22 Replies Latest reply on Apr 9, 2013 2:47 PM by al998

    Premiere h264 Encoder quality

    Matt Paintin Level 1

      I dare say this has been covered to a greater or lesser extent before but here goes.....

       

      Im on Premiere Pro CS5 and I am trying to export a movie as an h264 quicktime and predictably the quality suffers even on highest quality.

      Specifically my colours become somewhat de-saturated.

       

      As I understand it (and before everyone jumps on me) this is partly/mainly down to type of h264 encoder that comes with PP.

       

      But hey, this is a forum where the guys with the knowledge can help out those without it, so I was wondering if there were any other h264 encoders that can work through PP

      and give much more faithful results (and preferably at a low file size).

      Failing that, are there any h264 encoders that are standalone that people can recommend (preferably free).

      Probably a tall order, but if you dont ask you dont get

       

      Ive tried other codecs from PP but they all seem to fall down on something and I just thought by now it would be possible to get some great economic, lossless results right out of Premiere.

       

      Thanks

        • 1. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
          Harm Millaard Level 7

          Use H.264, not H.264 Quicktime.

          • 2. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
            Matt Paintin Level 1

            Thanks Harm

             

            Definitely an improvement

             

            Matt

            • 3. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
              Matt Paintin Level 1

              ......But on closer inspection everything looks as though the brightness has been increased ...

              It kind of ruins the grade Ive had added to the footage.....

               

              So which codecs either native to Premiere (or otherwise) give a faithful compressed version of the source material?

              • 4. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                Harm Millaard Level 7

                How did you compare the source and the result? On a properly calibrated professional monitor? The program monitor is not suitable to judge quality.

                • 5. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                  Matt Paintin Level 1

                  Thanks Harm.

                  No it wasnt on a calibrated monitor.

                  The problem is that this compressed version will ulimately be ditributed via the web (direct to clients for viewing rather than via You Tube and the like) and will only be seen on a program monitor

                   

                  This being the case it seems reasonable to me to expect a compressed version to look the pretty much the same as the source. Calibrated monitor or not, the h264 version is clearly different.

                  • 6. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                    Dave Merchant MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                    On an uncalibrated hardware system it's very hard to know what "the correct color" is by comparing what you see, but Premiere Pro is not color-managed (After Effects is). What you see on the monitor windows in PP may not reflect the "correct" colors in the source footage, but if you push the footage into AE, what you see in there should be "more accurate". I say that in quotes as of course if your monitor is uncalibrated it won't display the true colors, but it will be a closer relative match to the source. In very color-sensitive grading workflows it's normal to export via AE, using a color-managed workflow (note that while AE is capable of sending color-managed projects right through export, it's not enabled by default - you have to set the output profiles in the comp).

                     

                    If you have After Effects, comparing your exported H.264 file to the source footage in both PP and AE, which is closer?

                    • 7. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                      Matt Paintin Level 1

                      Thanks for your reply Dave.

                       

                      I have brought the source footage into both Premiere and AE to compare against each other and to the eye they look identical to me.

                      The compressed version is noticeably lighter than both of them.

                      I do not say for one minute that my monitor is fine and dandy, but surely viewing on one consistant piece of hardware would at least be a reasonable way of assessing the footage as a starting point.

                       

                      I understand what has been said by you and Harm but nevertheless the compressed footage and source footage are noticeably different.

                      The h264 is different enough to be unrepresentative of the source footage.

                       

                      I would venture to suggest that this is a result of the compression. 'Correct colour' or not, the footage is undoubtedly suffering once compressed.

                      • 8. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                        Conrad C Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                        I'm going to ask the viewing question from another angle since I ran into this same issue the other day.

                         

                        What software were you using to evaluate the exported H.264 footage?

                         

                        Here's why I ask. When my H.264 export looked weak and desaturated, one of the suggestions I found on Google was to see what it looks like in a different player. I tried a few of the ones I've got, and here are the results, using Premiere Pro CS5.5 as the reference:

                         

                        Premiere Pro: Adding exported footage back into project and viewing it in the source monitor next to the program monitor, they look the same.

