FCP 7 and ProRes

FCP 7 introduces a 3 new HD codecs for production work, ProRes 4444, ProRes 422 (LT) and ProRes 422 (Proxy). With these additions, this brings to five versions of HD codecs  available for production work. I did a simple comparison of Flip H.264 transcoding to all 5 versions, knowing full well that I wasn’t starting with the best source material.

The only version where I could see a difference was with ProRes 422 (Proxy). There were artifacts and a loss of detail. LT looked great, with no perceptible differences on up to 4444. Which means given the source, the best I could use is LT. That said, I did have striking differences in gamma between the new codecs looking identical to the source material and the “older” codecs, 422 and 422 (HQ) being much darker and losing details in the shadows.

I’ve tried to understand the gamma shift issue regarding H.264 and QT… this looks to add more confusion to the mix.

For me, going forward,  I’ll transcode the Flip to ProRes 422 (LT) then use it in FCP. I still need to test using ProRes 422 (LT) in iMovie.

Thanks, Norman!

I was thinking this, and was going to write about it but I didn’t have the depth of experience to make the point as clear as Norman does.

In his blog, Hollyn-wood (Norman, that is), Norman makes the point that the price cuts and the focus on ease of use sets this upgrade to Final Cut Pro/Studio as a significant push by Apple towards the low-end side of video editing. He doesn’t mean that Apple took features away or that Final Cut Pro isn’t capable of editing high-end feature films, what Apple did do was to introduce ways of helping the not-so-good be a lot better or sometimes, good-enough. AND, they dropped the price.

The point? A big push by Apple to become the perferred platform for all of the independent, YouTube, Vimeo, film-makers…

Thanks, Norman. My thoughts exactly!

iMovie 09 and Flip Ultra HD

There seem to be a few questions as to the compatibility of the Flip Ultra HD and iMovie 09.  The Flip Ultra HD and iMovie work great together! The latest version of iMovie 8.0.3 added the ability to optimize video. I started with 8.0.3, so I’m unsure on what I couldn’t do before .0.3 was released. A couple of quick points:

1) The Flip Ultra HD comes bundled with FlipShare. It seems to work well enough for trimming and emailing videos but when you have iMovie at your fingertips, FlipShare is a bit lacking. FlipShare requires the 3ivx MPEG decoder. This decoder is included in the FlipShare software. If it isn’t installed, FlipShare will ask to install it.

FlipShare can trim video and “create a movie” by linking videos together, adding a title and credits, and a music clip. No great shakes but its free and is easy to use AND it comes on the camera so you can use it anywhere.

2) iMovie 09 (version 8.0.3) is able to import directly from the Ultra HD. iMovie will convert (“optimize option”) the file into the Apple Intermediate Codec format which allows one to edit in either iMovie or in Final Cut Pro. This does make the file much larger (4-6 times) but it ensures that the file is in a format that is easily used by all of Apple’s video editing tools.

3) Quicktime Pro can also edit the Ultra HD video. In fact, as a video editor while not as easy, it is much more powerful than the FlipShare software. It can convert it into just about whatever format your heart desires as well.

Based on a fair amount of discussion, it seems the best thing to do is to follow iMovie’s example and convert the video into the AIC format. The quality won’t get any better but it won’t degrade. If  one were to edit and export the H.264 compressed video from the Flip, the video could degrade through the different applications that would decode and encode it.

A great source of information is this book: “Ins and Outs of iMovie 09”. If you are doing any editing of the Flip video, it is well worth it.


I did find this very contrarian post as well, that stated AIC was a blight on the universe and run very far and very fast from it. I’m not sure how to take the advice. I did my own tests comparing the H.264 video, AIC and ProRes video and couldn’t see any difference. No gamma shifts, no ghosting, no perceptible differences of any kind. Not sure what I else I can say.

Compressor (and multiple cores) is your friend

This is a big deal.

In addition to what this note says note says, you can use other computers to render your files. It has taken me a little while to figure this out. This tutorial describes just using one computer but you can do the same for multiple computers. I did try this on a Dual 1GHz G4 and it slowed things down, so make sure that the additional computers have sufficient power.

Read the tutorial to learn a bit more, here’s my overview:

1) Install Compressor and QMaster on your non-FCP computer and use the Quick Cluster option. It will make things much easier. On the FCS 2 install disk there is a installer just for this action.

2) When you want to compress, click Submit and select your FCP computer to serve as the cluster controller.

3) Sit back and watch your files get rendered in 1/4th the time.

I use a MacBook Pro because I need the portability. I used to use a MacPro Quad 3.0… now I use both when I need to render video. What a lifesaver.

As for Digital Rebellion? Great site for video! Thanks, Jon!

FCP’s DV Compatibility issues

While creating the previous post on iMovie 09, I ran across a very interesting post by David Pogue, related to his desire to combine Flip footage with footage from a high end Canon HD camera.

He was attempting to combine two vastly different video file types; Flip’s H.264 and Canon’s AIC. Final Cut Pro was re-rendering every time he did an edit, causing his workflow to slow dramatically.

His solution was to ensure that both files were rendered to the same format before continuing to edit.

Sure, sounds simple when I say it…