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Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?

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Duke Sweden
Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 19, 2017 at 1:18:17 pm
Last Edited By Duke Sweden on Feb 19, 2017 at 1:50:15 pm

I just discovered that I get perfect color reproduction of my videos when encoded as WMV files. So naturally I went to check on the difference between the 2 as far as quality and compression, and of course I got two different answers, depending on which link I followed.

So, once again, I ask you all. Am I losing video quality by encoding as wmv? It seems to be the only container that faithfully reproduces the colors in my videos as they appear in Premiere Pro. With my eyes it's harder to discern resolution, though.

And if you're reading this, Blaise, please do weigh in since I've never seen you get involved in this discussion about the difference in color reproduction between Premiere Pro and video players. Btw, I played my wmv file in VLC, not WIndows Media, and VLC handled the colors perfectly, so could it be h264 that video players have problems with?

One other thing. Am I losing the benefits of 4K video when encoding as wmv? I don't see the option to encode at 2160p.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 19, 2017 at 6:25:37 pm

WMV is an ancient codec that hasn't been updated by Microsoft in well over a decade. No pros use it for anything unless they are distributing to people with older computers, and that's the primary reason it's still distributed with the Windows OS.

After reading a few zillion of your posts regarding differences in color you're seeing with various players and codecs, I would advise that you choose one player and that gives you the best results with MP4 and stick with that, perhaps tweaking the gamma a touch if you see a shift between your original and the compressed exports.

Your audience does not use multiple players Duke, and they don't compare codecs or players side by side like you do. So, your best bet is to choose the tools that look best to your eyeballs, figure out tweaks that you can use universally on most of your exports if required, and stick with that... comparing multiple codecs side by side on multiple players is a sure recipe for lunacy.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist & Workflow Consultant
David Weiss Productions
Los Angeles


David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.


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Duke Sweden
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 19, 2017 at 7:52:42 pm

Now, now, David. I never said I wasn't a lunatic 😉

Contrary to my many posts I'm NOT a pixel peeper who spends more time fretting over codecs and firmware upgrades then I do making my videos. I'm not exactly pouring over technical manuals trying to find the perfect codec or wrapper. But as many others here beside me have pointed out, there is a difference between what you see in Premiere Pro and what you see when you play your encode in VLC or Quicktime.

And no one has ever supplied a solution. I refuse to believe that you guys, who do this for a living, choose to live with this. In my day to day musings I came up with encoding to wmv just to see what I would get, and what I got was exactly what I was seeing in Premiere Pro. NOT being someone who has to deliver "product" to "clients", I "fail" to see "why" I should "limit"....sorry, quote mark key got stuck ;-), I fail to see why I should limit myself to delivery codecs. It's easier to get my look by using wmv than it is to tint my skin tones towards green, or darken my exposure towards Haunted Forest, and hope the tweak makes the encode look the way I intend it to look.

Not that I mind your occasional input, David. It's always nice to balance out the other Dave's manic ramblings with your calmer tone 😉 (Just kidding La Ronde!)


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Tero Ahlfors
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:15:03 pm

[Duke Sweden] "I refuse to believe that you guys, who do this for a living, choose to live with this."

Setting up/managing a color pipeline takes skill, gear and time. I have a pretty expensive reference monitors new and software and gear to keep them calibrated with. Figuring out the formats to keep our masters looking same between players and operating systems was its own adventure. If you are concerned about color accuracy and don't have a proper color pipeline (note that this does not have to cost tens of thousands of eurobucks) set up then it doesn't matter one bit what you think you're seeing between codecs. When I do homevideo stuff at home I don't care and I only do an eyeball calibration on my displays, but when I'm actually for realzies doing a job for a customer then I do.

Here's an article from Lightillusion: http://www.lightillusion.com/why_calibrate.html

There's also the Lift Gamma Gain forums for talking about grading stuff. It's a tough crowd, mind.


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Duke Sweden
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:40:48 pm

Of course what I meant is you guys can't possibly put up with the color guessing game, you must have your methods of dealing with it, as you laid out just now. I didn't mean you actually choose to live with an inferior way of having to do this.

