EX1R and FCP
Basic newbie question here as I've just made the switch to an EX1R and called off my longstanding love affair with my XL2. Love the ergonomics of the Sony, can't say the same for the workflow. It seems straight-forward with XDCam Transfer, but scrubbing the timeline is choppy, synch is unpredictable and calls for a few extra clicks, stops and starts to get on track again, and exporting to QT for a file on its way to Compressor is so sloooow, even on my 3.33 6 core machine. What's the secret? Should I be transcoding to ProRes at the jump? If so, how? Via Compressor? Thanks for any help in alleviating this bit of frustration.
First off, editing XDCAM EX material is going to be more taxing on your editing workstation than Mini-DV ever was. Every time you make even a simple cut in the timeline FCP has to "conform" the edit point which means interpolating or manufacturing new frames because of the MPEG2 15:1 compression. If your computer hasn't been maintained properly for a while like emptying system cache files, etc. on a regular schedule you will notice a general drop in performance. You never stated what sort of media drive(s) you have your XDCAM EX material on, either. You never mentioned how you have your FCP preferences set up. Do you have dynamic RT active? Do you have your audio track playback settings on high or low quality? Do you have the video in your Browser and Canvas windows set to "fit to window?" All these things can have a drastic effect on processor intensive MPEG2 playback. What version of FCP do you have? Did you know that you can edit in an XDCAM EX timeline but set your renders to ProRes?
Converting to ProRes first will alleviate some of the work your processors have to do but the burden will shift to your media drives' increased transfer rates because Pro Res is an "I Frame" codec and has much higher file sizes. If your editing workstation is maintained properly and have good transfer rates from your peripherals you shouldn't have an issue. Your machine certainly has enough oomph to do the job. FYI I'm still using the first gen. 4 core Mac pro to edit multiple tracks of XDCAM EX footage and it works well enough. It's even better with ProRes.
Hope this helps.
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Thanks for your reply, Don. Let me answer some of your questions in hopes you'll find whatever holes may be and help me fill 'em.
I understand the all I frame, long GOP compression thing, and know it's the cause of the scrubbing problem. I expect editing in ProRes would fix that. For smaller projects with limited life, I'd hoped to avoid the large file sizes, but maybe I shouldn't and just trash them when the project's finished while holding on to the compressed footage as archive. The documentary feature I'm on now is a different kettle of clips and I'm used to editing the footage from a JVC HM700 which delivers .mov files and none of these kinds of problems, though I don't really know why since it's also a compressed format, and one the Sequence thinks is XDCAM EX.
I'm using CalDigit 1.5 TB SATA drives stripped to RAID O. I've cut DVC PRO-HD for HBO with no problems with a similar set-up and much less computer horsepower. (G5 Quad.)
Unlimited RT is active but I realize it's set to "High" rather than Dynamic. Thank you.
Canvas and Viewer set to Fit to Window, which = 33%.
The Sequence is set to render in ProRes.
If I've got this right... the long QT cook is due to QT demanding full I frames (?).
The long Compressor time is spent squashing down the 1080 to an SD recipe (?).
Thanks for your questions and insight. I'm encouraged by your success with your 4 core.
Are you using the log and transfer through final cut, or the sony transfer software?
I have an older quad core and I use the log and transfer. It works fine, no issues.
Make sure you drop your clip onto the timeline and let it set up the timeline settings automatically. If you are trying to force another setting and then drop your clips on the timeline with another codec, it might give you issues.
Use ProRes, if you set it up manually. Final Cut 7 has ProRes light which takes up less HD space.
You have plenty of machine. I didn't see how much memory you have. You shouldn't have any issues.
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[Raymond Singer] "I'm used to editing the footage from a JVC HM700 which delivers .mov files and none of these kinds of problems, though I don't really know why since it's also a compressed format, and one the Sequence thinks is XDCAM EX."
Could be because if memory serves the HM700 stuff is 720p and not 1080. That one difference might be all it takes to have a smooth playback as opposed to a choppy one. Both JVC and XDCAM EX formats are essentially the same because JVC is using the EX codec under license from Sony.
[Raymond Singer] "If I've got this right... the long QT cook is due to QT demanding full I frames (?)."
If you rendered your timeline first and then export a self-contained movie you'll find that the actual export won't take any longer than any other normal export. Rendering out an XDCAM EX timeline is tedious at best because of all the conforming going on. If you were just making simple cuts and fade ins/outs that would take less time to render than if you're doing more involved things like colour correction. If you haven't rendered first and just hit "Export" FCP will render as it's exporting which seems to take forever even with the latest Mac Pros. It all depends on whether you want to have your render files taking up space on your drives afterwards. This is one of those situations where you can export a self-contained ProRes movie instead of an XDCAM EX movie because either one would take about the same amount of time to render.
[Raymond Singer] "The long Compressor time is spent squashing down the 1080 to an SD recipe (?)."
Again the amount of time it takes to turn a 1920x1080 .mov into an anamorphic 720x480 (854x480 sq.pixels) .mov is directly affected by what codec you're down converting and how much quality you've got dialed in to your Compressor settings. ProRes will take less time to convert because it's I frame and not Long GOP. If some of the settings in Compressor for MPEG2 are set to "Good" instead of "Best" (such as frame controls) there won't be any discernible difference in the result but it makes a huge impact on conversion times. These observations are from personal experience and not just from parroting something I've read, although reading about it prompted the tests in the first place.
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When XDCAM Transfer (or Log and Transfer) converts to QT, it is only a re-wrap. The limiting factor tends to be the disc speed so it should hardly take any longer than copying the same file with Finder.
If you are mounting the cards from the camera over USB then this would account for the sluggishness you report. In that case, it might be better to copy the entire card over to your hard disc (with Clip Browser) and rewrap from there. It also helps if the card image is on a different hard disc from your import directory.
Thanks to everyone for these replies. Slogging through the new workflow, finding the right settings for the camera, etc, has been a ride on the learning curve. I'm finding my way and feel more secure after everyone's answers. Thank you.
BTW, yes. There was a ton of color work in that two hour clip I had to export. That probably explains a lot. I tried exporting a simple timeline via QT using ProRes 422 just now, and it went very nicely and quickly.
Thanks to all for getting me off the "Convert to ProRes prior to edit," idea. Helpful confidence builder.
I suppose the next step will be to see what help my Kona 3 can offer as I down-convert, etc.
Yeah, the Kona 3 does real time down convert from anything to anything. I would love that.
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