                        VLC: Matches Premiere Pro

                        RealPlayer: Matches Premiere Pro

                        NicePlayer: Matches Premiere Pro

                        Apple QuickTime Player 10.0 in Snow Leopard: Looks different: desaturated with lower contrast and funky color shift

                        Uploaded to Vimeo: Matches Premiere Pro

                         

                        Well, there's a clear pattern there...if every player matches Premiere Pro except Apple's, maybe there's nothing wrong with the Premiere Pro H.264 output at all. Maybe it's a problem with playback in QuickTime Player or the QuickTime component (there's something called the QuickTime Gamma Bug that turned up when I was searching on Google, but I don't know how closely this is related). If so, that means the H.264 output file you're worried about is actually just fine.

                         

                        As a result, I've started to use VLC to evaluate exported footage. (I was using QuickTime Player before.)

                         

                        That's why I'm curious what you were using to view your exported clip, if it's consistent with what I found, and if others can reproduce the same results. Have you test uploaded that file to your online video host, and does it still look wrong when played back there?

                         

                        By the way, I don't think a calibrated monitor is absolutely critical for this specific issue, because if you are viewing the same footage in two windows on the same monitor, they should look the same (assuming the windows are being rendered the same way). Because an uncalibrated monitor wouldn't alter just one window. If the monitor was a bit off, you should still be able to do a valid side-by-side comparison because both windows on that monitor should be off by the same amount. It just wouldn't be able to show you whether you're looking at good colors in the first place.

                        • 9. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                          Jim_Simon Level 8

                          if you are viewing the same footage in two windows on the same monitor, they should look the same (assuming the windows are being rendered the same way).

                           

                          There's the rub.  You really can't assume that.  Players have control over video rendering, and they may not always render the same.  That's why you really do need a properly calibrated TV (not a computer monitor) for quality control.

                          • 10. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                            Matt Paintin Level 1

                            Thanks for your input guys.

                             

                            I have to say this seems to be another one of those simple issues that has become uneccessarily complicated.

                             

                            Conrad you are correct. I opened my exported footage in Windows media player and the result matched my sourced footage. No washed out colours or gamma. It looked great.

                             

                            As I suspected monitor calibration was not the issue here. To me that was just throwing another uneccessary variable into the mix. Dont get me wrong, a calbrated monitor is a valued piece of kit but that isnt whats going on here.

                            Viewing the source and the h264 together on the same monitor should look the same even if the monitor is poorly calibrated.

                             

                            To me it does raise the question: what are Apple up to? This is basic stuff surely?

                            I am on Windows (as are many many people) so perhaps that has something to do with it (although it shouldnt.)

                             

                            The problem now is to get people to view my film in something other than QT. Terrific.

                             

                            Sorry to rant but this kind of thing does frustrate me.

                            • 11. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                              Jim_Simon Level 8

                              You can't control what people use to watch the media, just as you can't control whether or not someone's display is properly calibrated.  All you can do is your job correctly.  If it looks bad for someone else, it's their fault and their responsibility to fix it.  That's the same situiation we're all in, even Hollywood.

                              • 12. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                Conrad C Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                Matt Paintin wrote:

                                 

                                I opened my exported footage in Windows media player and the result matched my sourced footage. No washed out colours or gamma. It looked great...To me it does raise the question: what are Apple up to? This is basic stuff surely?...I am on Windows (as are many many people) so perhaps that has something to do with it (although it shouldnt.)

                                Windows is probably not part of the problem. I'm on Macs and see the same thing.

                                Matt Paintin wrote:

                                The problem now is to get people to view my film in something other than QT. Terrific.

                                Earlier you said the final will be distributed on the Web on sites like YouTube. As I asked earlier, have you tested how your H.264 output looks there? In my own upload test, it looked good on YouTube and Vimeo, even on a Mac. You might not have your problem if the web-based video players don't use QuickTime. (I don't technically know whether they do.) Try going to a PC where you know QuickTime has never been installed, and see how your H.264 looks when played back from YouTube, etc. For a more thorough test, also check it under both the Flash and HTML5 players offered by YouTube, Vimeo, etc. If the appearance continues to match Premiere Pro, you can relax a bit.

                                 

                                At that point, your only problem would be if your clients had a specific need to download the files locally and play them back in QuickTime Player.

                                • 13. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                  Dave Knarr Level 1

                                  Hi Matt,

                                   

                                  I had the same problem with exporting h.264 and here is the fix that worked for me.

                                   

                                  When you are exporting, click on the Video tab and scroll down to Advanced Settings.

                                   

                                  Check the Key frame every X frames box.
                                  Then set the frames to 30 (or to the frame rate you are using rounded up to a whole number)

                                   

                                  Also, make sure you have Use Maximum Render Quality checked.

