It’s great to have seemingly unfettered control of your digital video, but this freedom is all for naught if you’re not able to deliver your video to the people who want to view it. For many, video encoding is a black art, complete with esoteric terminology, a range of buttons, dials and pulldown menus that makes an airline’s cockpit look like a piece of cake. Lengthy processing times waiting for results can also add to the frustration.
Still, video encoding is an essential part of the process and any tools to help make the process easier and more foolproof are warmly welcomed . While the upgrade to Adobe Media Encoder doesn’t make the encoding process quite foolproof, it does blunt some of the sharp edges making high-quality video within reach of most everyone.
One of the significant advantages of working with Adobe Media Encoder (AME) over other compression applications is its tight integration with Premiere Pro and After Effects. This makes it easy to quickly export a sequence from Premiere Pro for rendering in AME. This frees up Premiere Pro to allow you to continue editing. Built into AME CS5 is a memory management module allowing you to specify how you’d like RAM allocated among AME, Premiere Pro and After Effects when you’re working with all applications concurrently.
You can also open Premiere Pro sequences and After Effects compositions directly into AME, saving you the step of exporting these files from their native application. The interface makes it easy to unpack a project file and access the sequence you need directly. This also frees up additional memory for AME since you don’t need to have the second application open during the compression process.
In side-by tests I’ve performed among Adobe Media Encoder, Apple’s Compressor and Sorenson Squeeze, I’ve been very pleased with AME’s results. The most significant limitation I’ve found with AME on the Mac is its reliance upon Apple’s QuickTime for compressing files into the QuickTime (.mov, mp4) formats. This makes AME susceptible to the gamma shift that occurs when using QuickTime to convert to the H.264 codec. This is well documented, occurring with QuickTime Pro, Apple Compressor and AME. The compression to H.264 changes the gamma of the video from the 2.2 displayed on screen to 1.8 used internally within QuickTime. As a result, your videos appear washed out, desaturated and lacking contrast. This is a real problem as much of the video being compressed for the Web and mobile devices uses the H.264 codec for compatibility with the iPhone and iPad.
Although there are workarounds within QuickTime, they are all less satisfactory than the quality one gets from Sorenson Squeeze, which produces beautiful H.264 video.
Adobe Media Encoder CS5 is faster, more efficient and more reliable than its predecessor. Its tight integration with After Effects and Premiere Pro ensure it has an important role in your video-editing workflow. Naturally, since it is an Adobe product, it excels at exporting flash video files and is more than capable of creating QuickTime movies in most intermediate or output codecs. However, if you find yourself encoding a lot of H.264 video, you’ll be better served with a specialized tool like Sorenson Squeeze which avoids the gamma shift common with this codec.