Working With Sony XDCAM EX Clips

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the February, 2011, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


Richard Mills writes:

I have a MAC BOOK PRO running the latest version of XDCAM Transfer software (Version 2.11.0) which I use to transfer footage (XDCAM EX1) that we shoot daily from my SXS cards to an internal drive on my MAC PRO via a 1000gig ethernet network switch, which I find a very simple easy solution. More and more regularly I am experiencing ‘drop out’ on the footage, the problem is reproducible as I have run the same test on my suppliers network using their MAC BOOK PRO and network to an internal drive on a MAC PRO. Wen re-running the test on the same files the drop out always occurs at the exact frame.


I have had lengthly discussions about this problem with SONY and according to them the transfer of these files over the network is not guaranteed or supported. In their words :”I understand your point when you say that you have found no Sony release documentation regarding constraints or restrictions on the transfer of XDCAM over the network, however I don’t know of any documentation where they do guarantee this process, personally I don’t think that anyone can really guarantee anything sent over the network” My reply to them on this was if they were experiencing problems with their emails would they accept that nothing is guaranteed over a network!


They have given me an alternative solution:

1. Transfer the RAW files to the internal drive on the MAC BOOK PRO

2. ‘Unwrap’ the files using the transfer software creating .mov files on the same hard drive

3. Copy the .mov files using the network to the MAC PRO internal drive

Although this solves the problem I personally find it very cumbersome as I need extra disc space (roughly 2 X the size of the SXS cards on my MAC BOOK PRO) and it takes twice as long. It also diminishes the easy workflow solution when using XDCAM transfer over a network.


Do you know of these restrictions? Do you know if anyone else has this problem? Is there any other solution that you know of?

Larry replies: Richard, thanks for writing.

I agree with Sony. Over the last year, I’ve learned that the best practice – and the most reliable – is to transfer the ENTIRE contents of the SXS card to its own individual folder on your hard disk. Generally, a second drive, not the boot drive. One folder per card transferred.

This bypasses the latency and contention that exists in all Ethernet networks. Plus, it overcomes the several speed differential between the card and your computer (the card is very, very slow).

Then, use your Sony Transfer software to transcode the files from the folder on your hard disk into Final Cut Pro.

There are several benefits to this procedure:

The only downside is that this takes more hard disk space. But, to me, given all the benefits, the additional storage is a small price to pay.

Richard continues:

I have one final question on this, when I use the Sony transfer software to transcode the files from the folder on my hard disk (secondary drive on my Mac Book Pro) into Final Cut Pro can I do this over the network to the internal drive (secondary drive) in my Mac Pro? Or do I have to transcode it to the secondary drive on the Mac Book Pro then copy it across (more time more disc more complicated)?

Larry replies: ASSUMING you have a Gigabit Ethernet network, that you also have a functioning Gigabit Ethernet switch and that all computers are communicating at Gigabit Ethernet speeds, you should be able to use Log & Transfer to access media on a network drive and store it locally on a hard drive. Remember that you should not use your boot drive on your laptop for data storage – it is too slow.

UPDATE – March 5, 2011

Mitch Lewis adds:

In your February Newsletter > Reader Mail, Richard Mills asks about Working With Sony XDCAM EX Clips.


He’s having problems with drop out in his footage. I would like to suggest two things:


1) When transferring footage from the SxS cards to a hard drive ALWAYS use Sony’s free XDCAM Clip Browser software. Sony specifically states in their SxS to Final Cut Pro workflow guide that users should not transfer RAW files using the Mac OS. You should only transfer files using XDCAM Clip Browser as it has built-in Data Protection and it automatically performs a “CRC check” after copying the files. Look in the Clip Browser Preferences and you’ll see what I mean. (it’s the default setting)


2) Always format your SxS card before using it again. Don’t use the “Delete All Clips” function to clear off your card, over time it will cause the SxS card to become corrupt. Always format the card before using it again.


These two suggestions weren’t mentioned in your response to his question and I think they might help with his problem.

Larry replies: Thanks, Mitch. These are two tips I did not know.

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8 Responses to Working With Sony XDCAM EX Clips

  1. Aaron Brown says:

    Interesting reading. I’ve only just started using XDCAM (from the new PMW-200) and have encountered a problem.

