Codecs and video containers in Adobe Media Encoder

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Today’s post will help you understand codecs and video containers in Adobe Media Encoder.

Note: remember to watch the video tutorial Jeff, our Adobe certified instructor has prepared for you.

So let’s start!

Let’s look at the workflow here.
You’ve got three things left to right.
The workflow seems to be like we’re going to go left to right.
The first thing if I click the drop down list here, I choose essentially a file format which makes sense.

What kind of a file do I want this to be and it shows whatever I did last?

Most folks will take H.264 which makes MP4 files.

file format h264

What is confusing for some people is that this is a codec, which you can use inside QuickTime. For example if I choose QuickTime, then later on I can choose the codec. That will be the MP4 codec.
Now if I click on the hotlink here instead of the dropdown list, this is the one little kind of confusing thing about the Media Encoder.


Here on the Media Encoder, you think you’re going to do everything here inside the Media Encoder.

But I click on this hotlink here and it opens up another piece of software, opens up the Export Settings dialog box or it could be – it looks like a separate program. This is a sort of an extra layer complexity when you use the Media Encoder.

But anybody working with Premiere Pro had seen this a zillion times and so it’s a familiar kind of a thing. But this is where you get a refined tune how you’re going to work with, let’s say, QuickTime in this particular case.

There’s the so-called Format.

quicktime format

QuickTime is a container in which you put a file, basically. QuickTime AVI, those are containers but these are usually referred to as a Format.
And there’s the Format QuickTime and then I can have Presets

quicktime presets

but I’m going to use a custom approach. To do that, you go down here and you can choose a codec. If I go down here, I can choose H.264. Ain’t that confusing?

video codec h264

So you can create a QuickTime, MOV files it’s called. QuickTime makes .MOV files. You can create a QuickTime MOV file and then you can use the H.264 codec inside that container.

You can either create an MP4 file directly or you can create an MOV file with H.264 as the thing that will be the compression/decompression scheme that you want to use.
There are other, obviously, other codecs here.

For example:

Animation is a high-end version for QuickTime.

There are other ways to go here but this will create an MOV file.
And a lot of folks work in max and they want to be able – let’s say edit this thing in Final Cut Pro so you can output it as an MOV file as oppose to let’s say an H.264 MP4 files. That’s a way to go.

You don’t have to export that as an MP4 file if you want to use the H.264 codec. It is a little confusing, I admit.
I’m going to change this to something else.

Notice that that we also have AVI which we had earlier. This AVI (uncompressed) is an option.

AVI uncompressed

You can put AVI and select uncompressed but if you click on that, it will automatically makes it uncompressed.

After Effects Academy Member Extra

Access your ‘Adobe Media Encoder’ Course in the After Effects Academy.

Jeff Sengstack will give you an overview of rendering in After Effects.

Not an AE Academy member? Click here to learn more about the After Effects Academy

Right now, that chooses the typical AVI output at 720×480 though. That’s the default setting for AVI. If you want to get back to the HD project of this thing is you need to click on this, unlink it and change those numbers.


So it’s a preset, basically.

Like over here I can choose – if I were to put this at the Blu-ray,

I choose MPEG2 Blu-ray.

But the thing is if I were going to make a Blu-ray disc, I would use Adobe Encore to do that. Like it linked to this project inside Adobe Encore as well. Again, I’d rather have Adobe Encore do the thing that renders it off for Blu-ray.

But you can do it in advance here as well, just so you know. And it has some presets for that.
Now let’s say you choose one of these guys. I’m going to choose H.264. That’s the one that most people will use but it is now H.265 which is a newer version for some cameras. But H.264 is the sort of default MP4 process. And that automatically gives it an MP4 extension there.

So you do that, say select the Format which we did basically over here. But I know this is going to change when we go back.

I want to give it a preset or I can do some custom settings down here. The preset that I use almost always is Match the Source – High bitrate.

match source

That means it’s going to take

  • the source size,
  • the frame size,
  • the frame rate and
  • make it look as good as it can inside this compressed format. H.264 is compressed.

I got a question, let me check in here. There’s a couple of people ask,

What format has the best compression and quality?

What’s the advantage of QuickTime over going direct with H.264?


First of all, what format has the best compression and quality?

Hard to say because if I choose H.264, for example – which is the de facto go-to format for things like YouTube and Vimeo – once you choose that, you can choose to update how well it’s compressed, how deeply it’s compressed.

So these are the video settings for that. But you can say, it says, “Target Bitrate” down here. I want to increase the bitrate. I want to have it be really high-quality which means that it’s going to be a larger file.
Instead of what’s called the Variable Bitrate VBR, 1 pass, I want to have it be 2 passes which means that it analyze twice before it’s actually created.

vbr 2 pass

So it’s hard to say which one is the best because you can adjust the settings to improve the quality or reduce the quality once you choose a codec. There’s no simple answer to that question even if it’s a simple question.

My go-to approach is to use H.264.

It’s so standardized across so many platforms that I just use that. And then I tend to go with VBR 1 pass which is the standard that means Variable Bitrate 1 pass. CBR means Constant Bitrate.

You want to be Variable because you want to analyze what’s going on in the video. If something very simple is going on, the scene doesn’t change, then it will have a lower bitrate because not much is going on.

But when things are complicated and a lot of action in the scene, then it’ll have more – it will see that. It’ll adjust accordingly when it’s making the compression so it will increase the number of bits at that particular moment when it compresses it.

Here’s the video tutorial

I choose Variable Bitrate, 1 pass. But if I want to up the angle a bit, I’ll do two passes. Just takes longer. It does make a bigger file, these make things longer because it analyses it twice.

Then you can increase the bitrate to have more bits per second and that will increase the quality as well and increase the frame size.

Right now it’s 2 Megabytes. If I take this up a lot, you see it’s now 44 Megabytes, for that little simple animation here which is crazy just a few seconds of some letters.

So you can change the bitrate here. The standard bitrate is around 10 or so for a pretty good output. I’m setting it to 11 here right now because I just couldn’t get it back to 10 but that’s how it works.

Remus Hosu

Remus Hosu

Leave a reply

Scroll to Top

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy.