Camera and Editing System Compatibility

Posted by yrwray 
Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 26, 2012 06:40PM
I work with a group of educators who does all its own pre and post production - we do the entire cycle ourselves. Have been since 1999, although no one is a video/editing professional. I have used this forum many times to get answers or information about FCP over the years and appreciate how useful it has been in those times of need.

Mainly we've been shooting/editing DV SD for DVD projects, documentary/educational in nature using 2 cameras and FCP. In the past 3 years we have also been shooting 16:9 for online videos. So far we have not gotten into HD. We've been successful at getting what we wanted out of our equipment so far. However, we are considering an upgrade because our oldest camera needs to be replaced as it is breaking down.

I have questions and I am hoping folks will help answer or point me in the direction of getting answers. I have found I cannot trust what sales people are telling me and I may be in the market for a used camera and a used editing system to make this upgrade.

I see two basic options:

1) Replace the Canon XL1 with a second of the same camera I have now, a Canon XH-A1. This would allow me to expand and shoot HD footage to DV tape. Can I effectively use my existing FCP editing system for creating HD projects for online distribution, perhaps web streaming or web flash video? If not what upgrades/replacement would I need to get for my FCP editing system?

2) Replace the Canon XL1 with a tapeless camera, such as the Canon XA-10 or Canon XF-100. Now I would have one DV tape based camera and one tapeless/SD card based which does not seem ideal, but I don't want to overlook the possible advantages this may give us. Again, how would this impact my editing system upgrades/replacement?

Any help with this would be appreciated. I've listed my equipment and FCP system set up below:

Our current system is:

Canon XL1 camcorder
Canon XH-A1 camcorder

Editing System:
OSX 10.4.11
FCP 5.0.4
Compressor 2.0.1

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Yvonne Wray
Re: Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 26, 2012 06:57PM
> This would allow me to expand and shoot HD footage to DV tape.

Personally, I think the whole shoot-HD-to-DV-tape thing is really outmoded. Not only is quality severely compromised, but nowadays you have a host of good tapeless options that would not only eliminate the need to still have tape decks or cameras to capture, but have hard drives or memory cards that can be reused over and over. DV is a dying format, and in your case, you couldn't have a better excuse for starting on a new path. The later you start, the more you fall behind, and the less time you have to figure out how to make your equipment work while still retaining some familiarity from your previous experience.

You do have one major problem, however, and that is you are using a PowerPC G5. Very, very outdated, and I could be remembering wrong, but I don't think FCP5 can ingest any tapeless format except Panasonic P2. It also lacks the ProRes codecs that make ingest and editing easier; you'd have to use Uncompressed HD (way overkill for the scale of your shooting), DVCPro HD, or Apple Intermediate Codec -- all pretty old formats.

It's getting trickier and tricker to try to buy an FCP7 system. Even 16 months ago you still could buy FCP7 with a stable, compatible Mac OS, but now it's nearly impossible through the official channels. So you'll probably have to consider going to FCPX or Adobe Premiere in the long run. Your G5 won't last forever, and you won't want to wait until it croaks to build, test and get familiar with a completely new system.
Re: Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 27, 2012 12:32AM
What Derek said about the G5. It's very outdated, your warranty is over, and a replacement isn't that expensive. To save a few bucks, you really don't need a Mac Pro for what you're doing. An iMac can do pretty well, and you don't even need a top of the line model.

Are you using any capture cards? Those won't be of much use on a newer machine, unfortunately.

Camera wise, I agree with Derek. HDV on DV tapes is slooow. Real time capture from tape is a waste of time.

I won't bother with getting FCP 7 (you'll need a new machine anyway, since it's not G5 friendly). Last I heard, Apple is still selling it via the sales hotline. However FCP7 is quickly getting outdated, and it's a dead software, so you won't get upgrades. Also, you need to transcode the footage to ProRes, which takes time and drive space. There is an advantage to working with FCP 7, and that is the media management capabilities (offline/online, consolidate/trim), but I really don't think you need that.

So here are 2 NLE options: FCPX and Premiere Pro

Both come with a full 30 day trial, so you can take your time and evaluate them after you decide on getting a new machine and see which you prefer.

Adobe Premiere Pro:

The main advantage is that you can edit the footage right off the two cameras that you mentioned. Don't need to transcode or do anything techie. Just transfer the rushes, name the folders, drag them into Premiere and edit away. You can pick up some media management skills which can help you along, like give the clips reel name right after importing or re-naming the files before importing, but the reel name bit is mainly useful if you're working in a collaborative post environment, and the re-naming the files is more for your own organization than for the software. PPro is a little bit smarter than relying purely on file names to re-connect.

