Video Compression Settings

This guide will walk you through the workflow that I use and recommend to anyone trying to get the best quality video to upload to the internet. There are many universal rules (between SD and HD) but many variables, depending on your current setup/settings. I’ll start with the basics of standard definition.


Standard definition means the video has a resolution (for the most part) of 720x480px. This is a standard definition. Hence the name. SD footage shoots at a frame rate of 60i (60 (actually 59.94) interlaced fields per second (which translates to 30 (actually 29.97) frames per second). This frame rate is better to use if you plan on slowing down a clip because you can deinterlace the footage and, using After Effects, get a really smooth slow motion effect. However, some SD cameras these days can shoot at 30p or 24p. This will give you a smoother, film looking picture, but you won’t be able to do much with it in post production.


So you have your SD video clips on a timeline in Final Cut. Everything is edited, music syncs up (and the track has never been used in a video before) and the bangers, afterbangers and afterburners are in place. The first thing that I do is apply the Brightness/Contrast filter to every clip. The brightness I will change to anywhere from -5 to -12. Contrast should be upped to 8 or even 15. Exporting usually kills the contrast of your video. Next, I jack up the saturation on every clip using the HSV adjust filter, making an adjustment of .05 up to .15 depending on the clip. Another good thing to do, but not imperative, is to apply a sharpen filter to everything. I use the ‘Sharpen’ tool and don’t go above 8, and check the box that says ‘Luminosity’. Lastly, De-interlace all of the footage using the de-interlace tool (unless you shot progressive, which doesn’t need to be deinterlaced). Select the ‘lower fields first’ (native to SD footage) and render (NOTE: You can also choose “Deinterlace Source Video” during export but sometimes this doesn’t work, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s just my computer). The footage in the viewer will look kinda dark and weird, but when exported, it will look fine.


Now time to export. File > Export > Using Quicktime Conversion. Make sure the dropbox named ‘format’ is on Quicktime Movie. Click options, and use these settings:
Compression type: H.264
Frame Rate: Current
Key Frames: All
Quality: Best
Data Rate: Automatic
Don’t apply any filters, and choose ‘Current’ for the size.
For sound, use AAC stereo at 44.1kHz, best quality and a 320kbps bit rate.

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