NLEs: How native workflows help you save
…Or perhaps this entry could be titled, “A study of contrasts”
I recently received the latest issue of Event DV, which is an excellent magazine with some solid writers. Each month they’ve got some excellent contributions from Photoshop wiz, Lance Gray and an editorial from Jan Ozer.
Event DV also has a recurring tutorial called Cut Lines which represents how to do things with Apple’s Final Cut Pro. It too is good, but I can’t help but often compare how things are done in Premiere Pro (call me biased.
Author Joe McManus does a very good job of outlining the basic steps to editing content inside of FCP as well as outline one potential technical pitfall that he encountered.
There are a couple of things in the article that are not mentioned and I feel it is misleading. It is for this reason that I’m writing. Joe outlines 5 steps, but I’ve listed only the two most important ones below:
Step 1: open the Log and Transfer window – This is warning #1 to me as the word ‘transfer’ often means ‘transcode.’ In other words, change my pixels and make me wait. More on this in a bit.
Step 4: capture the footage to ProRes 422 – For the uninitated ProRes is Apple’s codec that is used for converting DVCProHD, AVCHD, RED, XDCAMEX and XDCAMHD. It’s a solid codec that scaleable (larger or smaller) and is in some ways an answer to Avid’s DNxHD codec.
Okay. In contrast, here’s the edit workflow for Adobe AVCHD assuming that your media is plugged in or you have copied it over to the hard drive:
Adobe Step 1:Edit.
Now, to be fair, I think it safe to say that playing the ProRes clip in either Premiere Pro or FCP would be a smoother experience on my laptop than a native AVCHD clip. AVCHD is CPU intensive. I can play an AVCHD clip in real-time on my Mac laptop (very cool), but if you get into multiple layers, PIPs, etc., it will slow down. There’s the advantage of a transcoded clip. That being said, as with MPEG-2 before it, AVCHD will become easier to play and decode as computers continue to develop and get faster. Certainly, editing native AVCHD on a Mac tower is a good editing experience today as it is on a similar desktop PC.
Returing to the topic at hand, the two things that I think are not represented in the article are transcoding takes time and the size of the resulting files. On my Macbook Pro laptop, my clips were converted to ProRes in about real-time or a little more. Meaning Joe’s 6m18s clip would take about 6m18s to convert to ProRes. One of the real benefits of tapeless editing is that there’s no capture process. Even if the transcode process is faster than real-time what’s the advantage of tapeless formats if you can’t edit more quickly?
Secondly, there is the issue of storage. I took an AVCHD clip that was 23 seconds long and had an original file size of 18.4MB (I know – REALLY small!). When I converted it to ProRes with the default settings the clip size was 347MB or almost 19 times greater in file size! If we extroplate the math out to Joe’s original AVCHD clip, the size was probably about 302MB in size. Contrast that with the 5.51GB that he lists in the article. Unlike him, I don’t find that particularly acceptable, given that the original file size was so much smaller.
I don’t claim these findings to be scientific, nor am I bashing Apple, Final Cut Pro, Joe or Event DV. Far from it in fact. Look back at the first line I wrote – A study of contrasts. If your goal is to preserve your original media and get your job done quickly, I feel Premiere Pro does a better job of that today than the example that Joe outlined in his excellent tutorial. Its sometimes a lack of awareness that makes us continue to do what we’ve done in the past. Not knowing of something better, we think that what we’ve got is fine.
So, with all that said, what do you think? Does the size of the files matter to you with hard drives cheap? Does the smoother editing experience mean more to you now than having your image untouched and converted? What about metadata? Does losing the time for conversion to ProRes matter to you? I’d be curious for all points of view. Feel free to comment below.