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Old June 9th, 2012, 03:13 PM   #1
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Latest AVCHD Transcoding solutions - how are you doing it?

Hi All.

I'm interested to know how other pro users amongst us are tackling their AVCHD workflow and if anyone is successfully using any kind of hardware acceleration. At the moment, we still transcode to ProRes for several reasons - it's easier on our quad core i7 processors, it "front loads" the transcoding burden to the start of a project, rather than leaving it to the end of a project (a la Premiere Pro) and it gives us a resilient archive "mezzanine" format which will cut with anything else from our recent archive. We're cutting with Final Cut Studio 2/3. So far, our workflows have been based on the 2 following software transcoders:

1) Apple Compressor - desperately slow to load the AVCHD files. On a recent 2 camera event job, it was taking a couple of hours to load the 4GB AVCHDs and was crashing if we loaded up too many files.

2) 5DtoRGB Batch - another nightmare. "Known" bugs include the first file in the batch hanging 2 frames before completion. It didn't say that on the App Store. I got my money refunded.

Anyone got any suggestions for another proven workflow that will happily take a batch of large-ish AVCHD files and reliably transcode them overnight to ProRes 422?

Google searches suggest nothing has really progressed further than 2009 and that it's a bit of an "elephant in the room."

Thanks in advance,

Ben.
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Old June 10th, 2012, 11:43 AM   #2
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Re: Latest AVCHD Transcoding solutions - how are you doing it?

I convert AVCHD footage from my GH2 cameras to ProRes using two methods. (Not sure if the file format layout is the same for the AF100, haven't used one yet.)

Method 1:

Use ClipWrap ( ClipWrap: Easy AVCHD and HDV conversion for the Mac ) to convert the camera's original AVCHD .MTS files to .MOV H264 files.

ClipWrap re-wraps the files to achieve this, there is no transcoding or compression being done, so no quality loss. ClipWrap also has the ability to work in batches (drag & drop multiple files) and select an output directory. But the best feature is the ability to link multiple AVCHD clips together so that they are output as as single file. So if you record very long scenes (hours-long meetings/presentations, for example), you don't have to sync up all the individual clip files on your timeline.

After ClipWrap has produced the .MOV files, you can then use Compressor to convert them to ProRes or other formats. If you're using a true progressive mode (the GH2's 24P mode, for example), this doesn't take too terribly long, especially if you use QMaster with Compressor. But if you need to extract a progressive frame which was recorded in the original file as two interlaced fields (the GH2 records its high-quality 30P mode into a pseudo-"interlaced" stream), you need to use the Frame Controls in Compressor and it really bogs down.

Occasionally compressor has thrown random errors when compressing very long files but reattempts (sometimes after shutting down QMaster and compressing the problem files individually) have been successful.

Method 2:

For cinematic work with short clips where I want more direct control over gamma settings and curves, I use 5dtoRGB, but it has problems like you mentioned.

I edit in Final Cut Pro 7, I have not yet tried to come up with a workflow for Pemiere or FCP-X.
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Old June 10th, 2012, 11:56 AM   #3
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Re: Latest AVCHD Transcoding solutions - how are you doing it?

PS... ClipWrap also has the built-in ability to transcode to ProRes and a few other formats. I found it too slow a few years ago, but ClipWrap has gone through a few update cycles. Because I have an 8-Core machine, it is generally advantageous to use QMaster via Compressor to take advantage of them all. But if you want a single-program "set it and forget it" solution where you can walk away from the computer, it might be worth a try.
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Old June 10th, 2012, 05:55 PM   #4
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Re: Latest AVCHD Transcoding solutions - how are you doing it?

I'm actually using FCP X to transcode both my AF-102 and GoPro footage to ProRes. So far it's been working just fine - select optimize media when importing.

Editing on FCP 7 and a bit on FCP X (starting to like X for quick & easy jobs)
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Old June 11th, 2012, 04:31 PM   #5
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Re: Latest AVCHD Transcoding solutions - how are you doing it?

Thanks for the suggestions, chaps.

I gave Clipwrap a spin today and, based very unscientifically on just transcoding one minute's worth in the demo version, it seemed much quicker and certainly didn't have the huge start-up delay we have been experiencing with Compressor.

We've got FCP X as well, so will have to be dragged kicking and screaming towards using it more often, I guess.

Thanks again,

Ben.
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Old June 11th, 2012, 05:36 PM   #6
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Re: Latest AVCHD Transcoding solutions - how are you doing it?

If your using FCP7 you can just set up a log and transfer queue and walk away from it? Just a suggestion, not sure what NLE you are using...
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Old August 6th, 2012, 05:28 PM   #7
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Re: Latest AVCHD Transcoding solutions - how are you doing it?

I avoid the problem by recording SDI to a recorder which does the conversion to ProRes on the fly. The result is a Quicktime file which is on a hard disk and ready to edit. All that needs to be done is copy it to whatever disk you want to keep it on.

PS: I'm not a pro so you can discount this method entirely if you like.
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Old August 13th, 2012, 09:25 AM   #8
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Re: Latest AVCHD Transcoding solutions - how are you doing it?

I actually don't convert to ProRes in FCPX, I just edit away after importing. It works great on a fast iMac with lots of RAM and a fast TB RAID. I see no advantage in converting to ProRes it just takes up more space, now ona slower mac I would probably use optimized and on a my old 2009 MBP I use proxy, it runs pretty well that way with only 4GB RAM.

If I get MTS files w/o the proper structure then ClipWrap is a must.
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