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Final Cut Pro X - Import AVCHD?

162586 Views 309 Replies Latest reply: Jan 25, 2014 2:25 AM by ctzsnooze RSS Branched to a new discussion.
  • Aquarius2000 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jul 3, 2011 11:36 AM (in response to ctzsnooze)

    Hi Chris, Hi Gene,

     

    Thanks for all the hard work. This way one can just use your experience. I don't mean to add something completely off the subject here but would like to share one more thing about transcoding into ProRes to ingest the 1080p50/60 MTS files into FCPX. ClipWrapping, unfortunately, does not work for me as FCPX does not ingest the ClipWrapped files properly. Neither does transcoding the ClipWrapped MTS files with MPEG Streamclip work as there is only audio and no video. The ClipWrapped MTS files do look great when played in Quicktime, by the way. So I'm left with the option of using third party software to transcode the bare MTS files first into ProRes and then ingest them into FCPX. I was under the impression that any third party software uses the built-in functionality of Final Cut or Compressor in doing so. So there shouldn't be any quality difference, I thought. Since, as I had already mentioned, VoltaicHD crashes every time (I did send the log to the company), I'm left with Toast but have always been suspicious of its transcoding capabilities. Therefore, I downloaded the trial version of Aunsoft MTS Converter. It transcodes the MTS files directly into ProRes with lots of setting options, and there is a discernible quality difference to the Toast ProRes files. The ProRes files are slightly larger but clearly of better quality. I thought this was important to mention. Chris, if you have time do give it a try. Thanks, again.

  • Gene Carbonell Level 1 Level 1 (40 points)
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    Jul 3, 2011 2:15 PM (in response to Aquarius2000)

    Chris,

     

    Is there a reason you use JES instead of Compressor to do your deinterlacing?

    Does it just do a better job?

  • ctzsnooze Level 1 Level 1 (20 points)
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    Jul 3, 2011 3:32 PM (in response to Travisimo)

    Aquarius... What kind of camera generated your troublesome MTS files?  They must be very unusual.  It's surprising that you can play the converted MTS in QuickTime etc but not be able to import a ProRes file created from it.

     

    Maybe you could share a very short clip (10-15s would do) in MTS format via DropBox so others could see if they could help get a simple workflow going?

     

    Chris.

  • ctzsnooze Level 1 Level 1 (20 points)
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    Jul 3, 2011 3:34 PM (in response to Travisimo)

    Gene...

     

    I have lots of positive experience with JES Deinterlacer despite its kludgy interface; much less with de-interlacing in Compressor 4. 

     

    Compressor 4 de-interlacing options include line averaging, adaptive and motion adaptive forms of deinterlacing, but it seemed very, very slow in comparison to JES, especially at high quality settings.

     

    I couldn't see a way to convert 1080i60 (30fps) to 1080p60 (60fps), which JES does quite easily.

     

    None the less I resolved to look more closely at Compressor's deinterlacing after I got a distributed cluster processing thing working, and now that I've done so, I'll compare it.  Being able to do all that kind of stuff on a separate machine's processor is very attractive. 

     

    The whole de-interlacing issue for me is not a big one at the moment; 720p60 is what I'm mostly shooting now so I don't need it very often.

     

    Cheers

     

    Chris.

  • Aquarius2000 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jul 3, 2011 8:56 PM (in response to ctzsnooze)

    Hi Chris,

     

    This must be a misunderstanding. I don't have trouble ingesting ProRes files. I just experienced like others have problems with ingesting ClipWrapped MTS files into FCPX prior to their being transcoded into ProRes by a third party application. Once I transcode them into ProRes, ingesting them into FCPX is not a problem. I find that Aunsoft MTS Converter makes very high quality ProRes files out of my AVCHD 1080p50 MTS files and I wanted to share this. So my workflow is fine with using third party software. I was just not happy with the quality of the ProRes files when I used Toast for transcoding.

