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Compressing MPEG-4 files

A discussion about capturing high definition video (HDV) tapes to produce MPEG-4 files suitable for archiving was held in May 2011 on the RNLD email list and has been summarised below by Felicity Meakins.


Does anyone have any advice on video compression? I have been using Handbrake on a Mac to compress .mov files (created by digitising DV tapes with Final Cut Pro) into mp4 files. All was going well until I hit the .mov files which were created by digitising HDV tapes in Final Cut. I don’t know whether there is something funny about the High Def format? Does anyone know what might be going on here or if there is something I’m missing.


This summarises the process used from capture of HDV tapes through Final Cut Pro (FCP) to producing good looking MPEG-4 files suitable for archiving.

When you capture your HDV recordings using Final Cut Pro, Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) files are created which are encased in the Quicktime .mov format. They are very large but very high quality files which are perfect for editing into subtitled edited DVDs for the language community.

For the purposes of archiving, these files need to be converted into MPEG-4 format.

In order to create MPEG-4 files, export to .mov file from FCP (or Final Cut Express) using Quicktime Conversion (File > Export > Using Quicktime Conversion) and use the following formats:

Format: MPEG-4

Codec for video: H.264
Frame-rate: Current
Keyframes: Every 30 frames
Data rate: 5000 kbits/s
Size: 1280x720
De-interlace: Yes
Sound codec: AAC
Sound Sample Rate: 44.1kHz
Audio Quality: 128kbps


Thanks very much to the people who emailed me with suggestions, particularly Tom Honeyman.