Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

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Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Anicsi » Sat Jul 04, 2009 11:03 am

Hello there ^^
Well, I don't really know where to start. I have read most of the guides but a lot of them aren't based on Mac software, plus English is not my maternal language so I do have some difficulties to understand everything. :oops: So I hope it is fine to open a new topic as I coudn't find anything in the search as well.

Here we go: I use Final Cut Express 4.0. It is a middle range programm though perfectly fine for my work. Only when it comes to the export quality I am really desperate, I don't know what to do.
Most of the footage I use is compressed avi (mostly divx) or mp4. I do work with dvd rips but some dvds haven't released in my country yet so I had to look for another option. It was quite a pain to look for a program that would convert my .mkv videos to a format FCE could handle. I finally decided on VisualHub.
Well, after converting it to mp4 (it was the only format that worked) the quality seemed fine to me. Not perfect, but almost as good as the original. But after editing the footage in FCE and exporting it, I was really shocked. Here is an example:

From right to left: mkv --> mp4 (visualHub) --> .mov (exported with FCE)

Image

Another problem I have is that my videos ALWAYS have some stripes (I believe it is called banding? Or is this something different ^^"), especially when I use text in my videos. How can this possibly be? Should FCE not be able to... well, I mean, this is just ridiculous, it isn't a program you get for free. And what really startles me is that everything looks fine in the preview but once I exported it, this turns out...

Here are some examples:

Image

Image

Image

Image
I would be really grateful if you could tell me what I could to to avoid those quality losses as it makes me so sad to see a project i have worked hard on getting so... ugly in the end.
Thanks a lot =)
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Anicsi » Sat Jul 04, 2009 11:32 am

Sorry for the double-post (and the grammar mistakes in the previous post, can't find an edit-button, hehe ^^").
I wanted to kindly ask you to move this topic to the Mac-Forum as might be a better place to discuss this Mac-issue.
Thanks a lot :)

[MOD 258: Yeah, the Mac section is the appropriate one for Mac-related questions. Moved.]
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Athena » Sat Jul 04, 2009 8:58 pm

Anicsi wrote:Hello there ^^
Well, I don't really know where to start. I have read most of the guides but a lot of them aren't based on Mac software, plus English is not my maternal language so I do have some difficulties to understand everything. :oops: So I hope it is fine to open a new topic as I coudn't find anything in the search as well.


Unfortunately, I myself do not use Final Cut Pro or Express, so my knowledge will be based mostly on what I know from when I did. I have Final Cut Pro, but I do not have Final Cut Express.

It was quite a pain to look for a program that would convert my .mkv videos to a format FCE could handle. I finally decided on VisualHub.


Use Avidemux. It is a much better choice. Convert the mkv to HUFFYUV avi, and with Perian installed, you should be able to drop directly into FCE. If It complains about the compression type, it's somewhat misleading. Use SimpleMovieX or MPEGStreamClip to change containers from AVI to MOV, and then place in FCE. You will have perfect lossless quality.

From right to left: mkv --> mp4 (visualHub) --> .mov (exported with FCE)



That is clear, clear quality loss even from mkv to mp4, but even more quality lose in the export mov. But it has nothing to do with the containers and everything to do with the codecs. What codecs are you encoding into at each step? That's why you lose quality.

Another problem I have is that my videos ALWAYS have some stripes (I believe it is called banding? Or is this something different ^^"), especially when I use text in my videos. How can this possibly be? Should FCE not be able to... well, I mean, this is just ridiculous, it isn't a program you get for free. And what really startles me is that everything looks fine in the preview but once I exported it, this turns out...


That's not banding, that's interlacing. You need to make sure your project settings are set to work on progressive source. FCE is interlacing your footage unnecessarily. You need to turn that feature off.
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Anicsi » Sun Jul 05, 2009 3:42 am

First of all thank you so much for your quick reply ^^

Kionon wrote:Use Avidemux. It is a much better choice. Convert the mkv to HUFFYUV avi, and with Perian installed, you should be able to drop directly into FCE. If It complains about the compression type, it's somewhat misleading. Use SimpleMovieX or MPEGStreamClip to change containers from AVI to MOV, and then place in FCE. You will have perfect lossless quality.


