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FCP 6.06 export HD to SD

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David Butterfield
FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 21, 2009 at 12:10:03 am

I'm sure this basic question is covered here somewhere but I can't find a thread. A reference or procedure is greatly appreciated.

I have a sequence in FCP 6.06, DVCpro HD 720p, and I'm trying to export it to 4:3 dv NTSC letterboxed.

After going through many variations on Conversion, the result is always a pillar boxed frame with the image squished in the verticle axis. Checking "preserve aspect ratio using letterbox" still gives me the pillar boxed image. In Compressor I can get something resembling a 16 x 9 letterbox inside a 4:3 frame by messing with video settings and padding, but I still see image distortion, here mainly a crushing of the image along the horizontal axis. Many variations tried on both Conversion and Compressor.

This was all too easy to do in V5, why won't 6 do the simple export from HD to a letterboxed 4:3 SD frame?

What am I missing here? Rescue appreciated.


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Kevin Monahan
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 21, 2009 at 2:41:47 am

Have you tried dragging the sequence into a 4:3 timeline and then exporting that?

Kevin Monahan
60 Blu-ray Templates for Final Cut Studio 2009
http://www.fcpworld.com
Author - Motion Graphics and Effects in Final Cut Pro


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David Butterfield
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 21, 2009 at 3:21:56 am

Kevin, thanks for your response. We aren't capitulating to that just yet because it burdens the company. Dozens of commercials and shorts need to go from HD to SD. We want FCP to work as advertised and export letterboxed versions.

When I'm vacuuming the rug and the machine won't pick up a bit of lint, I pick up the lint and examine it, then put it back down and give the vacuum another chance. If it doesn't work I take apart the vacuum and try to see what's wrong. That's where we are on this.

I need to export from HD to SD letterboxed and FCP won't do it, apparently, unless we re-do all the timelines??? Quick tabulation is that creating dozens of new timelines, rendering, and exports will cost hours.

Can we just fix the vacuum? Or maybe we should get out of FCP and into a system that will not have this problem in the future?

Pretty frustrated, but again, thanks for your suggestion.





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Alex Elkins
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 21, 2009 at 3:31:34 pm

Hi David,

I would use Compressor to do this - just drop your HD file in, and apply whichever 4x3 setting you need for your export from the Settings window.
Then in the Geometry tab for the setting, you need to add padding. There is a drop down list from which you should select 16x9 1.78:1 and that will do the trick. This will give you a 4x3 frame with the HD video undistorted and uncropped within it, with bars top and bottom.

If you let me know the specs for the delivered file I can send you over a Compressor Droplet which should do it all automatically for you.

Let me know if this isn't clear enough and I can go into more detail, but really I need to know what the final delivery specs are to be any further help.

Good luck,
Alex Elkins



Salad Daze Films - Freshly Tossed

Read my blog!


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David Butterfield
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 21, 2009 at 8:16:04 pm


Alex, thanks for your reply.

The deliverable is a dv/NTSC sd 4:3 of an HD (DVC PRO 720p) originated program.

Here's exactly what I'm doing from the HD timeline:

Export using Compressor

Destination Desktop
Setting DV/NTSC
Double click that to open Inspector
Click Preview to slide out to a frame to view

Inpector > Encoder
DV/DVCPRO NTSC
Quality: Best
Scan mode : Progressive
Aspect ratio: 4:3 OK

Linear PCM 48Khz 16 bit OK

No setting in Frame Controls or Filters

Inspector > Geometry
Cropping: "Custom" with all settings 0
Frame Size: 720 x 480
Pixel Aspect Ratio: NTSC CCIR 601/dv
Padding: 16 x 9 1.78:1

At this point the Preview image goes into a letterbox, overall size 16 x 9 (identical to the original source) and the image inside the padding is severely scrunched.

This is where I usually turned back, kicked the dog, and tried new settings. Except this time I went ahead and submitted the export. Lo and behold it worked. The image is bad SD with jagged text, but at least the aspect ratio and letterbox are there.

