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Old March 26th, 2010, 12:59 PM   #1
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Final Cut Express and non-DV export with markers

I usually edit and deliver projects as a Final Cut project file, occasionally as an mov file ... but never as a DVD or Blu-ray. If the client requires a DVD or Blu-ray, I hand my deliverable over to an authoring specialist, and they look after the niceties of menus and the like. Not my department ...

But what is my department is marking the chapter locations, either for the mov export or the Final Cut project file: The DVD/Blu-ray author will use my chapter markers as delivered. Consequently, managing markers in FC and QT is something I have to know how to do.

Recently, I was asked to deliver an mov file from a very long timeline, and include twelve chapter markers in the file. This is easy enough ... until you try to export something other than a file from the editor I was using, Final Cut Express. As soon as you select the 'Quicktime conversion' option in FCE, you lose the ability to include the markers you have carefully placed on your timeline ... and those that have worked to install chapter markers in a stand-alone QT file know what a PITA that process can be. The client was not interested in receiving a 40GB DV preview file (three plus hour timeline), so I had to find a method for including chapter markers in a compressed h.264 mov file.

So I learned a way to streamline the process, and my initial search of the web didn't turn up a step-by-step quite like this one, so allow me to walk you through my method. Don't hesitate to add or query if you are so inclined, and my apologies if this is all old-hat -- this was the first time for me.

1) From the FCE project, select File>Export>Quicktime movie
2) Select the 'include markers' and choose 'all' ... I'm not sure what the other options do, but it seems that only 'all' will deliver chapter markers to a QT file
3) Be sure to select 'Make movie self-contained' -- I don't think the process I describe works with a reference movie
4) Open the resulting mov file
5) QT>Window>Show Movie Properties
6) Unselect 'Video track' & 'Audio track', but leave 'timecode track' selected and select 'text track', it is likely already unselected but it needs to be selected in order for the correct export option to be available
7) Highlight the 'Timecode track', choose 'other settings' and under 'chapters' select 'text track' ... not sure why it defaults to 'none' but the setting you need is 'text track'
8) QT>File>Export select the 'text to text' option in the Export drop-down list
9) Click 'options' after selecting 'text to text', select 'show text, descriptors and time' and 'movie', enter the appropriate frame rate in the 'show fractions ...' box -- I use 30 for a 29.97 file and have had no problems
10) Save. You'll note that you are now saving a txt file, not an mov one -- Quicktime makes this choice for you.

You have now got a text file with your chapter markers listed and the timecodes from your original timeline referenced -- from here, the process to add this to a QT file that has been compressed without markers retained is straight forward. I'll step you through it if you've never done it, but the real gains in my process were achieved above -- you've built the marker list with timecode without doing any manual entry or worrying about coding. Having said that, I've had a minor problem with my text files ...

For some reason, the text files generated this way on my system have the following bit of code -- {textEncoding:256} -- added to the last line of the header list and before each of the marker names. Because of that, my text displays in some foreign language script. I don't know why this happens, I don't know what language this is ... but I do know if you delete each instance of the instruction & save the file, you end up with one that displays properly in English. While the text file is open, find the {width:720} instruction and change 720 to match the pixel width of your destination file. By this I mean that your DV source for this marker list assumes that the final file width will be 720, and sets the player accordingly. If you intend to mate this with a file 480 pixels wide, the player will always display 720 pixels wide and your image will only fill a window within that width. Match the width here to the true image width and all will be good to go.

Now save the text file.

The whole reason we went down this path was to add chapter stops/markers to a QT file that was produced from the 'Quicktime Conversion' option of FCE, or from an external encoder -- somewhere you are making an mov file that is not a DV file, and you want to mate that with markers from the timeline. If you've followed the steps above, you have now got a .txt file with your chapters (and relevant timecode instruction) and an mov file without chapters, both of exactly the same duration. To marry them, do the following:

