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January 20, 2009 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Compressing quicktime movies for the internets.

I'm in a new position where I have to prep a lot of video content for the web. I'm looking to maximize quality and resolution while keeping file size as practical as possible (my target audience does not include high-end users with blazing connections). Looking at the trailers that Apple throws up makes me feel my work has something left to be desired... are there any tutorials available on how to prep content for the web using Quicktime, Final Cut, or Compressor? I feel like I have a rudimentary knowledge of how this works but I am left wondering if there are any cool tricks or advanced tips.
posted by phaedon to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't mess with Quicktime, generally speaking, however I'll save you hours of trouble with one tip: if you wish to stream the video, the Quicktime file generally must be hinted (their term) before it hits the server.

The last time I staggered around this issue for quite some time before discovering that this particular step was something Apple felt was best left for another document.
posted by adipocere at 1:54 PM on January 20, 2009

Are you using H.264? I'm pretty sure that's how all of Apple's stuff is encoded.
posted by designbot at 2:14 PM on January 20, 2009

What designbot said. It changes all the time as new codecs are deveoped and patents are awarded, but h.265 is the latest in a long line.
posted by rhizome at 2:29 PM on January 20, 2009

er, h.264
posted by rhizome at 2:30 PM on January 20, 2009

In Compressor, use h.264, but use the one specifically for video podcasting. It makes an .m4v file that default plays in iTunes, but works in most players. I used regular h.264 codecs and they were all interlacey, but the video podcasting one works wonders. Upload to a site like and you're set.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:18 PM on January 20, 2009

In case you're having trouble finding the one I'm talking about, here's how to find it in Compressor: Apple/Other workflows/Podcasting/h.264 for Video Podcasting.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:23 PM on January 20, 2009

> I'm looking to maximize quality and resolution while keeping file size as practical as possible

You don't mention rendering time. My colleague tells me that H.264 is the best format, but the slowest to encode.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:26 PM on January 20, 2009

All of this advice is good, and should be taken, but bear in mind that compressing is an art form, not a science. Most likely it will just take tons and tons of experimentation for you to get what you're looking for. I've done my fair share of compressing and posting to the internet and I'm still in awe of whoever gets paid to put movie trailers on

Just don't be discouraged if you spend a couple of dozen hours on that first compression to get a nice balance between quality and size. Once you establish a method the others will go much faster.

It's not like there's a master document out there that everyone knows about and you don't. Google "quicktime compression tips", do some reading, and then put aside some time to experiment. Good luck!
posted by Bobby Bittman at 9:06 PM on January 20, 2009

A couple of tips: Hope this helps!
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:30 PM on January 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Another thought that occurred to me while I was cycling home, phaedon:

It's very likely that, especially for the big movies, that the guy or girl working on compressing the film trailer has been handed a full 4K resolution file, probably losslessly compressed. This doesn't mean that you can't achieve great results from SD footage that has already been stepped on, but stellar results are harder to achieve. GIGO - Garbage In, Garbage Out - is still very much the rule.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:57 PM on January 20, 2009

I'm not sure if you'll be exporting out of editing software. If you are, make sure you deinterlace any interlaced footage on the timeline. Do not deinterlace on export ever. This is a common mistake.

Also, if you're editing pay careful attention to the aspect ratio of your source footage. Make sure your sequence settings match your source footage. Export using square pixels, not rectangular (D1 .9) pixels for the web.

Here's another mistake many people make when working with DV footage:
Don't export to DV if your video is for the web. DV compression is muddy and ugly. H.264 is the only codec you should be working with to ensure quality and (mostly) cross-platform friendliness.

Get QuickTime Pro if you don't already have it. Uninstall Perian if you're exporting h.264 video. There's a bug in Perian that causes QuickTime to wash out your colors.

I spent the last two years troubleshooting video exports for a large podcasting company. This is what I've learned in two years. Hopefully this helps!

Some simple starter settings:
mp4 or m4v with h.264 encoding
Automatic keyframes
750 Kbps video
128 Kbps audio
Do not deinterlace on export
posted by plasticbugs at 10:11 PM on January 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

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