Vegas workflow with the 5D-MarkII

Update April 2009: Cineform NeoSCENE+CoreAVCPro (when adjusting CoreAVC’s settings as per Cineform site’s tutorial) does the right thing now for just $150.

I got my hands on two Canon 5D-MII video files to try them on my new shiny PC (quad 2.4Ghz). Well, this shiny PC plays back the files in the astonishing 3 fps through Sony Vegas (and 15 fps in Quicktime). It’s of course impossible to edit at 3 fps. Here are the two solutions I found so far.

A. Use proxy files, as discussed here.

The only thing you need to do in addition before you follow the tutorial above, IF you want to export in NTSC 29.97, is to retime the video clip (5D shoots in 30.00 fps you see). Simply dropping a 30 fps video in the timeline and exporting as 29.97 asks for trouble (lost frames or ghosting will be the result if you don’t properly retime it).

B. Buy Cineform NeoHD ($600).

Unfortunately, Cineform’s HDLink utility does not support the MOV format of the 5D so far, while when rewrapping the MOV to MP4 (so CoreAVC/Haali’s h.264 codec can support it and feed it to Cineform), Cineform crashes (at least on my new PC). This means that to get this MOV h.264 format to Cineform’s AVI format, you need to do it via Vegas instead. Because as I said above Vegas is not fast to decode these MOV files, it will take an unusual longer time to export them. But at least it will work.

So, create a new project on Vegas. Use the “project properties” dialog’s icon called “Match Media” to match the properties of such a MOV file, but then manually change the frame rate to 29.97, change the quality to “best” and the de-interlacing to “none” or “interpolate”. Place only one of the MOV files in the Vegas timeline, right click its video event, select “properties”, and then “disable resample”.

Then, select “File”, “Render As”. Select the AVI filetype, and then press “custom”. In the Video tab select, 1920×1080 resolution, 29.97 fps, Progressive field order, 1.000 aspect ratio, and Cineform as the video format. Click “configure” and on Cineform’s 4.x version dialog, select “high” encoding quality and “up convert…”. Do not use “Higher” quality because I found this to actually have lesser quality than plain “High”! So, select “ok” a couple of times, and then “save” to render out the .avi file.

Do the same for the rest of your MOV clips. They have to be exported out one by one (until Cineform’s HDLink utility adds support for these files directly where you can export in batches). When you are finished, import the .avi files on a new project (where you “match media” in the project properties dialog, and use “best” quality again).

On the preview window, right click, and select “simulate…”, but uncheck “scale video…”. If you don’t use a second monitor, select “preview(auto)” for your preview quality. If you do use a second display as a preview monitor, select “preview (half)”, as at least on my machine, that’s the only setup that provides full 30p playback without stutter (before adding plugins/transitions that is) for Cineform files. Apparently, “preview(half)” is a bit faster than the “draft(full)” quality, without missing out in the quality. However, always use “preview (full)” or “preview(auto)” if you use the proxy file method instead of the Cineform method. Then edit, and finally export to your liking.

There are pros and cons between the two methods. Here are some:
– The first method is free, the second one costs $600 (or $400 for HV20/30 users).
– The first method is faster to encode to.
– The first method creates much smaller files.
– The first method creates much faster files to edit.
– The second method creates high quality video that helps you to make educated guesses while editing as to if a scene is worthwhile to keep or not.
– The second method can somewhat handle color grading before exporting, while on the first method, because the color grading must be done after switching back to the high-res MOV files, it will make previewing impossibly slow.
– The second method is generally faster during the final export because the Cineform decoder is faster (and so it feeds the encoder faster).
– The second method is a better intermediate format solution, especially if you are collaborating with others for your video projects.
– The SUPER utility used in the first method only works in Windows administrative mode. If your Windows account is a plain user one, you are out of luck.

This guide is relevant for AVCHD too, provided that:
a. SUPER’s AVCHD support is better than it used to be a month ago, which sucked.
b. Cineform’s HDLink utility requires paid solutions to read AVCHD.

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