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H.264 Codec/Format??

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Audrey Beeley
H.264 Codec/Format??
on Nov 2, 2015 at 11:42:28 pm

Hi, I'm just exporting something from After Effects via Media Encoder and I just had a few questions about the H.264 format/codec situation. So I thought I understood the whole H.264 thing, but it seems not!

In Media Encoder if you select the Quicktime format, you can then choose the H.264 codec, which produces a .MOV file and then produces an estimated file size that's 179MB (HD 1920 2mins 30 sec video). However, if I do exactly the same thing in After Effects, and they both have the same settings, the file comes out at about 1.36GB! What's the difference?!

Also, going back to Media Encoder, you can then change the 'Format' to H.264, which then automatically makes it an .MP4 at around 185MB...

So, I'm just massively confused by the whole H.264 thing! Is it a codec or a format? I guess I'm wondering, when people are asking for a H.264 compressed file, are they wanting a .MOV or .MP4 file? And which is better? In exporting directly from AE, 1.36GB file does seem awfully hefty for a 2min video, but short of changing the quality down from 100 to 70, there doesn't seem to be any other way in AE? (I know I can use the Media Compressor, I'm just confused as to the inconsistent output across the related softwares).

Massively confused.

Thanks!


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Todd Kopriva
Re: H.264 Codec/Format??
on Nov 3, 2015 at 12:53:19 am

H.264 is a codec. .mov and .mp4 are the file-name extensions for some different container files that can contain H.264 media.

I advise against the QuickTime H.264 codec, which is what is used in a .mov container.

Use Adobe Media Encoder to make H.264 files, not After Effects.

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Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects product manager and curmudgeon
After Effects team blog
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Ryan Holmes
Re: H.264 Codec/Format??
on Nov 3, 2015 at 8:49:54 pm

[Todd Kopriva] "H.264 is a codec. .mov and .mp4 are the file-name extensions for some different container files that can contain H.264 media.

I advise against the QuickTime H.264 codec, which is what is used in a .mov container.

Use Adobe Media Encoder to make H.264 files, not After Effects."


Todd is exactly right (what else would you expect from an Adobe AE Product Manager after all! :-). But the standard container (or format as Adobe calls them) for h.264 is mp4. Remember that things like .mov, .mp4, .avi those are just containers. And containers hold stuff. So inside of that container you can hold any number of codecs - ProRes, DNxHD, JPEG, h.264, etc. Now having said that Adobe kinda mucks up that terminology by allowing people to chose a "format" of h.264 (which is technically a codec) which will create a mp4 video using the h.264 codec. I'm guessing they did this because h.264 is so prevalent that it's just easier for most users to see it in that initial drop down list in Media Encoder.

You can adjust the data rate used and that will impact both the quality of the encode and the final file size of the encode. Like Todd recommends though, use Media Encoder to make your deliverables. That's what it's there for and it does a good job.

Ryan Holmes
http://www.ryanholmes.me
@CutColorPost


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