Due to problems with PE9 freezing (sometimes with a low memory warning) I am thinking of splitting my project into 4 parts, rendering each part separately (in HD to produce an m2t file. Then another project (let's call it FINAL) would import the 4 m2t files to the timeline. This raises some questions:
1. Will I get any loss of quality if I output from FINAL in (a) m2t format for a HD web file, or (b) in PAL DVD format for burning a DVD
2. If I edit the m2t files on the timeline in FINAL will that affect final output quality. If so I should obviously only edit the original part.
3. although I can output the work area only from my entire original project (45 minutes), I would prefer to have 4 short projects. Is there any way of selecting all clips in the work area, or in a certain part of the timeline, without having to do it manually. In other words how can I quickly split my full project into 4 11 minute projects?
If you add effects or transitions in your 'FINAL' project then PRE will re-render - this may result in some quality reduction. Producing a DVD from your hi-res clips will require down-rezzing your clip, so this will certainly reduce the quality.
For your splitting issue use the Disc Menu controls to add markers every eleven minutes. Then set the WorkAreaBar to the first eleven minutes and export that segment (ensure you tick the Share WorkAreaBar Only box). Do this for each segment.
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Every time that one applies compressions, say MPEG, or H.264 with Export, there will be a loss in quality.
If you are on a PC, then it might be useful to look into the Lagarith Lossless CODEC, for your intermediate Exports/Shares.
As for the Resources/Memory issues, there are several useful links in this ARTICLE.
To Export/Share a portion of the Timeline, as Neale says, use the WAB (Work Area Bar). For most Export/Share options, you can limit what is Encoded. Here is a look at the WAB. Note: this screen-cap is from PrE 4.0, but it works the same in all versions: