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Seamless animations play back with "hiccup" at end when exported as MP4 - H264

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Sumeet Vats
Seamless animations play back with "hiccup" at end when exported as MP4 - H264
on Nov 25, 2016 at 4:28:11 pm

Hey Everyone.

I'm having a real head-scratcher here. For my work I build seamless looped animations in after effects, usually from 10 - 30 seconds depending on what the scene requires. Obviously, having been doing motion graphics for a few years, I ensure that every element of my animation is a seamless loop, verified and triple checked prior to export with laborious review within After Effects.

Things seem to go off the rails when I output these same animations via Media Encoder, and convert or encode them to H264 mp4s (usually high bitrate, 10mbps). Now I know without fail that this video is seamless, but once it's encoded, when I watch it back in any playback software (vlc, qt, or windows "movie & TV) at the end there is, without fail, a noticeable hiccup which feels like anywhere from 6 frames to a full second stutter / pause when the video starts over again (usually easily identifiable / longer than shorter)

So I've tried to export the exact same animation in multiple formats:

Animation - seamless Loop
DNxHD - Seamless Loop
ProRes 422 LT (colleagues mac) Seamless loop
Sorensen 3 (I know, right?) Relatively seamless loop

What really grinds my gears is that if I take that same 'hiccuped' mp4, drop it into either premiere or AE, it loops seamlessly!

The issue on my end is for my job I need to hand off the animations to an operator who plays them back and they need to loop seamlessly, and using DNxHD / Animations are prohibitively large for the systems we have set up (mac mini's driving multiple cloned displays) so I need something lightweight, and as universal and great as the H264 codec is, it's the most reliable for our workflow.

Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon in their workflows? I've tested it a few different ways:

Seamless Loop (Animation) mov > AE 2014 > Media Encoder 2014 > H264 (stutter)
Seamless Loop (Animation) mov > Media Encoder 2014 > H264 (stutter)
Seamless Loop (Animation) mov > Media Encoder 2015.3 > H264 (stutter)
Seamless Loop (Animation) mov > Media Encoder 2015.3 > H265 (less prevalent stutter)
Seamless Loop (Animation) mov > Handbreak / MPEG streamclip > H264 (stutter)
Seamless Loop (Animation) mov > Final Cut (colleagues mac) > H264 (stutter)

I'm downloading the new Media Encoder 2017 now, and will try again with that, but I'm just trying to see the fault in my workflow here, and trying to figure out why this seems to only happen with h264 MP4's... Posted in Media encoder forum due to it being my primary pipeline, as an after effects animator.

Specs on my PC:
WinPro 10
Core i7-4790K 4GHZ
32 Gigs of Ram
Nvidia Titan 6GB Video Card


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Alan Lloyd
Re: Seamless animations play back with "hiccup" at end when exported as MP4 - H264
on Nov 25, 2016 at 9:17:50 pm

What are you using for playback where the MP4 is not looping correctly?


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Sumeet Vats
Re: Seamless animations play back with "hiccup" at end when exported as MP4 - H264
on Nov 29, 2016 at 4:46:47 pm

Sorry for the delay, I thought it might send me an email when someone replied....

Anyways, our footage is loaded onto a mac mini and played back via VLC player.


Also as an update, it seems that if you output a quicktime animation, then open that same animation in quicktime 7 pro, and export it from there as an mov using h264 compression, you get a seamless looped quicktime....

But if you try to output a quicktime with h264 comrpession via either Media Encoder or AE, it's quite aweful looking. So for now, I've switched to exporting animations then compressing those via quicktime proper, which is a clean workflow, but a pain when I sometimes render 50ish files a day....

So as far as my research goes, it seems to be an issue native to the mp4 container.....


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Alan Lloyd
Re: Seamless animations play back with "hiccup" at end when exported as MP4 - H264
on Nov 29, 2016 at 11:51:30 pm

There's a point, as a non-Quicktime person, where I have nothing to add.

I do, though, make loops in h.264 with AME, working from Premiere, and they do run glitch-free. A client's recent trade show demo was just one example, using a combination of 4K and 1080P footage and some fairly heavy (at least render-wise) graphics.

One thing I tend to do when I'm making a loop is to make the first and last frames by cutting a graphic and putting the tail end of it at the head end of the sequence, so there's a still frame used in the transition. I've done it that way for a while now with no issues, and maybe that's part of a good approach. Do you do your loops in that way?


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Sumeet Vats
Re: Seamless animations play back with "hiccup" at end when exported as MP4 - H264
on Nov 30, 2016 at 11:06:16 pm

I'm the one creating the animations. I'm usually doing various different things, from simulating interfaces, to particles or things like that. I can assure with full confidence that my animation loops are seamless, as all my keyframes are placed correctly, and ensure that everything loops before I export it.

I'd love to show you an example of the animation, but the files are under ND till the show airs, so I can't exactly do that.... All I can say, is that when I export it to an uncompressed codec (like animation) OR even DNxHD, Then compress that using QT7, there is no loop, BUT if I take that exact same uncompressed QT and flip it out of AME as an mp4, hiccups are us.

It's just momentary one, say less than 12 frames, but when it's full screen in focus in a shot, it's an unacceptable issue.... I'm going to keep poking around, and run more tests when I have time, I was just hoping it was a setting or a checkbox I missed, but it really doesn't seem to be the case.

Thanks for trying to help though!!!


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