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H.264 as editing format in FCP?

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Ryan Aarstad
H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:15:43 pm

I'm looking to purchase student camcorders that utilize video files that can easily be edited in FCP and other common editing applications. If H.264 is a delivery format, why do a ton of cameras use H.264 compression to record? Even Pro cameras record using h.264. I'm confused. I can barely find any info on this topic.

I'm looking for something that students can readily edit without having to transcode with an intermediate codec. Thanks.


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Roli Rivelino
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:20:45 pm

FCP will accept H.264 but it'll run like a 3 legged pig, you'll have to transcode.

The reason these cameras use H.264 is that they're still cameras with a video function, so their focus isn't on giving you the best possible editing codec.

http://www.rolirivelino.com/

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Dave LaRonde
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 5:59:19 pm

To answer your question directly, H.264 is NOT an acceptable editing codec for FCP. As Roli says, you will have to transcode the footage. Depending on your FCP version, ProRes 422 is the preferred codec.

MPEG Streamclip is a free application that can do the trick.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Greg Ondera
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 6:01:04 pm

H.264 runs like a two-legged pig in FCP7. Forget that third leg. The reason for that is that FCP7 has to re-assemble the codec on the fly in respects. That's not the right technical term, but even codecs like XDCam don't run as well as uncompressed video. Whenever you're trying to edit compressed media you are likely to get problems, and I'm not talking about color compression but where the keyframes land in your codec. However, I'm am not sure, but possibly FCPX does the job.

Greg Ondera
http://www.Plexus.tv
http://www.SurgeonToday.org


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Shane Ross
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 6:20:23 pm

If you want to edit H.264 natively...get Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5. But then you'll need a machine with a fast processor, an NVidia card to enable CUDA and the Mercury Engine, and a bunch of RAM. THEN you can edit it natively.

Yeah, the only "pro" camera that shoots H.264 is the DLSRs, and they are pro STILL cameras, not video cameras. People just use them as video cameras. If they were pro video cameras, they'd have XLR audio inputs, a decent built in mic...the ability to record longer than 12 minutes at time...

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Mark Suszko
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 7:18:59 pm

Here's the thing: H.264 is a darned beautiful codec.

It crams a better-looking HD picture into less space than does MPEG-2. The consumer/prosumer camera makers like H.264 and it's cousin, MPEG 4, because they enable a lot more room to store longer recordings than a DV or MPEG-2 codec could. Nobody would buy a camcorder that could only record twenty minutes of high def max. Switch it to H.264 and the same camera can now tout that it records one or two HOURS on a cheap SDHC memory card or internal drive.

Since they are in the business of selling camcorders, and not so much selling editing systems, the camcorder makers at this level don't really care all that much about the editing problems this creates.

Also, the lower-end camcorders are pitched towards people who don't really edit in the first place, but who shoot 5 minute or shorter clips they feed raw to youtube or facebook.

Your editing choices, if you want to use these kinds of cheaper cameras, or still cameras shooting video, are to stay with FCP7 and use mpeg streamclip or ClipWrap to transcode or re-package these formats, or pick Adobe's suite or FCP-x or Avid or Sony Vegas, which all claim to be able to handle this natively, or to transcode it in the background as you work, but so fast and invisibly, you won't notice.


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Andrew Rendell
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:03:49 am

Can I just interject with a clarification.

Panasonic's "AVC Intra" is a subset of h.264 where the GOP is one frame, so the biggest problem with editing h.264, i.e., the long GOP stucture, doesn't apply (and I believe Panasonic supply a plug in for AVC Intra that allows FCP to edit it without transcoding first although I haven't used it yet myself).

AVCHD is another form of H.264 which does have the long GOP structure (and therefore isn't easily editable).


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Shane Ross
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:06:31 am

[Andrew Rendell] "(and I believe Panasonic supply a plug in for AVC Intra that allows FCP to edit it without transcoding first although I haven't used it yet myself)."

That is for AVCHD...not AVCintra (AVCIntra is MXF, and you can edit that native with the MXF4MAc, Calibrated or Raylight plugins). And It allows you to VIEW it without transcoding. But editing AVCHD native with that plugin is NOT easy, by any means.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Andrew Rendell
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:08:29 am

Ah, I was thinking of this
http://documentation.apple.com/en/finalcutpro/professionalformatsandworkflo...


