Archive for September 16th, 2009

Editing Canon 5D/7D footage on Windows

Canon chose a pretty bad format for their consumer digicam and video dSLR products: h.264 in the MOV container, without B-Frames. This creates a kind of format that is very difficult to edit in real time. As I type this, even the fastest desktop PC on Earth can’t decode in real time that footage under Sony Vegas, or even Premiere. As of now, here are your editing options with such footage:

1. Edit as is
It is possible to edit these files as is, by dropping them in the timeline, but you should expect anything between 0.3 and 5 fps. Which means that it’s unbearably slow to do educated guesses on how to cut your project. Additionally, Vegas has very poor support for Quicktime, so after you add a few of these files in the timeline, you should expect crashes.

2. Proxy Files
Proxy files allow you to use small-sized, low-quality copies of the original files that edit faster — and just before you export, you switch to the original files, to export at full quality. Here are tutorials for Vegas Platinum, Pro, and Premiere. The problem with this method is that, at least with Vegas, there’s still a big risk of crashing during exporting (because it would use the original MOV files). Also, exporting is very slow, because the decoding is slow (before it even starts encoding).

3. Cineform
This is the best solution for the problem. You buy Cineform NeoSCENE (or NeoHD), and you drop the files in its utility to transcode them. Cineform is pretty fast decoding h.264, and transcoding the 4:2:0 files to a 4:2:2 format, that’s visually lossless, and easy to edit. The only downsides are that the created filesizes will be double over the original and the gamma will slightly change, but these are a small price to pay for having a stable, and fast format to edit with.

Q&A

Q. Why not use Divide.Frame’s accelerated decoder?
A. Because it’s unstable, and it doesn’t work with all versions of Vegas or Premiere.

Q. What format should I use for proxies?
A. I would suggest you use 640×360 mpeg2 at 1.5 mbps. It’s the easiest format to edit, by far. The Premiere tutorial linked above can be modified to create such proxies rather than its suggested h.264 proxies.

Q. Why not use mpeg2, or XDCam or other high bitrate format instead of Cineform?
A. Because they are not lossless.

Q. Why not use another lossless codec then, like the freeware Huffyuv, Lagarith, Avid DNxHD?
A. Because they are almost as slow to edit as the original files.

Q. How about Matrox’s mpeg2 I-Frame 100 mbps codec?
A. This is a good codec and it works well with Premiere. But it doesn’t work as well with Vegas. More here.
UPDATE: Version 1.0 of the codec fixes the problems!

Q. Which format would have been best to be used by Canon?
A. AVCHD for their consumer digicams, and AVC-Intra for their video dSLRs.

Q. How are the Mac users dealing with the problem?
A. The footage has to be transcoded too, to the intermediate ProRES/AIC codecs before it is able to be edited. There is also Cineform NeoSCENE for the Mac too.

Bigger and better

I just heard Madonna’s new single, “Revolver“. It’s a good song, but it’s not as smart as it could have been. Upon listening to it, I immediately imagined it with a cleaner electronic sound, reduced auto-tune, with traditional Chinese singing/sound at places, and even with some hard guitars at some other spots. In other words, I needed a “bigger” tune that the one released, one that’s more complex musically (one that had many genres combined). Same thing as I like TV shows and films to be like.

And this made me think. What’s with me and “bigger”, “grander”, “more”?

Really, this is a problem. Why the hell I can’t be happy with whatever is being made available to me? Why am I after “more”? Is it because most of the available products/art are indeed “cheap/easy” and mediocre? Or is it because I am thinking too much about the whole thing and don’t let life just flow?

Maybe the answer is in both. Truth is, I am difficult to please. And I just can’t change that. I don’t think I will be finding nirvana any time soon.