1) Open the txt file using Quicktime (Ctl + click the file, choose 'open with' select 'Quicktime' ) -- Quicktime opens a player with no image or audio
2) QT>Window>Show Movie Properties, highlight the Text Track, under 'Other Settings' find the 'Chapters' drop-down, select 'Text Track'. Uncheck the 'text track' option in the display list.
3) You should now have a Quicktime player showing a file with a txt extension, no image, no sound but probably you do have a chapters drop down list at the bottom right corner of the player ... sometimes the chapters list appears at this point, sometimes it doesn't, but this doesn't seem to matter -- the important display is yet to come
-- From the Txt file
4) QT>Edit>Select All
5) QT>Edit>Copy

6) Open the file (now called 'destination file) you have created that is 'missing' the chapter markers, for example an h.264 file from your timeline that you now want to add the markers to

-- From the destination file
7) QT>Edit>Select All
8) QT>Edit>Add to Movie
9) Save

You now have an mov file with a chapter marker track that matches your original timeline output but is not a DV file. If you don't see the drop-down list of markers, go to QT>Window>Show Movie Properties and highlight 'Video Track' , confirm that the 'Chapters' drop-down is set to 'Text Track'. Don't check the 'Text Track' selection in the list above, or you will add a display of the chapter marks to your video image closed-captioning-like -- you want QT to use the Text Track as the Chapters list, not to display the Text Track as a movie, if you see what I mean.

If you've done something wrong in the 'add to movie' phase, you might have just doubled the duration of your movie by putting a movie without chapter marks end to end with a chapter marked movie devoid of video ... check this. If you didn't match the 'width' instruction in your txt file to your destination movie, you might have a player of odd dimensions. If you left the 'text track' checked at the wrong time you may have a banner permanently across your player that will show your chapter marks like closed captioned text ...

It is possible you don't have to be quite as aggressive as I am in checking your Movie Properties at every step as I have been, but I like to see it all unfold as I go, and my way works. If you find there are steps that can be abandoned, by all means let me know.

** I hope the above benefits some users. Maybe my usage is unique or at least unusual, but I work as a director & use FCE as an editor. I usually deliver the FCE project file to a finish editor -- they add in effects and filters that polish up the production before delivery. Consequently, I don't bother with FCS and all it may have to offer -- as long as I can work with frame accurate timecode and deliver a project file that references camera originals (or more often the case today, DV copies of HD files with matching timecode, so I can perform the edit with proxy files that work with FCE on my laptop, the finish editor can then substitute the original HD files for the final edit) -- but I do often deliver mov preview files of the completed but unfinished project where chapter markers are invaluable to the reviewer ... and so the process outlined above gets the job done for me. And for those concerned about working with timecode in FCE, the simple and effective answer is to use Piero Fiorani's wonderful filter -- just drag the filter onto your clip in the Viewer, use the timecode display feature to find the precise in & out your paper edit calls for, then uncheck the filter before dragging the clip to the Canvas. The timecode revealed by the filter is frame-accurate and exactly what FCS will see when the FCE project is loaded in FCS for finishing if so required. I use Live Capture Plus to transfer the tapes with timecode, but I think there are other options, maybe even the capture process of FCE itself -- I like LCP and so that's the way I roll.
Timecode Display

R Geoff Baker is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 4th, 2010, 12:36 PM   #2
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Holland
Posts: 1
Final Cut Express export H 264 Quicktime

Thank you for the great tutorial for adding Chaptermarkers in a converted (f.i. H 264) movie.

I have a fiew additional tips:

*This method also works with Non Self Contained FCE movies, opened with QT.

*The first Step number 8 can also be done by selecting the Timecode Track + Text track. Than choose 'Extract' (located left above, next to delete). A new file is created 'Untitled'. Choose 'Select All' (opt. + A).

*Now open de destination file and choose 'Edit' 'Add to Movie'. Selecting All does not work for me. This adds a timetrack somewhere in the video without placing it 'underneith' the video (hope I explain this clear). So basically I skip step 7.

Thanks again mr Baker, this information was very hard to find on the net (for me.....).
Huibert van Egmond is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 4th, 2010, 07:58 PM   #3
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Location: Ottawa, ON
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Happy it was of help, and thanks for the refinements. Doubtless I'll have to look this thread up next time I'm called upon to generate chapter markers ... the web has replaced my memory!
R Geoff Baker is offline   Reply

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