Amazon’s new Video Direct allows indie access to sell & rent content via Amazon Prime

Unlike its prior indie access via CreateSpace, Amazon’s Video Direct is done perfectly.


Amazon has just launched its new Video Direct. This new access allows independent video producers to upload and earn royalties for sales or rentals via Amazon Prime, which is called Amazon Premium in some regions. This service competes with Vimeo’s On Demand, which was launched in 2013, and I covered since its original announcement in 2012. Ahead you’ll see Amazon Video Direct’s spatial resolutions, framerates, formats, obligatory closed captions (in English or Castilian) and art.

General tech specs for Amazon Video Direct

Amazon Video Direct currently supports spatial video resolutions up to 1920x1080p. (4K/UHD content isn’t supported at this time.) Their software automatically adjusts the delivery streams to a resolution appropriate to the customer’s device and connection speed. If you submit a 1080p HD video, and a customer streams it in SD, Amazon Video Direct automatically adjusts it for that customer.

Video requirements

Here are the published video requirements:

  • Source files must not contain bars and tone, test patterns, production slates, textless material, or any other non-program content.
  • All video assets uploaded to Amazon Video Direct must have a progressive scan type. If your video master contains interlace, you must deinterlace it (convert it to progressive) before uploading.
  • The file header must accurately describe the display aspect ratio of the content. Anamorphic sources must include accurate 4:3 or 16:9 display aspect ratio flags.


See the File formats section ahead.

Spatial resolutions

For SD (standard definition), Amazon Video direct accepts:

  • 640×480 (4:3 aspect ratio)
  • 640×360 (16:9 aspect ratio)

For HD (high definition) Amazon Video direct accepts:

  • 1280×720 (16:9 aspect ratio)
  • 1920×1080 (16:9 aspect ratio)


Amazon Video Direct supports video sources with the following framerates: 23.976, 24, 25, 29.97, and even the non-standard 30 frames per second (fps). There is no requirement to perform framerate conversion on your content to meet specific regional broadcast standards. For best results, it’s best to export your videos at the same framerate at which the content was edited.

Audio requirements

  • All audio tracks in a source must be in the same language.
  • The soundtrack must only contain program audio. Remove music and effects, silent tracks, MOS, commentary, and any other non-program audio prior to uploading to Amazon Video Direct.
  • Audio duration and video duration must match.
  • All embedded audio must meet one of the following channel configurations:
    • 1-Channel Mono
    • 2-Channel Stereo: Left-Right
    • 6-Channel 5.1 Surround Sound: Left-Right-Center-LFE-Left Surround-Right Surround
    • 8-Channel 5.1 Surround Sound + Stereo: Left-Right-Center-LFE-Left Surround-Right Surround-Left Stereo Total-Right Stereo Total

File formats

Amazon Video Direct recommends exporting your video in one of three formats.

ProRes 422

  • Supported containers: MOV
  • Profile: HQ
  • Recommended bitrate for HD Resolution: 220 Mbps
  • Recommended bitrate for SD Resolution: 110 Mbps
  • Key frame interval: Not applicable. ProRes files are i-Frame only.
  • Audio Format: PCM
  • Recommended Audio Bitrate: lossless, sample rate: 48 kHz


  • Supported containers: MPG, MPEG, M2P, M2T, M2TS, TS
  • Profile: Main
  • Recommended bitrate for HD Resolution: 80 Mbps
  • Recommended bitrate for SD Resolution: 50 Mbps
  • Key frame interval: 1-second or less. I-Frame only preferred.
  • Audio format: PCM or MPEG Layer II
  • Recommended bitrate for PCM Audio:◦ 5.1 – Lossless, Sample Rate: 48 kHz
    • Stereo – Lossless, Sample Rate: 48 kHz
  • Recommended bitrate for MPEG Layer II Audio:◦ 5.1 – Data Rate: 768 Kbps, Sample Rate: 48 kHz
    • Stereo – Bitrate: 384 Kbps, Sample Rate: 48 kHz


  • Supported Containers: MP4, M2T, TS Note: H.264 video in MOV wrappers isn’t supported.
  • Profile: High
  • Recommended bitrate for HD resolution: 30 Mbps
  • Recommended Bitrate for SD Resolution: 15 Mbps
  • Key frame interval: 2 seconds (or less)
  • Audio Format: AC-3 or AAC
  • Recommended bitrate for AC-3 Audio:◦  5.1 – Bitrate: 448 Kbps, Sample Rate: 48 kHz
    • Stereo – Bitrate: 192 Kbps, Sample Rate: 48 kHz
  • Recommended Bitrate for AAC Audio:◦ 5.1 – Bitrate: 768 Kbps, Sample rate: 48 kHz
    • Stereo – Bitrate: 320 Kbps, Sample rate: 48 kHz

Caption (timed text) Information

Amazon describes itself as “a customer obsessed company”, and strives for a consistent experience for all customers. Amazon Video Direct requires English captions on all videos published in the United States, but adds that Castilian may certainly be substituted for Castilian-language content. Captions are also required for all Amazon Prime titles worldwide, except Japan.

