Some of the conclusions are different than I and say @Ann Bens have recommended over the years here. Yet he has taken this exploration and precise testing farther into the weeds of all interactions than at least I've ever done. With examples of his tests. So I feel comfortable in changing my recommendations, and including information about and from his article as a FAQ for this user forum.
ProRes should always be worked with Max Depth and Max Render settings on, and should always be exported with the 16-bit depth option checked to get 10 bit exports.
Max Render affects far more than normal resizing: it affects any scaling/positioning/rotation of any element in a sequence.
I cannot more highly recommend reading his full article.
It's quite lengthy, yet for the complicated subject is still an easy read. And the bottom part (after the conclusions) includes the many very specific and detailed tests to establish the accuracy of his comments.
[8 June 2021; R. Neil Haugen]
Here's a quote from Jarle's article:
(Jarle, Frame.io article)
These MRQ and MBD settings affect the video quality at three different stages in the pipeline. The importer/decoder can be 8-bit or 32-bit, the processing of effects and transforms can be done in 8-bit or 32-bit, and finally the exporter can render to 8-bit, 10-bit, 16-bit, etc.
As we’ve seen, where these settings really matter is in your Export settings. Both Max Render Quality and Max Bit Depth have an impact on your image quality, although Max Render Quality mostly only kicks in when you’re in Software mode (which is entirely possible even with GPU acceleration turned on, see Test 11).
It’s hard to be definitive, but in many (most?) cases, leaving the settings on will not affect the export time, even though Adobe warns that they will.
For some sources, MRQ can make a difference even in GPU mode. MBD in export settings can also affect how some formats are decoded, even in GPU mode, most notably ProRes.
And finally, you should always enable 16-bit Depth for formats where this choice is available.
Unfortunately, in both Sequence Settings and in Export Settings, the defaults don’t have these settings enabled, so you’ll have to intervene to get the best quality video in Premiere Pro. The Quick Export has none of these settings enabled, and there’s no way you can change it.
With all of this in mind, I recommend that you always have MBD and MRQ enabled in your export settings. If you want WYSIWYG, you should also enable both of them settings in your sequences. If your system struggles you may want to turn them off, and see if the exported files still meet your quality standards, knowing that it’s not top quality.
Most of the time, the settings will do nothing at all, but they will kick in when needed, and ensure the best possible quality.
Here’s what I do
You may be wondering what choices I have made, and how I set up my workflow. Here you go.
I use Sequence Presets that have both settings activated
The Sequence Presets use ProRes 422 HQ to get high-quality preview renders
I’ve made a ProRes 422 HQ Export Preset with both settings activated
The Export Preset also has Use Previews, and 16-bit Depth activated
The export to a master file is very quick if I’ve rendered parts of the timeline where there’s a red render bar, due to Smart Rendering (see Test 1 and 6). Of course, I don’t always have to render, but I sometimes render during breaks or when I’m on the phone, to save time on final export when Smart Rendering kicks in.
I also use Render & Replace for dynamic link comps, titles, MOGRTs etc.
For longer projects I will set up watch folders in Adobe Media Encoder to automatically take my exported master file and output the h.264 versions, using a preset with Maximum Bit Depth and Maximum Render Quality enabled.
But for short-form projects I normally just queue these exports, which is fast and easy.
I hope the info in this article enables you to make qualified choices for these settings for future projects. This should enable you to improve your image quality and yield fewer surprises when you export your films.
Editing, Export, FAQ, Formats, Hardware or GPU, Import, Performance
I've had a couple emails with Jarle. Yea, it's different, but cross-checking interactions caught a few things that "we" hadn't thought of. Nor were listed as such in the help/about or the numerous communications I've have with several engineers.