Pick Your YouTube Thumbnails

YouTube LogoI was asked by The Ripper, “I want to be able to pick the thumbnails used on YouTube. I’ve tried the math tricks for picking You Tube Thumbnails and they don’t work. How do you do it?”

Well Ripper, YouTube has made it hard for me to analyze this process completely by not allowing duplicate video uploads, but I did learn a good bit. And, I did find a way to increase the odds that you get a nice YouTube Thumbnail or Poster Frame using some common sense.

Tricks that Don’t Allow you to Pick YouTube Thumbnails

Many website’s are reporting that you just need to perform some simple math. Neither of these techniques work!

Take the length of your video (LOV) and then:

  • 1St Thumbnail Time = LOV / 4
  • 2nd Thumbnail Time = 2 * (LOV / 4)
  • 3rd Thumbnail Time = 3 * (LOV / 4)

This doesn’t work! Others have stated that there is always a thumbnail at the exact midpoint of the video. This is also not true. Others have stated, the thumbnails are picked based off of:

  • Sound changes = False
  • Dramatic color changes = Maybe true?
  • Video transitions = False
  • Video effects = False
  • Limited number of colors on frame = False

Analyzing My Video and YouTube Thumbnails

  • My video was 2 minutes and 1 second in length (You can see it above)
  • The first thumbnail was found at the 7 second mark
  • The second thumbnail was found at the 1 minute 13 second mark
  • The third thumbnail was found at the 1 minute 45 second mark

Some Odd Things I Found

If the web address of your video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNNI_ErlAko for example. Your thumbnails can be found at:

Also, oddly enough the second thumbnail chosen from this video upload contained a photo of a dog that was picked previously as a thumbnail. This is why I think a dramatic change in color may effect the thumbnail chosen by You Tube?

Are Thumbnails Chosen at Random?

I think this is likely. The first reason I believe this, is because YouTube has stated they pick the Thumbnails pretty much randomly. Also I ran the times through some math programs and they:

  • Don’t follow a holonomic sequence ( Meaning they don’t follow a pattern )
  • Are only commonly divisible by 1 ( A pretty good sign that they are random )

How Come Some People Seem to Be Able to Pick their Thumbnails

If you become a YouTube Partner, you gain the ability to pick your own thumbnail’s. To become a YouTube partner you need to get at least 10,000 views per day. Good luck with that. If you want to increase your odds watch How to Video Blog.

Common Sense Way to Get Nice YouTube Thumbnails

Follow the techniques used by Ze Frank one of the greatest video bloggers ever. You can see him in the How to Video Blog article. Use a bunch of cool looking images in your video. If you use enough, chances are one will show up to be used as a thumbnail.

That’s All Folk’s

I hope that helped you get some nice thumbnails in your YouTube video’s. If you have a question on any other subject, leave it in the comment section below this article.

Here to Serve

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2 Responses to “Pick Your YouTube Thumbnails”

  1. Arun says:

    Hi thanks for this great article! I thought I was going mad when my 1/2way and 1/4way frames weren’t being offered as thumbs!

    Is it perhaps to do with the length of time an image is on screen for I didn’t check, but in your vid are each of the images on screen for an equal amount of time? Obviously the last one is on for much longer so it is not surprising it is offered as a thumb.

    It would make sense if YT want the most relevant image to the video to be a thumb then whatever 3 images or shots take up the most amount of time on the video are the thumbnails!

    • admin says:

      I’ve had some math gurus take a crack at figuring the YouTube formula out and they came to the conclusion that thumbnails are picked randomly. They haven’t been able to crack the formula because their actually is no such thing as random in the computer world. Everything is a formula.

      Like you said though, you would increase the chance that your image shows up as a thumbnail by just keeping it on the screen for a longer period of time. You are just playing the odds here. My math buddies don’t think the YouTube thumbnail picker pays any attention to any images, transitions, brightness, movement, etc.

      It comes down to this. If you want to increase the odds that your thumbnail is interesting, use interesting images in your video. Sorry, but that’s all I have at this time.

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