All captions files must conform to match the video source.

  • All timed text assets must start with zero-hour time code. Assets that don’t adhere to this won’t display at the correct time.
  • All timed text assets must be UTF-8 encoded. Amazon Video doesn’t support character encoding other than UTF-8.
  • Forced narratives and other text events required to understand the program narrative must be burned-in to the video mezzanine in the native language of the country the content will be distributed in.

What are forced narratives?
Forced Narratives are subtitles that translate spoken dialogue or text that isn’t in the primary language of the video, and therefore need translation and shown to all viewers whether captions are turn on or off. An example would be a movie where French sailors speak French. English is the primary language of the movie, but these characters speak in French, requiring Forced Narrative text onscreen translating the French dialogue for all viewers.

  • If the video source being delivered doesn’t contain localized audio, then text for both forced narrative and dialogue events must be burned-in to the video. An example of this would be a Japanese feature film delivered for distribution in the UK.
  • If you have both captions and subtitles available for a title, Amazon Video Direct prefers to receive Closed Captions/SDH to improve the viewing experience for customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Closed Captions

The following Closed Captions formats are accepted by Amazon Video Direct:

  • SCC (Scenarist Closed Caption) with a .scc file extension
  • SMPTE-TT (RP-2052) with a .xml file extension
  • EBU-TT with a .xml file extension
  • DFXP Full/TTML (Timed Text Markup Language) with a .dfxp file extension
  • iTT (iTunes Timed Text) files with a .iTT file extension

Amazon Video Direct requires English captions on all videos published in the United States, but adds that Castilian may certainly be substituted for Castilian-language content.


The following subtitle formats are accepted:

  • DFXP Full / TTML (Timed Text Markup Language) with a .dfxp file extension
  • iTT (iTunes Timed Text) files with a .iTT file extension. iTT is a subset of TTML, version 1.0.
  • SubRip  with a .srt file extension

Caption Frame Rates and Drop/Non-Drop Values

The following caption frame rates and drop/non-drop values are supported:

• 23.98

• 24

• 25

• 30

• 29.97DF (Drop Frame)

• 29.97NDF (Non-Drop Frame)

Art requirements

Standalone and episodic titles

  • Key art The image used to represent your title in search results, and title detail pages. On many devices where Amazon Video is available, Amazon Video displays cover art for standalone content (movies, featurettes, etc.) in a 3:4 aspect ratio; we display cover art for serialized content (TV shows, web series, etc.) in a 4:3 aspect ratio. To ensure future flexibility, Amazon also requires title artwork in 16:9 aspect ratio for both standalone and serialized images. Amazon asks we submit .jpg or .png file format images at the following dimensions:
    • Standalone titles   1200×1600 (3:4)
    • Episodic titles   1600×1200 (4:3)
    • Both standalone and episodic titles   1920 x 1080 (16:9)
  • Background images These appear on device detail screens. These images convey the mood of your content. Amazon requests submitting .jpg or .png file format images at 1920×1080 resolution.

Add-on subscriptions

You must submit four media images. Two Adobe Photoshop templates are provided to assist you in creating subscription images. Amazon highly recommends that you use these templates to ensure that automatic text placement and art won’t create undesired results.

  • Branding images Two branding images (3000×600 and 1920×1280) are required and must be layered with at least 72 DPI resolution. Amazon ask us to choose art that best represents the genre/brand overall, as this art will be used on all merchandising placements. The files provided should match in subject—Amazon says not to provide one version for the 3000×600 and a different version for 1920×1080.
  • Logo files Two logo files are required—one each in full color and single color. Logo files must be vector graphics (.ai, .eps, .svg). The .jpg file format isn’t acceptable. Amazon says to outline all fonts. Backgrounds should be completely transparent.

I am glad Amazon now offers its Video Direct. I am surprised Amazon didn’t offer it several years ago.

For more information about Amazon Direct video, click here.

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No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs.

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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…