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FAQ: My video loses quality during the editing process

Problem: Your original video footage is good quality, but after editing and/or encoding, it looks terrible.

Solution: This is a very general problem that can have many causes, in fact there are often multiple causes each degrading the quality a little bit. You need to work through each stage of your editing process and identify any potential problems.

Stay consistent

The biggest cause of avoidable quality loss comes from accidentally converting the video in some way. For example, if you import a PAL video into an NTSC project, the video frame rate and resolution will be converted and the picture will be compromised. Unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, you should edit video in its native format.

When you create a new video project, check all your settings. This may take a while, and you may need to hunt around to find where all your settings are. A typical editing application might have the following settings (this is a hypothetical example only — your editor may differ somewhat):

There could also be settings in the program's preferences and other places.

In particular, take note of the following parameters. You should check your source video to see what settings it uses, then make sure your editing project uses the same settings (unless you have a good reason to change them).

Maintain the best quality

Ideally you should begin with a high-quality source and keep it consistent throughout the entire editing process. For example, if you begin with footage shot in the HDV format, use appropriate HDV settings in your editing software and create your master version in the same format. You can then make lower-resolution files as necessary, but you always have the high-quality master to fall back on.

Avoid recompression

Whenever you re-compress video, the quality suffers. If you are exporting a video clip, look through your settings for things like "Recompress" or "Limit data rate". Disable anything like this if you want to retain full quality.

Remember the audio

Remember that the same rules of image degradation apply to audio. It may not be as obvious, but if you're losing image quality there's a good chance that you're losing sound quality too.

Ask for help

If you get stuck, you can ask for help in our video forum. Before you do, please make a list of all the settings you can find in your video editing software. Write down all the information you can about the type of video you are working with. Also, be very specific when describing the problem — don't just say "It looks awful". Here are some common examples of how to describe poor-quality video: