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Editing AVCHD files with Final Cut Pro - Questions for FCP X users


Scott Goldberg
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Come March 1st, I will be uploading AVCHD clips from my SD card. I have done a lot of test shoots on the card but there are a lot of clips I will be deleting and actually some that I am quite happy with. I am going to delete (if you think it won't mess anything up as far as the files and the numbers because the numbers would be let's say 1-200 I delete and then keep 200-205 and then deleted clips 206-255 and then use clip 256-60, etc and so on). I've read that there may be an issue with this IF my WHOLE FOLDER is not copied onto a hard-drive? So is it OK if I have let's say 20 clips in total in the folder, all different numbers (not changed, but just how they are in the order they were shot - ie: 00122, 00156, 00166, 00167, 00202 etc? Will this be OK to do or will it mess up everything if there are not a bunch of files that I have let's say, dragged to the trash can and deleted and kept the 20? I see that when I put in my SD card and my laptop (using a laptop for now, til my drives get here, to test FCP and view footage/edit clips in FCP X trial run) this pops up: BDMV > CLIPINF/PLAYLIST/STREAM, then when I click on STREAM the clips pop up. As per my question above, do I copy the AVCHD folder and put it into a new folder that says: "TEST SHOOT FOLDER"? Or do I not need to copy all of those folders within that folder? I have read horror stories of people not copying the whole thing, and them losing their clips.... This is my concern. My second question is a run through on setting up my Final Cut Pro X, with what time-line settings, frame rate, and even the "Import Media" settings that I should use for AVCHD/FS700 footage? I'm based out of the US and my main frame rate will be/is 24fps.





 
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Apparently, you can edit with the native AVCHD files in FCPX, but you really need to test this out for yourself to see what the results are.

 

If you can edit natively with FCPX, then do so.

I've done lots of tests between transcoding with 5DtoRGB & using the native H264 files, & using the native files are so much better quality.

 

Some people still insist that you should transcode, but I have found you get banding issues if you do this - just did another test today to make sure & the differences in quality between the native files & the transcoded ones was huge (the 5DtoRGB ProresHQ files had banding all over & fell apart).

 

On the import settings i uncheck everything apart from making a copy (backs things up for you) & when you're creating a new project (if all the footage is the same), just leave the box checked that says it will automatically set the timeline to correspond to the first clip.

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Using the ''optimized media' in FCP X (meaning ProRes) is visually lossless and won't introduce banding (but neither make it disappear if it's in the original).

It's hard to have a wrong workflow with FCP X . Working with AVCHD (an H.264 copy without changing a single pixel is made on-the-fly) treats the 8-bit video with 32-bit floating point precision. A proxy copy (for lame Macs or multicam with ten or more pip-streams) refers to the originals in the end, no quality loss there as well.

Just one thing:
NEVER
delete a clip from your card prior to starting the import process of FCP X. Preview and import only the clips you intend to use.
Or else ...

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The MTS files play without having to ClipWrap, etc which is great. I'm so used to FCP 7 and actually like FCP X a lot and for the fact that it's easy to use.... I just never have used hard-drives to edit and am curious about folder placements and if I should copy the full folder of the SD Card into a fold that says "TEST SHOOT CLIPS" or if I should take take the clips and put them in a folder without all of the other folders?

 

I'm curious if anyone has set their systems for editing features with FS700 footage (ie: AVCHD/MTS files). 

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 if I should copy the full folder of the SD Card into a fold that says "TEST SHOOT CLIPS" or if I should take take the clips and put them in a folder without all of the other folders?

 

'The other folders' contain file infos (comparable to playlists in a VIDEO_TS folder), without which FCP X will not import anything, if AVCHD, movs or what have you.

 

Three ways to proceed:

 

1. Preview your clips in-camera and delete the bad ones there. The index will be changed correctly on the card.

2. Connect your card or camera to the Mac, preview them via FCP Xs import window and import only the files you need (as original, optimized media or proxy).

3. Make an 'archive' of the card that you name "TEST SHOOT CLIPS". The big advantage of this method is, that afterwards you can skim faster over all of the cards content compared to the speed possible with a USB connection. And that you can use the 'clip view' instead of the 'file view'. For any other program (i.e. Premiere) the archive is just another folder, containing the original file structure of your card.

 

Sort your content using FCP X or sooner or later you will lose connections.

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@Axel.

 

Is it better to use "Optimized Media" in FCPX & why?