Oh, sure, I will try this, thanks a lot ^^ I am not sure, which universal binary do I have to install? There are two at the bottom of the page. I use an Intel Macbook with Tiger.
http://fixounet.free.fr/avidemux/download.html

Once I have tried I am going to report on my (hopefully) success :3

Kionon wrote:That is clear, clear quality loss even from mkv to mp4, but even more quality lose in the export mov. But it has nothing to do with the containers and everything to do with the codecs. What codecs are you encoding into at each step? That's why you lose quality.


Ok, I see. Well, both VisualHub and FCE don't give me too many options to convert/export to. Sadly. But, both mkv and mp4 are H.264.
Mov is... H.264 too if I see this correctly. Though there is some other stuff too, only I believe it is meant for the audio:

16 Bit Integer (Little Endian), Stereo (L R), 48,000 kHz
H.264, 848 x 480

So I didn't change the codecs (though I have to say I didn't even know it made a lot of difference). By the way I noticed that the quality worsens once I render the project.

Kionon wrote:That's not banding, that's interlacing. You need to make sure your project settings are set to work on progressive source. FCE is interlacing your footage unnecessarily. You need to turn that feature off.


Oh, ok, no banding then xD May I ask what 'banding' is? If it is not too difficult to explain, I don't want to trouble you.
I am actually not really sure how I am supposed to turn the feature off. I looked through the guide, searched on the internet and I couldn't find a proper translation/explanation in German (as my FCE isn't the English version).

Here are some screenshots of the project settings. That is everything you decide on before you begin to edit:
Image

This is what I normally use:
Image

Then there are some pre-settings:
Image

I hope this helps at least a bit and thank you again for your help and pacience. ^^
Anna
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Athena » Sun Jul 05, 2009 4:13 am

Oh, sure, I will try this, thanks a lot ^^ I am not sure, which universal binary do I have to install? There are two at the bottom of the page. I use an Intel Macbook with Tiger.
http://fixounet.free.fr/avidemux/download.html


Go with the QT4. It has a more recognisable interface in Aqua, as opposed to the GTK (which is the linux style, think KDE or gnome). However, the source code is entirely the same.

Kionon wrote:That is clear, clear quality loss even from mkv to mp4, but even more quality lose in the export mov. But it has nothing to do with the containers and everything to do with the codecs. What codecs are you encoding into at each step? That's why you lose quality.


Ok, I see. Well, both VisualHub and FCE don't give me too many options to convert/export to. Sadly. But, both mkv and mp4 are H.264.
Mov is... H.264 too if I see this correctly. Though there is some other stuff too, only I believe it is meant for the audio:

16 Bit Integer (Little Endian), Stereo (L R), 48,000 kHz
H.264, 848 x 480

So I didn't change the codecs (though I have to say I didn't even know it made a lot of difference). By the way I noticed that the quality worsens once I render the project.


This is why you use a variety of programs like MPEGStreamclip and Avidemux which give you many more options. If you're going to use H264, this isn't a problem, as long as you set it to 100%, so there is no quality loss. The files will be large, but you shouldn't have any issues most viewers can detect. I would still recommend using HUFFYUV into FCE, and exporting via Apple Intermedia Codec. Now why your codecs specify 1080i or 720p, and don't give you an SD option like FCP does, I don't know. My next codec would be to merely go without one, uncompressed, which should be labeled as "non" but if your menus are to be believed, you don't have that either... I don't read German. My other language is Japanese, and I can usually read French.

Oh, ok, no banding then xD May I ask what 'banding' is? If it is not too difficult to explain, I don't want to trouble you.


Banding is what happens when the compression codec organizes color differences so that instead of a smooth transition, you have a band of one color, then a band of the next shade, then a band of the next shade, and so on. Think of it as a rainbow type of look, but with all the colors progressively lighter or darker shades of one color.

