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Old October 29th, 2009, 04:13 PM   #1
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Best Quality Encoders for FCP

Hello -

Would appreciate any suggestions, and/or first hand experiences, in regards to what Encoding tools / options there are for FCP. I'm seeking Quality over Speed....but of course, would love to have both.

My scenario -

Ingesting formats = h.264, .mov, dv25, Hi-8, VHS
Editing apps = FCS3
Encoding out to = Blu-Ray, h.264, .mov, dv25, .WMV, Flash

And if this has been disscussed in other threads, please point me to there (I did search before I posted this, but I may have missed!!). Also, if there are any sites that have posted reviews about this topic, would appreciate those links as well.

Thanks for any suggestions that you may have.
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Old October 29th, 2009, 05:28 PM   #2
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You can do a lot of what you need to do with Compressor, which comes with Final Cut. The simplest and probably most effective way to expand on that to allow encoding for Flash (although as newer version of Flash can read h.264 you can technically already do that) and WMV would be to look at Episode Encoder from Telestream as it has intergration with Compressor.

A cheaper solution if you are happy doing FLV's as h.264 (I believe all you have to do is rename the .mp4 to .flv and they should still work in Flash) and just need the addition of WMV support I can recommend .WMV support again from Telestream in the form of Flip4Mac WMV Studio Pro HD (or one of the cheaper versions depending on your specific WMV needs.)

If you need to author Blu Rays you will need additional Hardware and software, you will also need some sort of Analogue-Digital converter hardware (or just a firewire capable camera/deck with inputs that that can do end to end playback) to capture your Hi 8 and VHS sources into Final Cut.

If you are doing a LOT h.264 and are on a lower end Mac and require speed, then the elgato turbo h.264 encoding hardware gets a lot of praise, and can be intergrated with compressor also.

Essentially speed is a hardware concern, quality is a software concern (sometimes effected by hardware). It's also a bit about user knowledge and experience, there is both science and art to encoding stuff to some extent, knowing why certain things will encode well in one way but not in another is a pretty huge area of knowledge to get to grips with - so user experience helps a lot too obviously.
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Old October 29th, 2009, 06:51 PM   #3
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What codec are you editing in? SD or HD? Blu-Ray suggests HD but several of the formats you are mentioning are old SD formats. .Mov can be a ton of different settings. dv25 is standard for DV or DVCam capture in programs like iMovie. h264 can be anything from web files to HD.

Suggestions:
Transfer the VHS and Hi8 to DV tape and capture from the DV tape. If you don't have a DV deck or camera that can record analog inputs use an A to D converter like the Canopus ADVC-100. If that's not possible transfer the old tapes to DVD with a DVD recorder and use a free program like MPEG Streamclip to convert the DVD to QuickTime DV/DVCPRO codec files.

FCP will allow you to use most digital files but for editing ease it's recommendable to convert the footage to the codec you are editing in before importing them in FCP.
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Old October 29th, 2009, 06:59 PM   #4
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Compressor is the best all-around encoding engine for the Mac however even in it's latest iteration it still does not do Flash (probably never will since that's an Adobe format) nor is it particularly fast at it's encoding jobs.

Unfortunately the only other competitive product to Compressor 3/3.5 costs more than the FC Studio suite: Episode Pro Desktop. It's quality of encodes across the board are as good and often better than Compressor can provide but, it's also up to 4x times faster than Compressor, especially with MPEG-2 program or transport stream encodes.

Unless you have extra room in your budget to afford Episode and benefit from it's blistering speed there's no reason to look elsewhere than Compressor.
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Old October 29th, 2009, 08:30 PM   #5
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Another vote for Compressor. I tried Episode (free download) and wasn't that impressed.

The "trick" is learning Compressor, it's not that intuitive at first. But once you get over the hump, you'll be happy with it. Post any specific questions you have and I'll try and help.

You should be easily able to work with all those formats. Some of them (h.264) you'd have to convert to something else (ProRes) before editing.

Flash is no big deal either. The latest version of Flash does MP4 (H.264) so you can use compressor to create the MP4 file and then just change the extension to FLV and it will open in Flash.

The only addition I'd make is Telestream's Flip4Mac WMV Studio plug-in for Quicktime. WMV is a very widely accepted format on the internet and being able to easily create WMV files within any Quicktime application (FCP, Compressor, QT Pro, etc...) is very efficient.

Good luck! :)
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Old October 30th, 2009, 12:33 AM   #6
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How about Sorenson's Squeeze Pro.....in terms of quality and speed?

... also, anybody use / know of DV Kitchen's encoding tool?
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Old October 30th, 2009, 06:23 AM   #7
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Andrew

A Matrox MXO2 Mini w/ MAX hardware will set you back about 850 USD (check out the Videoguys page here: Videoguys Blog - Matrox MXO2 Mini - Great Things DO Come in Small Packages!)

Thats a cross platform hardware I/O box that'll allow you to capture from (and output to) many video devices new and old alike. Its a powerful little box. The MAX tech included will also allow you to do high speed and high quality hardware encoding to the ubiquitous H264 format ie its got you covered for Blu-Ray, h.264 and Flash. The built in hardware and software you have with your Mac/FCS bundle will handle everything else you note with ease, save for WMV export ... for that check out the Flip4Mac WMV package that best suits your needs:
Telestream Flip4Mac WMV - Overview

Best
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Old October 30th, 2009, 11:12 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Clark View Post
How about Sorenson's Squeeze Pro.....in terms of quality and speed?

