Make an MPEG-4 Movie from Frames

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MPEG-4 is the latest worldwide standard for creating professional-quality movies with a wide range of bandwidths and flexibility.

This tutorial was written for QuickTime 7 on MacOS X. See List of Computers to find a suitable computer.


Before starting

Create a set of frames using your program of choice, numbering each image in sequential order zero padded. Place all the frames in a single directory.

For the best image quality, make sure to create the images with the resolution

To make a MPEG-4 movie using image frames

  1. Open QuickTime
  2. Select File > Open Image Sequence...
  3. Browse to the directory that contains the frames, select the first frame, and click Open. Select an appropriate frame rate. This should open up the frames in a new movie.
  4. Select File > Export...
  5. Change the Export type to Movie to MPEG-4
  6. Change the filename to an appropriate name and location. See below for location selection information.
  7. Select Options...
  8. Change File Format to MP4
  9. Change Video Format to H.264. See below for compatibility issues.
  10. Change Data Rate to an appropriate value (such as between 128kbits/sec and 4096kbits/sec). The higher the value, the better the quality, but the larger the file size. If you are unsure, try 512kbits/sec. (If you are using the MPEG-4 Improved format, try 768kbit/sec.) If you do not like the image quality, try a larger value.
  11. Change the Image Size to Custom. You can change the dimentions, or leave the default.
  12. Change the Frame Rate to an appropriate value
  13. Change the Key Frame to Automatic
  14. Click Video Options...
  15. Change Encoding Mode to Best Quality (Multi-pass) (Only if using H.264 format)
  16. Click OK until your video starts to encode

Export location

You cannot select your home directory (/users), as Quicktime is not happy with remote filesystems. You have to save to the local disk (such as Macintosh:tmp or Macintosh:space) and then move the file to your home directory after encoding.

Video Format

There are two Video format options when encoding to MPEG-4:

  • MPEG-4 Part 2, also known as MPEG-4 Simple Profile and MPEG-4 Improved, is widely supported as it has been available for several years. Use it for maximum compatibility.
  • MPEG-4 Part 10, also known has H.264 and MPEG-4 AVC, is an advanced codec that is able to provide a better movie picture for a given bit-rate, compared to MPEG-4 Part 2. H.264 is the codec selected for the HD-DVD format, but is viewable only by a small number of media players.

Compatible video players

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