     

    Cheers

  • tuffmac Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
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    Jul 8, 2011 2:39 PM (in response to ctzsnooze)

    Hi Chris,

    I also downloaded RevolverHD and used it on some MTS files I had copied to my Hard Drive, outside the camera file structure. I don't have FCPX yet, but I did try the resulting files and file structure that RevolverHD kicked out with my copy of FCP 6. The log and transfer function worked great and the files were transcoded into ProRes so I could edit them. This is great news in that I can archive my MTS files pretty much how I like.

     

    My question Chris is, once you used RevolverHD on those "out of structure" MTS files, you mention that FCPX was able to import the files. My question is, did FCPX transcode the files into ProRes before you could work with them and edit them in FCPX, or did FCPX simply reference and use the original MTS files?

     

    If FCPX is still transcoding the MTS files into ProRes like FCP6, then FCPX doesn't seem to be able to edit AVCHD files natively as they claim.

     

    I'm just trying to find a workflow where I don't have to convert my MTS files to ProRes. If FCPX converts the files before being able to edit and use them, then I might end up sticking with Premiere. Premiere works seamlessly with MTS files, even outside the folder structure.

     

    Why does Apple insist on the MTS files being in this folder structure? Weird.

     

    Can you help?

     

    Thanks!

  • Robert Rees Level 1 Level 1 (125 points)
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    Jul 9, 2011 4:46 AM (in response to tuffmac)

    Just a quick thank you for the info in this thread, it's helped solve a problem I had with a large collection of .mts files that I was tearing my hair out trying to get in to FCP X in a straightforward manner.  RevolverHD works perfectly for me creating archives which I can import directly from.

     

    Thanks for all the info.

  • Gene Carbonell Level 1 Level 1 (40 points)
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    Jul 9, 2011 5:12 AM (in response to Robert Rees)

    Hi Robert,

     

    Which camera made these files? I used to have a Panasonic TM700 and now have a TM900 recording 1080p60 and 5.1. Revolver HD said my MTS files had to stereo in order for it to work. I'm just making sure I don't ditch the idea on the off chance you have a similar format/camera and it worked for you.

     

    Thanks,

    Gene

  • Robert Rees Level 1 Level 1 (125 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 9, 2011 5:19 AM (in response to Gene Carbonell)

    Hi Gene, it's a colleagues camera so I will have to check what he is using.  I think it's a Canon but I'll ask him the exact model.  I think (I'm away from my desktop Mac at the moment) he records in 1080p30, stereo.

     

    I'm interested in your experience with the TM900 as that is a camcorder I'm considering as a future purchase.  Will probably run it in 1080p30.

     

    Regards

     

    Rob

  • Aquarius2000 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jul 9, 2011 10:52 AM (in response to tuffmac)

    @tuffmac,

     

    Hi,

     

    Apple still transcodes these files with FCPX into the Apple proprietary standard which in this case is ProRes. There is a "Final Cut Events" folder where you will find a "New Event" or however you named your event folder and in it there is a folder called "Original Media." There you will find, you guessed it, your video clips in a nice ProRes code. Look, I'm not an expert on video editing and have no experience with Premiere, and I was frustrated myself about the transcoding into the Apple proprietary standard mainly because I was afraid of the loss in quality. I absolutely didn't want to use third party software to do it. I spend three nights until I found RevolverHD and then realized how smooth and stable it was to edit the Apple proprietary standard files vs. the MTS files directly (coming from the Windows world using Corel Ulead and proxy files, I guess). I'm still not happy with the loss in quality when the transcoding happens, and I think it is important to get as high quality ProRes files as possible to get the final video looking like Photo Ninja's if one doesn't care about size. If one cares about size then Chris has given the best advice about how to go about getting decent looking video, I think. I use Aunsoft MTS converter now. It creates the highest quality ProRes files I've seen. I've tested it against other third party applications and against the ProRes files that Final Cut creates as well. There is a discernibly quality difference on a high resolution screen.

     

    Cheers

  • ctzsnooze Level 1 Level 1 (20 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 9, 2011 9:49 PM (in response to Travisimo)

    Hi Tuffmac

     

    Sorry to be slow replying.... I think others have sort of answered your query, but I'll add my bit anyway, and mention how to maximise output quality regardless of your workflow.

