Exporting from sequences using imported .avi files (FCE)
I shot a movie on miniDV years ago and am finally trying to get it finished up. A friend uploaded all the tapes for me onto a hard drive as .avi files. I have been editing (using Final Cut Express) by importing from these files directly off the hard drive, NOT actually "capturing" any footage (so, IOW, the .fce file is on my computer, but the hard drive needs to be plugged into the computer for any picture & sound to play in the sequences, and I don't actually have any "clips" in bins, only on the timeline).
Recently a friend who knows more than I, but not enough to answer this question, expressed concern about how these sequences would export. She thinks they might be interlaced because they're "not native"(??). I don't know _anything_ about codecs (even what one is) or compressing, etc. I push buttons and see if things do what I want (I am a film/celluloid fogie -- I learned to edit on a Steenbeck in the early 90's - oh how I miss my splicer!).
This is a feature-length project (28 hrs of footage) and I have spent weeks on it -- I am now about two-thirds done. I just burned a test .mov file (using iDVD, if that matters) that I created by exporting a sequence using the Export > Quicktime Movie > Self-contained" function. I played it on my DVD player and older TV, and aside from the fact that it came out squished (not 16x9), it seemed to play all right - there are no glaring quality issues - but the TV is so old, it's hard to tell how it would look, projected on a large screen or played on an HDTV. _Maybe_ it's a little blurry?
I want the best possible quality for the final product -- am I going to have to go back and CAPTURE ALL THESE HUNDREDS of clips now to ensure that? After my friend expressed her concern, I am afraid to proceed. I really don't want to spend another 100 work hours with the .avi files only to find out I have to re-do them. On the other hand, I like the flexibility that importing gives me.....
As far as I know, FCE never had a comprehensive list of files it accepted. Final Cut always only references clips on the hard drive, it never creates duplicates for the project itself. The project is simply the structure in which the files play. I still recommend bringing your clips into bins and then putting them onto the timeline for organization and ease of editing.
AVI is the wrapper and only MOV is optimized for editing in Final Cut, so your friend is right that you're taking a huge gamble on editing that stuff that way. The codec you'd want is Prores. You could duplicate your footage (for safety) and then convert all of the files in a program such as Compressor or MPEG Streamclip overnight and rebuild your edit by reconnecting it to the converted footage, but for specific converting settings, you'd need some serious help if you don't know what settings will help your footage. If you don't know what frame rate or interlacing or anything your footage is, I can't tell you how to convert it to play right on a DVD.
You need to adjust your iDVD settings if it's playing in a different aspect ratio than the MOV you're exporting from FCE.