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Editing H.264

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Jackson Van OVer
Editing H.264
on Mar 1, 2011 at 4:25:09 am

Hey there,

I'm trying to edit H.264 video in Final Cut. I make YouTube videos and decided I would upgrade to Final Cut today. I've been using Elgato EyeTV3 to capture my videos, then I used iMovie to edit and export them for uploading. I've realized from reading the forums on here that you can't directly edit H.264 in Final Cut... I've downloaded MPEG Streamclip and tried converting my H.264s to Apple Intermediate Codec, but it really takes way too long for the process. Is there any other way around converting from H.264 so I can edit using Final Cut Express, or maybe an easier way? It's extremely disappointing to hear that I bought this software to find that it only makes the process more difficult.

Thanks in advance.


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Chris Tompkins
Re: Editing H.264
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:52:27 am

As you've read H.264 is an acquisition and delivery format and is not meant to edit with. You need to convert footage first. That's the way it is,...for now.

MPEGStream clip.

Chris Tompkins
Video Atlanta LLC


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Jackson Van OVer
Re: Editing H.264
on Mar 1, 2011 at 1:48:01 pm

Is it strange that iMovie is able to handle this and Final Cut isn't? I thought Final Cut was supposed to be more advanced in every way... Thanks for the answer though.


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Jeff Greenberg
Re: Editing H.264
on Mar 2, 2011 at 3:26:47 am

iMovie can't handle it either. It converts it to AIC - Apple Intermediary Codec

Best,

Jeff G

Apple Master Trainer
Avid Cert. Instructor DS/MC
Avid & Color Videos Vasst.com
Compressor Essentials Lynda.com


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John VonMutius
Re: Editing H.264
on Mar 2, 2011 at 10:06:19 pm

Final Cut is more advanced, which is why it asks you to use more advanced video formats.

You can edit h.264, by the way, just don't layer multiple video tracks or you'll have to render.

For your edification: H.264 is frame-by-frame codec, which means that every frame is a highly-compressed individual image. Final Cut was not designed to play well with it because all footage at the time the software was created was tape-based (and not captured using frame-by-frame codecs). Most professional footage - even tapeless media - is still recorded using codecs that group frames together for better motion estimation, greater color depth, and faster/smoother playback rates, as opposed to smaller file size.

---
Exploring the pitfalls of the 5D workflow. The many, many pitfalls...


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Jackson Van OVer
Re: Editing H.264
on Mar 2, 2011 at 10:14:00 pm

Hey John,

Thanks for the added edification info. I still have a few questions though.

How can I edit H.264 directly with Final Cut? When I export it directly from EyeTV onto my desktop, then try to import into Final Cut, it gives me an error message. I don't understand what you mean about not layering multiple video tracks, sorry I'm not super tech savvy :P

I think I may have found a way around it though. I noticed I can import iMovie projects, so I may just put my raw footage on iMovie projects, then import those into Final Cut. Not sure if the format will still conflict, but it's worth a shot.


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John VonMutius
Re: Editing H.264
on Mar 3, 2011 at 2:12:02 pm

I'm sorry, I just noticed that you're using Final Cut Express. Apparently, that is not able to edit H.264. Final Cut Pro 7, however, can handle it well.

Importing iMovie projects is not something I'm familiar with, but in my experience, adding intermediate steps to a workflow like that only introduces more opportunities for things to go wrong. And, according to another commenter here, iMovie is converting your raw footage to AIC anyway. So why not just export your own raw footage as AIC or some other codec and rest easy knowing your source files will render efficiently and accurately in Final Cut Express? If you want the features available in the software, you have to make your files compatible.

---
Exploring the pitfalls of the 5D workflow. The many, many pitfalls...


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philip berman
Re: Editing H.264
on Apr 21, 2011 at 2:09:29 pm

It would be great is someone could clarify an issue about editing H.264 canon 5d mark 2 footage in FCP 7.

An editor (who I don't know very well) insisted that you can edit in H.264 with the latest FCP - is that true, if so what version of FCP is he referring to? I found that converting to Apple Pro Res LT meant the files increased in size by at least three time! Can this right? If not, should I be using a differetn Pro Res setting?

Thanks


Philip


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John VonMutius
Re: Editing H.264
on Apr 21, 2011 at 2:18:10 pm

Yes, FCP 7 can edit H.264. This isn't much of a blessing, however, because the render times are outrageous, and Unlimited RT playback only works for one video track. If you have two or more video tracks of H.264 footage, you MUST render before playback. Also, if you're going to apply any color correction to your footage, you're working at a disadvantage, because H.264 is so highly compressed.

Transcoding your footage to ProRes increases file size because it's a better codec containing more color and pixel information. It's a necessary step in the 5D workflow. You just have to start thinking about hard drives the way you used to think about DVDs or tapes: Fill one up, put it in a box, and start on a new one.

---
Exploring the pitfalls of the 5D workflow. The many, many pitfalls...


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philip berman
Re: Editing H.264
on Apr 21, 2011 at 3:10:02 pm

John thanks very much for your swift reply.

As you seem pretty knowledgeable on this subject, and I am relatively new to the Canon 5D format, I hope you don't mind me directing a couple of supplementary questions your way.

