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Compression codec for archival documentary

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Lucy Slavinsky
Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 7, 2016 at 6:59:25 pm

Hello all,
What codec should be used for editing the documentary that uses 90% archival footage? Most clips are from 1989 to 2015. Very few HD, mostly tapes and video, no 4k. Entended for broadcast and festivals.
Thank you very much in advance!
Lucy


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Craig Seeman
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 7, 2016 at 8:36:52 pm

ProRes LT would work but perhaps if you're doing a lot of compositing or grading you may want to go up the ProRes scale. It won't make it better but it'll hold up to the heavy moving of bits.



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Joe Marler
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 7, 2016 at 11:15:24 pm

The material is probably in various formats -- some already captured off tape, AVI files, etc. Some of it may have been pre-edited with an external clipping utility to cut up long files captured from tape. Although she said mostly SD, if it includes through 2015 there could even be consumer AVCHD content. You never know the pedigree and handling of that.

This is especially problematic when those clipping utilities extract ranges from long-GOP formats like AVCHD. They can often mangle the head and tail of the file which in turn can crash or destabilize editing software.

Even if FCPX is capable of editing the (allegedly) native files, it might be good to externally convert it to ProRes/MOV using EditReady or a similar tool, then verify the result is OK before importing it to FCPX.

Before doing some big bulk import or transcode, I'd suggest taking an inventory of each media type and testing the transcode/import method on a sample of each type. Then if that works, proceed to larger batches of data.

Pointing the editor import dialog at some huge folder tree of unknown (but old) media and codec types will often cause unpredictable behavior.


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Lucy Slavinsky
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 8, 2016 at 3:12:43 am
Last Edited By Lucy Slavinsky on Nov 8, 2016 at 3:23:05 am

Hi Joe,
Thank you very much for your response. You are absolutely right - there are all the formats that were available at that time and from all the different sources. You have mentioned EditReady. I have Compressor. Besides the significant diference in the conversion time are there any other advantages for using EditReady? Should I consider Priemier over Final Cut? Am I looking for ProRes 422 as the editing format?
Regards,
Lucy


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Joe Marler
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 8, 2016 at 11:17:21 am

[Lucy Slavinsky] "there are all the formats that were available at that time and from all the different sources. You have mentioned EditReady. I have Compressor. Besides the significant diference in the conversion time are there any other advantages for using EditReady? Should I consider Priemier over Final Cut? Am I looking for ProRes 422 as the editing format? "

EditReady uses Apple's own ProRes codec, but it is much faster than Compressor. As a documentary editor I normally do not externally transcode before ingesting to FCPX, since FCPX usually does OK by itself. However for importing huge batches of widely varying older content, I find it's often better to externally transcode, esp. the older stuff which may have already been processed by some clipping tool. Here is a recent review of EditReady by Larry Jordan:
https://larryjordan.com/articles/product-review-editready-from-divergent-me...

Re Premiere vs FCPX, both are OK and I have edited documentaries in both. However FCPX has a major advantage for projects with high shooting ratios like documentaries. This is especially so for older material captured off tape which usually produces several very long files. FCPX can tag ranges within clips and present those as searchable items.

The skimmer and Event Browser in FCPX enables hyper-fast review and tagging of content. That enables a different workflow than is traditionally used. With most editors the ability to rapidly evaluate and tag content is limited, so you tend to do this outside the editor. IOW use VLC or some playback utility to review and separate the desired clips, then import only those, then re-review and re-classify them within the editor. For a large documentary this is redundant and slow, plus there is no easy way to mark short regions of interest within longer clips.

By contrast with FCPX it is often better to just import *everything* and do the initial review and classification within the editor. The unwanted stuff can later be excluded when you copy the used material to another library. Taking time up front to keyword tag and mark favorite and rejected ranges (not just clips) -- before putting anything on a timeline -- will greatly expedite things.

Re what ProRes format to use, most of your content is apparently standard-def older stuff. I'm not sure how much visible advantage there would be from using ProRes 422 HQ vs LT but you could transcode a couple of clips and see if there is any difference.

Another key issue is interlaced material and how you handle that. This is further complicated if the final product is a DVD vs a video file. You will often see material that has "baked in" interlacing artifacts because of improper handling.


