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Old December 2nd, 2006, 08:12 AM   #1
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Best FCP HDV workflow with and without progressive transcode

Ive been searching around the boards for a day or so on this becuase i didnt want to ask a question that so many people would have asked. But in my searching i did not find anything with more than a few posts, which most likely were in response to a question that was answered in another thread around that time.

Im wondering if we can have a post, and a sticky might be good. To have an updated "best hdv workflow as of Dec 06"

With and without going to 24/25p. Rather than just posting this plea, i will give us some questions to be answered in the multiple choice format to make it easy.

1) Capture as ?
b)Apple intermediate

2) Convert captured footage to some other format?


3) edit in HDV / AIC

4) Color Correct in HDV or AIC or some other format?

5) Export to codec and convert to 24p in After effects. oR convert to 24p on timeline in FCP with some 3rd party plugin.

6)Export to DVD from
a)export to movie
b)export to compressor.

7) backup to hdv tape or DVD-r? archive for hd-dvd

Oh by the way im doing a project on hdv in a few weeks, so this has sparked my interest. Last time i did an HDV project in 2005 it seemed that maybe now its just easier todo an hence no more posts on this subject.

If this is answered in another thread then please show me that too,
After the project im gonna post my workflow and let you guys know how it was

Thanks ahead of time.
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Old December 2nd, 2006, 05:34 PM   #2
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I agree very much with the idea of a thread for "best HDV 720p workflow as of Dec 06"

Here is what is currently working well for me:

1/ Capture as HDV 720p (natively). This is by far the best method.

FCP 5.1.2 does have a lot of problems capturing HDV 720p from the the JVC GY-HD100/110 series of cameras, but factually, if you set the TC GENE switch to REC when recording 720p25 footage, you will be able to quickly and smoothly fully capture your clips (it only works for me with Capture Now but Rob Castiglione, who first posted this method, has also had success with Capture Clip). Right now, this method is working great for me in terms of capturing.

2/ &3/ Stay in native HDV 720p for editing (using Easy Setup for either 24, 25 or 30p) - for reasons I'll explain in #4 below.

4/ Stay in your native HDV sequence for colour correction, etc. The reason for this is because FCP is supposed to do all of this work in 4:4:4 (rather than 4:2:0). This was explained in an article (interview) with one of the key Apple people. I can't find the link right now but I know that Nate Weaver mentioned this in another thread and someone else might be kind enough to provide the link.

The key thing is that FCP won't apply any new compression UNTIL you export. So editing in a native HDV sequence will give you the theoretical best quality.

5/ As soon as you export (to another application for further tweaking) you must not stay in HDV (otherwise it will put everything through another bout of MPEG-2 compression). Uncompressed would obviously be best for export, but if you don't have the disc space then AIC (Apple Intermediate Codec) is an excellent choice.

In terms of converting frame rate, I had a 24p project and exported it as an AIC Quicktime, imported it into Cinema Tools, changed the frame rate to 25 then imported that into DVD Studio Pro. The only problem with using Cinema Tools was that I lost my chapter markers (installed with Final Cut Pro into the 24p Quicktime) and had to put them all in again using DVD Studio Pro.

6/ For making a DVD, this is your theoretical best quality - capture and edit in native HDV, then export using Compressor, which will turn the sequence directly into DVD assets (i.e. into .m2v and .ac3 files) for directly importing into DVD Studio Pro. Remember that Compressor will be dealing with the sequence directly from the timeline (with everything in 4:4:4). This also answers the question, "What is the best way to downconvert to SD?" Work the whole thing in 720p 4:4:4 and then Compressor will directly downconvert to SD when it makes the .m2v file. And you can keep a lot of the quality by raising the bit rates in Compressor as high as the DVD specs will allow (Compressor also gives you other options that affect quality, such as GOP structure, etc.)

I've seen someone else post that they like to export as an Uncompressed Quicktime. I'm sure it gives great results, but it introduces extra steps and (depending on the size of the project) uses up a lot of extra hard drive space.

I delivered a just-completed DVD last week to a corporate client using the above Compressor workflow (it's also my first completed workflow which has included native capturing of HDV 720p25 footage) and he was over the moon about the quality. (It's an SD DVD but he played it on his HD plasma at home, so it must have stood up well, even though only standard def.)

7/ "Backup to HDV tape or DVD-R? Archive for HD-DVD"
Archiving HDV-originated footage at the highest quality is something I've been pondering for months.

