Compressing Video With Compressor

If you take a lot of HD video, you may end up with massive video files that you can't keep, but don't want to delete forever. You can compromise by compressing them. This will trade quality for file size, but in many cases this trade-off is the best way to keep your old video footage around. You can use Apple's Compressor app to do this quickly and easily.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Compressing Video With Compressor.

Hi, this is Gary with On today's episode let's take a look at how to use Compressor to compress your video for archiving.

I like to take a lot of videos. Sometimes it is for this show and sometimes it is for personal use. I always end up with large high definition video files that I, basically, want to keep around forever in some form. But they are huge.

For instance, take this video here that I took on vacation. If I look at the file size it is 106 MB. That is only for twenty-one seconds. I'm going to use that as an example here but sometimes I have two, or three, or four minutes worth of video of something and I don't want to delete it forever but it ends up being several GB in size.

So what I want to do is, instead of getting rid of it forever or keeping this very large file, I compromise and I compress the file so it is an acceptable quality but it takes up just a fraction of the space.

To do this I'm going to use an app called Compressor. It's from Apple and it is kind of part of Final Cut Pro but it is a separate app. So you don't have to have Final Cut Pro to use it. If you do have Final Cut Pro you can hook into it. You just get it from the App Store. It costs $50 currently in the US. It is a little expensive and some compression apps are much cheaper but since I already have it and am using it for other things it is handy to use it for this.

So when you run it, it is a little bit of a confusing interface. You've got just some controls here. An area for video. It is not really obvious what to do.

You start off by showing the left sidebar here which gives you all of these preset settings. We're going to create a new one that's going to be for compressing videos. I'm going to use the format of H264 which is a good compression. I'm going to call this Archiving. I'm going to hit okay.

Now I've got it there. To customize it I, with it selected, hit the settings over here. Now I have General settings, Video, and Audio. I'm going to leave Audio the same but you can play around with the audio settings if you want.

I'm going to look here and see for this. Well, okay, this is 1080p video but I want it to be a smaller file size. So I'm going to okay it compressing it to 720p and I'm going to keep the bit rate automatic. Then I'm going to use Best Quality because I don't really care about it playing on lots of different devices and I don't really care how long it takes to compress now because I want to end up with the best quality that I can and the smallest file size.

There are other things here that you can set for best for everything. Now that I've customized all of this I'm ready to go and compress this video.

It is mostly a drag and drop process. I'm going to drag this video from the Finder here. Then I'm going to drag the settings here. Now it sets up everything that I need and I can hit Start Batch. The cool thing about this is that I can actually put a lot of videos, pile them all into here, drag this setting over and then Batch compress a whole bunch of videos. Which is great because that is usually what I am doing. Say I'll look at a bunch of videos from our vacation several years ago and I'll batch compress them all at once.

So I hit Start Batch and it will start and give me some progress here. So now it is done. It took a little over two minutes to compress. Let's take a look at these files.

This is the original. It is a 106 MB. This one is the compressed. You can see it is 19 MB. Now whenever you are doing something like this, archiving things, you really want to check it. Now here it the original. I'll look at the quality of the original. Then I'll go here and look at the quality of the compressed one. If it looks good to me, if it looks like this is worthy of me keeping, then I can get rid of this one and save so much space. Imagine if there were a whole bunch of these and they were even larger files.

Now if you want you can go back and adjust your settings. So in here under video for instance say if I wanted to try and bring it down even more I could turn the bit rate down. So instead of automatic I can say go to 3000 kilobits per second and see what it looks like when I push it like that.

I've tried this with that video and it was even half that size. So it was less than 10 MB when I did that. I can play with say well what if I compressed it at the full frame size. Try that. Try a bunch of different things, different settings and see what I like. It is always good to do that with some sample video just before you archive a whole bunch of video just to make sure that you are getting the quality that you want considering that you are going to probably delete the original forever and keep this one around as the archived copy.

So using this technique I've saved a lot of hard drive space and been able to keep some videos that I otherwise may not have been able to keep around.

Comments: 8 Responses to “Compressing Video With Compressor”

    Capt. Arty
    4 years ago

    Are you kidding! $50.00 for an app!

      4 years ago

      Sounds like you are used to getting little apps and games for free or $0.99. Software used to be about $50 just a few years ago. Many apps still are. It was only a few years ago that OS upgrades cost $129, most games and applications cost $50 or $100. Even “little” games cost $20.
      People still pay good money for good software. Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, and many others. If you only want to use cheap or free software, then fine. But was the “Are you kidding!” necessary?
      As a software developer, I find it a little alarming that you would judge the value of software like this. I don’t know what you do for a living, but I wonder how you would feel if someone suddenly said “Are you kidding! $X per hour for that!”

        4 years ago

        Gary, I have been using Handbrake. I know there are a variety of converters available. Does a product like Compressor differ significantly from converting programs? Thank you.

          4 years ago

          I don’t use Handbrake for this, so it is hard to compare. There are lots of tools out there and each offers different advantages and disadvantages.

      4 years ago

      What information is extracted within the original file? Would the Compressor User Manual detail this information? Why would one not want to compress video files?

        4 years ago

        Not sure what you are asking. Information extracted? Compression takes time and it results in a lower quality file so some may want to keep the original instead. It is a trade-off.

          KURT HANSON
          4 years ago

          30 frames/uncompressed, 10 frames/compressed, for instance. Other attributes of the video file must be reduced/extracted but the question may be too technical for a response here. I probably should investigate further meself.

            4 years ago

            You have complete control over those aspects of compression. I would never reduce the frame rate for archiving home video, but you might want to play with the bit rate or audio quality to get smaller files. I usually experiment until I get a good compromise.

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