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AE turning my stills grainy!

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Matthew PendergastAE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:25:04 pm

I am utterly stumped by this.

I am having a problem where a lot of the JPEGs or PSD files I'm importing into After Effects are looking completely awful once I bring them in - noise, grain, pixelation. The originals look great in Photoshop and Preview, but once I drop them into "create a new comp" they become basically useless. See example screengrabs (not sure how well this is coming across, but trust me it looks terrible).

I've tried changing color space, resolution, dropping the image into different comps, RAM previewing, even final outputting in the Render Queue - nothing works. This is also happening with my RAW photos (.CR2), so it's definitely not the quality of the image that's an issue.

I'm in CS5 running Snow Leopard. 2 x 3 GHz Quad Core Mac Pro with 12 GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics card.

Any help is greatly appreciated!!!

In Photoshop:



In After Effects:



Final Output (JPEG Sequence):


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Dave LaRondeRe: AE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:36:20 pm

Are they CMYK instead of RGB?

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Matthew PendergastRe: AE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 6, 2011 at 10:55:40 pm

Nope, all RGB, 8 bpc.


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Cory PetkovsekRe: AE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 7, 2011 at 9:55:46 am

1: Your raw images already have grain and your image processing is just enhancing the grain (perceived by the codecs as detail). Converting to jpg for import into AE is going to reduce color information to 8-bit. For a shot like this I'd expect it would not be an issue; just make sure to use a very high quality export. However with a problem file, I would use a format like openexr to store all of the color information.

2: Don't export a jpg sequence. If you must at least export with a high quality export; this looks like 50-60% quality. Better to export with a lossless image sequence like png or tiff, or use an actual video codec.

3: Resize the image in photoshop, rather than in AE. Photoshop probably has a better image reducing algorithm than AE. It at least has more algorithms to choose from, one specifically for reduction.

4: Apply a noise reduction filter either in AE or photoshop before resizing and exporting.

Cory

--
Cory Petkovsek
Corporate Video


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Matthew PendergastRe: AE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 7, 2011 at 7:13:00 pm

Thanks Cory,

That does clear some stuff up. Converting a RAW to PNG in Photoshop, then bringing in to AE and exporting an Animation codec seems to keep quality pretty high. Still, in my Composition window in AE, the converted (png) image looks incredibly pixelated and grainy. Sure, it doesn't seem to be affecting final output, but is there anything I can tweak on my settings to change this? Maybe it's just a mental thing, but it's driving me a bit crazy.

Also, no experience with openexr format. I'll search around for tips on that, but what do you usually use that for? Is it just a simple download/install?

Thanks again!
Matthew


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Dave LaRondeRe: AE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 7, 2011 at 7:56:53 pm

Are you working in 8, 16 or 32 bits in AE? Check it out.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Matthew PendergastRe: AE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:56:30 pm

Hi Dave,

8 bits, RGB.

Thanks,
Matthew


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Dave LaRondeRe: AE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 8, 2011 at 3:07:28 pm

Fool around with various bit depths and see what happens. You can render a 32-bit project to an 8-bit codec, y'know.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Matthew PendergastRe: AE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 8, 2011 at 5:05:09 pm

Not much changes on that front, Dave.

I did find that changing the comp settings to 1920x1080 and then scaling down the image actually did a lot to decrease grain. This is not my final output dimensions, but it's interesting to note that shrinking the image really does make it look better in AE - way better than how it looks at 100% (i.e. when dropping the image onto the new comp button to match its dimensions/settings). I'm coming to accept that I might just have to deal with the grain during design sometimes.

Thanks for all the suggestions!
Matthew


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Cory PetkovsekRe: AE turning my stills grainy!
by on Apr 9, 2011 at 7:56:21 am

Your raw camera file is 12-14 bit. If you export from photoshop to png or jpg you are throwing away 4-6 binary orders of magnitude of color information. It then does not matter as far as this picture is concerned whether you are in 8, 16 or 32 workspace in AE. When a system reduces color information it usually either bands or dithers; the latter is probably what you are seeing.

As I said, export the image with OpenEXR from photoshop to AE to retain all the color information. That is a 16-bit format. Then in AE work in 16 or 32 bit.

My CS5 photoshop loads openexr without needing plugins; but even if it does, it's free. You don't need any special experience, just the will to follow our advice.

Cory

--
Cory Petkovsek
Corporate Video


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