Higher-Quality Video Editing


Higher-Quality Video Editing

For many applications, you'll want to edit with higher-quality video than DV. Final Cut Pro's features and functions work much the same regardless of the format you are working with. However, your program can have higher-quality composites and overall picture quality if you start acquiring your material with higher-quality video camera masters or telecine transfers (film to videotape), such as digital Betacam, and DVCPRO50 or even HD cameras . (However, with DVCPRO50, you don't need an additional capture card, because it has a FireWire 400 port.) To preserve all of this better quality, you also must add a capture card or higher-end converter to digitize or capture and maintain this higher quality. In digital video, the higher the quality you maintain, the more disk space that is necessary for the files. Faster speed from your media storage disks is also required.

Higher-End Capture Cards and Io

To capture or digitize video and audio from a Betacam machine or IMX format or any higher-than-DV-quality machine, you need a capture card or AJA's Io or a DV camera, media converter, or deck. Keep in mind, though, that if you use DV captures for these higher-quality formats, you lose some of the available color information and resolution that is recorded in the format. It's best to use a capture card or converter that is designed for uncompressed digitizing or capture to maintain the higher picture quality these formats provide. Final Cut Pro works with these formats as well as high-definition television formats. All of this also holds true for digital Betacam and other digital formats that other manufacturers make, such as the higher-end DVCPRO formats that Panasonic produces.

Currently the only format that is a definite step up in quality from the DV-25 formats that does not require a capture card is Panasonic's DVCPRO50 format. This format's machines supply a FireWire port to capture the video (which is a cost savings in and of itself).

If you intend to work with higher-quality digital video such as digital Betacam or IMX, you really should use a capture card designed for the input of the format you are working in. This usually means you need a serial digital (SDI) input to your Mac. Some cards have component, S video, composite video, and SDI inputs and outputs all in one system. These cards also supply balanced XLR inputs for audio.

Several capture cards are made for use with Final Cut Pro. Pinnacle's CineWave line of cards, Aurora Video Systems, Blackmagic Design, Digital Voodoo, and AJA all make quality cards for this purpose. Each manufacturer has its champions , but any of these cards works well with Final Cut Pro. Each of these systems provides different feature sets, so it's advisable to do some research and learn about these differences before you purchase.

The newest addition to Final Cut Pro 4's technology for capturing uncompressed video is AJA's Io. This revolutionary box takes advantage of Apple's standard FireWire technology. This converter box, about the size of an inexpensive consumer VHS machine, doesn't require a PCI card. Instead, it converts all analog and digital video formats, including uncompressed video, internally in the box. It sends the results of this conversion through a single FireWire cable to your Macintosh (including serial control for your professional machines). Your Macintosh supplies the ability to compress this uncompressed signal into a lower-quality format for use in an offline edit, allowing you to capture more video per gigabyte of storage space. Then, when you are done editing, you can recapture in full resolution, performing your "online" edit.

Appendix E has the web addresses of these companies.

Even within the different manufacturers' lines of cards and boxes, there are different cards for different qualities of video capture. It is outside the scope of this book to explain them all, but you should be aware that typically the more you spend , the higher the quality or the more versatility you get within each of these different lines of capture cards. Prices range from less than $1,000 to well over $10,000.

Some of these systems supply real-time effects (such as dissolves or titles) that might exceed the capabilities of FCP's own internal RT Extreme software technology on your particular CPU, and some don't (such as AJA's Io). It is best to check with the individual manufacturers when you are ready to set up one of these systems. The technology here is changing rapidly , and if I were to mention specifics, they would be outdated in no time. It's always best to consult Apple's device qualifications, found on its web site at http://www.apple.com/finalcutpro/qualification.html.

Each user 's particular needs will more than likely determine the right setup for high-quality video work. For example, if you need more real-time effects, the added cost of these systems might be cost-effective . I think your workflow will determine the best setup for your particular needs.

Regardless of the card or box you decide to use, you'll need to support these larger video file sizes with much faster disk drives than those used for DV material. Generally, with more quality comes larger per-minute file sizes for the media files these systems work with.

Disk Drive Considerations for Higher-Quality Video Editing

Apple's recommended hard disks for higher-quality video editing are SCSI disk drive arrays. Either Ultra 2 LVD SCSI or 160M SCSI, which is the faster of the two, is necessary to capture higher-quality video.

I recommend that you use the Ultra 160M SCSI setup or faster. You can have a faster data rate with this format, the cost differential is minimal, and the array's performance can double. That said, you need a SCSI PCI controller card to control these super-fast drives. ATTO Technologies makes my favorite controller card. Their web site is listed in Appendix E.

SCSI disks that are paired in RAID 0 configurations need to match each other's size and speed for optimal performance. In addition, they are necessary to digitize or capture uncompressed video. To ensure the best performance and to be able to capture uncompressed video, SCSI disks need to be 10,000rpm drives or faster, and they should match their interface to the controller card. SCSI controller cards are backward-compatible , but the idea here is to get the fastest throughput possible. Therefore, you should use disk drives with an Ultra 160M SCSI interface. Several manufacturers make them, and they all have their champions. However, most users look to IBM, Maxtor, or Seagate for their disk drive needs. Your desktop or tower Mac can handle two or three of these drives internally, depending on the model. You can check the Hardware area of Apple's web site for specifications for the different towers for current-model Macs and the Support area for older Macs. As I write this, these requirements couldn't be muddier. Four or more ATA internal drives are being striped in a RAID 0 configuration successfully working with uncompressed video, for example.

For more storage space than the few internal drives can provide, external solutions are available. You can build your own array with various enclosures housing SCSI drives or fast ATA drives. Several companies make SCSI solutions that are more or less turnkey, including Apple, with its X Serve RAID, which uses a 2GB Fibre Channel connection. Additionally, Huge Systems, Rorke, ATTO, and Medea also market turnkey disk arrays. Some manufacturers are beginning to develop FireWire array-based solutions. Regardless of how you intend to design your system, you need a sustained transfer rate much higher than DV's requirements to capture and play back uncompressed NTSC or PAL. You need at least an 80MBps sustained transfer rate. (Again, faster is always better.) Ultra 320 SCSI arrays are also quite popular and reliable.

Currently, Pinnacle, AJA DeckLink, and Digital Voodoo make the only HD editing solutions on the market for Final Cut Pro. The data rate requirements that are needed to capture and edit this format are enormous . Think in terms of sets of many drives striped in a RAID 0, Ultra 160M SCSI configuration or fastera very high transfer rate indeed. Apple's X RAID or Huge Systems' Dual Max SCSI array would be perfect for this purpose.

Some RAID systems offer redundant storage options too. This means that if you lost one of the internal drives, you wouldn't lose any data or media files. This is the optimal setup to choose. A JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disk Drives) RAID doesn't necessarily offer this protection, and if one of the drives fails, you lose all the information on any of the drives it's paired with.

Jerry Hofmann on Final Cut Pro 4
Jerry Hofmann on Final Cut Pro 4
ISBN: 735712816
Year: 2005
Pages: 189

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