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Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic

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Michael Gerrity
Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 1, 2018 at 10:34:53 pm

I've been capturing a ton of old media using Final Cut Pro 7. For old analog formats I'm running my decks through an AJA Io and capturing in FCP directly to ProRes 422. In most cases, everything looks great, it's old footage, so my expectations aren't that high, and a certain level of image degradation is expected. Formats include: VHS, SVHS, Umatic, BetaSP, etc. I've noticed sometimes the Capture window's preview appears sharper or more vibrant than the actually captured footage. However, when I've taken screenshots and compared waveforms, things look the same or close enough, so I put it in the back of my head.

Most recently, I was capturing a DigiBeta tape using Firewire. Since it's digital, you wouldn't think I'd lose any quality, right? But this is where I noticed a HUGE loss in quality. The source material is noticeably sharper than the captured footage. I even A/B tested both versions on a Trinitron monitor, had the source playing into one input and the captured footage playing in the other. Switching back and forth you can see the captured footage (playing back from FCP through the AJA Io) is super soft.

I'm at a total loss, since it's Digital via Firewire, it's not like I'm losing signal strength or something. I did have the compressor set to ProRes, could this be it? I've never noticed any problems capturing MiniDV tapes to ProRes. I have not tried capturing 10bit Uncompressed yet. I unplugged the Firewire, restart the computer, and now I can't get FCP to recognize the Sony J-30 any more (tips on that would be helpful too). It seems to only see the deck when it wants to. Right now I'm capturing the analog signal through the AJA to see if that's better than the digital capture and/or close enough to the original to use.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


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Shane Ross
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 2, 2018 at 12:03:58 am

Well, the AJA IO was interesting because it did connect via Firewire, but could transfer uncompressed formats over that. So unlike DV via firewire, which was in essence a data transfer (1:1, zero loss)...capturing analog DOES compress it. Now, when the AJA IO came out, ProRes wasn't a thing...you'd capture to Uncompressed 8-bit. And the encoding is handled by the computer. I WOULD hazard a guess that your computer can't compress to PRoRes very well, as the computer is doing the encoding. BUT...you said it does DV to ProRes just fine. So that to me is odd.

I suggest trying to capture to 8-bit uncompressed and see what that looks like. 10-bit is overkill for SD footage. If you can get FCP to recognize that J-30.... RS-422 deck control the issue? Not having CONTROL? or is it also not getting video? Make sure to start the computer with the IO connected.

Shane
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Michael Gissing
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 2, 2018 at 12:33:53 am

If you are capturing via firewire it is probably being converted to DV codec which is rubbish.


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Shane Ross
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 2, 2018 at 6:47:52 am

[Michael Gissing] "If you are capturing via firewire it is probably being converted to DV codec which is rubbish."

Normally, yes. But the AJA IO, like the Avid Adrenaline, connected via Firewire, but could capture uncompressed.

Shane
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Michael Gissing
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 3, 2018 at 6:41:55 am

I remember FCP legend used to default to DV codec when you selected firewire. I didn't know the AJA could do Unc over firewire. Maybe FCP changed it to DV.

Either way it's easy to find out. Just get info on the soft files or check the codec in FCP


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Shane Ross
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 3, 2018 at 7:49:53 am

If you went into the CAPTURE settings in FCP and chose Firewire, yeah, it would. BUT...the IO was different. Like teh Avid Adrenaline, which also connected via Firewire, it was able to pass an Uncompressed signal thru there. Again...remember...this is SD, not HD

Shane
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Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Michael Gerrity
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 4, 2018 at 5:08:43 pm

Thanks Shane, I'll give your insight a shot. However, right now my biggest issue is that I can't get the J-30 to show up in FCP anymore...this has happened before, I've tried multiple combinations of plugging/unplugging shutting down and powering on and I can't seem to find the magic combination to get it to work. It's not a control issue, the Mac doesn't even seem to be recognizing the deck. If the deck is recognized, I don't have any problems controlling it via FireWire.

Since there's no FCP preset for DigiBeta, I adjusted the built in DV NTSC capture preset and changed the compressor from DV to ProRes 422. Is this inadvisable? I've been doing this for my MiniDV captures and I haven't noticed a loss in quality. Could the J-30 be the issue? I notice that in the capture preset dialog there's a drop down for "Digitizer" which would be the J-30, and then I select the compressor, which I set to ProRes 422. Is it possible the J-30's data stream is compressed? Could you only get the full fidelity of DigiBeta through analog playback and not through the data stream? But again, that doesn't seem right, cause the Capture preview looks great, but the captured file does not.

