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XDCAM EX codec business

COW Forums : Sony XDCAM - EX & Related

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Dave FlemingXDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 8:23:58 pm

I was given approximately two dozen HD QT files for an edit. Movie Inspector tells me they were created with an XDCAM EX camera. I've read Craig Seeman's emails and downloaded the demo Calibrated Q codec as I am in a non-FCP PC environment.

While I read with a chuckle Mr. Seeman's email about creating a business model for "burying the cost" of this codec, I think it's completely ridiculous that I should have to shell out $80 to use this footage.

Isn't a more reasonable solution that whoever provides footage in this format be responsible for including the proper codec as well? Or does it not work like that?


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Steve WargoRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 8:40:31 pm

I believe thaty Sony has provided the codec for FCP and Premier and Avid. It looks like the "Calibrated Q" is a third party program who makes their money by selling product.

Sony probably won't write codec for every edit system in existance but they have provided for the Big Three.

What I won't say is that anyone who wants to edit with non industry-standard software, in order to save money or whatever, has to suffer the consequences of being the bastard child. You can't have it both ways. That not being said, I agree that $80 is a good chunk of money but all you have to do is download the FREE Sony clipbrowser 2.0 to at least look at the footage. I don't know what you can do past there.

Can't the person who gave you the files convert them to something you can use?

Ouch! Sorry.




Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .


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Dave FlemingRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 8:51:38 pm

Thanks for the reply, Steve. I'm running Avid Media Composer 3.0, but I still apparently don't have the codec. Can you point me to where I can get it? I've looked through the Sony site to no avail.



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Noah KadnerRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 9:03:02 pm

Yeah I think the responsibility falls to the shooter in this case if the editor isn't using an NLE that directly supports the native format. It's a very simple operation to open the XDCAM EX footage, export say to prores and put onto an HD.

That or as an editor you might want to increase your marketability a little by adding another NLE with broader format support into your bag of tricks. In general, Avid has always been a bit behind FCP and even Premiere in supporting the latest camera formats. I imagine to it's origins as an offline film editor supporting only it's own native codecs, though that's been changing as Avid has responded to a more competitive market.

-Noah

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Dino SanacoryRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 9:48:08 pm

The fault here lies fully with Sony. It is their format which requires third party support to work with any system. Installing FCP on a Mac includes the proper QT components. They are not free. Installing Premier includes enough support to have it work at least in Premier. Installing Vegas includes enough support to have it work at least in Vegas.

Avid is not behind. The media on the original XDCam disk format is natively Avid compatible. Sony made the decision to have the EX media compatible with nothing. Regardless of what you are editing with, you must first convert the media using one of the variety of differently abled pieces of Sony software. The files you have were made for Final Cut. They are not intended to work with Avid. They are not intended to work with Windows. Just like you wouldn't expect Avid media to work natively in Final Cut, this is Final Cut media and should not be expected to work in Avid.

The proper way to create Avid media is to work from the camera original files. Using the awkwardly named Sony XDCam EX Clip Browser Version 2 software, you can create Avid native media. If they can supply the camera original files, you might find success with that.

Don't think of what you have as just QuickTime files. It is Final Cut media, intended for use within Final Cut. An Analogy might be tape formats. If a client came to you with a project shot on a tape format for which you have no deck, is the client wrong? Just like you would find a solution for those tapes, you need to find a solution for the files. 80 dollars seems like a cheap answer.

Ideally production should work in coordination with post. This is rarely the case. As the proliferation of non-standard formats grows, it is often a shooter for hire or some kid with a laptop that gets to make some rather critical decisions. Decisions that lead to major headaches down the line. Many of the producers and directors out there are still from an era that when making a choice for how to shoot would work from a list that looked something like this:

Camera Format Choices (pick one):
1) Beta SP

These folks simply don't realize the world of hurt they are heading into. It has become more important than ever for post to chime in during the pre-production stage to make sure that what is decided at the beginning actually fits the intended post process. That, or you can just resign yourself to the fact that you will rarely get what you want and are prepared to adapt to what comes.





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Dave FlemingRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 9:53:00 pm

Thanks for the post. What I was provided with are Quicktime files. Can I treat them the same as raw camera files and use the Clip Browser software for the transcode?



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Clint FleckensteinRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 10:06:58 pm

What I was provided with are Quicktime files.

That's the problem right there. You need the raw clips in a properly generated BPAV folder. Then the free Sony apps are your friend, at least giving you some flexibility to convert the footage as needed.

I was going to agree with what Dino said, until I saw the above quote in your most recent post, since nothing about shooting tapeless has a perfect equivalent in the tape world we grew up in. People in every step of the production workflow need to resign themselves to the fact that we have to change the way we think and work, period.