     

    Revolver HD is a way to get isolated MTS files into a folder structure that FCPX interprets as a valid 'camera archive'.  That's all it does.  There is no conversion or transcoding.

     

    AVCHD MTS files contain H264 video streams, which require a lot of processor power to decode, and even more to edit if they are used natively (without conversion) in FCPX.  FCPX can definitely edit H264 video streams natively, though NOT all 1080p50 / 1080p60 H264 video streams (probably none based on the experience of users here).

     

    On adequately powerful macs, editing native 1080 H264 video streams can be a smooth and effortless experience, but on less powerful machines, it can be tedious, because the codec requires so much CPU during playback - and even more during editing - so you get lots of spinning beachballs, rendering of edits takes a long time in the background, etc etc. 

     

    Editing the native streams in an H264 workflow retains the original video quality at the cost of potentially very annoying (show-stopping) CPU overload delays on slower machines.

     

    FCPX always retains the original native H264 streams in your events folders even if you choose to transcode on import to ProRes. If you do transcode to ProRes on import you'll end up with files that are MUCH bigger, but that are massively easier to decode, so that the rendering of edits is MUCH faster, so on slower machines you'll get a much snappier workflow.  Even more so if you choose to edit with low-res half-size 'proxy' ProRes files.

     

    One small thing to mention, at this point, is that you may find FCPX cannot natively work with your 1080p50 / 1080p60 H264 video streams.  In this case you'll find FCPX will in fact work very happily with them if you don't import the MTS files directly but instead convert them to ProRes beforehand (there are ways to do this using clipwrap, aunsoft, etc described in other posts)

     

    You decide in the preferences which workflow suits you best.  When you import an MTS file (from a camera archive, or direct from the camera's card or disk), your import strategy can be one of three choices:

     

    - edited natively using the original H264 video stream (usually won't work with 1080p50/60)

    - transcode to full size full quality ProRes for editing ('create optimized media')

    - transcode to half-size low quality ProRes for editing ('create proxy media').

     

    Let's be clear; FCPX supports ALL THREE of these options.  You choose which you want.  FCPX definitely supports native H264 workflows, currently with the exception of 1080p50 / 1080p60 H264 video streams - provided that your CPU/GPU are fast enough for it to not bog down).

     

    Personally I expect Apple will reasonably soon support 1080p50 / 1080p60 H264 video streams in AVCHD MTS files, but the CPU hit will be big, twice that of 1080p250 / 1080p30 or 1080i50 / 1080i60, so you'll need a fast machine/GPU. 

     

    Additionally I expect they will simplify direct MTS file import soon.  It's obviously something lots of people would want and can't be *that* difficult to do.

     

    If you choose to work with the original H264 streams, FCPX will create full-size ProRes render files where any edits are generated in your timeline.  On Export, any native H264 video clips in the timeline that have not been edited will be converted to ProRes, and mixed with the existing ProRes edits, so you will end up with an Apple ProRes 'master' output file.  Export will take a while because of the need to transcode the unedited H264 clips to ProRes.

     

    If you choose to convert to full-size ProRes on import, the intermediary file size is very large.  Rendering of edits will be quite fast, and export is very fast, because everything is already in the same full-size ProRes format that will be exported.  The export process just copies the data from the timeline into one mov.  So for medium to fast CPU/GPU machines with plenty of disk space, this is the way to go, I think. 

     

    I am not convinced that Apple's ProRes conversion is lossy.  There are lots of discussions relating to ProRes and the general consensus is that it is as near to lossless as one can get.  In contrast, H264 is definitely a lossy codec; quality varies from camera to camera and is definitely bit-rate sensitive.  I would be very surprised if indeed

     

    If you choose to convert to half-size low-quality ProRes on import, the intermediary files are considerably smaller, and during your editing workflow the CPU load is also much smaller.  On export, however, full-size ProRes files will be created from the originals, so the final exported version will retain all the quality associated with any of the other workflows.

