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Lossless formats and effects

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Eric Robinsan
Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 14, 2010 at 1:45:48 am

I have been reading about lossless formats and conversions and I am wondering why people choose AVI Lossless or Quicktime PNG/animation when F4V and FLV can yield very similar results. I tired both and I am not loosing much quality or robustness when I render the final video. FLV and F4V have much smaller file sizes too. Is there something I am missing as to why people do not use these?


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Bruce Wainer
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 14, 2010 at 3:23:28 am

if you use a compressed file as your source in another application (such as your editing application), and then compress what comes out of that, the compression artifacts from the first pass will be re-compressed. I believe this is generational quality loss. After a few or more times being re-compressed, quality can be unrecoverable.


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Eric Robinsan
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 14, 2010 at 3:27:23 am

Yes, but I tried that and I didn't see a difference. I need to compress the original file so AE can use it. I can export to a "lossless" variety - either QT or an FLV and then I can import that into editing. Side by side once I render the video in my editing program. There is little difference between the original video and the one I rendered, imported into after effects to add effects and then rendered again.

I hope that makes sense.

I guess what I am saying is that when I import the file as FLV or QT into AE and then render out in lossless I cannot tell the difference between the two visually, but I know the FLV is significantly smaller.


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Bruce Wainer
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 14, 2010 at 3:48:23 am

With a high enough bit rate, any video codec can be "almost" lossless - this may be what you are experiencing. however, only one pass through a compressed codec should/would not show major artifacts, it is when a file is compressed multiple times that you might be a problem. If the clip will only be compressed once or twice (to go into your editor and for delivery), you should be fine, but if multiple trips were made (add an effect in AE, cut two clips from AE together in your editor, export to AE to add more effects, and so on) each generation would have worse quality. You may not see it at first, but it will add up.

My other concern is the particular codec you are using. FLV and F4V are codecs invented for Flash on the web, not intermediate codecs for editing and compositing. I understand you want to save space, but there should be better codecs out there for you to use. Light compression (such as ProRes for Macs or MS-DV AVI on Windows [only for SD]) would be preferable to heavy compression, such as FLV, MP4 (the basis of F4V I believe), or WMV. The amount of space you save compared to the amount of compression applied (while maintaining quality) decreases as the file is compressed more, so even light compression (QT Photo-JPEG at high, for example) will save a lot of space.


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Eric Robinsan
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 14, 2010 at 3:51:53 am

Yes. Thanks. That makes a lot of sense. I am not technically trying to save space per se. I am just at a loss as to why working with FLV files is inferior to working with other video files. I do not see a differences in my results as of yet so the reason I posted was to find out if there was something I did not know.


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Todd Kopriva
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 14, 2010 at 6:41:06 am

You may not see much of a difference between a couple of videos encoded differently, but you can certainly experience a difference if you try to, say, use them to pull a key.

This is just one example: Several common compression schemes throw away a _lot_ of information in the blue channel because people are terrible at perceiving variations in blue. But you know what isn't terrible at perceiving changes in blue? Software that does color keying with blue screens. So, something that may look the same to you may be absolutely useless when used in the next stage of your production pipeline.

So, always use losslessly compressed files when they're going to be used by a visual effects or compositing tool in the next stage of the pipeline. If, however, the next stage is an NLE---well, maybe you can use lightly compressed footage. If the next stage is final distribution over the web, then compress the bejeezus out of that file.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
putting the 'T' back in 'RTFM' : After Effects Help on the Web
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If a page of After Effects Help answers your question, please consider rating it. If you have a tip, technique, or link to share---or if there is something that you'd like to see added or improved---please leave a comment.


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Bret Williams
3D precomps and motion blur
on Mar 14, 2010 at 7:26:56 am

[Todd Kopriva] "Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
putting the 'T' back in 'RTFM' : After Effects Help on the Web "


You're obviously not referring to CS4 users. We didn't get no F manuals. :)

Wait, you mean you're putting the THE back in Read "The" Manual? On the web? I still don't get it.


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Todd Kopriva
Re: 3D precomps and motion blur
on Mar 14, 2010 at 7:54:07 am

> You're obviously not referring to CS4 users. We didn't get no F manuals. :)


There's a document on the Web. You can download the PDF version at any time from the upper corner of any page of the Web version of After Effects Help:
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/AfterEffects/9.0/index.html

Trust me: You're getting much better information by not getting a book in the box. The lead time to get books translated and printed means that any book included with a piece of software must be completed even before the software is completed, so the book is almost guaranteed to be wrong and incomplete.

> Wait, you mean you're putting the THE back in Read "The" Manual? On the web? I still don't get it.


There are two ways to interpret my sig:

1) I'm putting the 'the' back in that phrase, suggesting that I'm striving to make the single document on the Web the one-stop resource for After Effects information.

2) My name starts with 'T', so you can read the phrase as 'Read Todd's f**king manual'.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
putting the 'T' back in 'RTFM' : After Effects Help on the Web
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If a page of After Effects Help answers your question, please consider rating it. If you have a tip, technique, or link to share---or if there is something that you'd like to see added or improved---please leave a comment.


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Bret Williams
Re: 3D precomps and motion blur
on Mar 15, 2010 at 3:36:08 pm

While I was just being a little tongue in cheek, it's really not a huge issue with me. When I first started using Adobe Software 15 years ago, I would pretty much read the manuals front to back. Now how much I absorbed was up for debate for sure, but I would carry that book around and thumb through it, mark pages, highlight, read in bed, in the bathroom, at a coffee shop, at the doctor's visit, whatever. I might not have learned everything it could do and how to do it, but I knew what it could do and what to look up. Dragging a PDF around, and the appropriate device and power supply just isn't the same thing and everyone knows it.

