Apple Compressor Settings, Tips & Tricks

March 13, 2012

There are numerous ways to compress video in post-production, but the major tools used today are Compressor for Mac and Sorenson Squeeze for Windows. The main purpose of a 3rd party application outside of Avid/FCP in a post-production environment is to create quicktimes without waiting for the editing software to do it. Once a quicktime reference is exported and starts compressing on the computer, you can return to the editing software and continue working. These programs are MAJOR time savers.

The current show I’m working on strained every last setting in Compressor with all the different codecs and frame rates being used. I’ve had to deliver quicktimes for use in broadcast, graphic creation, websites, music composition, and for producers to watch. I had to upload HD quicktimes to FTP sites, which could take hours with a slow internet connection and huge file sizes, so getting the compression settings right was critical. Here’s an outline of the major compression types and their uses.

1. Prores – An HD codec developed by Apple. Anyone that has Final Cut Studio installed will have this codec installed. The codec is broadcast quality and I’ve used it to deliver content to On-Air-Promotion and graphics. This codec is more friendly with Macintosh users than Windows. I use Prores 422 HQ because HQ is the highest quality Prores and 422 is the same chroma subsampling as my XDCAM source material.

2. DNxHD – An HD codec developed by Avid. In my opinion it’s an equal to Prores. The file sizes and quality are about equal. The main difference is that it’s friendly with Avid users on Windows and Macintosh, and the codec is free to download and install. I use DNxHD 145 for XDCAM source material.

3. Animation – A favorite codec for graphic creation. It’s uncompressed and the file sizes are ridiculously large. Graphics people are little bitches.

3. H.264 – Another codec that has been used for broadcast, but that’s not why I use it. DNxHD and Prores are better quality so I stick with them for broadcast. H.264 creates much smaller file sizes than the other two though, and I use it mainly to deliver HD content for the web.

4. Mpeg-4 – A great codec for posting videos for producers to screen. H.264 could be used for this as well, but I prefer Mpeg-4 because it’s more compatible with Windows and Mac.


Since our show shot footage at 23.976 fps and 29.97 fps, my knowledge of interlaced and progressive quicktimes was broadened. It would make sense that I would deliver interlaced quicktimes to On Air Promotion and for graphics, but I didn’t. I delivered progressive. No one ever said anything. However, graphics took the progressive source I gave them and returned it interlaced in the final product. So I think for both of them it’s irrelevant which one I choose.

But for web delivery, it should definitely be progressive. That’s what this tab is good with in Compressor.

Output fields needs to be set to progressive. I leave the deinterlace and resize filters on better, and the rate conversion on fast.

This picture is interlaced, noticeable by the ghost outline on the arm as well as everything else in the picture. When stepping through a progressive quicktime of 23.976 material converted to 29.97, every fourth frame will be doubled. When stepping through the same conversion of an interlaced video, every 4th and 5th frame will be interlaced (ghostly).


Once I got the basics down, I started having fun with Compressor.

1. To put a black box behind the timecode generator, create a watermark that contains just a black rectangle at the exact location the timecode will be displayed.

2. An Applescript can be created to run when Compressor is done and it can upload the finished file to an FTP. Or Compressor can send an email to notify you when it’s complete, or do anything else you want.

3. Compressor can be sped up by using it on a computer with more cores. It can also be sped up by using multiple computer processors in a network if they are setup correctly. Apple QMaster in the System Preferences helps with that kind of stuff.

4. Compressor can make droplets out of settings by right clicking the setting and choosing “save droplet as”. Once the droplet is saved somewhere, a quicktime reference can be dragged on top of the droplet to begin the compression process.


And the coolest thing I’ve discovered so far, is that I can compress HD content for the web at much smaller file sizes and still maintain the same quality. It depends on the quality of the source material. We shot a lot of footage with the 5D and 7D which creates H.264 quicktimes at a data rate just smaller than 50 Mbits/sec. This can be verified by opening the source quicktimes in quicktime player and pressing cmd+i. It will display the data rate as something like 47.86 Mbits/sec.

Suppose this footage is exported from Avid at DNxHD 220 resolution, and then compressed with Compressor as an H.264 quicktime at the best quality settings. Compressor creates a quicktime much larger than necessary, with a data rate around 220 Mbits/sec. Instead, the data rate of the quicktime should be restricted to 50,000 kbits/sec. Like this…

Now one minute of video (1920 x 1080, 48khz, 320kbps, AAC) is 375 megabytes instead of 1.5 gigabytes. Pretty damn awesome. The moral is, figure out the source material’s compression settings and then don’t compress higher than necessary.

If you have footage to compress and not the time or means, I’m available to work. Check out my services and contact info here.

-Matt Rittorno


One Response to “Apple Compressor Settings, Tips & Tricks”

  1. Wow, that’s what I was exploring for, what a material! present here at this website, thanks admin of this site.

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