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Lucy Slavinsky
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 8, 2016 at 3:28:55 pm

Joe, thank you so much for such comprehensive explanation.
"Another key issue is interlaced material and how you handle that. This is further complicated if the final product is a DVD vs a video file. You will often see material that has "baked in" interlacing artifacts because of improper handling."
By "final product" do you mean distribution? I am not sure if I understand it fully. The film is intended for broadcast, festivals. Further distribution strategy is probably streaming or downloading. How would you handle the interlacing issue?
Best,
Lucy


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Joe Marler
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 9, 2016 at 2:47:16 pm

[Lucy Slavinsky] "By "final product" do you mean distribution? I am not sure if I understand it fully. The film is intended for broadcast, festivals. Further distribution strategy is probably streaming or downloading. How would you handle the interlacing issue?"

There are two frequent issues with handling large amounts of older SD material for 16:9 progressive distribution: (1) 4:3 aspect ratio and (2) Interlacing.

You often will have a mix of original camera-native material and other content which has been processed, rendered or cut up by unknown tools. Depending on the processing sequence this can "bake in" certain interlacing, window boxing or pillar boxing effects. In reviewing the content it's a good idea to try and assess if this has happened and where possible backtrack to the original camera-native content, even if this entails re-capturing data off tape.

DVD distribution further complicates this since the playback methods could be a software player, hardware player, etc -- each of which can have different handling of de-interlacing and wide screen content. You basically have to check it on a bunch of different playback devices. If you won't be using DVD, at least that part is simplified.

There is no single procedure for handling this. You just need to be aware and watch for interlace "combing" artifacts on horizontal moving subjects on both original content and your final rendered content, also undesirable window boxing, then make adjustments to handle these if present. You will frequently see videos where this was not handled properly and interlace artifacts or window boxing got baked in and the playback system can't undo that.

In general FCPX will do the right thing when conforming content with mixed aspect ratios or interlacing as you add it to the project. However it's best to do a periodic test export and evaluate how it looks -- before adding a hundred clips that all must be then fixed. The "fixing" could be as simple as changing the field dominance or deinterlace checkbox settings under Inspector>Info for that clip. Unfortunately it can be a matter of trial and error. If not discovered early you could have already added a transition between two clips with different characteristics that then must be removed to fix the problem.

Another good way to minimize some image quality issues of older 4:3 NTSC content is using split screen. There are various split screen plugins for FCPX. Here is a MacBreak Studio on one of them:






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Lucy Slavinsky
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 8, 2016 at 3:19:27 am

Thank you very much!
Lucy


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Noah Kadner
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 8, 2016 at 4:45:23 am

I would go ProRes HQ. LT is a bit low bitrate for the master codec format. FCPX is great for this because you can automatically optimize to that codec as you copy into FCPX. And you won't necessarily need anything like EditReady, the flavor of ProRes generated by FCPX is the best it gets since its Apple's own codec...

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
FCP Exchange - FCPX Workshops
XinTwo - FCPX Training


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Mark Smith
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 8, 2016 at 2:50:03 pm

I'm involved in a long term doc project which has archives on tape going back almost 30 years. I used pro res lt and pro res 422 when digitizing tape material. Some tape is VHS, 8mm, hi-8 and digital 8 and anything more than pro res lt seemed a total waste of storage space. Pro res 422 was used for digitizing Betacam and some DV tapes. After about 2005 everything is file based, so no problem with that stuff as it all works in X just fine.

I captured tape to digits using a Black Magic ultra studio box which did a fine job of converting analog tape to pro res files.


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Lucy Slavinsky
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 8, 2016 at 3:16:25 pm

Thank you, Mark! What type of storage do you use for your project?
Best,
Lucy


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Mark Smith
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 8, 2016 at 3:33:25 pm

Storage:

In general everything that is on tape is now digitized on drives. I have the original tapes and machines to play back all formats, though some stuff from the late 80's is now on shaky ground playback wise. Any way its all digitized and stored on some large format 3.5" drives. EVERYTHING on drives is backed up to LTO 5 tape at this point as drives can and will fail over time. By everything I mean all tape based media and file based media post 2005.
The X Library itself is currently on a 4 drive raid 5 thunderbolt drive that is 3 TB. The project will likely be done in chunks, so once one chunk is done, I'll out put pro res and archive the library to LTO tape, wipe the drive and move on.

That's the big picture. I do take a lot of comfort in the fact that I have LTO back ups of all files. I've been burned by drives a few times.


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Lucy Slavinsky
Re: Compression codec for archival documentary
on Nov 8, 2016 at 3:31:01 pm

Thank you very much, Noah!


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