A couple of weeks ago I had posted a comparison on my blog showing the quality differences between Premiere Pro & FCP X when it came to H264 compression. Since writing the article I have had loads of questions about my findings and have done some more testing on my own time, so I am posting the follow up test results here today.
For those of you that were asking about more specific settings that weren’t detailed in my first post, here are a couple of screenshots from Compressor and Media Encoder, showing how I had things set up. I ran the tests (both times) using FCPX/Premiere Pro as well as Compressor/Media Encoder, and used the same settings each time. It’s worth noting that the screenshots below were taken from my most recent test (as I didn’t take screenshots during my initial test), but all of the settings were identical.
Some of the most important settings that were universally used throughout all my tests were:
Data Rate: 20000 kbits/sec
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Frame Rate: 23.976
Field Order: Progressive
Frame Reordering: On
Encoding: Best Quality / Use Maximum Render Quality
The reason that I highlighted which container I used for the file is because on my initial test there was some variance on Media Encoder between H264 .MOV files and H264 .MP4 files (the former of which was more problematic).
On my first test, for some reason Compressor had a cleaner image that had fewer artifacts and less color shifting as you can see here (click to enlarge):
Premiere Pro/Media Encoder
Once I decided to re-do the test using a more recently updated version of Premiere Pro/Media Encoder however, I got very different results. Here are two screenshots from an H264 encoded video file (one from Premiere Pro and one from FCP X)… It’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two now:
Premiere Pro/Media Encoder
The only variable that had changed between my initial test and the most recent test which gave very different results, was the updated version of Premiere Pro/Media Encoder that I was using. I tested the same settings while rendering out directly from Premiere, as well as directly from Media Encoder and had the same improved results both times. Clearly whatever small issue may have existed with the previous iteration of Adobe’s software has now been rectified, and it’s great to have such confidence in the compression capabilities of the software now.
The main reason that I did this follow up test (outside of all of the requests from my blog readers) was because Adobe had contacted me after seeing my initial post and wanted to know more about this issue themselves. I have to say that I was very impressed by the level of interest that they expressed in this small test, as one of the most important things that I look for when investing my time and money in a piece of software today, is the integrity of the company that has created it. There’s no question to me after speaking with the Adobe team that they are dedicated to continually perfecting their products in a way that will reflect professional customer feedback and real user experiences. No matter what your preference may be with regards to editing or creative software, there is no denying that it’s refreshing to have a company as big as Adobe make such an effort to actually listen to their customers.
This mentality is becoming more and more important every day, not only in the post-world but also with manufacturers of cameras, production gear and many other technologically driven businesses in our industry. At the end of the day, it’s the real users that are seeing first hand (in real world environments) the strengths and weaknesses of any given product and then recommending it to colleagues (or not) based on their own experience with it. I hope that more companies in our industry start to understand the importance of listening more clearly to their user base and allowing genuine feedback to guide future products and updates.
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Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!