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Tutorial: H.264 Encoding in Apple Compressor and Adobe Media Encoder

If you're a streaming producer you have to know how to produce H.264 for both Flash distribution and for mobile devices. Fortunately, Adobe Media Encoder makes this simple with multiple presets for desktop and mobile players which I'll show you how to find and customize in this tutorial.

If you’re a streaming producer you have to know how to produce H.264 for both Flash distribution and for mobile devices. Fortunately, Adobe Media Encoder makes this simple with multiple presets for desktop and mobile players which I’ll show you how to find and customize in this tutorial. If you’re coming over from Final Cut Pro 7 and Compressor, you’ll be happy to know that Adobe Media Encoder is much easier to use than Compressor, encodes faster, and produces much higher quality output, as you can see in the video that accompanies this article.

Encoding Sequences from Premiere Pro

So let’s start our look at Adobe Media Encoder in Premiere Pro, which is the application from which you’ll access Adobe Media Encoder most of the time. To encode a sequence in Adobe Media Encoder, you choose a sequence to export and then select File > Export > Media. The Export Settings window opens (Figure 1, below)

.Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

Premiere Pro’s Export Settings window

Choosing H.264 Formats

Any time you’re going to work in the Export Settings window, you should start by choosing a format. If you’re producing H.264 for streaming, there are two formats that you should consider. The first, H.264, is for general-purpose H.264 output including iPod and iPhone as well as exporting for UGC upload, with Vimeo and YouTube presets available at the bottom of the drop-down list box (Figure 2, below).

Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5

Figure 2. General-purpose H.264 Export Settings options

If you’re producing for Flash, there’s an F4V export option; there are also options for exporting for Blu-ray. One of the nice things about Adobe Media Encoder is that it supports a lot of different export formats. You’ve got FLV, you’ve got P2, you’ve got MXF—in short, a lot more export presets than you do with Compressor 4, and a lot more formats you can access without buying a plugin or using a separate tool.

Choosing Encoding Presets

After you’ve chosen your format, you choose your preset. The video used in this tutorial is a clip shot at Streaming Media West that I’m editing for upload to OnlineVideo.net. Because I’ve shot and encoded clips for OnlineVideo.net in the past, I’ve got two different custom presets customized for the site, which you can see at the top of the pull-down in Figure 2. One is for video and the other is for screencams.

Because I have a custom preset already available that I can use to encode this clip for the target site, all I have to do is choose this custom preset and then click the Queue button at the bottom of the Export Settings dialog. This will send the file to Adobe Media Encoder, which is what you’ll do most of the time. Alternatively, you can choose Export, which will export the encoded file directly from Premiere Pro (using the same encoding engine), but will lock up Premiere Pro during the Export period.

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