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Old January 5th, 2014, 11:05 AM   #1
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Best codec to convert to for FCP x (native codec)

Hello guys, I recently picked up a Sony FS700 slow motion cinema camera, the format it records to is avchd, I was wondering what the best codec I should convert to retain best image quality and dynamic range for editing in fcp x? What is the native codec for FCP x as well?
I am thinking of converting all of my avchd clips to pro res 422 for editing in FCP x. Is that the best format to convert to?
Andre Pimentel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 5th, 2014, 12:23 PM   #2
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Re: Best codec to convert to for FCP x (native codec)

Hi Andre,

ProRes is FCP-X's "native" codec. So it's an extremely safe bet. That will let you successfully edit your footage, but, I suspect NOT retain the dynamic range data.

AVCHD is a long GOP compression format. The fact that the camera is capturing dynamic range data for the primary frame doesn't necessarily mean you can use that data for editing across the i-frames unless you have an extremely powerful computer that can decompress/calculate/create a full frame video stream on the fly.

I don't know anyone who uses AVCHD with a system such as DiVinci Resolve that allows access to the dynamic range and color information that uncompressed footage promises.

The FS-700 was and is a fine camera for specific functions. Great retiming and speed effects in camera. But it's also a 4 year old design now. Once upon a time, that was teenage in "camera years." Sadly, today, it's very, very late middle age.

I imagine that to get the benefits of the original dynamic range information, you'd need a massively powerful computer (something like the new MacPro) that can churn though the AVCHD material and transcode it to an uncompressed stream - to allow you to attempt to use the captured dynamic range for something useful.

This is what I *think* - since I don't use nor edit with that format. Perhaps others here can chime in if they're actually doing what you're thinking about.

Good Luck.
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Old January 5th, 2014, 02:45 PM   #3
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Re: Best codec to convert to for FCP x (native codec)

In my opinion, the best way to do this is to use a the 5DtoRGB software, instead of transcoding the files to ProRes inside FCPX: 5DtoRGB by Rarevision

The best scenario here is to shoot to an external recorder for the jobs where you need the absolute highest quality. There's no way to "magically" up-convert AVCHD footage to a higher quality codec, but in a way, 5DtoRGB does just that by interpolating the chroma information. It's psedo-4:2:2, and you don't need a massively powerful computer to do it, just a little extra time.

What converting to ProRes WILL help you with is general speed when working in your NLE. ProRes is much easier for your computer to play back, so it makes cuts speedier and playback smoother.

There's a lot of content out there discussing "superwhites" in AVCHD cameras. I'd encourage you to do a google search on the topic. Basically, your FS700 shoots content above 100% brightness. When you convert this to ProRes (using certain applications), sometimes those highlights above 100% get clipped and thrown away, so there's no way to bring them back in color correction. That's why it's important to make sure your conversion to ProRes is done correctly, i.e. 5DtoRGB.

I shoot and edit native AVCHD all the time and it looks great. Many projects aren't worth the time, effort or space it takes to convert. But for the bigger projects that I know I'll be color grading, I'll shoot on a external recorder, or convert to ProRes via 5DtoRGB after the fact.

The FS700 is a very capable camera that will give excellent results. Just be careful when handling the AVCHD extended range on import and you'll be all set to go.

** One more thing, where 5DtoRGB won't help you as much is with fast motion. If you're shooting handheld of someone running through the woods, or action sports, for example, use an external ProRes recorder like a Hyperdeck or Samauri. The much higher bitrate will help keep things from turning to mush on capture.
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