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Shane Ross
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:10:42 am

Well, yes, you need the AVCIntra DRIVER in order for FCP to be able to use Log and Transfer to re-wrap the file as QT. And this also requires FCP 7....that has the AVCIntra codec built in.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Andrew Rendell
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:12:57 am

I stand corrected


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Ben Oliver
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 10:16:10 pm

JVC makes a few prp-sumer camcorders that shoot to .move files that work with FCP7 in a snap...


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Dave LaRonde
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 11:01:41 pm

.mov is just the file extension for quicktime movies. QT's can encompass many codecs, some of which (e.g. H.264) will make FCP react like you'd react to bay leaves in your food: too much becomes toxic.

So what are the CODECS of these movies shot by your miracle cameras?

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Ben Oliver
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 1:52:12 am

http://pro.jvc.com/prof/attributes/features.jsp?model_id=MDL101851

XDCAM

Drag and drop off the SD card into your FCP timeline. You can cut off of the card if you really want to.


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Ryan Aarstad
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 11:04:16 pm

Thanks for the replies. So basically, if one is shooting on an HD broadcast Panasonic in AVC Intra (because that utilizes h.264, right?) Then you would still use an intermediate codec?

Also, what you're telling me is every human being who buys a newer consumer camcorder cannot edit it without transcoding to an intermediate codec? That does not seem right at all. That's millions of people who are incapable of editing their footage, almost everyone! Let's say most use AVCHD, that's a form of H.264 right?

Thanks again for helping me to figure this out.

Ryan


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Dave LaRonde
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 11:13:52 pm

[Ryan Aarstad] "...what you're telling me is every human being who buys a newer consumer camcorder cannot edit it without transcoding to an intermediate codec? That does not seem right at all."

That's because your statement isn't correct. You asked about this in the Final Cut Pro forum. FCP version 7 and earlier can't deal easily -- if at all -- with this this kind of footage as it was recorded.

However, other editing applications like FCP X, Adobe Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas have no problems with it.

If you have no other choice than to cut in FCP 7 or earlier, you're right: you have to transcode.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Andrew Dutton
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Dec 10, 2012 at 7:47:40 pm

H264 CODEC DOES NOT WORK AS AN EDITING CODEC FORMAT.

Here is how I do it using FCP5.
Sony nex5n shoots .MTS files, otherwise know as AVCHD codec.
Final Cut Pro 5 does not natively edit this footage.
I use .MTS converter and convert footage to 1920x1080 Apple intermediate codec.
I also use cinema tools to conform the frame rates to whatever I shot it at, 24fps, 60fps.
After converting and conforming, I can drag and drop into my FCP5 timeline using the correct timeline setting and render settings. I don't have to do any rendering after I drop into timeline, just edit away.
The .MTS converter cost like $49.00. Working in this manner does not slow my workflow down much at all.
I can actually convert all of my footage in .MTS converter overnight when I am sleeping. In the morning I conform all my framerates, then I start editing.

My sequence timeline is setup pretty simple:
Apple intermediate codec, 1920x1080, square pixels, 23.976 framerate, no anamorphic
44khz audio at 16 bit, two channels

Using the converter allows me to edit in a 4:2:0 color space which is equal to or greater than Avchd natively, this is why I choose Apple intermediate codec, over apple 422 or apple 4444 , because avchd does not need the additional bit depth apple offers up in prores codecs.
I have found by using this setup, I can edit effortlessly on my g5 dual 1.8 or my 2.33ghz apple MBP running the same software.
I hope you found my post helpful.
Drew Dutton
IATSE LOCAL 600 FIRST AC


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David Roth Weiss
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 11, 2012 at 11:27:40 pm

[Ryan Aarstad] "what you're telling me is every human being who buys a newer consumer camcorder cannot edit it without transcoding to an intermediate codec? That does not seem right at all. "

Ryan,

FCP legacy, with version 7 being the final and last version, is not capable of editing h.264 or mp4 without transcoding, for one simple reason, the code is four to five years old, and the newer video codecs didn't make the cut. As I've written here many times, it would have been a lot better if Apple made FCP reject h.264 completely so people wouldn't start editing with it at all, but they didn't.

FCPX, Premiere, and Avid 5.5 and 6 are all much newer code, and they will do the job without transcoding. And, that's just the way it is...

