Final Cut X & Adobe Premiere Pro H.264 Compression Update

A couple of months ago we covered an interesting test conducted by the US-based filmmaker Noam Kroll that shows different results while exporting H.264 files with the same settings from the Final Cut X and Premiere Pro CC.Albeit the export settings in FCP X and Premiere Pro CC were the same both times, the quality of the Premiere’s output file was visually poorer than the one exported from the Final Cut.

Furthermore, after Noam tried to re-export the same H.264 file at 20,000 kbits from Premiere and one at 10,000 kbits from FCP X and when he looked at them after, still the FCP X output had far less compression artefacts than the lightly compressed output file from Adobe Premiere. This was Noam’s conclusion from the first test:

There have been certain settings that have worked really well for me over the years with regards to H.264 compression, but it wasn’t until this year that I noticed a staggering difference in the final quality of the files that I would output from Premiere Pro as opposed to FCP X.  It was blocky, over compressed, and even the colors seemed a bit off.

This time after installing the latest available version of Premiere Pro and Media Encoder he tested the same settings while rendering out directly from Premiere, as well as directly from Media Encoder and surprisingly he had notably improved results both times. These were the settings Noam used when he conducted the previous and the current export in Premiere Pro CC and Media Encoder:

  • Data Rate: 20,000 kbits/sec
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Frame Rate: 23.976
  • Field Order: Progressive
  • PAR: 1.0
  • Frame Reordering: On
  • Encoding: Best Quality / Use Maximum Render Quality
  • Container: .MOV

He intentionally used the .MOV container this time because during the initial test there were some variations on Media Encoder between H264 .MOV files and H264 .MP4 files. It is clear that the improved results in the current test were due to the updated version of the Adobe software. Here are two screenshots from an H264 encoded video file from both exports. The first one is a screen grab from FCP X and the second one is from the Premiere Pro export. Click the image to view it at full resolution.


And the result from the Premiere Pro CC export:


Furthermore, it’s fair to note that Noam Kroll did the same test once again mainly because he was contacted by Adobe. According to Kroll the Adobe team has taken into consideration the results from the first test and initiated a further investigation of the issue. It’s obvious that the problem was fixed in the latest Premiere Pro and Media Encoder update.

Overall, Noam Kroll was really impressed by the dedication of the Adobe team to continuously improve their products by taking into account the customers feedback which is crucial and should be mandatory part of every corporate policy.Now, it is safe to say that both FCP X and Premiere Pro should export H.264 files, both of theory and practice, with the same quality without any visual loss and color shifting issues while both using the same rendering settings. We are eager to see whether other users in the community would confirm or deny the results of this test.

Have any of you guys experienced a similar issue before? Let us know in the comments.


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