Final Cut Express 4.0 Low Quality Export of Stills

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by SleepmSam, Jul 25, 2014.

  1. SleepmSam macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2014
    Thank you very much beforehand to anyone who is willing to look through this issue, it's been a long and frustrating process so far...

    I am attempting to put together a stop motion animation in Final Cut Express 4.0 but my exports are always either low quality, or medium quality and stretched. I am shooting on a Canon 5D Mark ii set to take pictures at 21M 5616x3744 [999] (though I'm not entirely sure what the 21M or 999 mean).

    When I first assembled my stills (unedited or altered in any way) and exported, it looked like this:

    (See Attachment 1)

    A relatively drastic loss in colour and quality. This was achieved exporting through quicktime conversion using the following settings:

    Compression Type: H.264
    Compressor Quality: Best
    Size: 1920x1080 HD
    Preserve aspect ratio using: Crop
    Deinterlace source video: unchecked

    Unhappy with the result, I went through hours of testing and researching which only yielded a result after I discovered the control-Q Easy Setup menu. I tried setting up as an apple intermediate codec using HDV-Apple Intermediate Codec 1080i60 at 29.97 fps. I kept the export settings the same as above, but knowing that I was now working with a canvas that keeps to the 16:9 proportions, I tried cropping one of my stills in photoshop to fit that 16:9 ratio.

    I then imported my 16:9 cropped still and an unedited JPEG version from my camera and exported the resulting 10 second video. The result was better quality, but still noticeably degraded from the original stills. More importantly, both the cropped 16:9 and the unedited JPEG were stretched out of proportion as seen below (16:9 version):

    (See Attachment 2)

    Of course I forgot to note the original settings on Easy Setup so I can't figure out how to get back to the original lower quality, yet undistorted image (not that I want to do that). I tried numerous different sizes for the export including changing the Crop (when necessary) setting to letterbox. Nothing worked.

    The canvas, however, immediately looked 100% better after switching the Easy Setup to HDV-Apple Intermediate Codec 1080i60 at 29.97 fps. It held the improved quality without distorting the image:

    (See Attachment 3)

    I'm not sure if there's any hope of having a great image quality, but at very least I would like to be able to export at the decent quality of the second screenshot without the stretching and cropping.

    I need to have this resolved ASAP for work, I've already wasted too much time here. Any help is so appreciated, I'll be active in providing whatever additional information that I can to responders, though please keep in mind that I'm relatively new to all this, I don't know where to find everything.

    Final Cut Express 4.0

    Attached Files:

  2. pinholestars macrumors member


    Oct 20, 2011
    I'm not sure, but I'm guessing your quality/color complaints are coming from the fact that you're exporting via H.264? Not that it's bad, but the images definitely won't look the same as your high resolution jpgs.

    The other issue is probably the limitations of FCE 4 itself. If this is a project that you need fixed ASAP, I don't know that I have a great answer or quick fix.

    A couple suggestions, if you have the time, would be to try using the Final Cut Pro X trial from the App Store. You'd have a lot more control and ability to tweak settings and export control over FCE 4. If that won't work, and you have QuickTime 7 Pro, you could open the images (assuming they're numbered sequentially) as an image sequence, then export from QuickTime at a higher quality and different codec to see if it's the codec that's changing things in a way you don't like.

    Just a couple things to try if you can. I don't know if it will help or change things that much, but if you have the time it's probably worth a shot.

    PS. The [999] means how many remaining images your card can fit :)
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    What you are saying is the 1080 video is much worse quality than what you can get from your SLR. No kidding. FCP will translate all the input media to the project's resolution. Then what you export it out the result is no better then the project's format.
  4. SleepmSam thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2014
    Pinholstars, ChrisA: Thanks for the response. I understand that the quality won't be up to the standards of the SLR, but I guess my expectations were still a little higher than they should have been :/

    In that case, it's a matter of trying to get back to the export that I showed in the second screenshot. That result came before I started tampering with the Easy Setup. Like I said, when I changed the setup the canvas quality improved drastically and the dimensions seemed to fit much better, but the export was vertically stretched and cropped.

