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I'm looking for a good video encoder to compress HD files for editing within Sony Vegas Pro and Adobe After Effects.

What video codec would provide the fastest possible encoding and decoding? Also, what are some recommended encoding settings?

The video files must be usable in Sony Vegas Pro and Adobe After Effects.

EDIT: Source Clip Info:

Format                           : AVC
Format/Info                      : Advanced Video Codec
Format profile                   : High@L5.1
Format settings, CABAC           : Yes
Format settings, ReFrames        : 8 frames
Bit rate                         : 4 334 Kbps
Width                            : 1 920 pixels
Height                           : 1 080 pixels
Display aspect ratio             : 16:9
Frame rate                       : 23.976 fps
Color space                      : YUV
Chroma subsampling               : 4:2:0
Bit depth                        : 8 bits
Scan type                        : Progressive

The container is Matroska.

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File size and decode speed are part of equation, but so are number of streams playing and disk speed. We need to know how important each individual feature is for you, in order to balance them together and come up with an answer. You can't have all of everything, because the features tug at each other. Also, "lossless" is a terrible word to use here, if your intent is to say "highest fidelity". – Clint Torres Jul 6 '11 at 4:49
@Clint The source files I have are 1080p HD 24fps clips. The container is .mkv. The video streams are x264. My intent is to convert these clips into something less hardware intensive. H.264 decoding isn't terribly fast on my computer. I'm aware of lossy encoding, however, I'd like to preserve the fidelity of the clips. Disk space isn't an issue here, however. The most important thing is that the clips can be used in Sony Vegas Pro and Adobe After Effects. – Aznfin Jul 7 '11 at 2:42

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'll start by pointing you to another answer I wrote before, roughly covering the different kinds of codecs.

(Nice edit on your question, by the way, removing the file size limitation helped figure out what you were after.)

My recommendation (again) will be to either use ProRes 422 or Cineform as your intermediate, probably via Magic Bullet Grinder or GoPro Cineform Studio respectively.

Either of these codecs will give you good decoding speed, and both will work with Vegas and After Effects. Any workflow that involves transcoding and not capturing natively to your editing codec (such as with ProRes on an Arri Alexa or a Cinedeck), is going to sacrifice time for processing, but in your case, it seems like that's a necessity.

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Just what I was looking for! Thank you very much. – Aznfin Jul 7 '11 at 4:36

.mp4 always works for me. If you are using Sony Vegas to compress it, then there should be an option to compress it as an AVCHD option, which can be one of several formats. The best one to use would be .mp4. It makes the file much smaller while still losing next to no quality. (I've had 45 minute HD videos, cut to under 1gb, but it depends on how long the video is, and how many cuts there are.) Usually that mp4 file can be read by most other programs. I'm not sure about after effects, but I believe it can at least be read by premier.

Just a note of caution, there is more than one mp4 file type. You want the one that is categorized under AVCHD, not the regular one, and not the one in caps (MP4 as apposed to mp4).

Once you've selected AVCHD you can change the file type by using the "custom" button, or you can just type in ".mp4" at the end of the file name, and it will do it for you.

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I'm aware of the export settings for Sony Vegas. I'm looking for a way to convert source clips losslessly that can be imported to Sony Vegas Pro. – Aznfin Jul 7 '11 at 2:46
MP4 isn't a codec, it's a container format. – Nick Bedford Jul 7 '11 at 3:18

Lossless requires such high bitrates that I have more trouble playing back lossless video than 5Mib/s lossy h.264, on my C2Duo (first gen) E6600, 2.4GHz. lossy 5Mib/s 1080p h.264 at 24fps plays perfectly without even having to use mplayer's -lavdopts threads=2 option. (single-threaded software decoding is enough.)

My system isn't fast enough to play lossless h.264 RGB, or RGB utvideo. It actually can just barely play back the directory of PNG files of the Sintel trailer.

raw video takes even more space than losslessly-compressed. If your SSD or raid array can read fast enough to play it back in realtime, great. Otherwise, only useful for things like feeding a slower-than-realtime video encoding or filtering job that's CPU limited, and you don't want to use any CPU time decoding the video.

I'd imagine you'd have better luck just feeding your mkv sources into your NLE, unless you want to accept some lossyness.

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