    I can use the XDCAM browser, but when I attempt to send clips to FCP 7 it throws up an error because I have version 7 and X installed on the same machine. It seems to only want to send clips to FCP X now, though sometimes (ok, mostly), I want to cut in FCP 7.

    The only workaround I’ve found is to let XDCAM broswer send the footage to FCP X, then quit and import the footage into FCP7 from there. Is there an easier way that I’m missing here? The log & transfer plugin doesn’t seem to recognise the SxS cards (or the folders if I copy the whole card to a drive).


  2. Bob says:

    Aaron & Mitch,

    Am about to junk my 7-yr old HDR-HC1 (ya…) for a NX-5U or PMW-200; a Yugo to Porsche move no doubt.

    Once captured, I understand that transferring .mxf files from the PMW, one should NOT log and transfer (FCP 7), but copy the entire card to the HD, then Log and Transfer from that new folder?
    If this is a cumbersome workflow for those smart fellas that do post for a job, vice mine as a hobby, I may just go with the NX5U.

    Thoughts please.
    My use: HD post on travel blogs, vacations around the globe.

    Respectfully yours,

    • Aaron Brown says:

      Hi Bob,
      Oddly enough, we bought an NX5 and a PMW-200 this autumn (fall to you chaps, I’m guessing!) so I can talk from experience about the two.
      In terms of the workflow – I’ve always gone through Sony’s Content software, which is a bit cumbersome but reliable – if log & transfer in FCP 7 works, it never did for me. One little gotcha moment for me, was the pref in the Sony software telling it to send the transcoded media to either FCP7, X, or neither. Yes, I banged my head a few times on that one…

      As Larry has pointed out regularly, and as I say to my students at least twice a week – backing up the whole card is a must if you want to keep the blood pressure down. Admittedly, SXS ain’t cheap, so maybe using SD cards with the MEAD adaptor is tempting. The only caveat being that you are forced to then shoot FAT32 rather than having the option of UDF formatted card – the downside being that you have to capture directly from the camera, rather than using the SBAC-10 reader with a mac.
      In terms of the NX5 workflow with either FCP7 or X, it’s nice and simple through log & transfer (or the import in X), though bear in mind the file size will increase from those on the card during the transcode to ProRes.

      OK, down the rest of the nitty gritty.
      Having used mostly Z1 and V1s for the past few years, I was really happy with the optics of the NX5, and the familiarity of the software. I was so glad they added a full size iris ring on the lens, and the lens itself is so much better than the Z1 and V1, though if you’ve used a Z7 before, you’ll know the look. Picking up the PMW-200 a couple of weeks later then, was a big deal. The optics are a LOT better than the NX5, the DoF being great for the price of the camera, and 50 mbps at 4:2:2 at that price was too great. I was about to go out and buy the EX3 – the better viewfinder, changeable lenses and shoulder brace weren’t quite enough to tempt me away from the 200. It took me a while to get used to the software (as well as working out where the damn white balance button was), but now I feel as comfortable using both. There are some oddities about the software, but the footage is just leaps ahead of the NX5. The camera itself is around the same size as the NX5, and it’s worth noting it’s poor balance without the BP-U60 battery – invest in one straight away.

      Using footage from the NX5 as a B camera to the 200 really highlights the problems of the AVCHD format – skin tones tend to be annoyingly soft with the NX5, though I haven’t gotten around to using it with an Atomos Ninja to avoid the compression and keeping it at 4:2:2 colo(u)r space. When I get back to work in the new year, I’ll update you on that test.

      So, in all honesty – if you can stretch to the 200, and have a bit of time to work through the software, I’d definitely say go for that. The only downside then is the media costs, I guess. I do miss the shoulder mount of a bigger camera, or the shoulder brace of the EX3, but that’s a minor quibble (as soon as someone comes up with a cheaper shoulder system for the 200 I’ll be even happier).

      Hope this helps, and Merry Christmas!

  3. Bill says:

    @ Aaron
    “… using SD cards with the MEAD adaptor is tempting. The only caveat being that you are forced to then shoot FAT32 rather than having the option of UDF formatted card – the downside being that you have to capture directly from the camera, rather than using the SBAC-10 reader with a mac.”

