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After Effects or FCP7 for best compositing quality using h.264?

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Vic Noseworthy
After Effects or FCP7 for best compositing quality using h.264?
on Oct 22, 2012 at 6:13:24 pm

Hi folks,
I'm using a DSLR (Canon T3i) and typically do significant compositing when I edit. I've been informed that ProRes (as opposed the Apple AIC that I've used in the past) is the way to go for compositing h.264 footage because of ProRes's 10-bit color space.
However, I'm wondering how After Effects (CS4) will fit into the equation, if at all. (I'm really just a beginner with AE).
As far as I understand, AE projects can be 16 bit. So, then, if I use AE for compositing, would I gain the benefit of this 16-bit color space (if I still use the AIC)?
In other words, could I log and transfer the h.264 footage into AIC, then benefit from AE's 16-bit technology for compositing? Or, would logging and transferring the h.264 footage into ProRes give me the more robust intermediate codec I need for compositing?
Thanks very much for your expertise.

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Angelo Lorenzo
Re: After Effects or FCP7 for best compositing quality using h.264?
on Oct 23, 2012 at 1:00:49 am

This topic is sort of a can of worms, so here is my take on it.

Skip Apple Intermediate Codec. I think most everyone can agree that it's a legacy codec and ProRes is the superior of the two in most situations.

Canon's implementation of h.264 is 4:2:0 at 8-bit. As for converting it to a 10-bit codec... the process itself isn't really upping the quality; the conversion will interpolate some info but it won't be the make-or-break for something like pulling a green screen.

There are advantages to using an editing codec like ProRes in general. It allows easier scrubbing and playback of footage; if you have a borderline powerful machine then it can save you some headaches.

Regardless of if you convert or not, I do follow the advice of Stu Maschwitz: noise reduce your footage. Noise reduction does a better job at interpolating colors and softening channels that suffer from h.264 compression so it can give it a bit of "magic sauce".

To quote Stu :
--Do denoise. It doesn’t really matter what denoising software you use, but use it. When you carefully and subtly denoise your footage, you rebuild your pixels anew, which is especially nice when you follow the next tip:
--Work at high bit-depths. If you start with an 8-bit image and do a gentle de-noise, you’re blending pixels values together to create new colors. Although there’s no such thing as something for nothing, doing this at a higher bit-depth means those new colors have massivly more gradations than the original image. Your subsequent color work will hold up much better.

Angelo Lorenzo
Fallen Empire Digital Production Services - Los Angeles
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Conrad Olson
Re: After Effects or FCP7 for best compositing quality using h.264?
on Oct 23, 2012 at 7:07:47 pm

Converting 8bit footage into 16bit won't improve the quality of the footage. You can however work in After Effects at 16 bit with 8 bit footage. When you do this any effects you apply will benefit from the extra bits.


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