I work in England and recently shot some B-roll for an American company. They asked for it to be shot 30fps, which we duly did. The thing is the shots all look jerky until they are converted to Apple Pro Res.

Why is this?

Also, a client thought I would be shooting in Apple Pro Res, but I presume this is impossible as this is just a codec and one can shoot Canon 5D format mark 2 in H.264? Thanks very much in anticipation for any help you can lend me, regards Philip


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John VonMutius
Re: Editing H.264
on Apr 21, 2011 at 3:18:44 pm

I don't mind the supplementary questions at all.

When you shoot 25fps with the 5D (which I'm assuming you do for anything local), does the footage playback the same way on your computer? In my experience, H.264 footage from the 5D will not play smoothly on any computer save for the most powerful. I'm using a dual quad-core 3GHz machine with 8GB RAM, and I still can't play it back smoothly, because I am using the factory installed video card. A coworker has an AJA Kona capture card, and he's able to play the H.264 fine.

Shooting in ProRes is possible, but not with the 5D. Some of the new digital format cameras - like the Arri Alexa - shoot in ProRes, but they start at $50,000. They're true production cameras.

---
Exploring the pitfalls of the 5D workflow. The many, many pitfalls...


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Jeff Greenberg
Re: Editing H.264
on Apr 22, 2011 at 8:25:13 pm

Philip,

At a certain level, FCP 7 can edit any video format that QuickTime can handle - when you toss it into the timeline, if it's the first clip, it asks you if you want to adjust the sequence to match the clip and boom off you go.

Except, lots of video is 'non standard' for video, as confusing as that sounds. FCP was designed a decade ago, optimized for common video types - think about it - there were no cameras shooting on anything other than tape!

Since then, Apple has added more and more capability - but it's optimized for what's called "I-Frame" editing - where each frame has all the information on every frame. A G4/G5 Macintosh could handle the decoding and playback in real time.

When we moved over to HD, many of the camera manufacturers chose to store footage using techniques that were common for distribution codecs - where every frame DOES NOT contain all the information - and this is to save space. The two major formats - MPEG-2 (used in HDV cameras as a source, but DVDs as a distribution) and h.264 (used in DSLRs as a source, but youtube as a distribution).

Final Cut 6 and 7 can certainly try to playback the h.264 footage that comes from your DSLR camera. But they'll struggle - you may make a cut at a spot where you're not on a full frame - FCP may have to load into ram as many as 14 other frames just to display the frame your playhead is on. This stresses the system, and around the COW (and actually from apple itself) - it's considered to be a mistake to work directly in h.264; just because it's QuickTime, doesn't mean it plays well with FCP.

Apple was cognizant of this problem. HDV, DSLRs, and even the iPhone, produce video that doesn't edit easily on any computer. In iMovie, Apple came up with a codec called AIC - Apple intermediary codec, that would work on even the G5 that they were selling.

But their solution for their pro market was to design a codec with Professional Resolution (ProRes) that would hold data better - at the price of requiring an intel mac. ProRes will make the files larger, depending on your choice of ProRes, significantly larger - but the tradeoff is that the mac doesn't have to work as hard, and therefore, can handle multiple streams (like a picture in picture).

For most DSLR users, either ProRes LT or ProRes 422, will retain the quality of what's shot without making the size gigantic. Uncompressed HD, roughly, would be 40+ times the size of the h.264 files you're taking off your camera.

TL;DR: ProRes is a codec designed to deal with the fact that sooner or later you pay the piper - and provides a great compromise between keeping the quality high and providing solid response in FCP. The only drawback (from your POV) will be the file size.

Best,

Jeff G

Apple Master Trainer | Avid Cert. Instructor DS/MC | Adobe Cert. Instructor
------------
You should follow me (filmgeek) on twitter. I promise to be nice.
Come See me speak at NAB!
Compressor Essentials from Lynda.com
(older but still good) Marquee, Media Composer (3.5) and Basic/Advanced Color DVDs (1.0) from Vasst.com
Contact me through my Website


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Jennifer Deayton
Re: Editing H.264
on Jan 11, 2012 at 2:54:02 pm

Hi there -

Thanks Jeff for the info - it's been very helpful. Please excuse me if you or someone else has already answered this, but what would you say is the best way to go from h.264 to ProRes? I've started using Compressor but noticed that some of my clips are slightly out of sync. Probably a function of me doing something wrong in Compressor (!) but just wondering.

Many thanks for your help.

Cheers,
Jennifer


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Jeff Greenberg
Re: Editing H.264
on Jan 11, 2012 at 6:39:18 pm

Jennifer, it shouldn't be falling out of sync. You can certainly try the ProRes preset in Compressor. Many people are using MPEGStreamclip from squared5.com - it's free and basically uses QuickTime to get the same job done.

Best,

Jeff G


Certified Master Trainer | Adobe, Apple, Avid
------------
You should follow me (filmgeek) on twitter. I promise to be nice.
My book (with Richard Harrington and Robbie Carman)- An Editor's Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro
Lynda.com - Compressor Essentials 3.5 and 4
Contact me through my Website


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