A very interesting piece by the always thoughtful Mark Christiansen on ProVideoCoalition.com about our industry’s dependence on QuickTime in post production. He’s drawn a fascinating parallel between the adoption of the US dollar as the world’s currency and QuickTime as a post currency.
Back in the 90’s I remember lobbying hard, along with many others, for QuickTime to be universally supported on systems from Avid and Discreet and smaller more specialized companies that shunned the format in favor of proprietary formats such as OMF (the “Open Media Framework”) that couldn’t be played back without buying something, and image sequences, which couldn’t be played back in real-time without a specialized hardware/software combination. We were also rooting for QuickTime as the underdog against the other web video formats of the day, the much dreaded Windows Media Real.
Now QuickTime has acquired a position of strength in post, and has made huge inroads into the consumer space, it’s no longer the underdog and post pros are at Apple’s mercy to fix major issues.
In a related area, my Avid colleague, Justin Kwan posted this helpful article on managing QuickTime issues when importing and exporting in an Avid environment.
As noted nearly everywhere motion graphics artists congregate on the web including here, QuickTime 7.4 and After Effects don’t play nicely together. Apparently Apple’s movie rental DRM scheme is the culprit. Any QuickTime render from After Effects that requires more than 10 minutes will generate a permissions error.
There are two obvious options to address the issue:
- Downgrade to QuickTime 7.3
- Render an image sequence and then piece that sequence together in either QuickTime Pro or After Effects.
I’m not a huge fan of downgrading because you just never know if you’re going to break something in the process. If 7.4 is working for you aside from this pesky After Effects error, you might want to try this work around. It adds an extra step in After Effects, but it works. Follow these steps:
- When it comes time to render your After Effects composition, take that composition and nest it in another composition with the same settings by dragging the composition to the New Composition icon in the Project window.
- Select the original composition in the project window.
- Go to the Composition menu and select Pre-Render. The original composition has now been added to your Render Queue.
- In the Render Queue, edit the Output Module settings so that you are creating an image sequence. (I like .psd files for this because the file sizes are reasonable and the files are written quickly.)
- Now add the new sequence with the original sequence nested in it to your Render Queue. Set its Output Module to the desired QuickTime settings. Since this sequence will render in much less than 10 minutes, you should have no problem getting a valid QT movie out of After Effects without reverting to an earlier version of QuickTime.
This adds just a couple of minutes to your total render time, and you can leave After Effects to do its thing with a long render without having to manually piece the image sequence together in QuickTime Pro.
Buried in the fine print of the latest QuickTime update (7.0.4) is a mention of improved H.264 performance. Having heard some talk on the professional video mailing lists that the latest update can be problematic for Final Cut Pro and Avid users, I opted to use my PowerBook as a testing platform. My test file was a 10 second, 720×486 uncompressed 10-bit QuickTime file. Using QT Pro’s “Export to iPod” option in 7.0.3 , the file took an insanely long 2 minutes 12 seconds to encode to an iPod-friendly .m4v file. After upgrading to QT 7.0.4, the file encoded in 38 seconds, almost 3.5x faster. Not bad. (PowerBook is a 1 GHz G4 with 1 gigabyte of RAM.)
Is it worth upgrading? I’m still hesitant to put QuickTime 7.0.4 on production machines. I’m waiting to hear from trusted sources on Avid-L2 and FCP-L before making the leap.