    Could someone suggest what I should switch the easy setup to for importing stills from my Canon 5D Mark ii since the Apple Intermediate Codec didn't seem to yield the right results? Also, am I taking the right approach in cropping the stills in photoshop to a 16:9 ratio?

    Thanks again, the feedback is really appreciated!!!
  5. SleepmSam thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2014
    Okay I'm really kicking myself now, I found an export that I did that looks fine as far as quality goes...

    I uploaded a screenshot of it along with it's details in the quicktime video viewer. I need to try to replicate this, I keep trying and quicktime says they're the same formate but the old one has a higher data rate and size for some reason... I'm exporting with everything at max.

    Any help is so appreciated, thank you.

    Attached Files:

  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California

    I really doubt there are many FCPE 4 experts left. It's been so long since that software was current that I doubt many people remember all the menu options and dialog boxes.

    I know in FCPX I don't have the problem.
  7. TheBeastman13 macrumors regular

    Mar 5, 2012
    I use FCE4 and am doing some tests to try to help out.

    I'm getting some unusual results. Using the export> QuickTime Movie maintains the original size of my Jpeg, but the color quality is slightly blown out/lighter than what was edited with for a 10sec clip.

    When doing export> "using QT..." > H264/current FPS/auto key frames/"best" compressor&encoding: yields a "preview" of what is in my editing viewer, is the proper color and frame size, yet when exported, the colors are blown out/brighter than the original/the preview.


    I'm still experimenting for you, so I'll report if I find any export combo that yields a 1:1 color and frame size export that's true to the material.
  8. TheBeastman13, Jul 28, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014

    TheBeastman13 macrumors regular

    Mar 5, 2012

    Compression: None
    Depth: millions of colors+
    Quality: best
    Dimensions: 1920x1080


    Compression: animation
    Depth: millions of colors+
    Quality: best
    Dimensions: 1920x1080

    Those got me the two best result out of ten combinations I attempted, but I still couldn't get an exact match with the color.

    For my tests I used a photo taken from a Nikon d7100.

    Opened FCE4> imported an unedited jpeg into my new project> made a ten second clip with said jpeg> rendered "all/both"> exported using QT conversion with said settings listed above.

    My jpeg was:

    Vid rate:29.97fps
    Frame Size: 2896x1944
    Compressor: photo-jpeg
  9. SleepmSam thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2014
    Hey, thanks much for looking into this!

    My best result so far has been setting up FCE to work with the Apple Intermediate Codec 1080i60 (29.97fps), then I export using the H.264 compressor at Best quality, 29.97fps. For size, I use HD 1080 and uncheck preserve aspect ratio (somehow that was key to preserving the aspect ratio :p ) Before I do all that I crop my image to 1920x1080.

    I'll go ahead and give your solutions a try!
  10. SleepmSam thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2014
    I just tried the Animation compressor, looks a bit better! Is there any downside to using this format for a real animation? The files are roughly the same size.

    I attached a screenshot of your solution (Top), mine (Bottom), and the original JPEG (Right).

    Still not quite there though, huh?

    Attached Files:

  11. TheBeastman13 macrumors regular

    Mar 5, 2012
    I'm unsure if there is a downside to doing an "animation" versus something else. I was just doing whatever I could to match my original footage. Can anyone else chime in on any cons of using "animation" as the compressor type?

    I'm still confused as to why the color changes so drastically, so much loss of shadows and rich colors.

    Have you tried color correcting the "animation" export? Boost the saturation?
  12. SleepmSam thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 25, 2014
    No I haven't, is the boost in saturation something I need to do as a filter in the video itself or is that something to do in the export? I didn't see any options for that sort of thing when I exported it.
  13. TheBeastman13 macrumors regular

    Mar 5, 2012
    I would do the color corrections with a filter or two.

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