The Digital Journalist

Yes, I Do Windows
December 2006

by PF Bentley

Every once in a while we who live in an all-Mac world must venture into the great unknown land of the PC. That's the land where every new design or idea seems to be taken from Steve Jobs' latest keynote speech and is made available a few years later as a "new" concept for the great non-Mac masses.

Let's get this out of the way now: QuickTime is hands-down the best platform for Internet playback.

But there are times when IT departments who stake their jobs on PCs (I think it's because PCs break down a lot, crash and get viruses, so it means IT job security – but that's just my own opinion) want something else, and regrettably a lot of time, that's Windows Media. I do my best to talk them into QuickTime; however, the forces of evil prevail and I need to output to Windows.

Fortunately there's a great program that makes this journey into darkness a lot less daunting. Flip4Mac by TeleStream will not only play Windows Media on your Mac as QuickTime but will also encode your timeline directly from a QuickTime file, from your Final Cut Pro timeline or alone, or using a compression program like Sorenson Squeeze. The player is free and will produce standard settings, but for industrial use you need the WMV Studio Pro HD upgrade for $179. If you buy the Squeeze 4.5 Compression Power Pack from Sorenson the Flip4Mac StudioPro HD plug-in is included.

For today, we'll just encode directly from a QuickTime movie without using Squeeze and compress using the export feature of QuickTime Pro.

You can either export from a FCP reference movie or from an existing compressed QT file. The Window file from the FCP reference movie will be larger in file size, but a little better in quality. However, using an existing compressed QT file is a lot faster in output time.

For this example, I'm going to export from an existing compressed QT file. I've made a movie of the steps below for you to follow along:

Open the file in QuickTime. Go File>Export>Movie to Windows Media. Then click on Options. Use the default profile for now. If you want the resulting file to be of the same size as the original, be sure Current is checked in the Size box. Frame rate should match your QT for optimum results.

However, if you need to downgrade your video for IT requirements, use the CBR option and the appropriate bit rate. Remember that these bit rates go up a little with actual output. For example, I'll use the 302K bit rate setting for approximately 339K rate output. I also made it smaller in size to 320x184.

Here are the output download links in both QuickTime and Windows Media to compare: (Note on browsers: The Windows files opened up in Safari fine but not in Camino.)

As you can see, using approximately the same data rates, the QuickTime quality is better and at a lower file size (5.35MB for QT vs. 8.27MB for Windows). Using 302K, the file degrades (but at lower file size 2.47MB) with any movement circa 1996. But you know - give the client what they want.

For more information about Windows compression & settings go to:


In addition, the Flip4Mac Web site has a wealth of information, links and user forums.

Now, a word about last month's column concerning basic QuickTime compression.

Boy, did I get mail; almost all of it thanked me for the settings and instructional video…except the e-mail from one of the great technical Final Cut pro gurus, Philip Hodgetts.

This is a man who I have looked up to for advice on various online FCP forums, who told me that I "made a rookie mistake" in the size of my 480x270 window. My setting of 480x270 "fails rule 1 of codecs and compression and a rookie 101 mistake." He went on to state, "All modern codecs, including H.264, require dimensions to be divisible by 8. 270 is not divisible by 8 which is why that is not a valid choice." And then he gave me the deathblow: "Such a rookie mistake doesn't do much for the credibility of the entire article and I certainly can't include it in the Pro Apps Hub article index for that reason."

I was crushed to say the least. So, I did what one does do when confronted by this news.

I did my own tests – one at 480x270, one at 480x272 and one at 480x264. (480, 272 & 264 are divisible by 8.)

At about this point you might now be asking, "What's the fuss about 2 or 6 lousy pixels?" Well, compression codecs use 16x16 or 8x8 blocks to form an image. If your image dimensions are divisible by 8, you're not wasting any bits of encoding data for areas of the video that they do not appear.

Here's the link to the test one-minute samples:

Conclusion: I did these twice just to be sure that the results were right. I used the same technique discussed in last month's column. As you can see, the visible images are pretty similar.

However, using the divisible by 8 formula, the file size actually shrunk by 100K using the larger pixel size of 480x272. (Or course the 480x264 was smaller in file size anyway as it's smaller in pixel size.) This over the course of a 10-minute video would save you 1MB of file size.

I stand corrected, Mr. Hodgetts. Please e-mail me something nice this month.

[Next time: "Compression Programs for Both The Rich and The Indigent"]

© PF Bentley

PF Bentley is lead Final Cut Pro instructor at the Platypus Workshops. We won't bore you here with his 12 page bio & resume.