Join Jeff I. Greenberg for an in-depth discussion in this video Reviewing codec types: Camera, Post, and Distribution, part of Compressor 3.5 Essential Training.
- View Offline
There are three major codec types that are good to be aware of. The first would be camera codecs. This is literally what you are recording in camera. An example of this might be something like DVCPRO25 or DV NTSC. Or if you use a P2 camera, often what you're shooting is DVCPRO HD. These are all I-frame codecs. That's intraframe codecs that are a constant bit rate where every single frame has all the information.
They are compressed, but they're optimized for recording in real-time from a camera. We tend to capture it. HDV is an exception to this. It's actually an MPEG2 file. But generally speaking, these files are all meant to come from the camera and they are meant really for shooting. They don't necessarily hold up well in multi-generations crosspost, and that brings me to post codecs. The big post codec Apple is right now very excited about is their ProRes codec.
It's a compressed high-def that we can edit with without too much overhead in Final Cut Pro. The beauty of it is that it minimizes the loss of the original work and it works beautifully when we talk about post- production, and it also can contain an alpha channel. The other big one in the past that people have used as a post codec is the Animation codec. You will even see that there's the Animation setting here with an Alpha channel, but just as a big heads-up, you can't actually edit this terribly well in Final Cut Pro.
So this is one that was meant more for compositing and ProRes is kind of beginning to fall into its use inside of the Pro apps. The last thing we get to are distribution codecs and that's what a lot of you are going to come to Compressor for, whether it's for stuff that's going to go out to the web for download, whether it's going to be for your iPhone or iPod. These codecs throw out a ton of information and their beauty is that they are very small files compared to the original.
An important footnote: you should never be using one of these compressed formats as your original work for editing and post even if your client insists on it. There is a famous phrase, GIGO, Garbage In Garbage Out. And realistically, if you start with something that's really compressed, it never gets any better than that. So in our best of all possible worlds, we want to be using either a camera or a post codec for editing, and use these distribution codecs to distribute.
Other major types of distribution, Compressor doesn't do all of these, are MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 and the special version of MPEG-4 known as H.264. There is our MPEG-2. MPEG-1's of course. H.264, which also work with Blu-ray DVDs and the defunct HD DVDs, and Flash and WMV, which Compressor does not do natively, but you can get a third party add-on from Telestream, a product called Episode Pro, which absolutely integrates here with Compressor and gets you the ability to do WMV files and Flash files.
- Learning the basic rules of compression Understanding transcoding and completing an HD cross-convert Building DVDs directly from the Compressor interface Adding chapters and art to a podcast with Compressor Building batch templates and creating job actions