Don't archive onto tape as HDV - unless you want to degrade the quality of your project by running it through an extra step of MPEG-2 compression.

I'm leaning towards the following as the best two-step method of archiving.

a) Archive your .m2v and .ac3 files (you may want to use these assets on a different DVD at some future point - you never know). Additionally, after you complete the DVD in DVD Studio Pro, save it as a "disc image" on an external hard drive (and, of course, copy it onto a DVD-R).

b) Archive your sequence as a Quicktime movie. I've been asked more than once to resurrect an old project to add a bit of new footage. Unfortunately you can't archive it natively (without degradation) so it could be archived as Uncompressed or with AIC. I think I'll go with AIC because it takes up less hard drive space and is therefore also easier to burn onto DVD-R (by using in and out points to export portions of the sequence which will amount to 4.38 GB or less).

I try to archive to both DVD-R and external hard drive where feasible.

In terms of HD DVD archiving, I'm currently trying to make an HD DVD from the just-completed project I mentioned above. I'd rather do it from the native HDV sequence while I still have it than later from the archived AIC Quicktime (which will be slightly lesser quality). When I successfully finish that (currently stalled because DVD SP won't recognize my encoded h.264 HD assets exported by Compressor) I'll burn it to an existing 4.7 (really 4.38)GB DVD-R, as the project is only about 21 minutes long. I'll make a disc image of the HD DVD and save it to external hard drive.

Last edited by David Knaggs; December 2nd, 2006 at 07:39 PM.
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Old December 2nd, 2006, 10:58 PM   #3
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Thankyou David,

I have not worked with any progressive cameras yet but when i do this workflow is what ill refer to. I guess this sort of workflow would be the same for 1080i in place of 720p.

Is version 5.0.1 of FCP 4:4:4 as far as HDV goes. Also have you had any color shift problems when you go uncompressed.

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Old December 3rd, 2006, 02:52 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Brendan Sundry

Is version 5.0.1 of FCP 4:4:4 as far as HDV goes.
It should be. I finally found the link with the original quote and it is dated October 2005 (well before Version 5.1 came out).

The link is:

and the quote by Paul Saccone, Apple’s product manager for Final Cut Studio, is about half-way down the page.

As far as 1080i workflow goes, I'm not personally familiar with it but I have read in other posts that it doesn't go so well with Apple Intermediate Codec (apparently AIC works best with progressive footage).

As far as colour shift problems with uncompressed, I've worked mainly with AIC and native HDV but the little bit of transcoding to uncompressed that I have done seemed fine (but this was progressive footage only).

Something else to consider: FCP 5.0.1 isn't really supported anymore. It's Final Cut Studio 5.1 that gets updated (FCP is currently up to 5.1.2 and any previous versions do NOT support native 720p24 or 720p25 capture and editing). You can upgrade your Final Cut Studio with the universal crossgrade for only A$75. If you only have Final Cut Pro, then you can get the crossgrade to Final Cut Studio for A$149 (and you get Soundtrack Pro, Motion and DVD Studio Pro all thrown in as part of the price).

Here is the link:

I only mention this because the offer is only open till 29 December 2006 and you have to have your order postmarked by 20 December 2006. So if you were thinking about getting the upgrade, you've only got about 16 days to do something about it.
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Old December 3rd, 2006, 11:39 PM   #5
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I am aware of that, but the boss is the boss!

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Old December 4th, 2006, 01:47 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Brendan Sundry
I am aware of that, but the boss is the boss!
Yeah, I totally understand!
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Old December 11th, 2006, 02:50 AM   #7
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would uncompresssed be 1440x1080 or 1920 and would it be upper field first?

Im think i will
1)edit hdv
2)minor color work
3)export uncompressed to after effects
4) convert to 25p/color correct
5)Export uncompressed
6)import in compressor.

Are ther any good deinterlacers in final cut pro that work as good as magic bullet?
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Old January 26th, 2007, 03:09 PM   #8
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720P to DVD

David, i'm interested to know what settings you're using in Compressor? I bring my 720P30HDV file into Compressor, start with the 90 min. best quality 16:9 preset and basically adjust the bitrate to avg. 7 peak 8. I'm still not getting great quality (text looks blocky, letterbox lines twitter, etc.)

