10 Tips For Compressor 4.1

Here's a few tips to help Compressor 4.1 users move through their work easily. Hope this helps a few of you out there. Enjoy!
10 Tips For Compressor 4.1

Here's a few tips to help Compressor 4.1 users move through their work easily. Hope this helps a few of you out there. Enjoy!

1- Performance Settings
Of course to get great performance you need the biggest, baddest CPU, GPU, and RAID enclosure you can afford. But short of hardware, there are some Preference (Command-comma) settings in the Advanced section that you should be aware of.

The number of Compressor instances, the more, the merrier. But you're limited to the amount of RAM and number and type of CPU cores your Mac has. This will automatically only let you pick the max your system will handle.

CAUTION; Some Macs have an H.264 hardware encoder built-in the CPU. In these cases, turn off multiple Instances, or you'll see a noticeable slow down in those encoding jobs. The hardware accelerated H.264 transcode is faster than multiple instances. Turning on multiple instances overrides the hardware accelerator.

Using GPU for transcoding jobs sent from FCPX is a neat feature. But if you plan to go back to FCPX and continue working while Compressor runs, it could seriously slow down FCPX. Even on the newest Mac Pro (as of this writing) I'd not work in FCPX while a large, complex, heavy transcode job was running in Compressor. Experiment on your own system, if this is something you want to use. See how it works out in a test run or two.

Reset Queue; When having issues in Compressor, I open this and Cancel all my jobs, and then click this button a second time to Repair Compressor. But with the latest update, I rarely touch this. The option to Restart Jobs I've never used. But if you have jobs that are being problematic, this will stop any in-process transcode jobs, reset the queue, and restart those jobs again from scratch.

Update Droplets; Run this whenever you update or upgrade Compressor. It will search for all Droplets on your system and update them to be more efficient and compatible with the new version of Compressor.

CAUTION, once run, these updated Droplets will not run on Mac's with older versions of Compressor.

2- Save Jobs Just In Case
Also in the Preferences, under the General section, I like to turn off the Clear Batch option. If something goes wrong with a transcode job, or if the results are not what I expected, I like being able to restart from where I left off. Tweak things, try again. Turned on, your Batch pane in the Current section is wiped clean. Turned off, all your submitted jobs are still there. If I don't want to use them again, I don't mind manually deleting them.

3- Custom Locations
Creating a custom Location can save a lot of time. If you're doing a lot of transcoding out to the same location on the same drive over and over, go to the Locations section on the left of the screen (shift-command-2). Click the plus sign button at the very bottom left of the window, pick the folder you want to target. Now go back to Preferences, to the General section, and set this as the default Location. When doing repetitive tasks to the same Location, this can save you tons of time. It's the little things that count.

4- Custom Destinations For FCPX
OK, this is an FCPX tip, but depends on having and using Compressor. Any stock or custom Destination (transcode preset) can be made a custom Destination in Final Cut Pro X. In FCPX, go to the Preferences (command-comma), to the Destinations section, and double-click the Compressor Settings icon in the right-hand pane. Then chose your preset, rename your new custom Destination as desired, done. You can also drag the Destinations in the left column up and down to reorder them. The drawback is that when you use a Compressor Settings custom Destination, you won't be able to modify any of that preset's transcoding parameters.

5- Compression Markers
When you get your final result, you preview it, and there are sections that may have pixelated, blurred, stuttered, or have some other issue, you can set Compression Markers to help fix that. This is not when the entire, or overwhelming majority of the result is bad, in which case you need to tweak your encode settings and try again. But when a specific section is messed up. In the Viewer, move the playhead to an edit point, where the scene cuts from one action to another, hit M to add a Marker. Immediately in the Inspector, change the marker Type to be a Compression Marker. They're Chapter Markers by default. This tells Compressor that when it hits this frame, create an I-Frame (start of a new GOP). Compression Markers pretty much only effect Long-GOP encodes. Those that are highly compressed like H.264 and MPEG. Other codecs are all I-Frames, so it won't matter.