I did a DigiBeta tape over a year ago on this J-30, I had connectivity issues, but I didn't notice any quality issues. My client was a little upset because he said our file was significantly noisier than his DVD transfer from 10 years ago. To make a long story short, my version was noticeably sharper and more vibrant than his DVD, the DVD compression just smoothed out all of the noise on his copy. Point being, I at least THOUGHT my workflow for DigiBeta was working at one point, but now that doesn't appear to be the case. Or maybe something's happened to the computer since.

I made the same adjustment to my AJA capture settings, using ProRes 422 as my compressor as opposed to 8-Bit Uncompressed, and I haven't noticed a quality issue, but I'll have to do a test comparing the two. Unfortunately, it looks like one of my co-workers may have accidentally deleted my direct Firewire capture over the weekend, but I did do an analog capture to ProRes and as far as I can tell, this looks much better than the direct Firewire capture.


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Shane Ross
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 4, 2018 at 10:44:09 pm

[Michael Gerrity] "Since there's no FCP preset for DigiBeta, I adjusted the built in DV NTSC capture preset and changed the compressor from DV to ProRes 422. Is this inadvisable?"

Yes...that is wrong. What you do is choose an AJA IO EASY SETUP. Those will be in the Easy Setup list. Choose one for Uncompressed 8-bit (if they have one for ProRes, go for it, but I think that format came out after the last drivers for the IO did) and that should be all you need to do. You do have the drivers for this installed, correct?


[Michael Gerrity] "I've been doing this for my MiniDV captures and I haven't noticed a loss in quality. "

Because choosin DV/NTSC while using a miniDV deck is the right things. BUT, when you use the IO, you need to choose the setup for the IO...that's how you tell FCP to look for and see that device.

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


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Michael Gerrity
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 5, 2018 at 12:02:20 am

Maybe you've misunderstood, otherwise I want to clarify that what I'm doing is actually wrong - but as I said, in the past I've had no issues:

Inside the Audio/Video Settings dialogue, you can set your capture preset. There are also tabs to view, edit, and create capture presets. I can select the AJA Io NTSC preset, duplicate it, and edit the settings to change the compressor from 8-Bit Uncompressed to ProRes 422. The digitizer is still set to "ProIO 8-Bit Uncompressed" but the compressor is set to ProRes 422.

I'll do a test, but with these settings I haven't noticed any issues, and analog captures aren't the problem, it's digital captures from my Sony J-30.

I've made the changes above with the standard DV-NTSC preset as well. For all of my DV decks, the only digitizer option that shows up is "DV Video," I leave this default, but I change the compressor from DV/DVCPRO - NTSC to ProRes 422. For MiniDV/DVCPro/DVCAM I've had no issues. However, when I have the Sony J-30 DigiBeta deck connected, the digitizer says, "J-30" not DV Video like every other firewire deck.

But maybe I can't capture ProRes via firewire, but what if I have the same problem if I set the compressor to 8-Bit Uncompressed, or DV-NTSC? Maybe I won't have that problem, but is my only other alternative to take component out from the DigitBeta and capture via the AJA for the best image? What, if any, capture preset can I use for capturing DigiBeta via firewire?

FWIW my deck does not have SDI out. There is a model of the J-30 that has SDI, but this one doesn't.


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Shane Ross
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 5, 2018 at 12:15:46 am

No, I didn't misunderstand. I know exactly what you are doing...and what you are doing is wrong. If you want video to be captured in good quality using the AJA IO...then you need to tell FCP to see it. To do that, you use an EASY SETUP.

Go to the FINAL CUT PRO menu, and choose EASY SETUPS. In there, look for the AJA IO options...choose one. Typically it's uncompressed 8-bit. Again, I don't think that there will be a ProRes option, as that codec came out long after the IO was discontinued. It MIGHT be there...but I'm doubtful.

[Michael Gerrity] "I've made the changes above with the standard DV-NTSC preset as well. For all of my DV decks, the only digitizer option that shows up is "DV Video," I leave this default, but I change the compressor from DV/DVCPRO - NTSC to ProRes 422."

Oookaaaay. Not sure what this does. But you are taking the DV protocol, and modifying it. Still having it bring in DV video...but then having the computer somehow encode to ProRes. I know this option works for HDV, didn't know it worked for DV. You gain NOTHING doing this. You are, in fact, compressing the video. If you kept it DV, then it would be completely lossless...a 1-to-1 digital transfer. Going to ProRes, you are adding a layer of compression.

[Michael Gerrity] "For MiniDV/DVCPro/DVCAM I've had no issues. "

Correct...because you are using a DV easy setup and capture protocol...with DV decks.

[Michael Gerrity] "However, when I have the Sony J-30 DigiBeta deck connected, the digitizer says, "J-30" not DV Video like every other firewire deck."

Correct...because you are trying to use a DV protocol on a non-DV device. DV protocol would have deck control and video capture both happening from the firewire port....and it would capture as DV. If you have the deck...

