Turbo.264 HD – a quick and dirty guide for Mac based editors

Turbo.264 HD by Elgato is a Mac application sold as a consumer solution to help transform tricky formats like AVCHD into something more manageable. Rather than deal with professional formats like Apple ProRes, it uses H.264, a widely accepted format that efficiently stores high quality video in a small space. For given values of ‘quality’ and ‘small’, that is.

For the professional video editor, a common requirement is to create a version of their project to be uploaded to the web for use in services like Vimeo and YouTube. Whilst this can be achieved in-app with some edit software, not all do this at the quality that’s required, and often tie up the computer until the process is complete. This can be a lengthy process.

So, enter Turbo.264 HD – a ‘quick and dirty’ compressor that can do batches of movies, gives you access to important controls of H.264 that are key to making Vimeo/YouTube movies that stay in sync and perform well. It’s very simple in operation. The following guide will help you make your own presets for use with Vimeo and YouTube.

A quick and dirty guide for editors and videographers

First steps

Two Quicktime movies have been dropped onto the panel. Both are using custom presets created earlier. Click on the Format popup to select a preset, or add your own.

First steps

Vimeo/YouTube preset for Client Previews

Lots of presets have been built already in this copy of Turbo.264 HD – not just for the web but for iPad and iPhone use, even portrait (9:16) video. This guide will concentrate on two in particular.

Firstly, the Vimeo 720p version for client previews. This assumes that your master video will be in a high quality HD format such as 1080p ProRes, with 48KHz audio and progressive scan.

Clicking the ‘+’ button bottom left makes a new profile you can name. There’s a base Profile to work from that you select from the Profile pop-up at the top on the right hand side. For the Vimeo preset, the ‘HD 720p’ profile is used.

Next, adjust the settings as indicated. We don’t want to use the Upload service (as privacy settings may need indivual attention), the Audio settings can stay at automatic. The Other tab has basic switches for subtitles, chapters and dolby sound if they are part of the movie, and can be left alone.

Vimeo/YouTube preset for Client Previews

Sending HD video via the internet

The second preset is useful when you need to send high quality material via the internet in an emergency. File formats such as ProRes are ideal for editing, but use a large amount of space. H.264 can incorporate very high quality in a much smaller file size, but the files are difficult to edit or play back in this state. However, they can be transcoded back to ProRes for editing.

Sending HD video via the internet

The benefits and drawbacks of sending H.264 over ProRes

This preset does lower the quality by an almost imperceptible amount, and the original files should be sent via hard disk if possible. However when you need a quick turnaround under challenging circumstances (for example, a wifi internet connection in a hotel or coffee shop), this preset can help.

For example, a 2 minute 42 second ProRes clip uses 2.6 GB of disk space. The original clip shot on AVCHD at 1080p25 was 462 MB. However, using the H.264 settings below, the result was 101 MB with virtually no visible loss of quality. A 2 mbps internet connection would take almost 2.5 hours for the ProRes file, half an hour for the AVCHD file and under 7 mintues for the H.264 file.

And finally…

Hitting the start button starts the batch, and processed movies retain the original file name with a .mp4 extension. You can see that this 25fps 1080p movie is encoding at almost 28 fps, so a little faster than real time. The minutes remaining starts a little crazily then settles down. You can leave it running while you edit, but it will slow a little. When there’s no resizing and little compression, it can run twice as fast as real time (depends on the speed of your Mac).

And finally...
Remember, this is just a quick and dirty method of turning around client previews quickly – I often have ‘batches’ to do, 6-12 movies of 3 mins each, or a couple of 20-30 min interview select reels with burned in timecode. I pump them all through Turbo264 rather than Episode Pro as – due to the high bitrate – you’re not going to see much difference.
When it comes to the final encode, a professional encoding solution such as Telestream Episode, with the X264 codec as a replacement H.264 encoder, will generate the best results.
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3 thoughts on “Turbo.264 HD – a quick and dirty guide for Mac based editors

    • Turbo.264HD was named thus because it’s fast. LOL

      It’s quick and dirty. Actually, it’s not that dirty – but there are two big (BIG!!!) things that aren’t really happening that should happen in your ‘final’ encode:

      – It’s not ‘multi-pass’ or ‘2-pass’ – a multipass encoder works out where cuts are, where tricky sequences are, and spends time working on them. The LongGOP sequences before and after the difficult bits are tuned to ensure the playback device is not overwhelmed. A single pass encoder like Turbo264HD can sometimes ‘overcook’ it a little bit. Not fatal on a client preview, but not an effortless playback on the client side.

      – It doesn’t really do the COMPLICATED stuff that puts the finesse on an encode. MP4 does motion estimation and tracking and can pull some phenomenal tricks on playback IF the encode does the heavy lifting. Not all encoders are equal. You pay big bucks for hardware that can do motion stuff in real time or close to real time. Or you pay nothing for X264 and find that your latest hardware, the fastest iron you can buy, is reduced to a sweaty donkey when encoding H.264 properly with motion. This is the big difference. See stutter? See dropped frames? Sorry dude, your encoder isn’t up to snuff. Pay for power, or pay for your time. Either way, you pay.

      Or you use Turbo264HD knowing that its for now. I don’t use Adobe’s H.264 encoders as, in my experience, they’re slow and low quality. Neither do I use Apple’s. Episode Pro with X264 is my sweet spot.

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