When people try to help you here, believe them, this is the one place on the planet you can get real advice from real editors.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles
http://www.drwfilms.com

Don't miss my new Creative Cow Podcast: Bringing "The Whale" to the Big Screen:
http://library.creativecow.net/weiss_roth_david/Podcast-Series-2-MikeParfit...

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Business & Marketing and Apple Final Cut Pro forums.


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Andrew Kimery
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:10:56 am

[Dave LaRonde] ".mov is just the file extension for quicktime movies. QT's can encompass many codecs, some of which (e.g. H.264) will make FCP react like you'd react to bay leaves in your food: too much becomes toxic.

So what are the CODECS of these movies shot by your miracle cameras?"

The JVC cameras being referred to use Sony's XDCAM EX codec and since the cameras use MOV instead of MP4 you can drop the clip right into FCP and away you go.


David,
My only, and minor, correction to your post is that the core code that holds FCP 7 back is more along the lines of 12 years old not 4-5. I'll also add that even if you use MC 6, FCP 10 or Premiere Pro to edit natively in H.264 your performance will suffer compared to using less compressed codecs like DNxHD, CineForm or ProRes.


-Andrew

2.9 GHz 8-core (4,1), FCP 7.0.3, 10.6.6
Blackmagic Multibridge Eclipse (7.9.5)



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David Roth Weiss
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:44:31 am

[Andrew Kimery] "David,
My only, and minor, correction to your post is that the core code that holds FCP 7 back is more along the lines of 12 years old not 4-5."


Much of it at any rate... :) Of course, I was referring to the newer code, newer codecs from 4-5 years ago (ProRes), etc.

[Andrew Kimery] "I'll also add that even if you use MC 6, FCP 10 or Premiere Pro to edit natively in H.264 your performance will suffer compared to using less compressed codecs like DNxHD, CineForm or ProRes."

Agree on that as well...

But, the really important thing here is that FCP is really almost completely crippled when editing h.264.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles
http://www.drwfilms.com

Don't miss my new Creative Cow Podcast: Bringing "The Whale" to the Big Screen:
http://library.creativecow.net/weiss_roth_david/Podcast-Series-2-MikeParfit...

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Business & Marketing and Apple Final Cut Pro forums.


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Shane Ross
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:04:14 am

[Ryan Aarstad] "So basically, if one is shooting on an HD broadcast Panasonic in AVC Intra (because that utilizes h.264, right?) Then you would still use an intermediate codec?"

AVCIntra isn't H.264...not like AVCHD is. AVCIntra native editing is possible in FCP 7. Just use L&T to re-wrap into Quicktime (as it is an MXF format, and FCP doesn't do MXF native without plugins) and you edit on a ProRes timeline. Or, convert to ProRes. Up to you. The re-wrap process is fast...as long as it takes to copy the media from the card to a drive...zero transcoding is happening.

[Ryan Aarstad] "what you're telling me is every human being who buys a newer consumer camcorder cannot edit it without transcoding to an intermediate codec?"

Everyone else already told you...Adobe Premiere, Vegas, Edius edit many formats natively. Avid does a few, but requires a lot to be transcoded to Avid DNxHD codecs. Editing AVCHD native, and Red native, requires a LOT of horsepower.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Harry Bromley-Davenport
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jan 12, 2012 at 6:25:11 am

Wow! Shane ... I luv ya! Another brittle moment of Shane-speak.

Best wishes for the New Year,

Your fawning fan-minion from LAFCPUG -

Harry323



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Mohammed Naseer
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Mar 18, 2012 at 3:27:34 am

I want to make a start in the world of video editing and have so far found this thread extremely useful in clarifying various terms which were confusing to me before. Please correct me if I am wrong but so far what I have understood is that h.264 is a delivery format which is convenient for the web/mobile devices etc. And that raw footage in AVCHD h.264 format is the best answer for very high quality sharp HD footage and it occupies less storage space (please fell free to jump in and correct me any time...) and FCPX can handle it natively but I am slightly confused if it should be transcoded to the intermediate ProRes codec for editing purposes - not sure what the pros and cons are for this. Once edited, according to my limited understanding, you can then encode it to h.264 format for delivery for web and devices but not sure if this is best route for producing High quality sharp footage for the web. Again what is the best delivery format for excellent quality HD footage for DVD type media.

If I am completely wrong in my assumptions can you please elaborate on what is the best raw format for a camera to shoot in, what should be the best intermediate format for FCPX for editing, and finally the best delivery formats for the web/mobile devices and for super sharp quality HD footage on DVD medium. I would be extremely grateful if you could kindly take the time to clarify these points for me please.