But I agree, you should send an updated PDF with the software. You should also send manuals and if anything has changed in the manual, at release, just send the pages like you used to. With software and updates in the past, you might get a couple zeroxed sheets that said changes to the manual - On page 622 it should read... etc. You might also get a mini manual for things like a .5 update that added major features.

But these days, I get through with reading the "what's new" on the web and learning the new features I'm interested in. Speaking of "what's new" remember when software companies released not only a manual, but a little tiny manual that just covered "what's new." Those were even a better read.


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Todd Kopriva
Re: 3D precomps and motion blur
on Mar 15, 2010 at 4:01:18 pm

> Dragging a PDF around, and the appropriate device and power supply just isn't the same thing and everyone knows it.


But being able to print just the parts that you want and have them be the current information are valuable benefits. I think that they outweight the benefits of having a bound book come with the software.

> But I agree, you should send an updated PDF with the software.


Even that introduces a large latency that would cause the document to be incomplete and inaccurate. When you're writing documentation about complex software, and the document has to be translated by the time the software is available for sale, there isn't time to get the document done before the shiny discs need to be mastered.

So, there's just no way to get a complete and accurate document out on the DVD/CD. I say this as someone who has been trying to do so for several companies for many years. One of the reasons that I am happy to work for Adobe is that we have stopped living the fiction of pretending that we can get good documentation out on the same DVD that contains the software. We now put all of our efforts into getting the best possible documents onto the Web and updating them frequently (about once a month in the case of After Effects).

> Speaking of "what's new" remember when software companies released not only a manual, but a little tiny manual that just covered "what's new." Those were even a better read.


Here you go:
complete list of new and changed features in After Effects CS4 on my blog
user interface changes in Help
new feature summary in Help


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
putting the 'T' back in 'RTFM' : After Effects Help on the Web
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If a page of After Effects Help answers your question, please consider rating it. If you have a tip, technique, or link to share---or if there is something that you'd like to see added or improved---please leave a comment.


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Eric Robinsan
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 16, 2010 at 3:53:37 am

Todd,

Ah! That makes more sense. I hadn't considered that. However, so far I have not experienced any issues when I have been keying. I will try keying with a lossless QT and an FLV and see how they differ.

The whole reason for this post was the fact that after effects seems to hate the m2ts files from my Sony Camera. I am guessing they are intralaced and that just makes the final render have skips and missing frames in it.

Do you know of a way to "fix" this? If so, I can call Adobe if that is what it takes. I just loose the robust clarity when I convert to a lossless. It is subtle, but I notice it.

Do you have any advice for me please?


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 16, 2010 at 3:16:06 pm

[Eric Robinsan] "...after effects seems to hate the m2ts files from my Sony Camera..."

Yup.




[Eric Robinsan] "I am guessing they are intralaced and that just makes the final render have skips and missing frames in it. "

Nope. There's NOTHING inherently evil about interlacing. AE's dealt successfully with it for years. It's that HDV footage you're trying to use:

Dave's Stock Answer #1:

If the footage you imported into AE is any kind of the following -- footage in an HDV acquisition codec, MPEG1, MPEG2, AVCHD, mp4, m2t, H.261 or H.264 -- you need to convert it to a different codec.

These kinds of footage use temporal, or interframe compression. They have keyframes at regular intervals, containing complete frame information. However, the frames in between do NOT have complete information. Interframe codecs toss out duplicated information.

In order to maintain peak rendering efficiency, AE needs complete information for each and every frame. But because these kinds of footage contain only partial information, AE freaks out, resulting in a wide variety of problems.


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


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Eric Robinsan
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 19, 2010 at 5:17:14 pm

Right, I guess I meant interframe compression. I get the interlaced and intralaced thing confused. My fault. Thank you for your response though!


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Todd Kopriva
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 16, 2010 at 3:22:07 pm

> I am guessing they are intralaced... Do you know of a way to "fix" this?


If you are working with interlaced footage in After Effects, be sure to separate fields.

> The whole reason for this post was the fact that after effects seems to hate the m2ts files from my Sony Camera.


The best thing to do in that case is to transcode to another format. You can work with losslessly encoded movies, with images sequences, et cetera.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
putting the 'T' back in 'RTFM' : After Effects Help on the Web
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If a page of After Effects Help answers your question, please consider rating it. If you have a tip, technique, or link to share---or if there is something that you'd like to see added or improved---please leave a comment.


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Eric Robinsan
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 19, 2010 at 5:19:07 pm

Thank you. I will try separate fields and let you know.


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Eric Robinsan
Re: Lossless formats and effects
on Mar 21, 2010 at 7:18:54 pm

I tried separating the fields and that did not work any better, so I assume I will just have to transcode the footage into another format. I know that uncompressed AVI looks just about as good as the original, but I also find that I get those results with h.264blu-ray or mpeg2 blur ray (m2v) I never heard anyone recommend those and I was wondering why.

I have read that many use QT with the animation or PNG codec, but I can tell a difference visually with them. Formats like FLV or F4V may look the same as the original, but I might be loosing subtle colors that are helpful with effects.

Which files do you (or anyone else) recommend I transcode to and why?

Thanks!


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