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 720×480 widescreen to match my DVD output. Which is better? Well, the quality difference isn’t significant, but it is noticeable, and using a 720×480 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 720×480 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 720×480 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.