Conversion madness

Posted by stephen Auerbach 
Conversion madness
March 04, 2010 03:09PM
I hired someone to shoot on a new documentary. They had the Sony HandyCam HDR-XR500v.
She shot 40 hours of footage. The file is the AHCVD. Apple suggested that I purchase the software Voltaic to convert the .mts files that I have. We've tried a number of configurations but it seems like it will take 400 hours!!! to convert and compress these files using apple prores 422. Is this really our fate? Does anyone know a better way to convert and create quicktimes files so we can get started editing sooner? Thanks in advance for any help. We're doing the conversions on the following computer:

15" 2.53Ghz
4GB Ram
Nvidia GeForce9400M
Re: Conversion madness
March 04, 2010 10:41PM
I'll use Log and Transfer to do the transcoding, rather than Voltaic. But yea, if you shoot large amounts of footage on AVCHD and you don't have the machine to cope with that, that's your fate.
Re: Conversion madness
March 04, 2010 10:44PM
Voltaic is painfully, massively SLOOOOOW. Not even an option in my view.
Re: Conversion madness
March 04, 2010 11:13PM
This isn't meant for you, Stephen, because obviously it's too late for this advice to apply, but somebody's gonna end up here by googling "AVCHD Final Cut Pro" or something. This is for them:

Always, always, do due diligence on your workflow in advance. If you're shooting in a format that requires extensive processing before you can edit ? like AVCHD, or Red, or H.264 on a DSLR ? take that into account. Depending on the format, there's a chance you might be looking at hours, or even days, of render time on a 16-processor Mac Pro just to get your material into ProRes so you can cut it. This sucks, but it's a fact of life. Sometimes there are workarounds (like leaving your material in its native format, but editing it into a ProRes timeline and letting Final Cut render only the frames you actually use in your show) but sometimes there just aren't. AVCHD is one of those sometimes-there-just-aren't situations. Final Cut can't touch it without transcoding to ProRes first, and that takes time.

Final Cut comes with a manual called "Working with High Definition and Broadcast Formats." (Or at least FCP 6 did; I imagine FCP 7 has something similar, if not identical.) It goes into a ton of detail on the workflow for each of the major formats. If the format you're considering working with isn't listed there, post a question about it here. Odds are, at least one person who reads this forum will have experience working with that format.

And it's a lot more pleasant for us to say "Oh, that's easy, just do X" or "That works, but set aside so-n-so hours of render time per hour of footage" or "Don't do that because of Y, do Z instead" than it is for us to have to say, "Yeah, you're pretty much screwed. Sucks to be you."

Not that anybody's saying that, but you get my point.

Okay, end of public-service announcement. As for your situation, Stephen, consider renting one or more Mac Pros with Final Cut on them. Use them to log-and-transfer your footage. They'll chew through the rendering necessary much faster than your laptop, and then you can just move the captured Quicktimes over to your Firewire drives or whatever.

Re: Conversion madness
March 05, 2010 10:31AM
Hi Derek
So what should we be using if Voltaic isn't sufficient. A guy at Apple FCP division recommended it to me.
Re: Conversion madness
March 05, 2010 10:52AM
> So what should we be using if Voltaic isn't sufficient. A guy at Apple FCP division recommended it
> to me.

I had to use Voltaic because my system was still at FCP5 and I needed to convert AVCHD footage from the Canon HF S10 camera. Luckily, in my case, the projects were personal and intended as a way to test whether the workflow was viable. It wasn't. If my memory serves, it took almost two whole days to get about 45-60 minutes converted, including an overnight render. Not to mention that my computer slowed to a crawl while the background rendering was going on.

Basically, in my case, I'd say I would skip the conversion myself, and just have a post house or other facility with faster computers and better conversion options do the job, and I'd just get the files back and edit away.
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