Honestly, it looks like FCE is forcing you into codecs I wouldn't recommend. I am surprised there is not an an uncompressed option though...
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Anicsi » Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:14 am

Kionon wrote:
This is why you use a variety of programs like MPEGStreamclip and Avidemux which give you many more options. If you're going to use H264, this isn't a problem, as long as you set it to 100%, so there is no quality loss. The files will be large, but you shouldn't have any issues most viewers can detect. I would still recommend using HUFFYUV into FCE, and exporting via Apple Intermedia Codec. Now why your codecs specify 1080i or 720p, and don't give you an SD option like FCP does, I don't know. My next codec would be to merely go without one, uncompressed, which should be labeled as "non" but if your menus are to be believed, you don't have that either... I don't read German. My other language is Japanese, and I can usually read French.


Yes, I do have MPEGStreamclip but it wouldn't convert my mkv files (of course) and I didn't know about Avidemux. Really weird as VisualHub is no freeware :-/

Okay, so I am going to report on my experiences so far ^^ I downloaded the QT4 as you recommended and it works just fine. I converted the mkv file to Huffyuv. The quality really is amazing, only that there are some questions left.

1. There was the following note when I first opened the file:

I clicked the 'no' button. Or should I have said 'yes'? The German word above: 'gefunden' just means it has been found.
Image

2. The aspect ratio is wrong. I suppose it turned the 848:480 to something like 720:480.
Problem is that nothing happens if I click on the 'settings/configuration' button under the 'video' option. Is this a mistake? It probably is, so is there any other way to change the aspect ratio?
And the 24 fps is fine, isn't it?

3. Which one would be the best audio setting? I am unsure weather to choose mp3 or acc.

4. Well, once the video is converted I get actually 5 files, each at about 4 GB. I have to type in the .avi ending manually. Is there any way to get one file instead of 5? Or would you say it is better this way as they aren't t hat big compared to a whole video?

5. FCE doesn't need to render dv mov. So which is the best program to convert the mkv file to dv mov? I know, dv isn't lossless but as I won't be able to export an lossless video via FCE I don't think it makes too much difference and it would be quite handy.

6. Now I believe 720p Apple Intermediate Codec in MOV would be fine, wouldn't it? And after that I should convert it f.e. with SimpleMovieX to mp4, as you suggested in your guide, right?

Well, thank you very much for your support, you just really, really helped me out! You seem to know quite a lot, not only mac-based but also your guide was easier to understand than the ones I read before. But... well, as I said I am not too good at tecnical things and still have a lot to learn ^^
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Athena » Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:50 am

Anicsi wrote:I clicked the 'no' button. Or should I have said 'yes'? The German word above: 'gefunden' just means it has been found.


It matters when combining audio and video, but I can't recall how at the moment. If you eliminate B-Frames, I believe the number of frames increases, and video will last longer than the audio, so you have to readjust in an editor to recombine them, but since I never use audio from any footage, DVD or otherwise, I am not sure of the procedure.

2. The aspect ratio is wrong. I suppose it turned the 848:480 to something like 720:480.


False. The video itself never had an aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is in the container, it's called flagging. MKV and MP4 have flagging, which will turn an actual resolution of 720x480 to a display resolution of 848x480 when the flagging is called by a media player. AVI lacks flagging, thus you appear to "lose" it. Just make sure FCE is set to a Widescreen PAR and edit in 720x480 (it will appear to you in FCE as 848x480, since FCE will then be applying flagging through the project settings).

Problem is that nothing happens if I click on the 'settings/configuration' button under the 'video' option. Is this a mistake? It probably is, so is there any other way to change the aspect ratio?
And the 24 fps is fine, isn't it?


See above. I am pretty sure you can set the display PAR in project settings, but again, I do not have, and have never had, FCE, so I am somewhat going off of my knowledge of FCP. As FCE seems to be extremely popular among the mac editors asking me questions, perhaps I should get a copy and fiddle around with it for a write-up of some sort...

Assuming that the original source is 24fps, sure. It's more likely 23.937 or something like that...

