Why poor quality AIC & Apple ProRes HQ video when compared to original video files!

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by mluters, Jan 25, 2010.

  1. mluters macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010
    First, I'm a long time PC user who has recently switched to Mac's and I'm rather picky about the quality of my videos.

    Problem: I have HD video from a Canon HF S10 camcorder and Canon EOS 7D that looks fantastic on a PC... but looks very so-so once imported into a iMovie or FCE or FCP. I've tried all three programs using AIC and yes I've even tried Apple Pro Res HQ and still end up with very poor quality mov files when compared to the originals. Part of the problem (or benefit of a PC) is that the PC actually plays the original RAW MTS/M2TS/MOV files without any trouble and and they look unbelievable. Where as my Mac has to import/convert the file to AIC or Apple Pro Res HQ... so no matter what codec I use, my Mac produces video that is not even close to what I get out of my PC. My original RAW files are all 1920x1080 60i and are MTS files from the HF S10 and Mov files from the 7D. Even the original RAW Mov files produced from the 7D don't look as good on my Mac as they do on my PC. I even took a SD card with the original files down to the local Apple store to see how they look on a Macbook Pro and they still don't look like the originals on my PC. Also, all my comparisons are being done side by side on two 24" Apple cinema displays that are calibrated. Any ideas as to why the quality is just so-so when compared to the originals would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
  2. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    Are you looking at the videos in Quicktime? They will not look at their best on the canvas in editing apps. What specifically is wrong with the image?
  3. mluters thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010
    I've tried viewing them in Quicktime player, iTunes, iMovie, FCE, FCP and VLC. The video looks the same on all of those programs... it just doesn't have the clarity, color, lighting or sharpness that the originals provide when viewed on a PC. The quality is not even close, it's very apparent when viewing full size (1920x1080) side by side on 2 ACD's. On the PC side I'm viewing with Windows media player.
  4. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    Could it be that your Mac's color settings aren't optimal?

    Could you play a file that looks "poor" on the Mac and compare it to the same file on the PC?
  5. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    Or a ProRes transcode in Quicktime on Windows?

    Are you running Leopard or Snow Leopard? At what gamma? Do the 7D movs look the same as the ProRes transcodes? Is there any way you could post a frame of the video from Quicktime and one from Windows Media Player (without going to too much trouble)?

    Have a read of this and see if you think it might be a gamma issue.
  6. mluters thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010
    I took a FCP ProRes file and a AIC file from iMovie and played them in Quicktime windows... To my surprise they looked much better and very close to the originals. The AIC file actually looked very good but the colors were just a little washed out compared to the original. The ProRes file from FCP had better color but displayed some interlacing artifacts that were very noticeable during motion. Overall, both files looked much better when played back on Quicktime for windows than on Quicktime for Mac???

    Soooooo.... It seems like iMovie and FCP actually do a decent job of importing these AVCHD files and the real problem is with the playback on a Mac - weather it be Quicktime player, iMovie, VLC player or the FCP player. Keep in mind I have a couple of Mac's and they all playback with so-so results. I even tried some Macbook Pro's at the Apple store with so-so results.
  7. icrude macrumors regular

    Dec 29, 2006
    first of all, your camera doesn't shoot RAW. it shoots mpeg2 and / or H.264 (avchd) which is not a file suited for converting or editing. second of all, never monitor video on a computer unless that's all you're doing with it. pro res and aic are higher quality than your original footage, so if the quality sucks after converting, it's either your computer, monitor, playback settings, etc. quicktime is nice for consumers, but not good for high quality viewing. if you're trying to look at high res video, and quicktime isnt good enough, burn it with compressor / dvd studio pro, or idvd and watch it on tv. hope that helps. i bet your pc was just playing back at 100% full quality vs quicktime which might be playing back at a lower quality to reduce processor power. at least thats what the old quicktime did. there was a setting in the preferences to turn on high quality.

    also prores hq is not helping at all, you only need prores LT or regular pro res if u can tell a diff between the two.
  8. mluters thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010
    icrude thanks for the input.

    I realize the true quality will only be seen when watching on a external HDTV but the difference in quality while watching/comparing on two ACD's is astonishing. Quicktime for windows and Windows media player both look great while the Quicktime on a Mac video is dull and blury. I'm just surprised the Mac can't do a "reasonable" job of playing back the AIC or ProRes files. Looks like I'll be watching these short clips and analyzing video on a PC.
  9. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    Are you using QT7 or QT X to play them back on the Mac?

    In my experience, QT7 looks terrible playing back AIC files - it doesn't reinterlace them (unless you specify) so they look pretty bad. QT X does a much better job.

    I did some comparisons of AVCHD versus AIC versus ProRes and ProRes HQ playing back in QT7 and QT X here. You may find them useful. I should have tabulated the results...

    For monitoring at work, I use a pro Panasonic (standard def) CRT monitor. Only way to see what is really going on. At home I use a crappy Dell 17" LCD for my HD footage (second screen on the iMac) - however my footage always looks great on the 50" plasma and let's face it, I'm not going to be colour grading holiday video anyway. I don't get to go on those sorts of holidays. :D

    After I did the tests above, I switched my home camera to progressive. Whatever else happens in this crazy world, I'm sick of interlacing and I wish to be rid of it.

