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You need QuickTime Pro to fix this--it's a legacy thing that Apple put into QuickTime DV a long time ago and have never removed/reset as computers got faster. Basically, you need to enable the "high quality" setting for QT DV. Silly, huh?
With the clip/movie loaded in QT Player Pro, open up "Show Movie Properties" (under the Window menu in Windows, not sure on Mac). Select the video track in the list of tracks displayed, and then find the tab that lets you enable the HQ flag. Once you check it, all of sudden the video will look clear and sharp. Unfortunately, you need to do this for EVERY. SINGLE. CLIP. Genius.
Hope that helps...
Command-J on a MAC
BTW - follow Colins instruction but dont forget to "SAVE"
Thanks for that reminder, Craig--I forgot about that part. It's been awhile since I've had to do that, since PPro and Squeeze (on Windows) don't seem to care if the flag is set or not; they default to high quality, regardless.
Thank you both for the help. I tried what you suggested and it did, indeed, make the clip look much better. But even with that it still didn't look as good as the same clip compressed using the h.264 codec or using mpeg4 compression. Is that only because I'm looking at it on a computer?
Would there be no difference (or even possibly lower quality) once it shows up on the cable channels using either of those over the DV/DVCPRO - NTSC compression?
Well, my guess would be that you're witnessing the artifacts of displaying interlaced video on a progressive display. The DV codec is interlaced by its nature, and your computer screen is progressive by its nature. Typically, interlaced video will not look its best on a computer screen, and that's why you'll always hear recommendations of previewing your interlaced material on a properly calibrated NTSC/PAL display. It's just too difficult to judge problems with interlaced footage on a computer screen.
I imagine that the difference you're seeing between the DV export and the H.264 export is that the latter was deinterlaced, and therefore looks "better" on a computer screen. That said, it's not going to look good on a television, which is the intended output. And, I'd bet dimes to donuts that your cable company would scream bloody murder if you sent them an H.264 encoded video in an MP4 container--they just won't know what to do with it. Believe me--I've tried. Send them that DV MOV, and your life will be much better :)