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Old January 26th, 2009, 12:01 AM   #1
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Help with getting the best video out of FCE 4?

Hi All - I've been reading a lot here and respect the opinions of everyone on this forum. I have one question which, through all my research on consumer HD cameras and NLEs (maybe not enough research) eludes me.

I'm about to purchase either a Canon HV30 or HG20 and I want to know, using a Mac Book Pro and Final Cut Express 4, how can I ensure I import/edit/export the BEST quality video?

First and foremost the video will be watched using an HTPC(Mac Mini) on an HDTV and secondly I'll be exporting to the web and DVD. I'm primarily concerned with the video being watched on the HDTV/Mac Mini.

I guess my one question is actually a few questions:

1. Will I lose any quality importing HDV/ACVHD (imported with the Apple Intermediate Codec), editing in FCE and exporting to a Quicktime Movie? The Geniuses at the Apple Store say no, but I'm not so sure they are Geniuses.
2. What can I do to ensure the best quality from import to export?
3. Is there a better codec I can use (I'm willing to buy it) that will work with FCE?
4. Is there hardware I should be considering?
5. If there is to much loss using FCE is there a better NLE (up to $500) that I should be working with (either PC or MAC)? I'm willing to use a PC if I have to.

On a side note, I'd like to get 5.1 sound from my videos, are there any recommendations on what program I can use for this (preferably on a Mac, but will use a PC if I have to)? It's not as important to me as the previous fives questions, but it is something I would like to be able to do at some point soon (I believe Sony Vegas can do this).

I'm currently work with the following:
Mac Book Pro
2.16Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo
2GB Memory
128MB ATI Radeon x1600
120GB Internal SATA Drive
160GB External Drive (USB 2.0)

So far this platform has worked fine editing the video from my Sony HDR-SR10 (being replaced by one of the Canons), but I'm not 100% sure I'm doing everything I can for optimal video.

Please let me know if there is any further information I can provide to help you better answer my questions.

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Last edited by Trent Scott; January 26th, 2009 at 12:17 AM. Reason: Home movies, friends special events, short movies
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Old January 29th, 2009, 01:59 PM   #2
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FCP express Pro. Problems with QTM, WMV, MP4 (or any good streaming). Need advice.

Good afternoon to everybody. I need an expert advice for the encoding because I have problems with the final product. I did several videos of 7 minutes each in quicktime (No more than 1 GB each), WMV (around 200 Megabytes each), and streaming for web site purposes. I did the job in the Mac in Quicktime and looks good but the customer has a Pc and said that is not good and chopped, second the WMV looks good in my Mac (My Mac is new) but he said that in Pc is grainy, and for the streaming I choose MP4, (40 megabytes each) but when I see the video, it looks like the edges are waving and pixelated. I don't know if I choose the wrong settings in the FCP from the beginning, his computer is old or what. If someone can give me the right settings to use from Download to export, to be good for both platforms, It will be deeply appreciated. Also I wonder if you can import a video already done with wrong settings and export with the right settings in the QTM, WMV and streaming (Which one is the best for video web sites?)., because the job is done and if I can avoid to do it again, will help me a lot.
Best Regards.
J.Laffont.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 03:03 PM   #3
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Trent, you already have the tools to create the best quality video, technically speaking. Final Cut Express is almost identical to Final Cut Pro in how it handles the (limited) formats it can work with, including HDV.

1. Apple Geniuses are not always completely hip to the Pro Apps stuff, but in this case they are absolutely correct. The Apple Intermediate Codec was designed as an alternative to HDV-native editing. HDV bitrates can be as low as they are because of inter-frame MPEG-2 compression. This is fine for recording, but tends to reduce performance when editing. Be aware, however, that your filesizes will be much larger. An hour of MPEG-2 HDV 1080i might take up 12GB, but can balloon to 49GB with AIC.

2. Just edit in an AIC Sequence. As far as Mac Mini playback goes, you could just export your finished Sequence as an AIC Quicktime Movie, with no additional conversion at all. Now, the question of whether a Mini will play back that movie reliably is another question. If not, I might suggest a high-bitrate H.264 movie. You'll have to play around with the settings to find the highest bitrate that a Mini will play back reliably. Compression is always a tradeoff between quality and bitrate - always.