My guess is that the main hurdle is the interlacing. All my DV60i projects in the past had graphics that held up quite well in the transcode but my HD text looks horrible. Any tips you could share would be very helpful.
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Old January 27th, 2007, 12:53 PM   #9
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Hi Michael.

For anything under an hour, I set the max. bitrate to 8.9 and the average bitrate to 7.6. I think the max bitrate the DVD spec will allow is about 10, so this way you are still leaving 1.1 Mbps for the menu structure and so forth. Unless your menu structure is very extensive, or you are using AIFF (very large sound files) instead of Dolby .ac3 files (where you might then have to lower the max. bitrate), this should work well.

Two other things that might help raise quality are:
(a) the use of compression markers in FCP. You normally put them in areas of high motion and this will assign more bitrate to those areas for better quality. I don't know if this would make a difference to the areas of your text graphics or not, but might be worth a try if all else fails.
(b) Changing your GOP structure (in the Inspector pane of Compressor). With "DVD Best Quality 90 minutes 16:9" settings you will get an IBBP structure. The more I frames you have, the better the quality (but the trade-off is larger file sizes - however if your movies are only 10-20 minutes long there shouldn't be a problem). So selecting IP as the GOP structure and also shortening your GOP size down to 6 should maximize your I frames and therefore your quality.

(As an aside, I learnt about DVD Studio Pro from a training DVD I purchased from Ripple Training. I consider these guys the real experts on this and encoding. I'll also be getting their DVD on "The Art of Encoding using Compressor" in the near future, not just for DVD Studio Pro but
to become more expert on web delivery. On some sites and forums I have seen people grumble about Compressor and its quality. But I wonder if these same people have ever taken the time and effort to properly train themselves on Compressor with adequate training materials. Those are just my thoughts. And, as a disclaimer, I have no connection with Ripple Training other than being a very satisfied customer!)

If none of the above helps, then there are 3 points that immediately come to my mind to check in terms of problems with your text and letterbox lines.

1/ The DVD player/TV screen you are using to view the DVD.
2/ The program you are using to generate your text.
3/ Your full compression workflow.

1/ Try playing your DVD back on a regular (different) DVD player connected to just a regular NTSC TV. (You never know.)

2/ Are you using the text generators in FCP itself? Or making your text in Live Type? Or using Motion? If you've been using FCP, that in itself might be the problem. As an experiment, you could create text using all 3 applications, put them in the same sequence and export through Compressor into DVD SP. Then see which application gives you the best results in terms of your final DVD.

As an extra thought, if the unacceptable text is only contained in your menus, and the menu text was created in DVD SP, then that would isolate the problem. The text made by DVD SP is not very good, in my opinion, and creating the menu text (and menu images) in Motion should give far superior results.

3/ Regarding your workflow, it's always good to check over the basics.
When you say, "I bring my 720P30HDV file into Compressor," does that mean you are exporting a Quicktime movie (in HDV 720p30) and then bringing that movie file into Compressor? If you did, then this might be causing the extra blocking artifacts in your text (by introducing an extra step of MPEG-2 compression in making the Quicktime and then a second MPEG-2 compression when you make the .m2v file in Compressor). Always export directly to Compressor from your timeline itself (while still in FCP).
Another point on workflow are your export settings on Compressor. Are you selecting "DVD Best Quality 90 minutes 16:9" or "DVD Best Quality 90 minutes 4:3"? You should only be selecting "16:9". So long as your DVD SP settings are for "SD DVD", then DVD SP will take the 16:9 .m2v file and add the letterboxing "flags" itself (i.e. it will add letterboxing when viewing on a 4:3 TV and omit them when viewing on a 16:9 widescreen TV).
And, checking earlier on your workflow, just select your Easy Setup for your HDV 720p30 settings. Do NOT (repeat NOT) go into your Sequence Settings and check "Anamorphic". It should be ALWAYS left unchecked. This is because HDV is a native 16:9 format. ("Anamorphic" can be used when putting 16:9 footage into a sequence in native 4:3 format (i.e. Standard Def codecs such as DV or DV50).
Also, concerning your FCP workflow, if you are dragging your completed HDV sequence into a DV sequence "to add letterboxing" before exporting from FCP then this, I would say, would 100% be the cause of your letterbox "twitching" as you are making the letterbox an actual part of your movie and it will then be subjected to interlacing artifacts.

That's all the tips I can think of right now. Good luck.
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