Image Quality Differences: Compressor vs. Adobe Media Encoder

Posted on by Larry

Commentary2.jpgI’ve written a lot on both Adobe Media Encoder (AME) and Apple Compressor. Recently, I came across an interesting difference between the two that I wanted to share.

We publish 3-4 hours of live video every week, sliced and diced for our website, YouTube, FaceBook and video streaming into upwards of 15 different video segments. Some of these videos are screen-capture tutorials and others are people on camera.

Based on the source media, here’s how we selected which compression software to use:

NOTE: For video recorded using a camera, ProRes 422 is fine, as it matches the color space your camera used for recording video. Screen captures, on the other hand, use the color space of the computer, which is better matched using ProRes 4444.

However, there is one situation where we compress video using Adobe Media Encoder because the resulting quality is much higher.

First, though, some background. For reasons that are somewhat complex, in order to get the images we want from our studio cameras, we need to boost video gain +12 dB. This adds a lot of video noise, especially in the background, which tends to be both dark and saturated.

We have discovered that when compressing video with high noise levels (such as these images shot in low-light), AME does a much better job of masking the noise. Compressor creates files where the background “squirms,” creating a very distracting image; while AME almost makes the noise disappear, resulting in a much more pleasing picture in the compressed file. We’ve now standardized on AME to compress all segments integrating video from our studio cameras.

Now, in an ideal world, I shouldn’t have to deal with video noise at all. But this is the real world and I do. I found the quality differences in this situation between these two software packages  significantly different and worth writing up.

This is not to say one application is the “best,” rather this is an excellent example that if you don’t like the results from one application, trying different software will often provide different results allowing you to match the right software to the task at hand.


13 Responses to Image Quality Differences: Compressor vs. Adobe Media Encoder

  1. when you say “When compressing any file for YouTube both AME and YouTube yield the same quality. ” ––– I assume you mean “both AME and Compressor yield the same quality. “?

    • Larry says:

      Arvid:

      Correct. When I use the default YouTube settings in both AME and Compressor to compress for YouTube, I find the compressed images to look essentially the same.

      Larry

  2. Jamie LeJeune says:

    What Mac are you using for compression? On my 6 core Mac Pro tube with D700s, AME is much faster than Compressor.

  3. Phil Davison says:

    so….
    If I had a noisy video clip – could I export it as a high quality H.264, and then re-import it into my editing software for reduced noise? (i.e. would the loss of quality caused by the compression be greater than the noise reduction?). It sounds a little crazy, but I thought I’d put that idea out there.
    Cheers,
    Phil

    • Larry says:

      Phil:

      An interesting idea… but, I’d prefer to use a video noise reduction tool on the video if you planned to continue editing it. There are a number of tools to use:

      * Red Giant
      * Neat Video
      * Boris FX
      * and others

      Compression throws away so much material, that to then go back and edit a compressed clip will damage the ultimate video quality.

      Larry

  4. Clayton says:

    One of the best things I’ve found for reducing noise is shooting in 4k. Once 4k video has been down sampled to 1080 or 720, a lot of noise just falls away in the process. Not only that but you get that increase in overall image quality that makes it look like the best HD you ever shot.

  5. Russell says:

    Hi Larry

    You comment re: the role of colour spaces in capture and encoding is a nice wrinkle. Thank you. Perhaps “colour space” is worthy of an overview article in it’s own right. Capture vs processing vs delivery.

    Best

    Russ

  6. ryan says:

    Larry, It would be nice to see an article on why you need to use 12dB gain in your studio setup. Sounds less than ideal, and there might be some info in there that would be beneficial to everyone.

    • Larry says:

      Ryan:

      +12 dB of video gain is much less than ideal. We have now standardized on +6 dB we we learned better ways to use our gear. The cameras and lenses are quite slow and our lighting is not as bright as we need.

      More light would fix this problem, but that needs to wait for a bigger budget.

      Larry

      • Nance says:

        Hi Larry,

        I know this may sound obvious (and maybe impossible), but try moving your lights much closer to your subject. It really will make a difference.

        Nance

        • Larry says:

          Nance:

          You are correct. Moving the lights closer would help a lot. But because our show is shot four-cameras live, moving the lights closer would destroy all our wide shots.

          Larry

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