3. FCE is limited to it's own little sandbox. You can't buy another QT codec, and then use it for editing. Export, sure - but not for editing.

4. No AJA or Blackmagic cards for FCE, I'm afraid.

5. The only logical step up would be to Final Cut Studio. If you're a student, and just tell the Education Apple Store which college you attend, you can get the Final Cut Studio student pricing of $699.

Now, academic products are not eligible for upgrades, but, you also get Soundtrack Pro which would address your surround sound wish quite nicely. (not to mention Motion, Color, Cinema Tools and DVD Studio Pro) You said you'd be willing to spend up to $500 on a better NLE, plus buy software for Surround sound. There's hardly a better value today than Final Cut Studio.

There are those who would also argue that using FCP with the newer ProRes codecs would provide a slightly higher final image quality than AIC. Will you be able to tell the difference? I would bet not. Could you get comparable quality at even lower bitrates than AIC? Almost certainly.

Besides, if you're already used to Express, it will take no time at all to start working in Final Cut Pro - the interface is practically identical.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 03:26 PM   #4
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FCP express Pro. Problems with QTM, WMV, MP4 (or any good streaming). Need advice.

Thanks Scott, but buy anything else today it's out of any question for me. That's the situation. I have the new Imac 24 inc 2GB of ram with 320 GB with FCP pro EXpress HD with the converters to QTM to WMV. The customer gave me mini DV cassettes to make video clips in QTM, WMV and streaming video (wich one is good). I did all he ask and I saw it in my Mac. Everything was fine with the exception of the MP4 that was waving in the edges and pixelated. I explain that to the customer and he said that he wants to the see the whole stuff. Everything ends that he has a Laptop pc and I saw what I did in his Laptop was not good. QTM stops in the middle of the movie. Only audio no video, grainy and the Mp4 is a disaster. I wonder if you can give me the right setting from the beggining of the download, the settings of the time line and the settings for the conversions from the time line to QTM, WMV and the one that you suggest is good for streaming. Also I wonder if this is related if i did wrong encoding before dowloading, (It's possible that?)At that's the result of a bad reading in the PC. If I don't get the QTM, the WMV and the streaming with what i have, I'm in trouble.
Best Regards.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 03:42 PM   #5
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Julio, I was answering Trent's original post. You should really have posted your separate issue in another thread.

Chris, could you break out Julio's post into it's own thread? otherwise, we end up with confusing double-answers to 2 different questions.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 08:00 PM   #6
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Great Answer, One more question

Thanks Scott - Very thorough, detailed answer.

I have one more question. 30p and 24p seems to play fine with a little ghosting if there is to much panning, but 60i is extremely interlaced (I know I know, "i" for interlaced).

But should I expect that the interlaced video will look better on an HGTV than on my Mac Book Pro connected to an Apple 20" Display? Or is it not so much the display that is the problem rather the fact that I'm playing back on a Mac Mini which has a DVI->HDMI connection to the HGTV?

(sorry for the many questions)

I guess what I'm asking is am I seeing the extreme interlacing because of the computer playing the video (which is not technically up to HD specs) or does all interlaced video just look bad unless you are using professional production equipment (not something like an HG20)?
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Old January 31st, 2009, 09:29 AM   #7
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Well, computer displays are inherently progressive, not interlaced. This holds true even when you connect your Mini to an HDTV. The Mini is still putting out a progressive signal.

In order to display interlaced images, any computer is going to have to somehow interpolate the interlaced image to progressive. Sometimes they do that by simply dropping one field (thereby cutting the resolution in half). Sometimes they do an on-the-fly interpolation, which often results in the "combing" effect, where any movement looks awful.

So, yes - 60i material will look better natively playing on an HDTV rather than an HDTV acting as a computer monitor. If your final delivery is a progressive display, it's better to deinterlace the footage in software either before or during the export, as a non-realtime process. That way, the software can take the time to interpolate the interlaced images properly through motion estimation, or some such process. There are many deinterlacing filters, some work better than others, and some take a lot more time than others.

I'm not specifically familiar with FCE, but the best advice is to always run some tests on the actual equipment you want to use. Your results may vary.
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 12:10 AM   #8
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Thanks

Thanks Scott, I think all my questions are answered! : )
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