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Forums Storage & Archiving archiving video in H.264

  • archiving video in H.264

  • tim gallaher

    August 25, 2020 at 9:38 pm

    Hi CC Community,

    I have a question about archiving in H.264. I manage the archive of a small non-profit, and we have decades worth of videos of retreats that we want to archive. Of course an Apple ProRes codec would be the best codec for archiving once the video tapes are digitized. Unfortunately though, the videographer (an independent contractor) already started transferring the old VHS, Hi-8, Super VHS etc. tapes to 1080p in H.264. His stated reason for using H.264 is that better quality video files would be so large that storage of them would be a problem (It isn’t. We already have plans for a 30 TB archive).

    We don’t plan to ever broadcast these videos on network television. They will likely only be shown on our website or to small live audiences.

    My question is this: How bad of an idea is it to archive in H.264 on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is to be avoided at all costs and 10 is ideal (I already know that H.264 is not ideal to archive in).

    Any help with this would be appreciated.


    Tim G

  • Rainer Wirth

    August 26, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Hi folks,

    a H264 codec is basically a non editing format. The better codec is ProRes.
    But the ProRes is far bigger than the H264.
    As you have analog Material, the quality of the H264 is fine.
    For archiving you can use the H264. When you have to edit something you can convert the H264 into a ProRes file. When you have the ProRes file you swop the H264 for the ProRes and you can delete the H264. That is how I would do it,



    Rainer Wirth
    Mac pro 8core
    several raid systems

  • tim gallaher

    August 26, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Hi Rainer,

    Thanks much for your reply. Not what I was expecting at all, but good news. And it makes sense.

    With appreciation,

    Tim G

  • Tero Ahlfors

    September 12, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    H264 as an archival format is a terrible idea and transcoding the H264 to Prores is just wasting time and space. You’re not gaining anything from that.

  • Eric Santiago

    September 14, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    So much pain comes with h264 as a means for Archiving 😛

  • Patrick Donegan

    September 22, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    Yup – nobody with experience would arrive to H.264 –

    that is a “Distribution format”

  • tim gallaher

    March 7, 2021 at 11:43 pm

    Tero, Eric and Patrick, Thanks for your comments. I thought I posted this at the time last fall but see now I didn’t. Your input has been very helpful!

  • Holger Kamke

    September 29, 2022 at 2:55 pm

    Hi all,

    I’m kind of reviving this discussion because I wanted o specifically know if there is really any other downside other than h.264 not being optimal for editing..

    My use case is this: A project is finished, exported and delivered to the costumer years ago. Its not very likely that I will ever be using the footage again for something else. Is there a better format/codec than h.264 to keep the original media recoded to a smaller file size just as an absolute emergency backup (wich again: I’m probably never gonna use)…

    How do you proceed with ages old original footage that will probably never be touched again?

    Thanks for your replies

  • Neil Sadwelkar

    October 6, 2022 at 3:48 am

    For exactly what you need, H.264 is fine. Give it a decent data rate and it will be visually indistinguishable from ProRes at a much smaller file size. H.265 or HEVC is even more efficient, and supports HDR, but is more challenging to edit.

    What’s a good data rate? Depends on the resolution.

    For HD it should be around 20 Mbps, for 4k/UHD, 80 Mbps

    To give you a sense of file sizes,

    1 hr of HD ProResHQ is about 80 GB, as H.264 20 Mbps, its 9 GB.

    1 hr of UHD ProResHQ is about 320 GB, as H.264 80 Mbps, its 36 GB

    Davinci Resolve can do a good anything to H.264 mov conversion, as will Apple Compressor, or EditReady. If you want to be cross platform, then make the H.264 files .mxf

  • Holger Kamke

    October 12, 2022 at 11:19 am

    Thx, that was very helpful! Tried a few encodings and it is really indistinguishable. For my purpose it’s totally perfect.

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