Converting MPEG-2 Video for Final Cut Pro

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the January, 2008, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


Henrik Björlin, of Stockholm, Sweden, writes:

I’m doing a project where we will have to use already compressed material from DVDs (also commercial DVDs but totally legal though, we will have all the rights cleared) because of timeframe and costs.


I have a friend who says it is possible to edit MPEG-2 directly in the timeline of FCP. Is it true? I will have to export it to be played on some kind of media player in MPEG-2 format. I would of course want to avoid to recompress it again…

Larry replies: Final Cut really does not like compressed video. It would be better to convert this into DV using either DVDxDV or MPEG Streamclip, then edit the resulting file.

UPDATE – Jan. 27

Lars Hillejan responded:

I really enjoy your training on However, one thing I don´t like, is that you seem to keep pushing the DV format. I just read your January issue and you recommended to convert DVD material to DV for editing.


I don´t think that´s a good idea. In my experience you get much better results from the Photo JPEG 75% setting (of course you have to tweak the real time enabler file, otherwise editing is a real pain).


And now that there´s ProRes around, I really wouldn´t use that (Photo JPEG) either. For me, ProRes is the new Photo JPEG and I think with the increasing power of the maschines and the increasing performance and size of hard drives, there is really no need to use DV anymore (unless you have it on tape).


Oh and you also say, Final Cut doesn´t like compressed video. Speaking of MPEG-2, I know what you mean, but this might be a little confusing.

Larry replies: An excellent opinion – I’ll add it to the newsletter.

Photo-JPEG is amazing – the only problem with ProRes is that files are 5-6 times bigger than DV, which causes a problem for some. Also, since DV is higher quality than DVD I haven’t seen the need to get even higher quality. But you have a good point.

And you are correct, I should clarify that Final Cut does not like video that has been compressed for the web or DVD. Since most video files are compressed in some way, my blanket statement could be somewhat confusing.

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