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Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings

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Jeremy Collins
Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 29, 2010 at 2:20:09 am

Hello,
I have a two hour film that I want to export from Final Cut Pro to a SD DVD. From what I have read, the best technique is to export from FCP to a Quicktime Movie, Then take that movie into compressor, chose the closest preset to DVD, alter it if necessary, render that out, then bring it into DVD Studio Pro and export it out.

Here is my problem:

I exported to a Quicktime Movie from FCP fine. The file is 22 GB, looks and sounds very clean. However, Compressor is where I lose all quality. I choose the SD DVD 120minutes preset, but since it still exports the files about 500 MB too large for a DVD (actual vs. binary size differences), I have to play with settings. I calculated it out and lowered the data rates, both average and max to shrink the file size. The file renders to about 4.2 GB, which works perfect for a DVD, but the quality is now horrible.

What is the best workflow to achieve the greatest final quality? I think my process is correct (I may be wrong, please correct my if I am), but are there certain settings in Compressor to maximize quality?

Any input is appreciated! Thanks in advance and have a great day!


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Daniel Low
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 29, 2010 at 3:41:06 pm

[Jeremy Collins] "What is the best workflow to achieve the greatest final quality?"

Sound like you are trying to fit too much onto the DVD and the quality of your source is such that when heavily compressed it looks crap.

You can save quite a bit of space by using AC3 for the audio.

The other solution is to either split over 2 DVDs or use a dual layer DVD (DVD-9) and burner.

http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/bit_budget.html






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Jeremy Collins
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 29, 2010 at 5:10:00 pm

Thank you for the response Daniel,

I am using AC3 as audio. It is part of the Compressor DVD preset.

How do professionals get a 3 hour movie onto a single, standard DVD with no quality loss? There must be a way to get it all on there without losing any quality. Thanks again, and all help is appreciated!


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Daniel Low
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 29, 2010 at 5:18:41 pm

[Jeremy Collins] "How do professionals get a 3 hour movie onto a single, standard DVD with no quality loss?"

They use very high quality source material.
They use the very best MPEG-2 transcoders
They use 2 pass VBR
and int he case of a 3 hour movie, they use a dual layer DVD. - DVD9
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD#Dual-layer_recording



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Tom Laughlin
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 2:38:30 pm

Try this, export your movie out as an 8-bit uncompressed file. If it is a 4x3 file, leave it at 4x3, but if it is a 16x9, make sure you select that. I did a test last week with a clip a little over 2 hours long, and I exported out an HD time-line, to a QT 720x480 (16x9) and used "8-bit Uncompressed"as the compression, so at then end, it was a QT movie, now SD, and it was 16x9, and it was opening up at 853x480, which it what QT player does.) Looked great! Drug that SD/QT .mov file into DVDSP, encoded, looked good.

I then did another test, exported out the same 2 hour time-line in QT, as a "1920x1080 HD" (it's native res) instead of a down-res/coverting to "720x480 (16x9)", and still used "8-bit Uncompressed" as the compression, saved it out, took forever to encode, then drug that into DVDSP, burnt it out, looked much better. Both looked good, both end up on DVD anyway, the quality wasn't hugely different, but both looked good.

Tom Laughlin
Producer/Editor
Salt Lake City, UT
FCS3/Sony EX-3/Mac Intel


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Jeremy Collins
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 4:19:02 pm

Hi Tom,
Thanks for the response. So you avoid Compressor all together? Also, exporting from FCP using those two techniques gave you a file size that was small enough to fit on a DVD?

Also, I am not positive, but I thought QT files weren't compatible with DVDSP? I may be wrong on that. Thanks again!


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Daniel Low
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 5:22:07 pm

[Jeremy Collins] "So you avoid Compressor all together"

Not the best route but save time at the expense of quality. DVDSP uses plain old Quicktime for MPEG-2 compression so you don't get access to all the cool stuff in compressor if you go that route.

[Jeremy Collins] "but I thought QT files weren't compatible with DVDSP"

Anything QT can be taken into DVDSP. Quicktime is at the heart of the operating system so any application or toolset can access any Quicktime codec (in theory).



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Tom Laughlin
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 9:00:01 pm

It's a great question, DVDSP doesn't use file size of the source, it uses the "time" of the source file, to determine what to do with the file, and you can see in the upper right hand corner of DVDSP, there is a meter, showing you if the file will sustain itself and fill the DVD's maximum space.

So, if you import a file into DVDSP, and it's a 2 hour file, it doesn't matter if it is an 16GB file or a 16MB file, it will automatically calucate the encode, and how much compression will be needed. Another thing, if the file (your QT .mov) is about 3 or 4 GB, the compression hit will not be as harsh as a hit from a file that is around 8GB. "But", remember, the source file, if it is uncompressed to begin with, it will not take 2 hits. People say that when you use Compressor and then use DVDSP, it takes 2 hits, the first is big, and the 2nd, not so much, it's more of a DVDSP format-check, not an actual encode, but in a sense. There's no control over a file once it hits DVDSP, so that's why you send it out of FCP uncompressed, and let it take just one compression hit, or more like a pass, not a hit. Also, don't forget to preview the file. When you import the file, whether it is an uncompressed 8-bit QT .mov file (16x), do not forgot to make the file display as "Anamorphic" if your file is a 16x9 file. You have to tell DVDSP to do this, it's not automatic, and you can also preview the file being played and how it's going to look once you haev encoded it, using the simulate DVD option. This preview will give you an idea of what it'll look like.

