Explaining Transcoding

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the November, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Transcoding is the process of converting video (and/or audio) from one format into another. Generally, compression is done for final delivery, while transcoding is done to convert from one editing format to another editing format. In any case, when should you transcode?

Allon Baron, from Australia, writes:

We hear a lot about transcoding, especially to prores.


Can you please advise a good workflow or is it specific to the camera.


I’m not sure if its what you do when you ingest or media manager or compressor.


We shoot with a Canon HV30 with the usual stuff, macbook pro, current FCP etc…

Larry replies: Allon, thanks for writing!

Transcoding is the process of converting from one video format to another; for example, from HDV to ProRes, or P2 to SD. This transcoding can happen in three places:

1. Before editing
2. During editing
3. After editing is complete

For instance, AVCHD is transcoded during ingest from it’s native MPEG-4 format into ProRes so that Final Cut can use the much more edit-friendly ProRes codec for editing.

In general, if you only shoot using one camera format, ingest in that format, edit in that format, output in that format, then, if necessary, transcode into your final delivery format. However, as you start to mix cameras and formats, transcoding becomes increasingly necessary.

Here are some other scenarios:

If you are mixing both HD and SD in the same SD timeline, you could simply edit the HD footage into your sequence and FCP will automatically transcode it into SD. (What it actually does is render the HD footage into SD, which means your source files are not affected.)


When you are done with a project – say in HDV – you could export that as an HDV project and transcode it into another HD format for distribution to a broadcast station.

My recommendation is that if your hardware supports it and transcoding is necessary, transcode to ProRes during ingest and edit your project using ProRes.

Final Cut provides a variety of both Easy Setups and customized Sequence settings – so that you can pick your source media and the ProRes version you transcode into.


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3 Responses to Explaining Transcoding

  1. Hi,

    Thanks so much for your definition of transcoding. Sure made my life easier. 🙂

    I appreciate the share.

    Geri Richmond

  2. Nicky nyengera says:

    this has helped me in my assignment in video edting.thanx

  3. […] Such as Final Cut Pro or Apple ProRes or Adobe Premiere Software. How does it work? The footage is trans-coded, which is the “process of converting video (and/or) audio from one format into another, so […]

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