 

As stated above, the 5DtoRGB transcoded files introduced banding when brought into FCPX - i always thought this was the best way to transcode footage, but it obviously isn't anymore.

 

Do you have any explanation why this banding appears when i edit with these ProRes files & not the native H264?

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Is it better to use "Optimized Media" in FCPX & why?

Makes playback smoother on any Mac, makes AVCHD edible on not so fast or older Macs. Not available for easy codecs like HDV or XDCAM EX.

As stated above, the 5DtoRGB transcoded files introduced banding when brought into FCPX - i always thought this was the best way to transcode footage, but it obviously isn't anymore.

Try the same clip with FCP X 'optimized media', the default for AVCHD, just leave it checked. With 5D2RGB, you can choose the wrong range by accident. I bet, with the automatic import, there will be no artifacts.

If the problem persists and if your machine is fast enough, you can edit original media. As I wrote above, there actually is no right or wrong way to do it. There is an unnecessarily complicated way through 5D2RGB, because you lose the intelligent import functions of FCP X. And 5D2RGB uses the same Quicktime encoder for ProRes as FCP X (or FCP 7, for that matter).
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Right: It depends. If your particular cam sets the right flag (metadata) for the NLE to decompress to RGB, if the NLE reads the flag asf.

 

I remember that the FS-100 has a range of 16-255 (instead of 16-255 or 0-255), I may err. Maybe the FS-700 does the same. 

 

Now, it seems you got it wrong the first time with 5D2RGB (banding). 

 

Imho the greatest adavantage of FCP X over other NLEs is it's way to give you access to your original footage. It's not 'import & edit' like in Premiere, it's not 'log & transfer & edit' like in FCP 7, it's 'browse without delay & edit'. If you really need 5D2RGB, it's a pity. Try the 'archive' and compare the 'optimized media' results with the original clips. If they look the same, forget 5D2RGB.

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Cheers Axel,

Tried both ways & there's no real difference in the quality between the native files & the "optimised media" - just smoother playback with the later. So glad i don't have to transcode footage anymore & love the fact that it backs up files if you want.

I was so hesitant in getting FCPX because of all the fuss that was made, but it really is great for DSLR footage - really starting to think that the whole Premiere thing was a huge big scam!

Yes there are some bugs, but not that i've really encountered them to any degree where i'm cursing the day i bought FCPX & they seem to be fixing them - just hope they do another update so that i can use Neat Video.

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10.8 is already announced. I didn't install 10.7, for there seem to be more bugs than in 10.6 (always wait for bug reports, at least keep a backup of older versions or make a timemachine-backup first!). I found all demos of plugins to at least slow down FCP X, with the exception of those apparently built within Motion 5. To use Neat without issues would really be a big improvement. My biggest wishes for future updates (aside from stability with certain plugins) are keyframeable color correction parameters and assignable audio tracks (not just 'roles'). 

 

Furthermore, I'd love to see better integration with Motion, I'd like real authoring of DVDs (BDs?) in Compressor and a DCP-export.

 

 

 

So glad i don't have to transcode footage anymore ...

 

Of course with 'optimized media' transcoding is running in the background (making ProRes copies of your mpeg4-clips to your assigned harddrive). You will notice that after a few minutes the skimming speed improves. That's when FCP X plays back ProRes instead of AVCHD.

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  • 7 months later...

 

To convert AVCHD files to FCP, Aunsoft Video Converter for Mac is a good choice. It converts MTS files to FCP native format ProRess for importing into FCP without problem.

 

 

Save the $33, it's all built-in in FCP X. But it requires originals. Not orphaned, .mts- or .mp4 - clips you stumbled across on some forgotten drive from the attic.

 

As Michael Cioni puts it, FCP X is a media assets manager with an attached timeline, wheras all old-fashioned NLEs are timelines with an attached media-path-list. Use this advantage, don't import dumb video clips.

 

See what makes FCP X special (see all or start at 13'42"):

http://vimeo.com/73797466

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  • 4 months later...
  • 3 months later...

Hi guys, good info here. I have been editing with FCP X for a while now, all footage is AVCHD from the Sony A7, 24p 24Mbits/s. I have a Mac Pro 2012 so for me there is no reason to optimise media on import, so I edit natively. I rarely apply any effects, just doing cuts, sountrack and titles most of the time, so the performance is great all around.