3. Which one would be the best audio setting? I am unsure weather to choose mp3 or acc.


For HUFFYUV? Honestly, I'd choose PCM. Simple, if large. In the end, it doesn't matter, unless for some specific reason you need the source audio. I usually just choose NONE and forgo audio entirely because I don't need it.

4. Well, once the video is converted I get actually 5 files, each at about 4 GB. I have to type in the .avi ending manually. Is there any way to get one file instead of 5? Or would you say it is better this way as they aren't t hat big compared to a whole video?


Honestly, I haven't yet figured out why Avidemux does this. I have found it really doesn't matter since you're going to be chopping up the files anyway. I prefer to just chop up the files in Avidemux itself, choosing scenes as I storyboard, so that I won't end up with huge episode files with scenes I don't need. I figure just use the trim feature in Avidemux and clip that way. Don't convert episodes whole.

5. FCE doesn't need to render dv mov. So which is the best program to convert the mkv file to dv mov? I know, dv isn't lossless but as I won't be able to export an lossless video via FCE I don't think it makes too much difference and it would be quite handy.


There's a debate on this. Castor says the loss isn't significant enough to worry about, I say it is. You say FCE doesn't allow you to render out anything except DV? In that case, render out as FULL if you have that option. You should still go into FCE with lossless AVI/MOV. I won't budge on that, even if others will. My experiences have been that going into an editing program with lossy codecs ends up getting intensified during the export process leading directly to a series of quality losses that resemble the three picture set you posted earlier.

6. Now I believe 720p Apple Intermediate Codec in MOV would be fine, wouldn't it? And after that I should convert it f.e. with SimpleMovieX to mp4, as you suggested in your guide, right?


You'd be upscaling unnecessarily. I'd recommend against that. Use FULL as mentioned above. Is there a way you can screencap the export options for me?

If you're referring to the So You Wanna sticky, I ought to have Kalium change that. Go back into Avidemux and use it with an AVI out of MPEGStreamclip. Then you can use x264 (as opposed to Apple's H264) and you have much more control over it. Almost as much as you would using ZarxGUI on Windows.

Well, thank you very much for your support, you just really, really helped me out! You seem to know quite a lot, not only mac-based but also your guide was easier to understand than the ones I read before. But... well, as I said I am not too good at tecnical things and still have a lot to learn ^^


Well, I've only been a full-time mac editor for around a year. Prior to that, my main editing computer was windows. With crossover/wine, much of the knowledge the Org has accumulated over the years I found to be easily accessible to the intel mac user. I'm an English teacher by trade, and have worked in the past as a technical writer, so I think I can break down processes into easy steps quite well. It is, after all, a selling point in my career.

Kionon for Most Helpful 2010.

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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Anicsi » Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:02 am

Kionon wrote:It matters when combining audio and video, but I can't recall how at the moment. If you eliminate B-Frames, I believe the number of frames increases, and video will last longer than the audio, so you have to readjust in an editor to recombine them, but since I never use audio from any footage, DVD or otherwise, I am not sure of the procedure.


Okay, thanks ^^

Kionon wrote:False. The video itself never had an aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is in the container, it's called flagging. MKV and MP4 have flagging, which will turn an actual resolution of 720x480 to a display resolution of 848x480 when the flagging is called by a media player. AVI lacks flagging, thus you appear to "lose" it. Just make sure FCE is set to a Widescreen PAR and edit in 720x480 (it will appear to you in FCE as 848x480, since FCE will then be applying flagging through the project settings).


Oh, right, I recall having read something about this flagging in your guide though in the dvd-ripping section. Sorry, forgot about that.
Well... My current project setting is this of Apple Intermediate 720p from the settings I showed you before:

Image

I exported several sequence-settings with the same source material and this seemed to have the best quality (well, except the other Apple Intermediate settings, but they are way to big-sized for my usage)
Here, take a look, the first screenshot is taken from sequence 1 which is DV-NTSC, the second one is Apple I. 720p:

Image

Image

So, this is widescreen of course (even if 1028x720), but after importing the .avi HUFFYUV it still remains 720x480:

Image

I know you said I should make sure to work with widescreen 720x480 but there is no such setting in Apple Intermediate format. Or am I getting something wrong? Problem with FCE is that you seem to cannot export to anything except .mov, which means you have to aim for the highest resolution or quality right from the beginning when you choose your sequence settings.