... also, anybody use / know of DV Kitchen's encoding tool?
DV Kitchen is great for making h264/iPod/Flash/wmv files. Worth the money. It's not for converting to FCB edit ready files.
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Old October 30th, 2009, 12:40 PM   #9
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These days, I mostly make MP4 files for web delivery. The quality difference with different programs is dramatic to say the least. This is how I rank them in quality in reverse order.

4. Compressor - this thing generates absolutely atrocious low-bit rate MP4 files. Don't even bother with this for that. If you buy an FLV encoder you make decent FLV files with Compressor

3. Squeeze - the quality is average, but the speed is slow.

2. MPEG Streamclip - about the same quality as Squeeze, but faster compression. Make sure to use "Better Downscaling". I don't know why this does a better job than Compressor since they both use Apple's H.264 engine, but it does. Plus, it's a free program.

1. MainConcept Reference - this blows all the others out of the water. It can generate similar quality at 1/2 to 1/3 the bit rate of the others. Plus, it's fast (especially single-pass). It's a little pricey at $600 alone for MP4 exporting, but worth it if MP4's are your delivery format.
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Old October 30th, 2009, 06:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Mees View Post
....Thats a cross platform hardware I/O box that'll allow you to capture from (and output to) many video devices new and old alike. Its a powerful little box. The MAX tech included will also allow you to do high speed and high quality hardware encoding to the ubiquitous H264 format ie its got you covered for Blu-Ray, h.264 and Flash......
Hey Andy (great name by the way!!)

Do you have this? If so, what's your take on the quality of the encodes vs. Compressor alone? I would assume the speed is probably there since it's hardware based.
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Old October 30th, 2009, 06:54 PM   #11
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You can also buy one of these and accomplish the same quick H.264 encoding times.

Elgato Turbo.264 HD

I think they sell for $125 on Amazon.
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Old October 30th, 2009, 09:30 PM   #12
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Quote:
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.....4. Compressor - this thing generates absolutely atrocious low-bit rate MP4 files. Don't even bother with this for that. If you buy an FLV encoder you make decent FLV files with Compressor
** Yes, I've been reading over in the Apple forums about users noticing that 3.5 is worse than the 3.0 version of Compressor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett Sherman View Post
.....2. MPEG Streamclip - about the same quality as Squeeze, but faster compression. Make sure to use "Better Downscaling". I don't know why this does a better job than Compressor since they both use Apple's H.264 engine, but it does. Plus, it's a free program.
** Free is good...especially if the quality is good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett Sherman View Post
1. MainConcept Reference - this blows all the others out of the water. It can generate similar quality at 1/2 to 1/3 the bit rate of the others. Plus, it's fast (especially single-pass). It's a little pricey at $600 alone for MP4 exporting, but worth it if MP4's are your delivery format.
** Pricey?! Yes, just a bit....but as the saying goes.....you get what you pay for (most of the time.)

Thanks for the info. Brett; much appreciate it.
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Old October 30th, 2009, 09:34 PM   #13
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DV Kitchen is great for making h264/iPod/Flash/wmv files. Worth the money. It's not for converting to FCB edit ready files.
** Pardon my lack of knowledge here regarding acronyms....but what are "FCB" files?
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Old October 31st, 2009, 03:48 AM   #14
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>Do you have this? If so, what's your take on the quality of the encodes vs. Compressor alone? I would assume the speed is probably there since it's hardware based.

Yes I do ... or rather I've got it's bigger brother, the MXO2 MAX, and have been very very happy with the very impressive encoding quality, speed and flexibility. Yes, better than Compressor alone in some cases, but the beauty of this thing is it doesn't have to just be "better than" as it works "in combination with" too ... so if a particular subject matter warrants using Compressor's Frame Control's you can use those controls together with the MAX hardware.

Best
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Old October 31st, 2009, 12:46 PM   #15
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Although I have not used it a ton yet, I have to agree with the Matrox Max technology. You can get it the way Andy recommends with the MXO2 or MXO2 Mini or if you don't need the additional capability that thos devices provide you can get the CompressHD card, which is a PCIe card you install in your Mac.

The benefits to purchasing the Max technology in the MXO2 is that you can also use it with a MacBook Pro.

As far as quality, speed and usability go, I have a Qmaster with 48 cores available to Compressor for rendering, and the CompressHD card easily and significantly outperforms it. Part of the reason is that .h264 encoding doesn't seem to be "shared" between cores the same way that an MP4 file is. When I view the activity monitor when encoding Mpeg4 all the CPU's are maxed out, but when viewing during an .h264 encode sometime they are but not usually.

I'm just starting to experiment with Blu-ray so I don't really have anything to report yet but we are starting to do all of our encoding for the web, wireless and Apple devices using this card. I'm not a web guy and apparently there are some resolutions they would like that this card doesn't support, however for the majority of the ones it does support not only is this card faster but the quality is as good as Compressor if not better.

The cool thing about usability is that its integrated into Compressor, if you know how to use compressor you know how to use CompressHD. You can create droplets for Compressor as you might normally with the CompressHD seetings and off you go.

I know it must sound like I'm trying to sell this thing, I'm not. It's just that for something that works so well for a little over $400USD its like a ShamWOW - it sells itself. Of coarse as I'm sitting here typing this the Blu-ray encode that I started in compressor that has taken 13 hours and 31 minutes appears to have crashed, oops, maybe not it seems to be going again. Can't wait to try the same with CompressHD...
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