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Use Adobe Media Encoder to Convert Video

These days more of us are using InDesign to create non-print projects-interactive PDF, SWF, EPUB, and applications for tablets. InDesign has had the ability to place video files since CS2, but its video capabilities were greatly enhanced in InDesign CS5 and 5.5.

In a previous posting, I wrote about the video format to use for digital publishing-H.264-encoded video files. But, in addition to converting a file to the correct format, you will also need to create a video of the proper size. Video file sizes are far larger than audio,
images, and text. For most digital publishing projects-especially those targeted at mobile devices-it’s crucial to keep video clips to a reasonably small file size.

Working with video introduces a lot of new terminology unfamiliar to those of us who have worked mostly in print and web publishing. For example, you have to be concerned with choosing the right aspect ratio (usually either 4:3 for standard television and 16:9 for widescreen and high-definition). You need to choose an appropriate data rate. This is the amount of information, or detail, that is stored per unit of time in a video.

So it comes as a pleasant surprise to find that most of us already have the utility we need to convert video, and which provides easy presets for common output like an iPad or an iPhone. That is the Adobe Media Encoder, which comes with the Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium, Web Premium, and Production Premium.

Choosing a Preset

Choosing a Preset

To convert video, follow these steps:

  1. Open Adobe Media Encoder 5 or 5.5. You’ll see a single window, shown above. In the top Queue section, click the + button to add the file you want to encode (for example, a legacy QuickTime file). Or, even easier, just drag the file into the large central area.
  2. Choose the video format you’re aiming for from the Format menu-in this example, H.264. Click the Preset menu to select a preset that best represents your target output; for example, the Apple iPad. If you’re not showing a video fullscreen, you may choose a video aspect ratio that’s different from the device’s aspect ratio. You might keep the ratio of the video source file to avoid a “letterbox”effect (black bars on the sides of the frame). Some outputs have more than one aspect ratio or data rate setting for the same device, so try out different settings to see which produces the best result at the lowest file size.
  3. Click the Start Queue button to create a new, usually smaller, video file.
  4. For more control over the encoding, right-click the source file name and choose Export Settings. This opens the Export Settings dialog where you can tweak a variety of video settings (see below).
Export Settings

Export Settings

This posting is adapted from an article I wrote in the current issue (October/November 2011) of InDesign Magazine. In that article, I also include these topics:

  • Tips for reducing video file size
  • The settings to use in InDesign to control video play
  • How to create “navigation points” to start a video at a particular frame
  • Choosing embedded video vs. streaming video
  • Special considerations for placing video in interactive PDF, SWF, EPUB and Adobe Digital Publishing Suite projects.

You can use the “FRIENDS” promo code, which is good for $20 off a 1-year subscription to InDesign Magazine.

Steve Werner

Steve Werner

Steve Werner is a trainer, consultant, and co-author (with David Blatner and Christopher Smith) of InDesign for QuarkXPress Users and Moving to InDesign. He has worked in the graphic arts industry for more than 20 years and was the training manager for ten years at Rapid Lasergraphics. He has taught computer graphics classes since 1988.
Steve Werner

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27 Comments on “Use Adobe Media Encoder to Convert Video

  1. I have tried before to use AME CS5 to encode H264 videos and to embed them in an EPUB. Apple’s iBooks seems to ignore these videos until Chris Converse advised me to use Miro Video Converter, free on the App Store.

  2. I’ve had no problem using the Adobe Media Encoder (I’m using the 5.5 version) for embedding H.264 videos in EPUB files for iBooks.

    There is an issue with having the poster image appear but that’s a bug/limitation in InDesign CS5.5. There are edits required in the HTML code required, the poster image has to be placed in the images folder, and has to be added to the manifest.

  3. jr,

    Of course there are more choices in the presets in CS5.5. It came out a year later.

    Think about it: CS5 was announced in April 2010. The iPad was announced in March 2010 and released in April 2010. Why would they have a preset for the iPad in CS5? It took a few months before everyone was buying one!

  4. “Think about it”, why not test the recommendations you make and offer something useful to current users of cs5?

    “Think about it”, the iPad is a prime target for this sort of conversion, as it is available right now! As you wrote your article! Were you not aware of that!