.


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Roli Rivelino
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Mar 18, 2012 at 3:36:48 pm

Hi Mohammed, I'll try and answer your questions in order.

First off, you're right when you say that H.264 is a delivery codec, however you have some DSLR cameras which shoot their images in H.264. This isn't a problem if you're using Final Cut X or as I'm led to believe Premiere.

If you are editing using FCP, then that is when you would convert your footage using the intermediate (editing) codec, pro res 444 (or 422 HQ) If you didn't you would end up with a very jumpy, freezy timeline in FCP (not X).

H.264 is the best (in my humble opinion) codec for the web, though flv and mp4 are still in wide use, I find though it's the least lossy of them all.

Remember that the difference between a clip that is prepared for the web and one that is prepared for a mobile device is mainly size. So you can use an h.264 for both but you'll change the settings to more or less megabits per second, key frames etc.

As far as what's the best RAW format for a camera to shoot in, I personally think that as long as it's a pro RAW codec, then it's OK by me, H.264 is a pain because I use FCP and so have to transcode to pro res, but ultimately the images will still be good.

The thing to remember is that RAW camera codecs will produce very large images and editing and ultimately delivery codecs produce smaller image files without (so the theory goes) losing quality.

To burn a DVD we use the Mpeg 2 codec and the AIC (AIFF) codec for audio; however burning an HD DVD is not possible, this is because of the size of the DVD 4.7 gb as opposed to an 8 gb blueray. There are probably other technical reasons as well, but seeing as I don't work with blueray, I have no interest in them.

http://www.rolirivelino.com/

System
Mac Pro 2.8Gb quad core
8Gb RAM
1x 320Gb 7200 hardrive
1x 1Tb 7200 hardrive
Nvidia Geforce 8800 512mb Graphics card
1x 1Tb external WD 'My Book' eSata

Equipment
Panasonic AG-HVX 200
Firestore FS-100


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Mohammed Naseer
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Mar 19, 2012 at 1:22:17 am

thank you for clarifying some of the confusion I had, just one point you mentioned above I didn't quite fully understand :

As far as what's the best RAW format for a camera to shoot in, I personally think that as long as it's a pro RAW codec, then it's OK by me

If possible could you illustrate by way of example please. Do you now the difference between the various ProRes types that are available and also is there any ADVANTAGE in converting the cameras raw file into ProRes for editing in FCPX when it is possible to edit the cameras native format without transcoding it to an intermediate FCPX friendly format.


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Roli Rivelino
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Mar 19, 2012 at 8:16:52 am

No problem, what I meant by that is; as long as when I'm handed over footage, or footage that I shoot myself, can be edited straight away, without having to transcode to pro res, then I'm happy as transcoding takes time. Time is the commodity I sell to my clients; ergo anything that wastes time is a bad thing.

The short answer to your question about transcoding is no. However it depends what you're doing to the footage, if you're just cutting it together, then great.

But if you're colour correcting, motion graphics, green screening or any other post production method then transcoding to pro res is advisable; as this will give you the best results as far as final quality is concerned.

Think of it this way, if you had a photograph in your digital camera and you wanted to put a picture of a night out with friends onto facebook, then the Jpeg would be fine. However if you wanted to blow up a 10 foot by 20 foot poster, then not only would you use a great camera and lens, but you would use the RAW files as that would give you the best quality.

http://www.rolirivelino.com/

System
Mac Pro 2.8Gb quad core
8Gb RAM
1x 320Gb 7200 hardrive
1x 1Tb 7200 hardrive
Nvidia Geforce 8800 512mb Graphics card
1x 1Tb external WD 'My Book' eSata

Equipment
Panasonic AG-HVX 200
Firestore FS-100


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Mohammed Naseer
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Mar 19, 2012 at 4:14:40 pm

thanks once again, and if I may ask a dum question : if a camera shoots footage in h.264 or MPEG2 format then is that what we are referring to as the cameras 'RAW footage'. Or is the raw footage, the footage that is extracted before it is encoded/compressed to h.264 or MPEG2 by the camera, i.e. uncompressed SDI, HDMI or component output directly from the camera’s optics and imager, before compression, captured by hardware such as MOTU HDX-SDI-EXPRESS or the Multibridge Eclipse by BlackMagic.