So the sticking point here is that Preview was showing me a letterbox but a smashed image. Preview is not a preview at all. The lesson, skip Preview and just export your test; Preview does not show you what you'll get.

Again it's an ugly export but at least it meets the criteria. Any suggestions on improving the image quality appreciated.

MANY THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO HELP WITH THIS!



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Mark Spano
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 22, 2009 at 4:39:27 pm

[David Butterfield] "So the sticking point here is that Preview was showing me a letterbox but a smashed image. Preview is not a preview at all. The lesson, skip Preview and just export your test; Preview does not show you what you'll get."

Not true - the Preview window in Compressor shows you either size and aspect ratio relative to source or destination. In the upper right corner of the preview window, try your same settings but click the destination toggle and you should see an accurate preview. The source/destination toggle is useful for composing for crops and such, but in your case, since you're not changing aspect, the source looks bad with padding, but the destination will look correct.



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David Butterfield
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 22, 2009 at 7:05:40 pm


Thanks Mark. Will look into this. Certainly learning more about Compressor everyday. Meanwhile, still find it odd that I can't get a letterbox out of Conversion, or by putting the HD sequence into an SD timeline. In both cases FCP pillar boxes and squeezes the image on the vertical axis. The check box for preserving aspect ratio via latterbox on Conversion is ignored in the former case, and a pillar box appears to be automatic on the latter. Insights on this appreciated.


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Mark Spano
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 22, 2009 at 8:56:00 pm

Not using the exact same source as you (1920x1080, 29.97fps) but using Quicktime conversion from FCP, I was able to get a letterbox DV file. Using these settings:
Export using Quicktime Conversion
Quicktime Movie - settings:
Compression: DV/DVCPRO - NTSC
Quality: Best
Scan Mode: Interlaced
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Dimensions: 720x480 NTSC 4:3
Preserve using Letterbox

Took the HD sequence and made a DV quicktime 4:3 letterbox. If there's a bug somewhere it may be in the sequence settings or something. I can't think of why it wouldn't work.



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David Butterfield
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 24, 2009 at 2:12:18 am


Hi Mark,

Tried your settings (except for the source) and again came up with a pillared and pinched image. Tried putting the 720P material into a larger HD sequence (1280 x 1080) and then tried exporting that with Conversion, and still came up with a pillar/pinch. I remember being able to export any HD material on V 5.4.1 and get a letterbox with Conversion, but it's not working on 6.0.6 with 720p material.

Meanwhile, back on Compressor, I had my windows laid out too large and was missing that toggle in the upper right. Out of sight out of mind. I was using the slider and toggle on the left, top side. If you use the one on the right it does give you an accurate export preview. So, being careful with the toggles and slider, Preview does work as advertised.

It looks like Compressor is going to be the key to this job.

THANKS TO ALL!





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Bret Williams
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 21, 2009 at 4:08:13 pm

I assume it's for broadcast or you wouldn't letterbox and would just do a widescreen anamorphic DVD.

Even so, is there no better way to do commercials than a HD version and the same version as letterbox? 1 very nice HD version and 1 very low rez version? I see this all the time on my HD tv. Not all the channels are HD by a long shot. So all the letterboxed stuff on sd is now a teeny tiny little rectangle on my screen.

I know it's off topic, and it may not be economically feasible, but SD letterboxing on broadcast needs to go away at some point. It just doesn't make any sense anymore. And it's not just commercials. Networks do it with shows too. Seems like large budgets could create a pan and scan version.


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David Butterfield
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Dec 21, 2009 at 8:19:00 pm

I agree. HD for the people!


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John Hoiland
Re: FCP 6.06 export HD to SD
on Feb 5, 2010 at 10:39:20 pm

One issue that I didn't see addressed in here anywhere is field dominance.

If the destination is NTSC broadcast wouldn't you have to account for the HD odd field dom vs the NTSC even?

I had fits with artifacts and jagged image edges a few times on account of this. I have also had some issues with projects exported out of Avid Media composer with no dominance. Seemed like the combination of FCP, compressor and going out SD via my AJA did something different every time ;)


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