In brief; a Long-GOP (group of pictures, usually 8-12 frames per group) codecs were created only to save storage space, nothing more. A GOP (picture group) starts with an I-Frame, which contains 100% of the data required to recreate itself. The rest of the GOP is made up of B (bi-directional frame reference) and P (previous frame reference) frames, which only contain data that is different from all the other frames before and after it. Meaning they only contain a fraction of the data required to recreate them for playback. The computer then references frames before and after it inside that GOP to collect the data to recreate it. Thus, to play back each frame in that GOP, the whole GOP basically has to be read each time one frame is assembled for playback. I.E. A 12-frame GOP has to read all 12 frames, and NOT in chronological order, to rebuild each frame, meaning all 12 are read 12 times, meaning tons of CPU work. An I-Frame is a total frame, the computer picks up the data and poof, a frame. This is why highly compressed codecs like H.264, AVCHD and others require more horsepower to playback and edit with, being Long-GOP. All I-Frame codecs like DVCPRO-HD and ProRes just read each frame, in chronological order, once for playback. Yes, it can be confusing. Simply put; High compression codecs = lots of horsepower to playback, small file sizes. Low compression codecs = easy to play back, larger file sizes.

6- Droplets
Droplets are just what they're labeled. An icon in the Finder, that you can drag-and-drop a file, a group of files, or a folder full of files on to. Then Compressor runs in the background to transcode them all to the specific encoding settings that Droplet was created to use. This is handing if you output a lot of files from FCPX or another application, and want to transcode them to the same settings all at once, in the Finder. Inside Compressor, select the preset you want to use in the Settings section (shift-command-1). At the very bottom left of the Compressor window is an Action menu (gear icon). From that menu select Save As Droplet. Configure where to save the Droplet to, and the Location that Droplet will use, in the resulting Save window. That's about it.

When you drop a file(s) or folder onto it in the Finder, a window pops up. You can only change the default Location, and the processing settings. But it is quick, easy, and works in the background, so you can go about your business. Only two drawbacks are that you may see the temporary files while the transcoding is taking place, and you won't get any sort of alert when the job is done.

7- Network Job Monitoring
A little known feature in Compressor is the network job monitoring window. Once you submit a job, or batch of jobs to your distributed network, go to the Window menu, and select Network Encoding Monitoring (command-E).
Of course you can see job progress and history in the Active and Completed panes. But the network monitoring window shows you information about your specific Mac being used in a networked job including CPU load, disk space used, and information about the batch and data activity.

There is also an Open All Logs button. This simply shows information about networked processing in Text Edit. From there you can save it out as a .log file or as a .pdf document. Or do a Select All (command-A), Copy (command-C), switch to a word processing app like Pages, and paste (command-P), to save it as a regular text document.

CAUTION; Jobs done via FCPX's Send To Compressor command will NOT use network distributed processing.

8- Add Metadata
The Metadata section in the Inspector's Job section (select a Job, not a specific preset in a Job), allows you to annotate metadata to your resulting file. Click the Add Job Annotation button there. Then start to select what specific metadata fields, one by one, to embed into your resulting transcoded file. I almost always include Copyright and Producer. FYI, the copyright symbol is typed in by holding the Option key and typing a G. This is a good way to protect your files and be sure who ever receives them is clear about where they came from.

9- Test A Section First
Especially for long productions, you may want to test a small section of your video file for quality first. Set Compressor to only transcode a minute or two. You could, for example, select a section with not much movement, then do it again for a short section that is mostly movement. To do this, in the Viewer's scrub bar, drag the playhead, or play until it is where you want to start the test transcode. Hit the i key to set the In Point. Repeat and use O to set the Out Point. Submit your Batch, and Compressor will only transcode what is between the In and Out points. Once you're satisfied you've found the best settings, you can then, if desired, drag and drop that preset in the Batch pane, into the Custom folder in the Setting section on the left of the screen, to save it as a preset. Then reset your In and Out point to the start and end of the whole video for final output.

10- Timecode Overlay & Watermarks
To add a timecode overlay, and/or a watermark, simply select the preset to apply it to in your Job (Batch pane). Go to the Inspector, to the Video section, to the bottom is the Add Video Effect menu. The controls for both are so simple, I won't waste time describing anything but the less obvious here. For more info on other video effects, as well as audio effects,
click here.

In the Timecode Generator effect, there is a check box for "Start Timecode At 00:00:00:00". When checked it generates TC from zero. When unchecked, it reads and displays the TC already embedded in the original video file.

In the Watermark effect, there is a check box for "Repeat". When using a video clip for your watermark, such as an animated logo, that clip will often be shorter than the file you're outputting. Unchecked it will play the video once, then freeze on the last frame. Checked, the video will continuously loop throughout the duration of your final output file.