    Adobe could have updated the cs5 encoder could it not?!?

  5. jr,

    What you are asking for is adding new features to an application that is already released (as opposed to fixing bugs).

    For years, Adobe has said that programs like InDesign can?t provide free, incremental upgrades with updaters because of complicated US accounting laws that preclude it.

    I’ve been working with Adobe as a trainer, consultant, and user since 1988, and that’s always what I’ve been told when people have asked for new features without buying a new version.

    The new features (more presets) are in CS5.5. Sorry!

    However, I mentioned in the article that you can use the Export Settings dialog (2nd figure) to set up exactly the same settings for the iPad yourself! It’s only the presets that are missing. Look at the first figure and you can see from the names of the presets the choices to make for an iPad.

  6. Steve, thanks so much for these details, these are great. Also I highly recommend the InDesignSecrets magazine article … I don’t know anywhere else that people are publishing this kind of information. And it’s sorely needed!

    • Same here, thanks for such an informative article,Steve!
      Although we`re developing WALTR, that can do this kind of stuff flawlessly, reading was still interesting:)

  7. Important note: H.264 is a delivery format not a presentation format and most certainly not an editing format. Choosing to present or display in H.264 is asking the end user device to do far more than it is designed to do. First of all, it must unpack H.264. Why ask it to do that? My suggestion is to convert to .fl or .mpg or .avi, but certainly not h.264. It was never designed to be a presentation codec.

  8. John,

    If you want something that will work on an iPad or in an EPUB, you need to use H.264 encoding. It’s as simple as that.

  9. Steve,

    I am meant to be making EPUBs for some documents for students, and am having all sorts of trouble getting the video to work. I am using InDesign CS5.5 and the Media Encoder, and it all works fine. However when I open it in iBooks it comes up as an image with the play symbol in the middle, but won’t play! Have you come across this before – And what am I doing wrong?



  10. ….. don’t worry – I figured it out. Didn’t realise that you had to add a controller – I thought it would do it all automatically.



  11. Hi Steve, great article, thank you. I’ve just recently been exploring AME Cs5.5 to encode my new video for a new project into format compatible for ios devices.

    In the past I’ve always used encoders like Visualhub or Handbrake to encode my videos, (which are still great by the way), but wanted to try and come up with a single solution that catered for both my website and ios devices with a single video format.

    I found just encoding to the MP4 format alone did not work on ios devices, I had to first select an ios device from the preset and then customise my setting to get the actual size I wanted for my site – I usually prefer a 640 x 360 size for my website or 720 x 400. I’ve found that selecting iphone as a preset doesn’t allow you to scale the output size up, so choosing the ipad preset sorted this.

    By first selecting an ios preset, the videos played back nicely in both a standard web browser and on an ios device.

  12. Thank you for writing this article for people who, due to their brain cell limitations, cannot or don’t know how to choose the “iPad” setting from the drop down menu.

    For the rest of us who are using AME 5 and don’t have the iPad settings in the dropdown, it would’ve been nice to actually mention the video settings to be used for the iPad. Especially, since selecting H.264 will not work in itself, since selecting the correct profile and level are equally important.

    This article fails to mention any of that, and also provides a mediocre screenshot that is not usable at all. I’d consider rewriting this article to make it at least 1% useful.

  13. @Ted: Hey, good luck getting back on your stress medications. ;) If the article doesn’t help you (because you have an older version of the software), then go find another article; don’t bash one that covers the current version. This is not AME-secrets, after all.

  14. Need your advice please. I bought an automobile dashcam (ITB-100HD) which records to an SD Card in widescreen h.264 format (?Resolution : 1080P(1920X1080), Full HD Max 24fps?) and I want to edit and export to other formats. So, no matter what setting I attempt to open the file in with CS5.5 Media Encoder, I cannot get any video to display, only the audio track. Just a black box on my screen instead of the video portion. BTW, the file plays fine in the VLC Player and Windows Media Player (Win7). Any ideas for me please?

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  18. Quick question. Each time I export my video to 4MP my image for video is really small. How do I get it to look like the on on Youtube so my video can be seen.

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