Adobe Media Encoder has something called “Watch Folders”, a feature that I haven’t really had the need to use, until most recently. The Watch Folders is used to automate encoding of video files to various presets and outputs you desire. Really useful if you output all or most of your videos in .mp4 (QuickTime), but for some reasons, that format might not work for all your needs. You might be asking yourself why you would need to export in another format than H.264 (.mp4). After all, it is the most used Web format since Apple came out with the iPhone/iPad saga and brought an ending to Flash video.
I was under the same impression until I discovered a bug (well I think it’s a bug) in Windows 8.1 and Microsoft PowerPoint 2010. Would might be wondering why I would mention PPT in an After Effects blog. Well, believe it or not, business users have a need to use PowerPoint as a selling tool. As much as I hate to use PPT, it is still a popular tool, even in 2015, because of its ease of use for creating presentations. Anyways, my goal isn’t to sell you PPT as a presentation tool, but simply wanted to let you know that it’s a tool we use in our company (and many other companies) to present our services.
Going back to that “bug”, I discovered that if I was inserting videos in my PowerPoint presentations/slides, they would lag during playback presentation. I need to mention that this isn’t an issue on a Mac/Apple computers and, to my knowledge, on a Windows 7 with Office 2010. Also, testing was done on various machines, including my workstation that has an overclocked i7 at 4.6 GHz, with 64GB of RAM and a GeForce GTX 680 (aka my beast Rig!). As a side note, Office 2013, more preciously PPT 2013 doesn’t have this issue as it fully supports the MP4, H.264 codec. Here is a list of full supported file formats for PowerPoint 2013.
Anyways, after a bunch of digging online, it seems there is some kind of issue with the QuickTime codec/player/registry in Office 2010 and Microsoft doesn’t officially support QT in PPT 2010 (Here is the source from the horse’s mouth). Because this bug isn’t present on our Macbook Air, I might be guessing that Microsoft didn’t give a damn about QuickTime, as a result they wanted to promote/force their WMV (Windows Movie Video) format on users. So, our short term solution is to convert all our QuickTime videos to WMV. How do we do that without wasting valuable time and making sure all our portfolio clips are up to date, in the right format, for our presentation? Watch Folders! So if you are still reading this, let’s get to it!
Creating a folder
This part is pretty self-explanatory. Before you start anything, you need a source folder, something AME can watch for changes. You can use an existent folder (something I will do later) or create a new one (in case you are like me and are scared to screw up your 100+ video files). I will go ahead and create a folder on my desktop called “My Watch Folder”. Remember, any video file you put in this folder will get converted by AME with the selected preset and to the output path of your choice.
Setting up a Watch Folder
Fire-up AME (I am using Adobe Media Encoder CC 2014.2) and look at the bottom right corner to find the Watch Folders area. The list should be empty if you haven’t setup anything, otherwise you would see a list of all your watched folders. Click on the Plus icon to create a new Watch Folder and select your folder (in our case the one we created on the Desktop).
Time to tell AME how to handle our files! If you already have your preset, you can simply select it from your Presets and skip this step. In our case, we will create a new one. By default, AME uses a standard H.264 preset that matches the source file (Match Source – High bitrate), but we don’t want that. Instead, let’s go ahead and click on it. This will open the Export Settings box. Change the Format to Windows Media and select the Preset HD 720P 29.97. We will start with this preset and make changes to best fit our needs. On a side note, you can adjust these settings as you wish, but because I am planing on emending the clips in PowerPoint, I want to try to keep the file as small as possible and at a reasonable size (most business projectors don’t do 1080P anyways and 720P is plenty quality for most scenarios). Also, H.264 is a much better codec than WMV, so it is normal that the same MP4 file will be smaller in file size than our WMV.
Here is a screenshot of my settings. Keep in mind that some settings can be different than mine (like Frame Rate). Always look at your source footage and try to match it as best as possible. In an ideal world, we would have the option “to match source footage”, but for Windows Media format, it doesn’t provide that option. Worst case scenario, create your preset and duplicate it to make another copy for your other video needs.
I am not an expert in WMV and know that the video files will be played on a Win 8.1 machine, so I will leave the default Windows Media Video 9 codec. If you want more info, take a look at this.
Basic Video Settings
Check Render at Maximum Depth. This increases encoding time as it will take more time to analyse the video, but it will also result in better looking video. If you are not in a rush or/and have a powerful computer, use this option. For the rest of the settings, match your footage.
This is the tricky part. You have to find the perfect balance between size and quality. Most of these settings depend on your footage (static or movement), but I will try my best to set something up that matches most scenarios. I will most probably do another post that goes in-depth about those settings, but I’ll try to keep this short (already this post is getting bloody long). Here are my values. Leave the Bitrate Encoding at VBR, 2 pass Constrained. Unless you are really in a rush or use a crappy old computer (might be time to upgrade), you want to use VBR ( in short it adjusts the bitrate when the video has more movement vs less) and 2 pass (analyses your video twice for better quality). You can have more info on each settings by putting your mouse pointer over each word (it will give you some information) or you can simply Google it. Again, a in-depth post should come. For my needs, I will try 3000 Kbps as average and 6000 Kbps as Peak (maximum). Keep in mind that it is a good practice to set the Peak at double the average Kbps rate. This should be good enough for my static clips to motion graphics videos.
Again, not an expert on WMV, so will leave these settings by default. These settings are more important when you stream your video on the web and want to be sure your keyframes don’t jump (more on that eventually). Also, check Use Maximum Render Quality. Same as the Render at Maximum Depth (helps quality, takes more time, etc.).
Won’t go into much explanation here. Most laptops and meeting rooms have crappy speakers, so this has to match your scenario. For my part, most of my clips are encoded with 48KHz sample rate, Stereo. I’ll keep the Bitrate down to 192 (even this is overkill for the speakers it will use, but I want to keep some quality just in case). Take a look at my settings and adjust as needed.
Again, additional information can be found regarding each setting if you hover each word and I strongly recommend Googling the settings you aren’t sure. There is no perfect preset and you should always play around with the settings, test/export some footage and see what best fits your needs. WMV is pretty new for me, so I had to guess some of the data (and test it). Other Codecs can have more or less options and some can greatly impact the final result. By playing around with each value you will notice that it can greatly decrease size, increase quality and sometimes….just not do anything (yes frustrating I know, but that’s life).
Once we are done with playing around with each setting/value, time to save the preset for future use.
If you plan on reusing your settings (like in my case; I want each new project video to be encoded to WMV for PPT use), than you need to save that Preset.
At the top of your Export Settings Window, there is a little rectangular shaped icon situated on the right side of the Preset drop-down. Click on it.
A new Window will open and invite you to give your Preset a name. Choose something that works for you. In my case, WMV HD 720p 29.97 as it will be easier for me to know that is for my Windows Movie Video files that are exported in 1280×720 at 29.97 fps.
Note that if you save the preset and edit some values, they will not be save to your current preset. You will need to save it under a new name.
Final Step: Output and Run
Now that you setup your Watch Folder and Preset, time to select the output. By default, AME will create an Output Folder in your watch folder. I will leave it as is, because I simply want to test my settings with some clips before I permanently setup the Watch Folders for my needs.
If you want AME to automatically start encoding when it detects a new file, make sure the Auto-Encode Watch Folders is checked. You will find this checkbox at the top of AME, next to the Stop and Play buttons.
Time to add your video files in your watch folder and let the magic happen!