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Compressor 4.1, Part 1: Custom Settings

With the new interface introduced in Compressor 4.1 using setting presets and creating custom presets is much easier. Rather than archaic terminology, chaotic window and tab layouts, we now have one large, single application window, with neatly organized and simplified panes. This is what using a computer is all about, right? Make our complex work simpler and easier to deal with. So in this article, we will look at dealing with setting presets and creating your own customized setting presets.


To start with, I want to be sure you have your orientation to the Compressor 4.1 window. In the center, the upper half is the Preview where you can preview your media. The lower half is the Batch area, where you list the individual media files you want to transcode, along with the settings you apply to it. For the purposes of this article, leave it set to the Current button at the top.

On the left side is the Settings & Locations pane (Command-5). On the right side is the Inspector (Command-4). The Settings list all of the Built-In and Custom settings presets you can apply to media. The Inspector is where you will tweak specific settings as needed and review metadata about your transcoding settings.

Figure 1

Built-In Settings

In the Settings section on the left, the first group of settings are titled BUILT-IN. These are the ones Apple constructed and include with Compressor, and are very handy to have. You’ll see the first set of them have blue icons with curved arrows. These are Destination presets. A Destination preset is a setting preset that has a Job Action associated with it. Job Actions are specific actions you can assign to take place with your resulting file after the transcode is finished. I cover details about Destinations and Job Actions in another article. The second group of presets in the Built-In group have a gray icon of two control sliders. These are Groups, again which I cover in more detail in another article. A Group is simply a container holding one or more settings presets. For example, if you look in the Audio Formats Group by clicking the disclosure triangle to its left, there are 7 presets for various types of audio file formats. 

Figure 2

Select the AIFF and look at the Inspector. There are two sections there: General which gives us some metadata and a few controls, and the Audio section where we can tweak most of the actual settings for creating an AIFF codec file. Most of these controls are disabled until you apply it to an actual file. Including adding audio filters.

Figure 3

Creating A Customized Preset

The second grouping of presets in the Settings section is titled CUSTOM. Initially this section will be empty until you start creating and collecting your own custom presets. Many of the Built-In presets are great, but they don’t cover every need. When there is a transcode situation you encounter over and over, creating a custom Settings preset can save a lot of time. Just like in the Built-In grouping, you can create custom Destinations and Groups. I cover those in another article. For now we will look at creating a simple custom Setting preset.

Click the Plus sign icon at the bottom left of the Compressor window and select “New Setting”. In the resulting window you will choose a generalized setting as a starting point. Here, I’m selecting a QuickTime movie format. Give it a name that makes sense, and fill in the Description field in detail. When you click OK you then have that preset residing in the Custom grouping of the Settings pane. Now we’re ready to tweak it. This is where things got confusing in legacy versions of Compressor but are very easy now.

Figure 4

Tweaking The Settings

With our new preset selected, we now move to the Inspector to specify my default settings for it. The General section gives you the basic metadata about your preset. Some general controls are available such as Name, Description, Default Location, Format and Retiming. With Format set to “Video and Audio” in my example here, I have both a Video and an Audio section I can work in. 

Figure 5

Obviously, the Video section has all of my video settings laid out in a very ordered, easy to read manner. I will specify 1280 x 720 frame size at 24 fps and Progressive field order. By clicking the Change button for QuickTime Settings, I have the very familiar QuickTime settings window. I’ll ignore the Cropping & Padding section for this example, but it is still there, just easier to read. In Quality, since I may be resizing some transcodes, depending on the source media, I will set the Resize Filter to “Best (Statistical Prediction)”. But as you can see, the settings are all very clearly labeled and laid out very orderly, all in one easy to use section.

Figure 6

In the Audio section, I will set my Channel Layout for Mono and the Sample Rate to 32 kHz. Clicking the Change button for QuickTime Settings, I can then change my audio to ACC in the, again, familiar QuickTime settings window. Finally, I will click the Add Audio Effect menu button and add a Peak Limiter, setting my Gain to 6.0. I’m just being safe in case I have a source file in which the audio peaks a bit too high and could cause clipping.

Figure 7

Applying Custom Presets

As soon as I configure my custom preset settings as I just did, there is no need to “save” them. When I select the preset in the Settings pane and change a parameter in the Inspector, that is it. That parameter then uses that setting as the default, period. Nothing could be easier. In this way, if I find something doesn’t work over time, I can tweak my preset on the fly in this manner.

When I have a media clip in the Batch pane, I can drag-and-drop my custom preset on to it. Once applied, I can then tweak any of the settings further. When I have the preset selected in the Batch pane, any changes I make to it are only applied to that version of it in the Batch pane. Nothing in my original, back in the Settings pane, is effected, it stays untouched.

Figure 8


As you can see, the new layout of Compressor 4.1 makes creating and using custom Settings presets much easier and faster than before. Not to mention that we can access these in Final Cut Pro X, by creating a new Compressor Setting in the Destinations preference window (Final Cut Pro menu > Preference > Destinations). This allows you direct and quick access to your custom presets, saving even more time in your post-production workflow.

Compressor 4.1, Part 2: Destinations and Locations

Compressor 4.1, Part 3: Groups and Droplets

Ben Balser

Ben Balser | Articles by this author

Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he ran the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP user group for 8 years, taught post-production at Louisiana State University and has lead their annual teen filmmaking bootcamp. He teaches currently for AATC facilities across the USA and for The Orchard Solutions. He has consulted for higher education, government, broadcast and private production facilities.


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