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TL;DR? --> read the bold parts only ;)

The question could also have been called: What is the difference between the settings "file format" in "output" and "Format" in "Encoding"? It is very close to this question and I think I got the answer from there.

But I am still left with my actual problem, which is this: from the VSE I want to render out an h.264 encoded video in a .mov container. as far as I see there are two options to achieve this:

1) select H.264 or MPEG in "output"--"file format to save the rendered image as" and then in "Encoding" select "Quicktime" as "Format" and "H.264" as "Codec".
(--> this will give you the option to select a target bitrate for the output file (nice!))

2) select "Qicktime" in "output"--"file format to save the rendered image as" and then H.264 in the new option "Video Codec" that pops up right below.
(--> this will give you a setting for the "Quality percentage" (awkward!))

When I compare similarly sized output files generated by 1) and 2), method 1) looks waaaaay better! (example: 2000 kb/s in 1) gives 4MB file vs. 25% in 2) 7MB file and still file 1) looks considerably better!)

The only problem with 1) is that the resulting .mov file is not fully compatible with OS X whereas file 2) is.
(Also, selecting "lossless output" in 1) generates a file that cannot be played with QT player in OS X (VLC will play it))

Why are 1) and 2) different (is it the VBR for only 1)?) and what should I do to get a high-quality, low-size fully QT-compatible file rendered out?

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You appear to be confusing encoding systems with containers. AVI, MOV, etc. are containers. H.264, MPEG and many, many others are compression systems.

Blender's manual has some great reference info here: https://www.blender.org/manual/data_system/files/media/video_formats.html

VBR is better for most work since it allows the compresssor to alter the data rate (and therefore file size) according to the amount of detail. Rapidly changing shots require huge amounts of data whereas slowly changing ones require very little.

H.264 and MPEG-4 are very well supported and deliver excellent bang for your buck. (H.265 is better but requires serious processing power to encode.)

Another solution might be to render your video out in a low loss or (ideally) lossless format and then downconvert it in a dedicated system such as Handbrake (Www.handbrake.fr) which will give you presets or let you tinker with all manner of settings until you find something that fits your needs.

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  • $\begingroup$ thanks for the reply! i am aware of the difference between codec and container (i thought that should also be clear from the question "I want to render out an h.264 encoded video in a .mov container"?). Your suggestion with rendering out lossless and then use handbrake is a good workaround. On the other hand, no workaround should be needed. Everything is already there. There are just these two issues (why two methods and why is one of them not producing quicktime-compatible videos?) Did you open the VSE and follow methods 1) and 2)? $\endgroup$ – stack_horst Dec 7 '16 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ My main Mac ate its PSU recently so I'm going in a little blind in that I can't test my generated files on a similar player. I've also noticed that some containers seem more efficient although that might be my imagination. AVIs always seem huge in comparison to Matroska for similar quality. Time to fire up the laptop I think. $\endgroup$ – Marc Draco Dec 8 '16 at 4:52
  • $\begingroup$ Curious, but which version of Blender are you using? I am unable to reproduce what you describe on Blender 2.78a which is current as of this writing. The MOV file is slightly smaller than an AVI using identical encoding settings. Although a 10 second test scene is hardly canonical. :) probably should not be trying this in bed! :D $\endgroup$ – Marc Draco Dec 8 '16 at 5:20
  • $\begingroup$ I was using 2.77 at the time. Also mind it: in both methods i was ending up with h264-encoded mov files (i.e. not avis) -- thus the original question. I guess I should try to reproduce this with 2.78 myself. $\endgroup$ – stack_horst Dec 8 '16 at 12:23

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