 

I currently use FCP X sharing pane as follows:

- Export File

- Format: computer

- Video Codec: h264

- Multi Pass

 

This export settings output files with a bitrate of around 20-21Mbit/s so lower than the original 24Mbit/s. I also tried to export a Master File which automatically transcodes the native files into Pro Res and the resulting files are much larger with around 5-6 times the native bitrate of 24Mbit/s. The thing is how could the native AVCHD 24Mbit/s file have a 110Mbit/s after export, even though I have not transcoded it on import? (for some reason FCP X transcodes it into ProRes on export as master file). The quality could not be 5 time higher right? And it's not, it's identical to my eyes.

 

So my question to you: how should I export, or how do you export the final output in order to preserve the initial quality of the AVCHD 24Mbit/s that I shoot with? I don't want inflated or lower bitrates on export.

 

My output file is for archiving on external HDD, I make movies for myself with family and friends, so it's not meant for any sharing websites and should be the best quality, as close or a clone of the original in terms of quality. 

 

Maybe I lack some understanding of AVCHD bitrates and what I ask sound stupid. :)

 

Thanks.

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@nevrozel When you hit 'share', then 'master file', click on the 'settings' tab. There, you will have a choice of some 13 different codecs, including some five ProRes flavors. You can simply choose to send it to QuickTime with H.264 if you like. 

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Hi guys, good info here. I have been editing with FCP X for a while now, all footage is AVCHD from the Sony A7, 24p 24Mbits/s. I have a Mac Pro 2012 so for me there is no reason to optimise media on import, so I edit natively. I rarely apply any effects, just doing cuts, sountrack and titles most of the time, so the performance is great all around.

 

I currently use FCP X sharing pane as follows:

- Export File

- Format: computer

- Video Codec: h264

- Multi Pass

 

This export settings output files with a bitrate of around 20-21Mbit/s so lower than the original 24Mbit/s. I also tried to export a Master File which automatically transcodes the native files into Pro Res and the resulting files are much larger with around 5-6 times the native bitrate of 24Mbit/s. The thing is how could the native AVCHD 24Mbit/s file have a 110Mbit/s after export, even though I have not transcoded it on import? (for some reason FCP X transcodes it into ProRes on export as master file). The quality could not be 5 time higher right? And it's not, it's identical to my eyes.

 

So my question to you: how should I export, or how do you export the final output in order to preserve the initial quality of the AVCHD 24Mbit/s that I shoot with? I don't want inflated or lower bitrates on export.

 

My output file is for archiving on external HDD, I make movies for myself with family and friends, so it's not meant for any sharing websites and should be the best quality, as close or a clone of the original in terms of quality. 

 

Maybe I lack some understanding of AVCHD bitrates and what I ask sound stupid. :)

 

Thanks.

Did you check that the original files from the camera are 24 mbps? I don't have the A7, but on most cams ( including the NEX series) it's a variable bit rate, so depending on how busy the shot is, the average bit rate of the file varies quite a bit below the theoretical maximum of 24 mbps (my NEX 5N shots seem to average out at around 20 point something, according to MPEG streamclip file > show stream info. The OMD-EM5 averages around 18 point something mbps, ie also a few bits below that particular camera's maximum level of 20 mbps). So the 20-21 mbps export might not be losing anything.

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So my question to you: how should I export, or how do you export the final output in order to preserve the initial quality of the AVCHD 24Mbit/s that I shoot with? I don't want inflated or lower bitrates on export.

 

My output file is for archiving on external HDD, I make movies for myself with family and friends, so it's not meant for any sharing websites and should be the best quality, as close or a clone of the original in terms of quality. 

 

I find it strange that anybody worries about disc space anymore. It has become so ridiculously cheap, even compared to tape. For friends - especially for friends! - you should take Shakespeare as a guide: Brevity is the soul of wit.

 

Please understand, that though FCP X can use native AVCHD, you render in ProRes (project settings). 

 

You don't need to render for preview purposes (general settings, you can disable background rendering), but you can export your timeline as ProRes master just with cmd+e. Now even if you have hours and hours of recorded footage, you hardly edit a video that's longer than 20 minutes (unless you want to lose your friends), and that will result in a file size of round about 20 GB in full HD.

 

1. Rendering in ProRes is waaay faster than rendering directly to H.264.

2. Encoding a full quality ProRes video with freeware such as x264 to mpeg4 is about five times faster.

3. The resulting files - if file size counts - are then visually identical with waaay lower bit rates, resulting in smaller files (about 20% smaller).

4. If you decide to keep the ProRes master on an external drive, the costs for storage are just cents, really nothing in comparison to the effort you invested in making the video.

 

If you wish to 'smart-render' your video, then FCP X is not the right app for you. 

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