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Shane Ross
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Mar 19, 2012 at 4:47:39 pm

[Mohammed Naseer] " Or is the raw footage, the footage that is extracted before it is encoded/compressed to h.264 or MPEG2 by the camera, i.e. uncompressed SDI, HDMI or component output directly from the camera’s optics and imager, before compression, captured by hardware "

Yes, THAT is the raw image. But then you need to capture to a compressed format on the NLE side. ProRes, DNxHD...even UNCOMPRESSED is a compressed format. But FAR SUPERIOR to MPEG-2 and H.264. That's why the NINJA and KiPro and other recording devices are good. They take the SDI/HDMI signal and record to superior codecs

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Dave LaRonde
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Mar 19, 2012 at 2:47:27 pm

[Mohammed Naseer] "is there any ADVANTAGE in converting the cameras raw file into ProRes for editing in FCPX when it is possible to edit the cameras native format without transcoding it to an intermediate FCPX friendly format."

There is a big advantage: preservation of image quality. H.264 is a lossy codec. It can not withstand re-rendering without degredation of image quality.

This is a very big consideration if you intend to color grade, create motion graphics, add effects, repair a shot in a different application, etc. If you intend to do these things, you will be much happier with the final result if you transcode to ProRes 422. You can re-render it six generations deep before you see any image degredation.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Harry Hanbury
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jun 13, 2012 at 1:44:47 am

I had been using FCP for 10 years when FCP X came out, but the bad reviews led me to switch to Adobe Premiere -- one big attraction being the ability to edit h264 without transcoding to a format like ProRes422, which eats up way too much hard drive space. I mostly shoot on Canon DLSRs, so having a good, fast workflow for h264 was critical. BUT, and this is my question, someone told me they heard a rumor that around the same time FCPX came out, some 3rd party developer also came out with a plugin that allows you to work with h264 natively in FCP without a lot of trouble. Have any of you heard of such a thing? I still have the need to edit in FCP7 for some projects and it would still be a big help not to have to transcode.

Failing that, can anyone recommend a process for transcoding from h264 that is FAST and a codec that doesn't take up so much space as ProRes. I've tried XDCAM 35mbps, and that's looked pretty good.

Thanks,
Harry


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Shane Ross
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jun 13, 2012 at 1:51:59 am

[Harry Hanbury] "some 3rd party developer also came out with a plugin that allows you to work with h264 natively in FCP without a lot of trouble. Have any of you heard of such a thing?"

FCP Legacy? (6, 7). Nope...never heard of such a thing. FCX is reputed to work with H.264 native...but really prefers to transcode. If you MUST have native editing capabilities, Premiere is the way to go.

[Harry Hanbury] "can anyone recommend a process for transcoding from h264 that is FAST and a codec that doesn't take up so much space as ProRes."

FAST? But not a high data rate codec like ProRes? Possibly, but it won't look good. DVCPRO HD is a possibility, but you lose resolution (going from full raster 1920x1080 to thin raster 1280x1080). Apple Intermediate Codec...which is pretty noisy.

[Harry Hanbury] "I've tried XDCAM 35mbps, and that's looked pretty good."

Converting from one GOP format to a different GOP format? Ick. But, if you like it...go for it. I can see some quality issues come from that...due to the GOP structure. But...up to you. For broadcast quality, ProRes is the way to go. But lesser options can be had for FCP. But if you want true native...Adobe Premiere is the way to go.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Mark Suszko
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jun 13, 2012 at 3:56:54 am

I think you're talking about a plug-in called ClipWrap, that is supposed to "re-wrap" the metadata of an .h264 clip so you can work with it in FCP without further translation.


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Roli Rivelino
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jun 13, 2012 at 7:44:30 am

Will we ever see the day of one universal codec for all?


No, I didn't think so *sigh*

http://www.rolirivelino.com/

System
Mac Pro 2.8Gb quad core
8Gb RAM
1x 320Gb 7200 hardrive
1x 1Tb 7200 hardrive
Nvidia Geforce 8800 512mb Graphics card
1x 1Tb external WD 'My Book' eSata

Equipment
Panasonic AG-HVX 200
Firestore FS-100


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Michael Gissing
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:18:13 am

Mark, Clipwrap is for MXF files, not H264 quicktimes


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Mark Suszko
Re: H.264 as editing format in FCP?
on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:38:05 am

"Doh!"


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