It's more complicated than handing you a tape for which you have no tape deck. Whoever said that they're not really just Quicktimes, they're Final Cut Pro files, was spot on. In this case, someone needs to realize that the way to get their footage to the editor is to provide you the raw BPAV folder clips so you can get it into your workflow. Plain and simple.

Cf


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Craig SeemanRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 10:50:55 pm

I think blame lies squarely on the people who handed you .mov files without consulting you or considering your needs.

The EX BPAV along with Sony's free cross platform Clip Browser allows the end user to make choices depending on whether they NLE can handle the MP4 or MXF (Clip Browser has export to MXF for NLE function). On a Mac with FCP there's the additional free XDCAM Transfer Tool to wrap the files in MOV.

Those BPAV are the camera masters and that's what you should have gotten. Actually those BPAVs are MORE UNIVERSAL than many other formats. Hand someone a tape they don't have a compatible deck for and see. BPAV backed up to DVD or portable hard drive and there's little compatibility issue. The MP4 inside the BPAV can even be played on the freely available VLC. Virtually any modern computer with any modern OS can find a way to play and use that BPAV.

CalibratedQ by Calibrated Software is really a "fix" for a mistake when it comes to camera masters. It can help if you're being handed and FCP edit master file which may very well be XDCAM EX MOV . . . BUT FCP can even export the MOV timeline back to XDCAM EX MP4 using File/Export/Sony XDCAM. Then a new BPAV can be created in Clip Browser (which can now do this with EX MP4).

Those BPAV and those MP4 can be near universal. The MOV on the other hand is NOT and it was wrong of them to hand you those without consultation and explanation of options.

These days there's really no reason for them to have handed you EX MOV files unless you specifically needed that. I'd ask them to give you the Camera Masters (BPAV). If they've tossed their camera masters they can certainly use FCP to return those MOV to their MP4 state.

BTW for all those people who I see posting that they save the MOV as their masters, unless these are personal projects that will go no where else, ALWAY SAVE THE BPAV! If you've already made that mistake you are faced with a couple of choices if your client (or anyone else) wants or needs the camera masters. Use FCP to convert back to MP4. Get your client CalibratedQ because it's YOUR MISTAKE

As to cost, most costs in this business are either upfront or buried at least indirectly, IMHO, but that's a topic for a different forum. Even if you don't charge for tape stock it's there in the rate.



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Dave FlemingRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 31, 2008 at 5:03:16 pm

Here is, in part, what the client sent back to me:

"...if you need the original camera master files, we’d need to give you all the footage because you can’t break apart the file structure of the originals. Since the originals are 61GB, we would need a hard drive which we can run out and purchase or you or someone from (deleted) can send us instead. Otherwise, you can always buy Quicktime Pro to convert the files we gave you to into a format that fits your needs..."

Craig, can you or someone else verify this information? I just don't know enough about the XDCAM EX format. Thanks!



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Craig SeemanRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 31, 2008 at 5:42:02 pm

[Dave Fleming] ""...if you need the original camera master files, we’d need to give you all the footage because you can’t break apart the file structure of the originals."

Actually with ClipBrowser you can manage the BPAV into a new combined BPAV. Maybe I'll get motivated and do a tutorial on this. It can be a bit tricky with spanned clips. It may be easier to get all the files but isn't that what you'd want anyway? Why would they leave anything out?

[Dave Fleming] "Since the originals are 61GB, we would need a hard drive which we can run out and purchase or you or someone from (deleted) can send us instead. "

That would be around 4 hours of video. That shouldn't be much different in size than the MOV files they delivered to you already unless they did selects.

[Dave Fleming] "Otherwise, you can always buy Quicktime Pro to convert the files we gave you to into a format that fits your needs..." "

They're wrong on this. QuickTime will only read the files if you have the EX codec which would mean you would have to have Final Cut Pro 6.0.2 or up. The alternative would be CalibratedQ. Also you do NOT want to have to recompress to another codec which can result in a bit of quality loss.

They apparently have no idea or have done no research on the EX workflow and codec issues given their "Quicktime Pro" response.

On what media did they deliver the camera masters to you? They could do the same for the BPAV as they did for the MOV.

You'd then be able to use the free Sony ClipBrowser to rewrap the BPAV as MXF for NLE which I suspect Avid would handle. Even if that didn't work, having the BPAV would give you the broadest options to rewrap or convert the files as needed.



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Dave FlemingRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 31, 2008 at 6:08:42 pm

Thanks for the response, Craig. Yeah, they did selects for the Quicktimes they sent and delivered the files on DVD. My other option is to call in a favor to a producer running a current version of FCP and see if he can re-wrap the files into something I can use on the Avid.

I'm just really flabbergasted at how much Sony changed the rules with the XDCAM EX format. But, that being said, my options are clear at this point and there's no sense whining about it. Thanks to everyone for helping to educate me about this.



