HD Video Compression Settings

If you’ve ever looked at the “Tutorials” section of this site, you may have noticed that there is a section for “Video Compression Settings“.  While this is a very helpful section, (I know I based my VX2000 compression and export settings on Scott’s write-up), those with HD cameras may be feeling a little left out.  As there are only SD compression settings, I figured that I’d do a write-up on my workflow for HD Video.  Check it out after the jump.

Compression settings between HD and SD are actually not that different. However, for the best results with an HD camera, I find that transcoding clips pre-editing yields the best results.  HD Video is generally shot in one of two resolutions; 1280 x 720 @60FPS (great for lower file sizes and smoother slow motion), or 1920 x 1080 @ either 24FPS or 30FPS.  I describe 24 frames per second as being very “cinematic” in look, while 30FPS is just plain average.

I shoot with a Canon 7D setup, and for most BMX videography, I choose to shoot at 720p, 60fps. The clips, as they appear on the camera’s memory card, are mere quicktime files- .MOV type. These are fine, however when you drop them into Final Cut Pro to begin editing, more times than not, FCP will force you to do a time-consuming render on each clip, and re-render when applying effects.

This can get annoying, so, upon doing some research on the topic, I discovered that transcoding your .MOV clips to Apple’s ProRes 422 format before importing them into Final Cut gives much better (and more efficient) results. I use a program called MPEG Streamclip to transcode, shown here.

When you launch Streamclip, the default window is what you see on the left here.  However, since I generally like to transcode my clips in a batch, I use the “Batch List”, found under “List > Batch List” in the menu bar.  After dragging and dropping your clips into the Batch List, accepting that you want to export them to Quicktime, and choosing a location to save your new files, you are presented with the Settings window.  Shown below is the settings window, with the settings I (and others) use.

Now, these settings can obviously be altered if you are shooting at either of the 1080 resolutions.  Streamclip will automatically adjust your Frame Size accordingly, all you have to do is type in the Frame Rate.  When this is done, go ahead and hit “To Batch” and then “GO”.

When all of your clips are done, you will have .mov clips in ProRes form, ready for seamless editing in FCP.  I tend to delete my original clips from my computer or my memory card for the sake of saving space.

Transcoding has finished; you can go ahead and edit your clips in Final Cut.  After you’ve gotten all the clips chopped up and aligned perfectly with your carefully selected song, you are going to export the final product from Final Cut.

First things first, to get to the export window, go File > Export > Export Using Quicktime Conversion and make sure the drop-down menu labeled “Format” says “Quicktime Movie”.

While export settings between HD and SD aren’t that different, many of the same settings that Scott mentioned in the “SD Compression” write-up can be applied here, such as the Compression Type, Frame Rate, Key Frames, Data Rate, and Audio.  However there are a few exceptions:

-You don’t need to deinterlace digital HD footage!

-Quality really does not need to be set at “Best”, for choosing “Medium” or “High” will give you video that looks great on vimeo, even full screened on a 27″ iMac.

-Size is whatever resolution you are shooting at.  “HD 1280 x 720 16:9″ for 720, or “HD 1920 x 1080 16:9″ for 1080- pretty straightforward.

That’s it! Now you can go ahead and export your masterpiece, uploading it to Vimeo, and get 10K views in a day.  I’ll include a few more screenshots of FCP export settings in case anyone wants to see them.

FCP Video Compression

FCP Size Settings

FCP Sound Settings

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2 responses to “HD Video Compression Settings

  1. Hey Tom, I’ve been asked this question a lot recently, and I don’t have a solid answer, although there are two things I can suggest. The first is to make sure you’re running the most up to date version of Streamclip. The version I run has two ProRes 422 options, however I know that there is a more recent version in which there are four ProRes 422 options, so the first thing I would do is make sure you have the newest version. The second thing I can say, and I’ve never tried this personally- a friend of mine related this experience to me- is that for him, it had to do with Final Cut Pro. His version was not installed properly, and when he reinstalled Final Cut Pro properly, the ProRes options revealed themselves. Although I can’t understand why one would have to do with the other, it worked for him, so who knows. Good luck!

  2. I’m just curious if you know why I wouldn’t be able to see Apple Prores 422 in Mpeg Streamclip. Everything else seems to be fine but I’m not given that as an option. If you have any idea I’d love to know. Thank man, and keep up the good work on the awesome site.

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