    With regard to ProRes HQ versus ProRes, one of the pro guys on Creative Cow has noted worse results when using ProRes HQ with anything less than 2k video, so as a rule all of their standard hi def stuff up to and including 1920 x 1080 (like in our cameras) is ingested as ProRes, not ProRes HQ.

    (And for all those saying "Apple should let us edit H264 files natively", I tried that. I imported a MOV-wrapped h264 file into FCE without reconversion into anything else. My 2.8 GHz C2D w/ 4 GB RAM iMac was not happy just playing it, let alone editing it. I'll never do that to my poor baby again.)
  10. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    It's a gamma issue, and there are ways of fixing it, but there are a lot of variables depending on your exact workflow that make it a pain to do so.

    There's been a lot of misinterpretation passed around on Cow on this topic. I don't want to criticise, especially on a topic I am no expert in, but I think the Pro Video Coalition article it all spawned from was a little unclear. And from there things seem to have gone a little bit Chinese Whispers, before people settled on an "accepted wisdom" that was some way from the initial claim.

    In the Pro Video Coalition article Gary Adcock wrote, his claim that video "universally ran better when using the Standard version of ProRes rather than choosing the HQ version" meant that playback was smoother because it was less CPU-taxing. He was not claiming the video inherently looked worse. He saw no benefit in using HQ on lower-quality originating sources so recommended using SQ for HDV and the like, as you'd lose nothing and potentially gain from the lesser CPU strain during editing.

    "2K" was a poorly chosen term. What he meant was any camera — be it SD, 720p, 1080p, 2K or above — that recorded a high-quality image would stand to benefit from HQ. It was a poorly chosen term because it suggests it has something to do with raster size when it does not. (And there are in fact more cameras that record the high-quality 10-bit images he was alluding to in 1080p than in 2K.)

    I'm not saying people have not experienced worse transcodes to ProRes HQ than to ProRes, but I know of no technical reason why that should be the case.
  11. mluters thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010

    I'm using Quicktime X and VLC player.

    I followed your links and read through your test comparisons - What did your iMac not like about playing the h264 mov file?

    I still don't understand why my windows PC can play back the original MTS files with ease and make it look fantastic on a Apple Cinema display, while the Mac can't even come close. It just doesn't matter what codec I use (AIC or ProRes) the Mac can't play back a decent video that's close to the original quality while viewing on a Apple Cinema display!

    Some people have commented that I need to view these videos on a external HDTV to see the full HD quality - I argue that the PC does play back great quality HD video while the Mac side just doesn't compare. Furthermore, I store all my HD videos on external hard drives and that's why I want to view HD quality videos on my 24" ACD's.
  12. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    Quicktime gamma bug
  13. mluters thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010

    Thanks for the info on the Gamma Bug - I've had some of those exact issues i.e. washed out colors. It seems the Gamma Bug issues are more about color and lighting discrepancies, and although I've seen those issues, my real complaint is more about sharpness, clarity, and missing details in the Mac Quicktime videos.
  14. mstrze macrumors 68000

    Nov 6, 2009
    I always did my editing...even in iMovie with my pitiful little Canon camcorder... with an actual preview video 'monitor' (SD TV at the time) as a real-life look at what how picture would appear to the viewer.

    I am surprised that some people edit without video monitors and depend on the image on the computer monitor. It will never be the same.

    If you are serving up only files that will be displayed on a computer that's fine I guess, but all good editors have a preview monitor in the mix.

    So, my advice...is to buy a cheap HDTV to use as a monitor.
  15. mluters thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2010

    I'm no expert on this topic but I have to disagree. The mts file looks stunning when played back from windows 7 on a 24" ACD "computer monitor". It looks just like what I see on my HDTV when played back from the camera.

    The fact that Apple can't reproduce that video from a Mac has nothing to do with using an external monitor.... The fact is, Windows 7 does reproduce that great video on a "computer monitor" with excellent results! Some how Microsoft has figured out how to play back AVCHD video, on a "computer monitor" with great detail, color, sharpness and clarity. Now why can't Apple reproduce those same results on a "computer monitor"?
  16. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    I found that article from a Cow discussion and one of the CowGods also mentioned hassles using HQ on less than 2k.

    For me, it's just an excuse not to use HQ and save a bit of space, should the day arise that I actually use ProRes. (My FCP machine at work edits DV and my FCE machine edits AVCHD, so it's AIC all the way.)

    Yep, that it did. I assumed that consumer cameras would record up to 8 bit 1080p and anything capable of 10 bit would be capable of 2k. That will be changing as the higher end prosumer cameras get more capabilities. This is a dynamic field. I love it but sometimes it's hard to keep up :rolleyes:

    Gamma bug may be fixed after all.
  17. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    They can. ProRes on my monitor looks as good as on a typical HDTV. I don't use Quicktime X and don't know what it does to the video. You could try installing and using Quicktime 7. Or downloading a 1080p trailer and seeing how that looks.

    This thread would indicate not. But there are fixes using Automater.

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