WAIT...are you connecting the DECK Firewire out to the IO? I know this deck has Firewire out, and that will send a DV signal...meaning compressing the image to DV. But you can't control the deck that way...nor can you capture ProRes or Uncompressed. What you SHOULD be doing is Connecting the deck to your IO card via COMPONENT cables, and then the card into the computer. Is that what you are doing? How is all of this connected?

[Michael Gerrity] "But maybe I can't capture ProRes via firewire, but what if I have the same problem if I set the compressor to 8-Bit Uncompressed, or DV-NTSC?"

No, you can't. This really only worked with HDV devices..and apparently you got it to work with a DV deck. But the J-30 isn't a DV deck, so no, you can't. You need to connect it to the IO via Component, and then the IO to the computer via Firewire...And use an AJA IO EASY SETUP. You might not get deck control, because you can't control the deck via firewire...for that you'd need a USB to RS-422 adapter made specifically for this. ANd without deck control, you can't capture timecode. You'll have to set it to UNCONTROLLED DEVICE and manually press play, and capture.

[Michael Gerrity] "but is my only other alternative to take component out from the DigitBeta and capture via the AJA for the best image?"

YES...that is what you should be doing. That is how you get this to work properly...

[Michael Gerrity] "What, if any, capture preset can I use for capturing DigiBeta via firewire? "

The AJA IO Easy Setups. Nothing else will work. That's the only way to get it to come in uncompressed. If you go Firewire from the deck directly to the computer, you can get DV quality, but that's lower quality than the tape is.

Shane
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Michael Gerrity
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 5, 2018 at 4:33:06 pm

Thank you so much Shane for your time, expertise, and clarification.

I had the J-30 connected directly to the computer via Firewire and that had sketchy connectivity issues, and this is where I was experiencing quality issues. Otherwise, I'm going component out from the deck to the AJA. The AJA only has one firewire port for connecting to the computer.

So far it looks like I am indeed getting the best results via the component capture. I just find it hard to believe/weird that the J-30 would have firewire out and that wouldn't be the optimal way to capture the footage. Do you know if Avid or proprietary Sony software would have been better suited to capture via Firewire from the J-30? Was it just for easy viewing and control from a computer?

You've been very helpful, and already given me plenty of your time, so no need to respond, but I'm curious why I can alter the capture settings, including the compressor it's using, if it's totally inadvisable? I know it's Pro software, so more options are always preferable, but why include options for things you wouldn't or shouldn't use? Were these settings more so available for capturing offline footage for editing? So you could capture all of your raw footage at a significantly lower quality?


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Shane Ross
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 5, 2018 at 4:50:21 pm

[Michael Gerrity] "I just find it hard to believe/weird that the J-30 would have firewire out and that wouldn't be the optimal way to capture the footage."

That option only gives you DV quality. I always wondered why that was on that deck, as you can't control the deck with it, quality was worse. To feed some sort of monitor? No clue. Maybe as a way to make window dubs on DV for transcribers....who knows (besides the Sony engineers)

[Michael Gerrity] "Do you know if Avid or proprietary Sony software would have been better suited to capture via Firewire from the J-30?"

Nope...it's not the software you are using to capture that's the issue, it's the quality of video that comes out of that connection. It's DV, and that's worse than component. (4:1:1 chroma sampling opposed to 4:2:2...LOTS of information lost)

[Michael Gerrity] "Was it just for easy viewing and control from a computer?"

Yeah, wish I knew.

[Michael Gerrity] "So far it looks like I am indeed getting the best results via the component capture."

Good. Yeah, that's the proper use of the deck and AJA IO and FCP. That'll get you the best results by far.

[Michael Gerrity] "I'm curious why I can alter the capture settings, including the compressor it's using, if it's totally inadvisable? I know it's Pro software, so more options are always preferable, but why include options for things you wouldn't or shouldn't use?"

That's meant for higher end options, like altering settings for capturing via the IO or other hardware. But because the settings are alterable, it means you can alter ANY setting. But just because you can doesn't mean you should...and in a lot of cases it breaks things. This is why it's always best to use the EASY SETUPS, and only alter if you have more advanced needs. But never alter the DV capture settings...you can alter them because they coded the software to alter settings...but didn't lock these from being alterable. Lazy coding I assume.

[Michael Gerrity] "Were these settings more so available for capturing offline footage for editing? So you could capture all of your raw footage at a significantly lower quality?"

Yes. You could alter to capture at an offline resolution, or potentially higher resolution. Which is something you can do with the IO...but I would NEVER do with DV. Don't alter DV settings, results are bad, if they work.

Shane
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Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Michael Gerrity
Re: Captured Footage Is Softer Than Source Material - FCP7 - DigiBeta, Beta, Umatic
on Jun 5, 2018 at 5:56:02 pm

Brilliant! Thanks again!


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