     

    I can't explain why Aquarius has found better quality conversions from H264 to ProRes using Aunsoft's conversion.  QuickTime Pro 7 can convert from H264 to ProRes using Apple's ProRes converter, and it would be interesting if someone could put up some examples of the difference between the two (from an identical source H264 file). 

     

    I note that Aunsoft offers both ProRes conversion (ie the H264 stream in the MTS is converted to ProRes, which takes time) and also 'wrapping' (in which the H264 stream in the MTS is taken out and put into a mov or m4v container).  The latter of course is lossless because the underlying stream is unchanged.  They say that wrapped 1080p50 / 1080p60 H264 video streams like these can be then used directly within FCPX, but the experience of most people on these discussion groups is that this is not the case; 1080p50 / 1080p60 H264 video streams are NOT an AVCHD standard format and FCPX currently doesn't like them very much. 

     

    I would be a little wary of believing everything Aunsoft say.  It is VERY difficult to find an independent review of the Aunsoft transcoder as compared to Apple's own transcoder.  Aunsoft post aggressively to every blog and run a number of seemingly independent websites that actually just say how great they are.

     

    Pre-conversion with Aunsoft of ClipWrap to ProRes is definitely necessary for 1080p50 / 1080p60 H264 video streams.  Revolver HD is not required in this case, because these apps will work directly with the MTS files.   Some of these conversions do strange things, esp with CanonDSLR AVCHD data, which of itself can be strange, so try before you buy.

     

    In the end you'll need to experiment a bit and find a workflow that is best for you. 

     

    However I want to be clear that PCPX definitely will take in and edit native H264 from within MTS files if that is how you configure your preferences.  All edits in ProRes at the quality set in the preferences. 

     

    All exports are full-size ProRes, as far as I know.  ProRes is, afaik, the intermediary file that goes to compressor as well. 

     

    Finally it's worth noting that there are different 'flavours' of ProRes:

     

    http://documentation.apple.com/en/finalcutpro/professionalformatsandworkflows/in dex.html#chapter=10%26section=2%26tasks=true

     

    ProRess422HQ is a higher bandwidth version of ProRes422.  If you create a project and in the Info Box click the spanner, you can choose which version of ProRes will apply to that project.

     

    If you want the highest quality output movie on export, choose ProRes422HQ.  If you choose ProRes422HQ on import, that's what you'll be working on in the timeline.  ProRes 444 is only relevant if your source is 444.

     

    It may be that Aunsoft looks better because they use a HQ version by default during their conversion.

     

    Even if you edit in 'proxy' mode, just go to the timeline and select ProRes422HQ before exporting, and the export will be ProRes422HQ - in other words, as good as it gets. 

     

    MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE PROJECT SETTINGS BEFORE EXPORTING! 

     

    I hope this clarifies how to get the best possible balance between system performance during editing while maximising the output quality of the final master export file.

     

    Cheers

     

    Chris.

  • Aquarius2000 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jul 10, 2011 12:12 AM (in response to ctzsnooze)

    Hi Chris,

     

    Thanks for the comprehensive answer. I realize I had given Tuffmac incomplete information on how FCPX ingests different types of files. I would like to ask you a question on what you write here, please:

     

     

    If you choose to work with the original H264 streams, FCPX will create full-size ProRes render files where any edits are generated in your timeline.  On Export, any native H264 video clips in the timeline that have not been edited will be converted to ProRes, and mixed with the existing ProRes edits, so you will end up with an Apple ProRes 'master' output file.  Export will take a while because of the need to transcode the unedited H264 clips to ProRes.

     

    Let's assume I don't do any editing on the original H264 files that I ingested natively, in fact I don't edit the event at all. Then under export/share I don't choose to create a ProRes Master file but instead decide to share to an Apple device like the iPad, Apple TV, or Mac immediately. The codecs I see are H264 under the iPad and Apple TV options and MPEG-4 under the Mac option. Does FCPX still transcode first into ProRes and then converts for the Apple device I choose accordingly?