                                   

                                  This fixed the problem for me.   I believe Colin who is on these forum pointed me in the right direction.

                                   

                                  Dave

                                  Studio 1 Productions

                                  • 14. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                    Matt Paintin Level 1

                                    I agree with you Jim, with regards to how people view it. We cant control that. However this is a problem with Quicktime. We at least want our work to start off looking as we intended it to.

                                    • 15. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                      Matt Paintin Level 1

                                      Thanks Conrad.

                                      Yup its a Quicktime thing. The tests are consistent with the problems you experienced.

                                      My short film will be doing the rounds at production companies very soon and in some part it will definitely be viewed via quicktime, its unavoidable. Some have already asked me to email it to them once completed.

                                      I think we are all too gracious about making concessions and finding work arounds for tech issues like this.

                                       

                                      The bottom line is that it should work, period.

                                      • 16. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                        Matt Paintin Level 1

                                        Hi Dave

                                         

                                        Thanks for your reply.

                                        I gave those settings a whirl but unfortunately I still have the same gamma issue.

                                         

                                        Thanks anyway

                                        • 17. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                          Jim_Simon Level 8

                                          We at least want our work to start off looking as we intended it to.

                                           

                                          And if one doesn't use the QuickTime player (a proposition I'm highly in favor of on principle alone), it does.

                                           

                                          But you just can't control what player people will use.  And unless you're a programmer in Cupertino, you can't control the flaws in QuickTime.

                                           

                                          So, there's really nothing can be done here.

                                          • 18. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                            Dave Merchant MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                            Actually, it depends on how you send the file (i.e. what your recipients are demanding you send, vs. what you want to send).

                                             

                                            If you embed your H.264 footage into a PDF file for example, then it will ALWAYS play using Flash Player, or not at all. If the recipient has Adobe Reader 9 or higher they can watch it, if not not; but Quicktime never gets a toe in, even on a Mac.

                                             

                                            We use videos embedded in PDFs all the time to distribute comps, as not only will it avoid strange external player effects like the QT gamma bug, but people can draw timestamped comments direct onto the video, we get our idents and clip info on the surrounding page, and we can even DRM the thing if need be.

                                             

                                            Course some people insist on "a MOV file", and in that case you're at the mercy of the elements.

                                             

                                            Jim Simon wrote:

                                             

                                            We at least want our work to start off looking as we intended it to.

                                             

                                            And if one doesn't use the QuickTime player (a proposition I'm highly in favor of on principle alone), it does.

                                             

                                            But you just can't control what player people will use.  And unless you're a programmer in Cupertino, you can't control the flaws in QuickTime.

                                             

                                            So, there's really nothing can be done here.

                                            • 19. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                              Matt Paintin Level 1

                                              Thanks for the ongoing discussion guys

                                               

                                              The idea of embedding the QT into a PDF or similar is one possible solution Dave.

                                               

                                              It just seems to be an uneccessary step to take and as you say many people insist on a mov file.

                                              When you consider the popularity of both quicktime and the h264 format I wouldnt have thought it too much to expect Apple to iron out a bug that I'm sure that they are aware of.

                                               

                                              Yes its true, we cant control which player people use, but I would suggest that is more reason to have one of the more popular ones (Quicktime) working as it should.

                                               

                                              As you say Jim....there is nothing we can do........

                                              • 20. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                                graphicsdump Level 1

                                                In my recent tests, it seems to be a problem with ProRes, h.264, photo-jpeg viewed through QT - washed out, gamma shift. This is an old thread...anyone found a solution yet?

                                                • 21. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                                  Jim_Simon Level 8

                                                  Same as before.

                                                   

                                                  Don't use QuickTime...for anything.

                                                  • 22. Re: Premiere h264 Encoder quality
                                                    al998

                                                    For what it's worth, I often use Debugmode FrameServer to send the raw data and encode my files with TMPGEnc.  I find the quality in things with lots of motion (like water) to be much higher even at the same bitrate.

                                                     

                                                    Debugmode: http://www.debugmode.com/frameserver/

                                                    TMPGEnc: http://www.tmpgenc.net/en/index.html

                                                     

                                                    I've been doing this since CS3 with consistently better quality than Adobe's Media Encoder.  Of course AME if much faster, and easier to batch with, so I still use it most of the time.  I only use the Debugmode/TMPGEnc workflow when there's something that just keeps coming out ugly.