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Exporting for highest quality blu-ray

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Ben Disinger
Exporting for highest quality blu-ray
on Jun 18, 2013 at 5:24:34 am

Hey everybody.

I'm finishing up a project that was shot on ProRes4444 from an Alexa and I'd like to burn several Blu-Ray's at the highest quality possible.

I edited in FCP7 and could use advice on what programs to use to obtain the maximum quality.

Here's my current line of thinking:

Export Quicktime Movie from FCP7.

Import that into Adobe Media Encoder CS6.

Use x264 PRO to burn a h.264 5.2 Blu-Ray file.

Import THAT into Encore and away we go.

Am I correct in thinking like this? Is there an easier way? I am super inexperienced when it comes to leaving FCP7 and jumping into Adobe, so any advice would be appreciated.

I'm also wondering if the h.264 5.2 profile is the way to go. I don't know if Blu-Ray players even support it (or what the difference between 4.1 or 5.0/5.1 is!!)

Thank you!!

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Ht Davis
Re: Exporting for highest quality blu-ray
on Feb 14, 2015 at 7:48:50 pm

Profiles don't have any direct connection to bluray (they are not from that standard, but they are described within it; the same way butter in a recipe isn't actually created by the people who wrote it or in any way connected with it other than a certain amount being described by it).
Your Profile level is a compression modifier. "Legal" Bluray is limited to using up to 4.2 for a profile. Each profile is a list of several combined options that include "PROFILE LEGAL" pixel values (like a 1080 value), maximum limitations for bitrate (the speeds of data being read from the disc), and of course field order (how the images are handled getting to the screen; 1080i is interlaced 1080 frames, which use 2 fields for every frame, and will display those fields one after the other; 1080p is progressive scan, which displays all fields in each frame at the same instant, or operation). Profiles are also largely locked for frame rates, mainly to keep each profile to it's own bitrate maximum. The higher the bitrate, the higher the quality of the frames as you play it back. This is because you are COMPRESSING the data from the movie, most directly by taking the jpeg images (from the video camera) and grabbing the "KEYFRAMES" (those frames that are kept at fullest quality) and all the others are only tracking changes from one frame to the next as they are stored in the stream. The keyframe, if opened in photoshop, would then be a full picture, but the others would only have those pixels that changed significantly since their previous frame. This is also how the h.264 works, as well as vc-1 or AVC. They all COMPRESS THE DATA. The bitrate you choose affects this estimation, as well as the quality of the keyframe.
4.2 has a maximum value of 40000mbps for bitrate. So does 4.1, but the difference in the two is actually that the sound component can push over the 40000, (the sound is mixed into the file separately as a secondary stream in most cases anyway, but with this profile, it is a separate stream when read by the player, and is less compatible than 4.1). The compression profiles conform your video to Bitrate, in kbps or mbps, which is also the same measure for internet speed. You see where this is going?
These profiles allow you to encode the video for use as a stream of data, which is what blu-ray uses anyway. So using them, you can encode your file for use with a blu-ray authoring program like encore. There aren't that many on mac, but it doesn't matter that much... ...I typically use encore, but occasionally switch to some PC action with parallels... ...Then I build the folder structure from the pc side, with menus and such, and finally I bring it to toast or just a command-line burn. I"ll even use the pc to burn because it often just works better than the mac burn apps (mac doesn't like discs anymore, they keep telling people that discs are dead, but how can they be when the entire industry uses them as the media of exchanging the product between hands? Yes even the great Jobs had his flashes of genius that didn't quite make the cut for the rest of us; May the Jobs be with you... ...And may he rest peacefully never to know some of the horrors the new kids are visiting on us from his old chair.)
Profiles of 5.1 or 2 enable more frame rates and modes, but are not "Legal" for some programs to use with bluray. Note that some PC programs wouldn't give a rats ass, and would let you build the folder structure, burn it and even play it back; but most "COMMON" or non-smart players would not play it. PS3 and above are usually able to play the "COMMON" disc at 4.1, but no higher. Thus you are kept to using that if you want to burn with your described situation. Here's a run-down:

4.1 profile---
1080i (this is max quality, no progressive video here, only fields unless you install x264 codec and encode from a command line with a --fake-interlaced flag; the flag sets it to split the fields into interlaced fields, but forces both to be played simultaneously on newer players and plays interlaced fields on older players at the closest comparable speed; this mode is called PsF or progressive as separated fields).
720i\p (this is a direct, exact downscale of the image from a 1080, which means it fills the screen when blown up; this uses fewer pixels, less data, and produces better quality at times, mainly due to the fact that it can use higher frame rates and progressive scan video, while still fitting into the same bitrates).
Frame rates
For 1080, use max of 30i. For 720 use max of 60p. Difference: 30i is 30 interlaced frames per second, 60p is 60progressive frames per second. 30i is 1\4 quality of 60p for motion, but 60p usually looks so sharp it's almost a detriment to the perception of the video.
For all the profiles, you'll see 24p settings across all the sizes. This is because 24p was the old celluloid film standard (actually more like 24i played over the air or cable). This format looks more like the older film standard, for motion and some other attributes. It also keeps more quality at the same bitrates, meaning you won't see as much of a drop in quality as you output to blu-ray compatible format. By allowing the progressive frame rates, the visuals are much clearer than the old celluloid playback or the old vHS, which played back an interlaced (the data was similar to progressive video, but playback was on a CRT, which split the image into the scan lines, and displayed them in fields) video format to CRT tv screens. Remember that Blu-ray is a TV playable format, and the Profiles it uses are designed to look better on TV screens than on computer screens. Why? Especially when TV screens are now just computer screens that play tv? TV's operate at 120hz to play interlaced fields. Computer screens are at 60hz for progressives. Higher values would be detrimental to the video capabilities of the computer screen. Since the tv's only operation is display of video, it can utilize all it's processing for that, and produce similar visual quality with different methods of data packaging. Most broadcast is all interlaced, but some is transmitted as PsF, a progressive format that is packaged as separate fields, but the fields are drawn simultaneously. You'll see that in movies, you'll see it using ON DEMAND SERVICES. It produces better quality, and usually has a price tag. Many find this to be the best, not only because it allows the same bandwidth and data rates to play higher quality motion video, but because the visual quality of that playback can be better on tv's and occasionally, with the right frame rate, on computer screens. To get it, you will need a hardware encoder, or a piece of software that supports the --Fake-interlace mode for encoding (free command line x264 with the --bluray-compat and fake interlace flags, to produce an output file with a .264 extension--which is raw .264 data that won't be reencoded by encore or other programs; set the profile to 4.1 or 4.2 but remember 4.2 is less compatible, and the rest you can find online in doom9's forums mostly).

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