     

    Cheers

  • ctzsnooze Level 1 Level 1 (20 points)
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    Jul 10, 2011 3:00 AM (in response to Travisimo)

    I don't know but can say this. 

     

    If I have FCPX and Compressor4 open, and I go Share > Send to Compressor, the job appears instantly in Compressor.  The inspector for a compressor job of this type says Type: Final Cut Pro.app.  I think Compressor4 just points to the FCPX file, and that when you start the job, it asks FCPX for the bits that make up the file, piece by piece, and then Compressor does the transcoding. 

     

    In contrast, if a Compressor job is input as a quicktime movie, Compressor says Type:QuickTime.

     

    On that basis, I suspect most likely there is no transcoding via ProRes if the originals are H264 and you choose Share to a particular output device type as described above. 

     

    It sure wouldn't make any sense to decompress the original, recompress to ProRes, decompress again, and then compress that to the output H264 format.  Much simpler to just decompress the original and compress that to the output size and H264 settings required for the output device.

     

    So...

     

    - if you go Share > apple device it *probably* goes via a direct H264 to H264 conversion with no ProRes intermediary (I'm assuming this and would be grateful if someone in the know could confirm or deny!)

     

    - if you go Export then you choose the output quality in the dialogs that follow; that quality selection overrides the project quality settings (I checked; you get a larger output file with ProResHQ than ProRes, though I can't see any difference, so maybe the originals were not so great!).

     

    - if you go Share > send to compressor or Share > export using compressor settings, the output quality is  set by the Project Settings (you'd have to be able to visualise the difference between ProRes422 and ProRes422HQ to be able to tell if this mattered, however, and that's not always easy).

     

    Mostly I go share > export using compressor settings (typically an x264Encoder preset, which I find gives significantly better results than the AppleH264 codec).  I have to remind myself to set the project settings to ProResHQ before exporting when quality matters.  Mostly I can't see any loss of quality going via standard ProRes though. 

     

    I think I'll test taking a video with the GH2 in HQ AVCHD mode and exporting to ProResHQ, and comparing that to a similar video shot in normal mode and exporting in standard ProRes format.  It will be interesting to see if I can detect any difference in the cmd-E Export files.

     

    If filesize was no object you could cmd-E and export uncompressed video.  No quality loss that way. 

     

    Cheers,

     

    Chris.

  • ctzsnooze Level 1 Level 1 (20 points)
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    Jul 10, 2011 3:13 AM (in response to Travisimo)

    I did a test and converted that original great H264 60fps going to the beach H264 file to ProRes and ProResHQ by cmd-E exporting after a straight unconverted import. 

     

    The ProRes HQ output file was bigger than the by ProRes version about 25%. 

     

    I looked frame by frame at 100% frame size in QT7.  There was a subtle colour shift between the original and both ProRes versions, I guess due to QT7 not being fully colour managed. 

     

    But I couldn't see any discernible difference in image quality or fine detail at all from the original to either ProRes file.  Maybe others can try this and let us know what they think?

     

    Chris.

  • Aquarius2000 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jul 10, 2011 5:03 AM (in response to ctzsnooze)

    Hi Chris,

     

    Thanks for your reply. I tested it by zooming in on signs that weren't readable from a distance. Ideally the sign has some fine print on it, too, and reflects sunlight. Then one zooms in until the letters become visible, including the fine print, in the camera. I converted the clips in many different ways to ProRes and ProRes HQ. I didn't play the resulting files but moved to the exact same spot in each of them manually and made sure they were of the same size and the surrounding objects appeared to be of the same size as well. This is where a difference in quality was visible. Sometimes the writing appeared more blurred, sometimes less blurred. I tried this with signs that showed white letters on a blue surface and black letters on a yellow surface. Whichever conversion gave me the result that was the least blurred and where I could recognize what the sign said more easily and where I could see each letter most clearly, that's what I considered better quality. Maybe it has to do more with richness in color or saturation rather than sharpness, I don't know, but some files in this test looked much worse than others. I used the LED Apple Cinema Display 27".

     

    Cheers

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