[ This article was first published in the June, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]
Terry Colbert writes:
I have a question regarding editing footage that was shot with the pocket “HD” (not true HD of course) video cameras that are out there such as Flip’s Mino HD camera (http://www.theflip.com/products_flip_mino.shtml#scene=sceneMinoHD) and Kodak’s Zx1 or the Zi6, to name a couple (http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml?pq-path=14295&pq-locale=en_US&_requestid=9498).
Do you have or know of anyone (maybe your colleagues or newsletter readers) who has experience editing footage shot with these cameras using Final Cut Pro and/or AVID? I understand that these cameras record clips as .Movs (H.264 codec) and that according to some of the research I’ve done so far (check out the following blog at http://www.zarias.com/?p=288 — also check out his MPEG Streamclip conversion settings tutorial) is that in order to get the clips to “play nice” in FCP, it is recommended to download a free plug-in “MPEG Streamclip” (http://www.squared5.com/).
The corporate video facility I work at is documenting an upcoming walk event where in order to keep costs low, we are kicking around the idea of supplying two or three of the walk participants with one of these types of cameras to document their experiences during the day — sort of as video diaries, but the footage will also supplement ours (we will be shooting DVCPRO — Panasonic HDX-900 and SDX-900 cameras) as stylized b-roll perhaps. I know that video shot mostly with these cameras are primarily designed for the web (which we are also considering) but we would like to include some of it in our edited highlight video (16:9, 720p edited program masters). I’m curious if you have any thoughts about the cameras themselves in addition to editing footage shot with them. If you have time to respond to my email or perhaps post an article about this topic in an upcoming newsletter, it would be much appreciated!
Larry replies: Terry, thanks for writing.
The most important thing to check first is whether Final Cut Studio supports these cameras. You can do so here: www.apple.com/finalcutstudio/resources.
If your camera is NOT supported, you may still be able to get it to work, but there are no guarantees.
Second, H.264 is a DISTRIBUTION format, it is not an EDITING format. It creates great looking small files that can posted easily to the web, but its compression structure makes it VERY hard to use for editing.
For this reason, you are best off converting the H.264 video into something more friendly. My suggestion would be to use MPEG Streamclip, which is an application, not a plug-in, to convert HD footage into either DVCPRO HD or ProRes. (There’s no reason to use ProRes HQ, H.264 didn’t record enough quality to justify the file size.)
You can find MPEG Streamclip here: www.squared5.com/svideo/mpeg-streamclip-mac.html.
One final note – one of the reasons inexpensive cameras are cheap is that they don’t create file formats that are easy to edit. You’ll save money in production, but spend much more time in post-production converting and editing the footage.
UPDATE – June, 2009
Dustin Young sent this in:
First off I wanted to say that I really enjoy your newsletter, and your workshops as well. This is a response to a question you recently answered in your May Newsletter in regards to working with Flip Cam Footage.
I recently finished up a reality series that I was the online editor on, and was given the task of converting about 30 hours of this FLIP footage to files that would work in FCP – As they don’t work in FCP in their native MPEG-4 Format. While MPEG Streamclip is great, you can actually convert using Compressor by itself. Simply import them in to a compressor project, set your destination, then apply the of your choice.
These are the video compression settings I used:
- Apple ProRes 422, 23.98, 1280x 720
- Audio Settings
- Stereo, 48khz, 16 bit, and select the audio compressor of your choice.
After I did I batch process, the files they imported into FCP flawlessly. Special Note: Converting the audio is equally critical, since the Flip HD cameras record Mono, 44.1 khz, and when brought into FCP our editing team ran into issues with sync on long clips in the time line. Hope this is helpful to everyone, and with the relative inexpensiveness, and ease of use of those cameras more and more productions are using them for self recorded OTF interviews.