Choosing a Premiere Pro Preset; HD Vs. SD

Compare.pngI shoot pretty much exclusively in HD now, but often render to SD DVDs. When it comes to choosing a sequence preset for Premiere Pro, I have two options, native HDV, which is the format that I typically shoot in, or 720x480 widescreen to match my DVD output. Which is better? Well, the quality difference isn't significant, but it is noticeable, and using a 720x480 sequence and shrinking the HDV video to match produces better quality.

By way of background, I was processing the latest crop of Nutcracker performances for my wife (she had three different performances this year), and produced the first DVD using a native HDV preset. That is, I input my HDV footage as HDV (no option there, it has to be HDV), synched the two camera streams on a single HDV sequence for multicam, chose the camera angles on another HDV edit sequence, and then rendered out to a 720x480 16:9 file.

I chose this route because I was hoping to create both an SD DVD to distribute and a Blu-ray for my own family consumption. But the results looked less crisp than I would have liked, so I re-edit the sequence in an SD 720x480 widescreen preset. Specifically, I created an SD preset using the DV - NTSC Widescreen 48 kHz preset.


Then I used the Motion controls in the Effect Controls panel to scale the video down to 46% of original size, so the HDV video fit the SD sequence perfectly.


I used this SD preset for the sequence where I synched the front and back cameras streams, and the sequence where I edited the multicam footage. Then I exported from Premiere Pro using the same Adobe Media Encoder preset that I used with the HDV source sequence.

You can see the results below (click on the image to view it at original resolution in another browser window).


Again, the results aren't strikingly different, but they are noticeable. My daughter Whatley (dancing as the first toy on point for the first time) looks just a touch clearer on the left. And that was enough to convince me to render using an SD preset for all subsequent productions.

Here's a video from Vimeo illustrating the difference over the course of a short sequence. It's been processed a bit more than the sceen shot (output to H.264 from Premiere Pro, then uploaded and re-encoded by Vimeo), but it still looks sharper on the left.

What about producing for both Blu-ray and SD DVD? I didn't work this side of the experiment as closely as the first because I was short on time, but I think that the quality boost comes from scaling from HD to SD in Premiere Pro rather than Adobe Media Encoder (and no, I have no idea why). So, next DVD project, I'll synch in an HDV sequence and edit the multicam in an HDV sequence.

For the SD DVD, I'll drop the edited HDV sequence into an SD sequence and shrink to 46% to fit, and then output for my SD DVD from that sequence. Of course, I'll output for Blu-ray from the edited HDV sequence (got all that?). Then I'll see how the quality compares and write about it.

Comments (6)

Said this on 02/13/2012 At 10:51 am

Thank you....

I spent days trying various codecs/compression alogrithms etc., to absolutely no avail, other than wasting a crud load of time, then I thought what if I finish the edit in HD drop that sequence into an SD...

...for vaildating my process. No one thought it would work. Hah!

Said this on 02/13/2012 At 11:26 am
Glad to help; funny, I keep coming back to this one as well.

soren sierra
Said this on 02/18/2014 At 11:20 am

Sorry i don´t speak English but i´ll try to give my explanation.

In Adobe premier Pro you don´t have no control of the separation of field.

It's possible that by chance did it achieve the desire quality. Do it in After Efects and you wll have control over the separation of filed. I relly liked your post, Bye

Said this on 02/19/2014 At 09:58 pm

Thanks for mentioning this and the kind words. I'll give After Effects a try next time I encounter this issue.


Harley Davis
Said this on 08/17/2015 At 06:15 pm

I've found that the DV sequence only works with DV or HDV input footage.  Here's my Experience:

I start with a 1080 AVCHD, and convert to h264 straight through quicktime.  This keeps most of the characteristics of the AVCHD file, but gives me a file I can use in APPro.  I often do multicam, so I start with an AVCHD style sequence, and make a few adjustments, Progressive, etc.  Then I open that, sync my footage, and have it all in line.  WHen I try to drop that into a 720 sequence, I lose a lot around the edges, and when I set the widescreen PAR, I get a sequence that's difficult to match the footage to for size (pixel aspects are a little off) and a slight distortion.  I searched and found out that a Square pixel aspect with 16x9 is 864x486 for computer monitors, and later DVD players actually upscale to this to get rid of the distortion with dv widescreen, and will play it native (latest players with progressive playback only).  This provides me with the option of creating both, starting in 864x486, then copypaste into a DV and try them both.  Older players with widescreen capability (not necessarily progressive) will play the DV format.  You will, however, have to separate fields.  This is a whole other action that i've found unnecessary for most.  If you wish mass production on a grand scale, great, do it.  If you are like the gentlefolk here, and you capture for a singular group, go with the later standard, and anybody who needs the earlier can still get it later.  It will make less work for you, but I'd still go ahead and drop the work into a DV sequence.  Render later.

Said this on 08/18/2015 At 08:01 am

Interesting workflow and procedure. I'll remember to check it out next time I'm in this situation.



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