    That is not the only, not even the main issue.
    The main issue is the extreme unreliability of the SD cards. They can break down any time, no warning just the lost footage. Unfortunately we did experience this with a Sony SD card. (Card HW failure, unrecoverable)

    The other issue is that the EX will record in 1440x 1080 mode on the SD, not in 1920×1080. If 1440 is suitable, it is OK.
    Nowadays however it is not really accepted for professional output.

    Regarding the cumbersome workflow, it is an issue with a consumer level editing software. There is no such issue with Media Composer. You CAN edit from the SxS card directly if you please or dump the footage to the computer’s HD. In both cases you don’t have to import it just link to it. Within seconds you are in business, editing.
    I regularly have to deal with many hrs of footage. The filming crew dumps the footage to an external HD on the field. When they come back, the drive is backed up to a server. It is then copied to the workstation’s internal high-speed drives. (Usually overnight. I just received 480 GByte of footage. 30 hrs of footage is not unusual for a documentary.) I would go mad if I also had to transcode and import it.

    Good luck, have fun!

  4. Aaron Brown says:

    Hi Bill,
    yeah, took me a while to work out that downside or FAT32 only shooting 4:2:0, but made sense in the end. I wasn’t aware of the issue of lower raster though, that’s worth noting, thanks. I’m using Sandisk Extreme cards, which so far have been reliable enough. Can’t say I’m a fan of having to transfer from the camera though.

    In terms of workflow – I hear you. I’d originally missed the FCP flag buried in the Sony software, but transcoding each clip is a pain. It’s still pretty cumbersome as a utility, but workable. Maybe Avid is something I need to reconsider (again!).

    Thanks for the reply,

  5. Marc says:

    Dear Larry,

    Much has changed in FCPX since this thread began back in 2011. One thing that has changed is my switch from Media Composer v8.3 to FCPX 10.3.2

    Which is why I’m writing in today, to get advice on how to use FCPX to first log/comment/keyword approximately 263 hrs coming from over 151 cards and other sources comprised of 7541 clips INTO FCPX without transcoding or optimizing any of it at this stage because I do not know when, if ever, we will begin to edit this documentary into a full film. So to save time and drive space I’m keen on simply getting the footage into events so I can view and make notes, add keywords, make segment selections during interviews, etc. You know the drill….getting organized.

    Additionally the head guy at the organization this film is about is not a film producer but is essentially trying to now be one. To that end he wants to see reports showing what we have to edit with along with my comments on story, etc. I’ve determined that Producer’s Best Friend could work for these reports.

    The big problem I face is that I began logging some of the footage in Media Composer back in 2010/2012 during and right after I shot the footage in several overseas locations. That means I have a bunch already logged Avid style. Also, Avid allows me to view this footage without any ingest, transcode or optimizaiton via AMA XDCAM EX Plug-in by simply linking to the original camera files I have on several drives plus their corresponding back ups on additional drives. Yet FCPX seems to always want to begin transcoding whether or not I have that function deselected in my preferences. Annoying. Maybe I’ll have to do that when editing begins but for now I don’t need to do it. How to stop it?

    Related to this workflow shift I want to somehow get my Avid made bin notes into FCPX. One way it may work is by exporting the bin info out to a .csv file, import that into Numbers, edit the column headings and place them in an order that Shot Notes X will read, do a conversion to FCPX .xml and import into Final Cut. I haven’t tested that because I’d like to know from someone if this seems like a good strategy. I tried writing to the guys at Kopto Studios asking them what they think of the idea but nobody has ever replied.

    Everyone says there is no way to get info from Media Composer into FCPX but if this idea I have pans out it could be a way to get at least something crossed over. Bin info is better than nothing and it will save my notes, which are extensive and will help speed up the logging process in FCPX. Plus the notes contain so much info that in the 4-6 years since I shot and logged the footage that I’ve forgotten so much it will take a miracle to retrieve or remember all the particulars. Some info comes back to me when I screen footage and it’s good to have the notes as a way to prime my mind’s memory pump.

    Anything you can weigh in on could give me some hope about getting this started.

    Thank you,

    • Larry says:


      What I suggest is contacting the folks at Intelligent Assistance ( They know more about metadata, logging and transferring notes from one application to another than anyone else on the planet.

      They would have the best advice for you.


      • Marc Miller says:

        Thank you Larry. Will do it.

        BTW, I love your FCPX 10.3 training I pick up last November. Stellar job.

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