Also, ensure that you export your file out FCP with the correct frame-rate, so when you import into DVDSP and simulate the DVD, that the frame-rate or file doesn't jitter or lag, which sometimes can occur. DVDSP should be able to preview this ok, I know that playing anything uncompressed lags in QT player, but DVDSP it pretty good about giving that playback sense.

Tom Laughlin
Producer/Editor
Salt Lake City, UT
FCP7/Sony EX-3/Mac Quad-Core Intel


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Daniel Low
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 9:57:23 pm

[Tom Laughlin] "DVDSP doesn't use file size of the source, it uses the "time" of the source file, to determine what to do with the file, and you can see in the upper right hand corner of DVDSP, there is a meter, showing you if the file will sustain itself and fill the DVD's maximum space. "

No, not quite right. It uses 'time' based on the preferences set relating to datarate in the Encoding preferences plane and the size of the DVD you are using.

[Tom Laughlin] "So, if you import a file into DVDSP, and it's a 2 hour file, it doesn't matter if it is an 16GB file or a 16MB file, it will automatically calucate the encode, and how much compression will be needed. Another thing, if the file (your QT .mov) is about 3 or 4 GB, the compression hit will not be as harsh as a hit from a file that is around 8GB. "But", remember, the source file, if it is uncompressed to begin with, it will not take 2 hits. People say that when you use Compressor and then use DVDSP, it takes 2 hits, the first is big, and the 2nd, not so much, it's more of a DVDSP format-check, not an actual encode, but in a sense. There's no control over a file once it hits DVDSP, so that's why you send it out of FCP uncompressed, and let it take just one compression hit, or more like a pass, not a hit. "

You've got 99% of the above totally wrong. RTFM!!!

If you compress the file with compressor or Episode or any other MPEG2 'coder to .M2V + audio, then all DVDSP does it to make VOBs from those files.




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Tom Laughlin
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on May 3, 2010 at 2:33:52 pm

[Daniel Low] No, not quite right. It uses 'time' based on the preferences set relating to datarate in the Encoding preferences plane and the size of the DVD you are using.

Um, ok... If you want to go that much deeper into technicality, that's what I meant. Yes, we all know it's time based on the data rate. But I don't think the guy os going to want to mess with this any further, it is a freaking 2 hour clip, let DVDSP automatically default it.

[Daniel Low] You've got 99% of the above totally wrong. RTFM!!!

Daniel, I'm not here to say you're right and I'm wrong. I'm here to help out with the posted question, everyone has a right to response in their way or suggest what to try. It's worked for me, other things work for you, and nothing we suggest may work for him, but at least give him some bones to chew. Let's all stay focused on getting him a solution, and not critiquing everything everyone posts that you don't agree with.

[Daniel Low] If you compress the file with compressor or Episode or any other MPEG2 'coder to .M2V + audio, then all DVDSP does it to make VOBs from those files.

Yes, that is what I meant. I'll be more specific from a technical standpoint next time I post. I apologize I wasn't clear enough for you Daniel, I'm more focused on trying to help him with his problem. Sorry Jeremy, yes, Daniel is right about that, VOB files are created, it's not a compression, but yet another process automated in DVDSP.

Good luck Jeremy, I'd ask Daniel more about this if you have further issues. I think he may have more solutions for you at this point. All the best.

Tom Laughlin
Producer/Editor
Salt Lake City, UT
FCP7/Sony EX-3/Mac Quad-Core Intel


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Daniel Low
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 5:27:20 pm

A 2 hour uncompressed HD file will be nearly 1TB!

Nice to have all that spare drive space...

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Jeremy Collins
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 6:54:27 pm

Thanks for the response. Yeah, that is my worry. Cutting it down to size. Time isn't an issue, quality is. It is a film that I plan on submitting to film festivals and such, so I need to get it on DVD at the ultimate best quality. I can't find a process (whether it be by testing setting myself or reading online) that will deliver great quality. It all comes from cutting down the file to be DVD size. Thanks for any insight!


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Tom Laughlin
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 9:27:51 pm

If that is the case, I'd export it the file out as an uncompressed 8-bit QT, as a 720x480 (16x9) file. Or export it out as a Apple Pro Res file, maybe it won't be as big.

Tom Laughlin
Producer/Editor
Salt Lake City, UT
FCP7/Sony EX-3/Mac Quad-Core Intel


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Tom Laughlin
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 9:36:05 pm

I'd still try to export it out as an 8-bit uncompressed 1920x1080 HD file. Compressor will crap all over this file if you run it through Compressor. Also, regardless of both ways, you're still going to have to sit and wait for it to export out anyways, and you will need a file for archive anyway right? Lots of people archive uncompressed, they can later go back and create other files from this, or do what some others do, you keep the FCP project and all the 20-50 TBs of Raw content on your computer, and just re-export it out for every time you need a different file format, like for web. You do all the uncompressed file encoding now, it will save you time and quality on the back-end. Drop the file into DVDSP, burn it and see for yourself, Compressor avoided, quality maintained.

Tom Laughlin
Producer/Editor
Salt Lake City, UT
FCP7/Sony EX-3/Mac Quad-Core Intel


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David Hill
Re: Best FCP Workflow Compression Settings
on Jun 5, 2011 at 10:16:38 pm

I am wondering if you have figured this problem out. I am having the exact same issue. I was recently told to render out from FCP to Quicktime and then bring the large Quicktime file into Compressor and see if that helps, but according to you it doesn't.

Like you the video looks fine in timeline, but after I have to adjust the settings to allow it to fit on a standard DVD in Compressor it looks awful. If you get an answer on this issue please let me know. Otherwise I think the only solution is to break the file into 2 disc like someone suggested above.


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