Now I know why you don't bother explaining how you go about getting your colors right. It's not just a matter of adjusting preferences in Premiere Pro.


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Tero Ahlfors
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 20, 2017 at 5:24:09 am

You can try and guesstimate what's happening by trying this:

-Generate some test bars in Premiere. New item - HD bars and tone.
-Check out how it looks with all the Lumetri scopes visible. It should look pretty clean and the vectorscope zigzags through all the colours.
-Render the bars out in the formats you want to test.
-Bring the exported clips back and compare them to each other and the original generated bars.

You should see some differences. Depending on the bit depth/chroma subsampling/other stuff there's probably noticable differences in the brightest saturated areas. Also the brightly saturated areas might be blending into each other a little bit so there's no clean line like in the generated version.


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Chris Wright
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 26, 2017 at 8:45:03 pm

I have an alternative for you if you don't have an external broadcast monitor to grade your stuff how you see fit.

1. If your scopes change after export(for whatever reason), just take this PNG that this generator makes, then export it
and select the new export PNG. It will then make a difference LUT for you. https://sellfy.com/p/aQ1y/

2. If your scopes don't change but your favorite video player show the same pixels in a different way, you can do do this:
a) place the generator PNG in the top left of your video in premiere
b) grade so that the rest of the video matches matches your favorite video player.(it will also grade the test color PNG)
c) crop and export just the test color chart and use that for the export LUT
d) You can now use this LUT in lumetri and grade seeing what your media player would see. Now everything matches.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 26, 2017 at 9:45:48 pm

I kinda like that solution personally Chris, but it does involve science, and you know what that means nowadays. :)

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist & Workflow Consultant
David Weiss Productions
Los Angeles


David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.


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Chris Wright
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 26, 2017 at 10:39:15 pm

the program takes the two images and makes a lut automatically :)


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 26, 2017 at 10:58:12 pm

I understand that... but someone with a brain used science and both have fallen from favor lately... :)

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist & Workflow Consultant
David Weiss Productions
Los Angeles


David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.


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Duke Sweden
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 27, 2017 at 9:05:40 pm

Been there, done that.


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Blaise Douros
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 21, 2017 at 7:55:38 pm

Hey Duke, saw your shoutout ☺ There are more qualified colorists than me who can answer some of these questions, and there are a TON of variables out there in any color pipeline. With that said, here's a couple of facts you may find interesting:

There is a known and documented gamma difference in Quicktime versus other media players. Quicktime lifts the gamma slightly, so that the blacks are a little less black. VLC does not do this. So VLC will be more accurate file playback to show you what colors are really in the file you just crunched out.

As far as WMV...yeah, don't use it. It's just not standard anymore. Find some MP4 settings that look good to you, and use them--and view the results in VLC. It'll be closer to what you'd get if you played that file back onto a decently set up HDTV.

While there aren't any ultra cheapo color checkers out there that I'm aware of, I'd take some time to go through your OS's color calibration process. It will at least get you to a point where you know roughly what your monitor is doing. Your system defaults could be doing god-knows-what.

I use an X-rite i1 Display Pro color calibrator, which runs about $250, to calibrate our iMacs and attached HP monitors--I'm not delivering big features or anything, so it's good enough to make sure my two machines are in sync and somewhat standardized so that my assistant editor won't give me the side-eye when she opens my projects. I purposefully use HP monitors as my second screens so I can A/B instantly with the iMac monitors, so that I can see what it will look like on a couple of different display types with slightly different gamma. It's not a fancy color pipeline at ALL. But it is good enough so I can consistently deliver stuff that looks good, since I rarely if ever expect to go to an outside colorist.


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Duke Sweden
Re: Drastic difference in quality between mp4 and wmv?
on Feb 27, 2017 at 9:09:20 pm

For the millionth time, I'm not using Quicktime player. I am well aware of the problem with Quicktime player. I am using VLC. And, again, you don't have to export to get that color difference. You can open a file in Premiere Pro and compare it to the original open in VLC and see there's a difference in color cast towards yellow. I put up an image of half VLC/half Premiere Pro.

And for your information, David, I'm 62, I graduated from high school LONG before the focus shifted from science to homosexual studies.


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