Given that the production team for House of Cards knew the show would be streamed online as the only distribution method, did the directors and editors consider H.264's encoding limitations when planning shots and transitions?

Cross-fades, fades to/from black, and pans seem to be infrequently used. I was surprised to see scrolling credits instead of text with simple cuts, as scrolling text is more difficult to encode well.

I've heard that some music producers have used dynamic range compression and other mastering techniques to better accommodate MP3 and earbuds. I'm curious if there is any evidence that House of Cards might have done something similar for video encoding.

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    I don't know how the further marketing of the show was intended by the producers, but given that DVD releases and other forms of distribution (we get it on TV here in Germany, don't know about other countries, though) were not entirely impossible, especially when the show is a success, it would be a strange decision to let the medium command your style decisions. But still interesting question.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 17, 2013 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


Cross fades and pans are more common in (low budget) television for some reason, and even more common in home video—I have my theories about the causes, but that does not affect this question.

View any quality movie and you'll see that almost every cut (99+%) is a classic straight cut. For extra effect, maybe there is a fade to black or fade from black. The standard advice for editing is (paraphrasing) a "straight cut keeps the viewer's attention on the story.... A spiffy transition shifts attention to the editing or director and away from the story."[1]

As for the production of House of Cards, there probably was no reason to assume exclusion of Blu-ray and DVD releases—though Blu-ray uses H.264 too. Anyway, what limitation of H.264 would be a problem with cross fades or dissolves? H.264's weighted prediction feature was specifically designed to optimize cross fades. Even the messiest dissolve simply uses a little more bandwidth for a second or two, just like a straight cut to an image with little in common with the prior image.

To me, it seemed like they were producing the show to medium or greater budget movie standards (aside from Spacey's narration and breaking the fourth wall) rather than avoiding any particular technical issue.

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