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How to Fix Washed Out H.264 Quicktime Movies

I think I finally got to the bottom of the washed out Quicktime movies I’ve been experiencing. I had been noticing for some time that H.264 movies I created on my machine tended to have the colors look washed out compared to what I’d see in the Final Cut timeline. The weirder thing was when I’d upload the video to Vimeo or Youtube, the movie would look a lot closer to the timeline version. After contacting Larry Jordan through his Digital Production Buzz podcast, and Googling this yet again for the tenth time, I’ve found 2 ways to address it…

Compressor

Larry Jordan informed me Compressor’s settings for H.264 encoding is whacked. The adjustments he recommends involve adding 2 filters:

  • A Gamma filter set to 1.05
  • A Color Correct Midtones filter with red, blue, and green set to 3

x264Encode

The other option comes from Ahrengot’s blog. It involves 2 steps:

  • Have Compressor create your H.264 movie the way it’s always created it for you
  • Then perform an additional exporting step via Quicktime Pro using the x264Encode encoding

Results

Of the two solutions, the x264Encode approach yielded the most color accurate results, which leads me to believe  the issue I’ve been seeing is really a Gamma bug in Quicktime Pro. I plan to give the x264Encode approach another try on the next project I complete. I’ll make sure to post some details then on what I find.

2 Comments

  • Chris Says

    Hey Mark, I haven’t used either of these tricks enough to have many scenarios to compare, so thanks for sharing your results. And thanks for the tip on the Digital Color Meter! I wasn’t aware that had been available to me all this time.

  • Mark Block Says

    Sorry, but I was disappointed with the x264 fix. I downloaded the current plugin (1.2.0), but it didn’t do any better than H.264 — in fact, it was slightly worse, with a bit too much green. My source file for the test was an Uncompressed 1920×1080 TV spot we recently finished.

    The only real cure is to mess around with gamma, midtones and sometimes brightness, with Larry Jordan’s settings as a starting point. I find that different editing codecs produce different results, so the settings need to be tweaked. And since one can never get it perfect with Compressor’s color correction tools, it becomes a subjective “eyeball” situation, with adjustments required depending on the video content. I also use Apple’s Digital Color Meter as a double-check with my eyes.

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