FCP 7: Transcoding Formats

Posted on by Larry

[This article was first published in the July, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.]


Mike Henry writes:

As a long-time reader, thanks as always for all of your words of wisdom in our industry.


I am writing to see if you have any best practices with mixing cameras with different resolutions. I shoot on a Sony NXCAM with the highest quality AVCHD at 1920×1080 and a Sony V1U with HDV at 1440×1080 as my B camera. Both are shot at the same frame rate (30).


I bring the NXCAM footage in to FCP via ProRes and edit on a 1920 timeline. However, when I bring in my second camera’s footage, I have to blow it up to 133% to fit the timeline. The quality is unacceptable. I have also tried editing the 1920 footage on a 1440 HDV timeline which seems to work better, but I am then scaling-down my higher quality footage to work with the 1440 footage. This seems to defeat the purpose of the higher quality footage.


Do you have any thoughts on the best workflow to use both cameras on the same timeline in FCP? My final output is a full-size master for archival and then down-conversion to DVD for client delivery. Thanks for the advice!

Larry replies: Even under ideal circumstances, the quality of most HDV cameras does not equal the quality of NXCAM cameras.

The compression is different (and HDV is very lossy), the pixel aspect ratio is different, the quality of lenses is different, and the image quality is different; they just don’t match.

HDV will also take longer to render.

Still, you don’t need to zoom the HDV footage to get it to size correctly. Instead, you need to adjust the pixel aspect ratio of each clip to match the NXCAM footage. NXCAM uses square pixels, HDV uses rectangular pixels.

Here’s an approach that may be easier.

The key is to get the two formats to match. BOTH NXCAM and HDV are shooting 1920 x 1080, however HDV does it by changing the shape of the pixel.

Rather than mess with it in the Motion tab, a much better approach would be to use Compressor to transcode the HDV footage into the same format at NXCAM.

When you capture the NXCAM, if you are using Log & Transfer, FCP is converting it to ProRes at the time of transfer. Open one of the ProRes clips in QuickTime, press Command-I and write down the settings for the clip.

Then, in Compressor, transcode the HDV clips BEFORE you start editing into the same ProRes format.

Then, when you bring both the HDV and NXCAM clips into the FCP timeline, the formats will match, no rendering is required and the images should look comparable, though the HDV will be a bit softer than the NXCAM.

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