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Rendering: Are you wondering which PC software produces the best render results with your H.264 source Footage?

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Craig Newman
Rendering: Are you wondering which PC software produces the best render results with your H.264 source Footage?
on Apr 14, 2013 at 11:52:53 pm

Hey guys,

Some of you may be aware of this and some wont. When it comes to editing your Canon DSLR footage on a PC (I use the 5D Mark 2), it's important to look for 2 things (among others) in editing software: User-Friendly controls & Good Rendering output. After all, what's the point in spending days/weeks/months editing a project, if it's let down by poor rendering & image quality, right?

People align themselves with different software for different reasons. I've been using Sony Vegas for about 1 year and always believed it to be very user friendly and reliable. I tried using Premiere Pro CS5.5, as people said that it was the best PC editing software, but I was scared off by the vast amounts of tiny buttons, switches and options etc. My tiny brain couldn't handle it.

Recently I've been doing a LOT of rendering, preparing my short film for colour-grading. My colorist uses a MAC and simply told me to get the best quality image I could, in order to produce the best grading output. He mentioned that it's better for the image to be lighter, than darker. It's a harder to make things lighter, than it is to make things darker.
Because of this, I decided to try everything to get him the best quality image, while at the same time avoiding huge file types (I'm looking at you YUV422). Believe me, when I tell you that I tried EVERY different file type and render option; progressive, Upper Field first, lower field first.
It's now my opinion that, which ever software produces the best quality image, is the best software to use. Learning to use that software will come with practice. There's tons of tutorials to help you with editing controls and features etc.

I experimented with different software and file-types, in order to see which produced the best output quality and brightness etc. As we all know, there are loads of different codecs and file-types to choose from and I wont list them all here.

What I do know is this; of all the codecs I tried, when converting from H.264 on a PC, the best output came from the Apple Motion JPEG-A.
Some have said that it's best to render as DNxHD... Wrong! DNxHD's output is dark and has a slightly pale green look to the image. It's hardly usable.

Now, some of you may be thinking 'Yeah, tell us something we don't know'.

I used 3 different PC software to render the exact same file. Below are 3 screen-grabs: They all show the image quality of a H.264 file rendered to Apple Motion JPEG-A. I suppose, in theory, if the exact same file is rendered to M-JPEG-A, the output should always be the same, regardless of which software you use.

Well, the results show subtle but very significant differences in each render, which may sway your opinion as to which software you choose to do your transcoding/rendering.
It's worth mentioning, at this point, that I live in the UK. So my footage is shot 'Flat' at 25FPS and will be used with PAL. The project settings, in all software, were always set to HD - 1080 - 50i - 1920x1080 - 25.000 fps - Unscaled - Progressive. However, I believe the results would be the same if shot flat at 23.976FPS, with American NTSC settings.


Here's the original Canon H.264 source file - Size: 114MB



Now here's that same file, rendered to Apple Motion JPEG-A in 3 different software.


1. Sony Vegas 12 - Size: 219MB



2. MPEG Streamclip - Size: 726MB



3. Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 - Size: 562MB




As you can see, Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 produces the lighter, higher-quality image, while also being smaller in size than the lower-quality MPEG stream clip render (???). This will make things way easier when it comes to colour-grading. So as far as I'm concerned, that settles it. If you're currently using anything other than Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 on your PC, then you will want to switch ASAP, for the sake of your final product quality and grading.
I'm not sure what this image difference comes down to; perhaps Adobe uses a better codec or render engine or... Well, I simply don't know. I just know the pictures speak for themselves.

Those of you who already use Adobe can sit back and smuggly say 'I told you so'.

PS... Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 has also improved it's interface hiding those scary buttons and options. I had a play-around with it and found it to be a lot more user friendly. Any projects I have in future will definitely be done on Premiere.


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Al Bergstein
Re: Rendering: Are you wondering which PC software produces the best render results with your H.264 source Footage?
on Apr 15, 2013 at 4:20:55 am

Craig, are you shooting interlaced or just setting your project that way? And why not use a color swatch for this or show dynamic range? While i love Pr i am not clear your test is valid yet. I don't use interlaced projects for progressive footage. or am i missing something?

Al


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Craig Newman
Re: Rendering: Are you wondering which PC software produces the best render results with your H.264 source Footage?
on Apr 15, 2013 at 11:33:50 pm

I didn't interlace. Canon's source files are progressive, so I match those settings within the respective software project and render progressive too; you shoot progressive, you render progressive... Simple as.
That way there's no danger of the image being impaired. Don't even get me started on the whole' interlace or progressive' thing. I find the existence of interlaced and deinterlaced scanning, and when/when-not to use it, to be a stain on this world.

As for your question: "Why not use a color swatch for this or show dynamic range?"... If you let me know the simplest way of acting out such a procedure, I would be happy to make a comparison. However, I do believe the pictures alone, show all the evidence. The difference between Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas is quite staggering.


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Al Bergstein
Re: Rendering: Are you wondering which PC software produces the best render results with your H.264 source Footage?
on Apr 16, 2013 at 12:52:04 am

Craig, I only asked about interlace because of your comment:

The project settings, in all software, were always set to HD - 1080 - 50i - 1920x1080 - 25.000 fps - Unscaled - Progressive. However, I believe the results would be the same if shot flat at 23.976FPS, with American NTSC settings.


Isn't that setup as i? I have had to specificly change the default project settings in Vegas from interlaced to progressive. Or am I missing something?

Al


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