You asked me to take a screenshot of the export options:

1. Image

so this says just export, then Quicktime film, Quicktime conversion or for LiveType xD

I usually pick Quicktime conversion cause it allows me to change things like quality, frame rate and aspect ratio.

Image

Anything except .mov turns to a really, really ugly mess, I've tried it about 10 times and... No.

2. Image

So, next step after having chosen quicktime conversion --> quicktime film / Options. The first options for video say: compression, filter (oohh difficult lol) and size ^^


3. Image

lets take a look at compression:
I believe you can guess most of it as German is in some ways very similar to English. Framerate settings, quality/compression etc.


4. Image

Size: I usually pick "Eigene" which means ehm... "own" as it has happened to me a lot of times that the final size wasn't the one I wanted to have, even though I chose the right setting.

So, yes, this is everything FCE export is about. I hope you weren't confused to much by all the screenshots and German xD

Ah well, as this post is going to be quite long I won't answer all of your previous replies. Though thank you very much ^^

Kionon wrote:
5. FCE doesn't need to render dv mov. So which is the best program to convert the mkv file to dv mov? I know, dv isn't lossless but as I won't be able to export an lossless video via FCE I don't think it makes too much difference and it would be quite handy.


There's a debate on this. Castor says the loss isn't significant enough to worry about, I say it is. You say FCE doesn't allow you to render out anything except DV? In that case, render out as FULL if you have that option. You should still go into FCE with lossless AVI/MOV. I won't budge on that, even if others will. My experiences have been that going into an editing program with lossy codecs ends up getting intensified during the export process leading directly to a series of quality losses that resemble the three picture set you posted earlier.


Well, i am not sure what you mean with 'render out'. I have to render everything except DV once I move it in my timeline and it 'hits' another clip in my timeline.
Lets explain with another screenshot though I believe it is the same in FCP:

Image

Soo... there you see two different clips. The left one is the HUFFYUV .avi. I rendered it, but when I add a transition or move it in the timeline where it lies over another clip, I have to render it again.

The right one is a .dv clip. You can see that you don't have to render it again because it is shown light green-grey.
So you can move it freely, add transitions and even some effects/contrast/lightning etc. without having to render it again.
So, I don't know what you mean with FULL rendering. Can i find it under the render options? If yes, which color does it have?

I took a screen of the render options.

Image

There you see different options.
Red: needs rendering
green: preview
'light' green-grey: hmm... 'whole'. Though this could be the FULL rendering you were talking about. However, I tried it, but it didn't make a lot of difference.
Orange: unlimited

If this has nothing to do with the FULL rendering you mentioned I am sorry but have no idea what this could be.

Kionon wrote:
6. Now I believe 720p Apple Intermediate Codec in MOV would be fine, wouldn't it? And after that I should convert it f.e. with SimpleMovieX to mp4, as you suggested in your guide, right?


You'd be upscaling unnecessarily. I'd recommend against that. Use FULL as mentioned above. Is there a way you can screencap the export options for me?


Hmm, well the problem is what I said before: Everything except Apple Intermediate will show interlacing-stripes and the quality sucks, too. And the smallest Apple I. sequence setting is 720p. So what should I do? :?

Kionon wrote:If you're referring to the So You Wanna sticky, I ought to have Kalium change that. Go back into Avidemux and use it with an AVI out of MPEGStreamclip. Then you can use x264 (as opposed to Apple's H264) and you have much more control over it. Almost as much as you would using ZarxGUI on Windows.


Yes, I was talking about this one.
Wait, you mean I should convert the FCE .mov file first with MPEG streamclip to .avi and then with avidemux to... x264 .mp4? Won't I have quality losses when converting it so many times? Wouldn't it be better only to convert it with MPEGStreamclip then?

