What Does "Bitrate" Mean on a Video?


When downloading video from the Internet or ripping video from a disc to your computer, you may have the option to choose a different bitrate. Even DVDs have specific bitrates. As technology has progressed, video media has been able to achieve higher quality -- as is the case with high-definition DVDs -- and this is done by increasing the bitrate of the video.


  • Bitrate, sometimes known as" bit rate," is the term that is used to define the compression of audio, video or other multimedia in terms of the amount of data -- measured in bits -- per unit of time on that media. The bitrate is the ratio of quality to time. Bitrate is frequently also measured in kilobits or megabits per second.


  • Video with a higher bitrate will have a larger file size. Thus, it will take longer to download or stream from the Internet and to upload to a device or computer -- and you can burn fewer videos to DVD. However, a higher bitrate is typically indicative of higher quality. Thus, your video may be clearer and crisper. When searching for a video, or importing video to computer from a DVD or camera, choose the higher bitrate for higher quality. However, if space is your main concern, choose the lower bitrate when downloading or compressing video files.

Bitrate Factors

  • Videos will have various bitrates, depending on several factors. For example, the source material may have more depth and quality, thus producing higher bitrate. High-definition movies have a higher bitrate than standard definition, for example. Different video file types have differing bitrates and you can also choose between multiple bitrates for the same file. For example, iTunes allows you to compress audio files that have a bitrate higher than 128 kilobytes per second to save space on your iPod.

Standard Bitrates

  • Most standard definition DVDs have a maximum bitrate of 9.8 megabits. High-definition television has a bitrate range between eight and 15 megabits per second while the standard for 720p high-definition video is approximately 19 megabits per second. As of the time of publication, Blu-Ray DVDs have the highest bitrate of all consumer videos with a maximum of 40 megabits per second. This makes the content of Blu-Ray DVDs more than four times that of standard DVDs.

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