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Best codec for distributing HD stock footage clips?

joelholland's picture
Last seen: 9 years 8 months ago
Joined: 04/04/2005 - 11:58pm

There are many different codecs/compression formats and options for HD, so I'm hoping you can give me your input on the best/most universally compatible format for distribution of HD clips on data DVD.

I am going to be shipping 20 HD clips (about 15 seconds or so each) to hundreds of people, all on a variety of editing systems. So I need to pick a good intermediary codec that is very compatible with most systems, maintains high quality, and balances a file size that isn't too out of control.

Source of footage: Canon XH-A1 HDV. I will be exporting to 1920x1080 60i resolution, and here are my ideas/options as I see them:

1) Photo-JPEG Quicktime files. Seems to be compatible with almost all systems and maintains high quality, but the file sizes can get large. Also, deciding what quality level to use (I currently go with 95%/best) is tough. What is optimal for HDV?

2) H.264 Quicktime files. Thoughts? Seems to be a great codec for maintaining quality and smaller file size than Photo-JPEG, but how universally compatible is it?

3) Something different than the two above that I haven't thought of. Please let me know your thoughts!

Thanks, Joel


XTR-91's picture
Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
Joined: 12/06/2008 - 8:57pm

For retaining the maximum quality, I'd keep the footage in the format originally recorded. If the format is HDV (MPEG-2 TS), then I'd also convert and provide a DV-AVI alternative for buyers.


EarlC's picture
Last seen: 8 months 5 days ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am
Plus Member Moderator

If you can figure out what XTR is recommending, then fine, but I'd strongly consider utilization of the H.264 (mpeg4) as far as hitting on something that is widely universal. That, or convert your clips to flash. Get an account with Ning at http://www.ning.com and let them convert your footage, then use their link or embed code with their very good quality flash conversion and deliver that, or use Ning as a landing site and steer your viewers there - much cheaper distribution.


joelholland's picture
Last seen: 9 years 8 months ago
Joined: 04/04/2005 - 11:58pm

Thanks for weighing in guys!

XTR-I agree that leaving the footage in its native format would be the most ideal solution, but mpeg2 doesn't have a cross-platform codec. If captured on Apple it works with apple, if captured on PC it works with PC.
So unfortunately I do need to re-compress into a universal format.

The question then becomes: image sequence like Photo-JPEG (which is known to hold pretty good quality and works with almost all platforms), or MPEG4 using H.264 which also holds good quality and has widespread compatibility because of QuickTime player 7+ coming packaged with the codec. Thanks for ipod/iphone almost everyone has QT and therefore H264 regardless of computer type.

So the new question: Photo-JPEG versus H.264. Which do you think is better? Also, for quality, 90%? or 95%? I've heard that at some point (I've heard 90) going much higher adds only file size to HDV material, not any additional quality.

Earl - Interesting concept with regard to the flash previews. Unfortunately Ning caps bandwidth usage pretty low and charges a good amount when it is passed. :( Luckily we have a great server setup and plenty of bandwidth of our own to go around!


EarlC's picture
Last seen: 8 months 5 days ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am
Plus Member Moderator

JPEG is lossy, moreso I suspect, that H.264 might prove to be in spite of the different approach to compression. If I were to need a solution to which you're referring, I suspect I'd make do with the overall benefits of H.264 and its (as you agree and stated) universality.

Though Ning was used as a reference regarding Flash preview, there are certainly other available programs offering similar Flash conversion that might make this a go to solution for you - popular and fairly universal as well, playback wise.


XTR-91's picture
Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
Joined: 12/06/2008 - 8:57pm

What I meant was selling copies of the MPEG-2 (Transport Stream) footage in its original format. As a second option for buyers, you should also sell copies of your footage in the DV-AVI format, which is very universal for video editing.


david5566's picture
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: 07/30/2009 - 5:43am

well, it depends on what you rational behind "best". Best quality, best compatibility, or both?
For me, I will encode video with H.264 codec. Well of those H.264 is easily the most compatible with other computers. Yet you can also get a better looking picture with H.264. But keep in mind that picture quality increase with file size, so encoded with H.264 may give you a big size.


XTR-91's picture
Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
Joined: 12/06/2008 - 8:57pm

From what I've read, everyone seems to say that H.264 provides the best effeciency in compression while retaining a quality that is nearly identicalto the MPEG-2 (standard DVD) codec. If you're selling online, I'd go with what everyone said about using the H.264 advanced video codec. DV-AVI retains the most quality, but the final output for any video production (e.g. TV, Web, DVD, Blue-ray,Theatre) use a compression codec that retains merely a fraction of DV-AVI's bitrate. All mentioned above, with maybe the exception of theatre, utilize some sort of codec with the standard MPEG-2 bitrate or something else below.

If the stock footage market is raving over H.264 and other AVC formats, than I'd export H.264 for effeciency and compatibility purposes.