Kionon wrote:Well, I've only been a full-time mac editor for around a year. Prior to that, my main editing computer was windows. With crossover/wine, much of the knowledge the Org has accumulated over the years I found to be easily accessible to the intel mac user. I'm an English teacher by trade, and have worked in the past as a technical writer, so I think I can break down processes into easy steps quite well. It is, after all, a selling point in my career.

Kionon for Most Helpful 2010.

:|


Ahhh... I see, a professional, aren't you? :D Well that's great and your being an English teacher also explains your excellent English. Haha, yeah, I am sure to vote for you, as you really are a great, great help.
Thanks again ^^
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Athena » Sun Jul 05, 2009 5:27 pm

I'm going to install FCE 4.0 and get back to you after I have developed a process. Since it appears FCE is making you do things I don't like... Let me see if I can't find proper settings and ten give you a step by step process to follow.
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Anicsi » Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:54 am

Okay, thank you very much for your kind help ^^
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Athena » Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:40 pm

Ok, I installed FCE 4.0. I figured out quite a bit. First a note about your rendering complaints: they are simply unwarranted. My process in Premeire has always been change, save, render, save, repeat. Why you feel (or why Castor feels) you should be exempt from this process, I don't know. When working with lossless for the best possible quality, this is simply the process. No way around it. Just accept that you have to press that render button a lot. Make peace with it.

Next, your initial setting is correct: DV-NTSC Anamorphic is a fine choice. However, once your HUFFYUV clips are imported, you need to go to item properties on each one, scroll down to anamorphic and click on the space next to it so a checkmark appears. Then when put on the timeline, your 720x480 will appear in the correct anamorphic aspect ratio.

When you are ready to export, choose use Quicktime Conversion, Quicktime Movie, Video Settings: None, Quality Best, Video Size: NTSC 720x480 16:9. Sound is immaterial at this point. PCM is fine.

You might lose the flagging when moving to AVI via MPEGStreamclip, but you can get it back with MP4 in Avidemux.
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Athena » Mon Jul 06, 2009 9:36 pm

ADDENDUM: skip MPEGStreamclip. Avidemux can open the uncompressed mov. Do an x264/mp4 encode from there.
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Anicsi » Tue Jul 07, 2009 5:55 am

Oh, I didn't expect to get such a fast reply ^^ Well, of course I know that rendering is just part of the editing process. It is simply a bit irritating to have to render it also in the beginning even before knowing how it will go with the song. But well, I guess I have to put up with that ^^

Oh wow, I didn't know this checkmark-thingy. That's really great :) Okay, I just exported a short clip to check the steps you suggested. The uncompressed mov looks good and works fine. But I cannot import it to avidemux, it will look this way, same as the converted mp4 in the end. (Oh it says Apple Intermediate cause I tried both version, see below.)

You tried it, right? So I have no idea what is wrong with my avidemux. I can open the mov in Quicktime without any problem.


Image



Just one more thing:
To see if I'd have another deinterlacing problem I added some text to the clip.
It looks like this once exported:

Image


So I copied the clips to Apple Intermediate 720p but exported it the same way as the DV-NTSC: 720x480.
Now the text looks fine and I believe also the slight banding isn't as visible as in the DV version.

Image

1. MKV (without any conversion)
Image

2. DV-NTSC
Image


3. Apple Intermediate 720p
Image
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Anicsi » Tue Jul 07, 2009 5:58 am

Oh right, just in case the deinterlacing is because of this feature you mentioned before: I still don't know how to turn it off, sorry. But still I've made the experience that Apple Intermediate Codec looks nicer in the end ^^
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Re: Final Cut Express: Horrible export quality

Postby Athena » Tue Jul 07, 2009 6:00 am

You know, I ran into a similar issue trying to move the resulting uncompressed video into an AVI file. There is clearly something about third party software that doesn't like uncompressed. Not sure why that is...

Let's see if I can find you an alternative without quality loss...
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