broadband" connection would have meant hours of upload time as well as aborted uploads.
The New Strategy
Recently I started to edit some old footage taken with the Canon XL-1 camera. It's standard definition footage (SD 720x576 pixels) but looks fine when exported from FCP at 1024x768 pixels. When I export I choose NO COMPRESSION. This results in a massive file, of course. The example here, Torre Archirafi at Sunrise, has a duration of 2:14 and the uncompressed export from FCP weighed in at 7.39 GB and a data rate of 473.82 Mbits/s. No worries!
The next step is to open the beast in QuickTime Pro and to export "Movie to MPEG4". Now click on the Options button and choose H264 compression, optimized for streaming, and keyframe "automatic". In this example, the resulting exported file was only 28.82 MB with a data rate of just 1686 kbits/s. And it looks great, even after YouTube have mucked about with it.