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Craig SeemanRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 31, 2008 at 6:49:39 pm

[Dave Fleming] "Yeah, they did selects for the Quicktimes they sent and delivered the files on DVD."

OK then all they need to do is use FCP File/Export/Sony XDCAM and deliver those in MP4 form instead of MOV. It would be a rewrap rather than encode. They could create new BPAV with that or you could with ClipBrowser and/or export them as MXF in the very same ClipBrowser. That's why if they knew the workflow possibilities and asked would you needed it would be simple.

[Dave Fleming] " My other option is to call in a favor to a producer running a current version of FCP and see if he can re-wrap the files into something I can use on the Avid. "

Yes, anyone with FCP and EX codec could also use that FCP Export function. This shouldn't be your burden though. They should be providing this as part of doing selects. It's really just a simple step in FCP.

[Dave Fleming] "I'm just really flabbergasted at how much Sony changed the rules with the XDCAM EX format."

Don't blame Sony. The "whole media world" is moving into a file/IT workflow. Panasonic P2 and Red also. Throw in AVCHD for that matter. I actually think it'll be easier than tape issues. Speak to anyone who got an HDV tape from one camera and didn't have the right deck to play it back . . . and I have 2", 1" and D2 tapes I can't play either. Even in the worse case scenario, buying CalibratedQ is less expensive than renting or buying a deck or hunting down a dub house. If there's an issue it's that there's now a zillion ways to get from point A to point B and one often has to figure out the workflow in advance.

The good thing is in most cases all the pieces are there and the solutions tend to be inexpensive. The hard part is that all the pieces do make for a project managerial jigsaw puzzle which can throw some people for a loop as they learn all this.

I'd say you should explain to them about the FCP File/Export/Sony XDCAM. If they don't know about that you'd be preforming a free consultant service to them. If they're handing their clients MOV files as camera masters they will lose all their non FCP clients in short order (deservedly so IMHO).

Your alternative is find someone with FCP 6.0.2 and up who understands this workflow or download the trial of CalibratedQ. In the meantime find another facility to work with if they can't accommodate you because they don't know how to use the tools already available to them.





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Craig SeemanRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 30, 2008 at 11:04:16 pm

Once in the MOV format you options are:
Purchase CalibratedQ
Have the person who handed them to you, get you the BPAV.
Have the person who handed them to you, convert them back to MP4 and create new BPAV.
This is assuming your Avid can't handle the EX wrapped in MOV which it probably can't since that's specific to FCP at the moment.

If you have to encode rather than rewrap them to another codec then you're going through more compression.

With the BPAV you could use Clip Browser to create MXF for NLE.



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Don GreeningRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Dec 31, 2008 at 8:53:02 pm

The moral of this story: The EX camera operator has to be in direct contact with the editor to find out what codec the EX files need to be converted to so the editor can do his or her job. If the camera person chooses to shoot with an EX (and justifiably so) then it's their responsibility to follow the chain all the way to the editor's desk and make sure it's as painless as possible for that person. It's just good business practice.

Case in point: We were recently contacted by a large corporation (not from here) to shoot an interview. This interview will be just one of many for their project and the other interviews will be conducted by other camera operators in different cities all over North America. Initially they didn't want the interview done in HD but I pointed out the various reasons why it should be in HD. When I mentioned to the co-ordinator that we would be shooting with our EX I wasn't surprised at all when I got the usual silence from the other end because most people aren't familiar with the camera and the new workflow. Yet.

To make a long story not quite so long we got the editor involved in the conversation right afterwards and confirmed what editing platform and NLE they had so I could provide the clips in a format they can use. After asking more questions about the actual shooting style, framing, lighting, 1080 30p, 1080 60i, etc. the parent company has now decided to schedule a conference call early next week which will include all the camera operators. To provide the best product for the client, continuity is king and also makes the editor's life a whole lot easier.

It also shows the client that you care and that makes the best business sense of all.

- Don




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Clint FleckensteinRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Jan 5, 2009 at 4:05:53 pm

I agree with Don. Isn't it amazing that, wherever you go in this communications business, that we have to struggle so hard to maintain communication? :-)

One question I had as far as busting up a clip. I don't see a way to make a new clip (file) from a subclip using Clip Browser. But if I throw a Quicktime-wrapped file into FCP, select the portion I want to isolate, and Export XDCAM, it'll make new clips for me?

Happy New Year,
Cf


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Craig SeemanRe: XDCAM EX codec business
by on Jan 5, 2009 at 11:50:18 pm

[Clint Fleckenstein] "One question I had as far as busting up a clip. I don't see a way to make a new clip (file) from a subclip using Clip Browser."

File/New Clip using In/Out section
So Mark an In and Out in the Preview window and use the above menu option.

BTW you can split clips in the EX camera too in Media mode. It's a bit tricky though since marking the split point can require "expanding" the clip to get something close to an accurate split point.





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