If you are used to FCP 5, you can pretty much edit the way that you are used to in Premiere Pro with a few additional handy features. Don't have to spend too much time learning it, except maybe one or two things about importing the audio.

Besides actually paying the full price for Premiere, Adobe has this "cloud" subscription thing, which makes it relatively inexpensive if you don't use the software too much.

Apple's FCP X:

It's a new paradigm. It's a totally different software from FCP 7. The media management is different, the editing concept is different, even the notion of it being a professional NLE in the traditional sense of the word is different. Some love it, some hate it. Some defend it so vehemently you wonder if they're shareholders. Some attack it so vigorously you wonder if they are 90s Microsoft employees. If you ask me, being a relatively new product, it's still a little rough around the edges. It will probably get there some day if you have the patience.

If you go into it expecting it to work anything like FCP 5 or 7, you're in for a shock or a surprise or both. Nothing about FCP X is like FCP 7. There are some parallel concepts, like "keyword collections" as opposed to bins, "range selections" instead of "in-out marks", but nearly everything else is different, including icons, short cuts, heck, maybe even the help menu.

But it's not a hard software for a novice to pick up and start cutting. In fact, it was designed so non-editors or iMovie users can easily transition to it and cut their home movies with relative ease. But there is a rub. While it is easy to pick up, you will still need to learn stuff like how it manages media or you'll quickly learn that the default settings can easily get you in trouble. And then there seem to be bugs - some people get it working flawlessly with the most complicated edits in the world™ and extol its virtues from the rooftops of the world, while some others run into really odd show stopping random issues in the middle of their own most complicated edits in the world™ and vow never to use FCP X ever again in their lifetime. I think the truth is somewhere out there.

FCP X is cheap. At $300, it seems a steal, but the bulk of the cost is in the à la carte nature of it. It's a new concept. It's not just a software, it's a "platform". It supports the MXF files or the AvcHD files from the cameras you mentioned, but you need to buy 3rd party plugins to make it work natively, otherwise, you'll need to "re-wrap" to Quicktime. If you need to hide some events folders in FCP X to minimize media clutter, you're better off getting a 3rd party plugin. Need to send the documentary to the audio house? Get another 3rd party plugin. Need to send it to someone using FCP 7? Get another plugin. Your 3rd party plugin no longer works? Buy another one. Every add on is 3rd party, and plugins range from free to several hundred dollars and sometimes it isn't for anything fancy than to get an obsolete industry format out of the software.
Re: Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 27, 2012 12:49AM
Not to mention Avid Media Composer 6.5 -- if you're a student at an accredited college, the full version is available to you at the same price-- $300.00.

Still an industry standard, whereas Premiere Pro is becoming one.

I have high hopes for FCPX restoring FCP7 features, more the merrier, but until tracks return as an end game, I personally don't yet recommend it.

- Loren

Today's FCP 7 keytip:
Advance to next/previous keyframes in a clip with Shift/Option-K !

Your Final Cut Studio KeyGuide™ Power Pack
with FCP7 KeyGuide --
now available at KeyGuide Central.
Re: Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 27, 2012 10:07AM
Good point. There are education pricing available for most of the NLEs. PPro currently goes at $20 a month for edu pricing until the end of the month.

For FCP X, education pricing is available only for volume purchases. But at $300 for the base app without plugins, it's not exactly pricey.

Avid MC... I like Avid MC, however I consider it a strictly pro software with a steeper learning curve than PPro or FCPX. No doubt it's a very robust and well designed editor, and has very good media management tools, but there's a considerable learning curve coming from legacy FCP, and AMA, which is how you access native formats in Avid, still seems to contain caveats for people looking to "native" editing.

PPro on the other hand has not too good media management (it's kind of bad at the offline/online workflow actually), but is a master at "native" editing and supports almost every format you can throw at it right out of the box. But having a simpler learning curve, does not mean that PPro doesn't have good editing tools. Quite the contrary. I find myself constantly using Avid terms to describe PPro's editing tools, because that's how deep the editing tools are. For every edit function an Avid user asked me about, there was an equivalent in PPro, sometimes even less clicks than in Avid. Legacy FCP's trim tools are just not on the same level as Avid. In PPro, you can pretty much cut the way you are used to in FCP, and quickly get up to the same speed, but if you want or need the extra tools, they are there.

FCP X, I can't say too much about the editing tools as I haven't used it that much to fall in love with it. However, it has gotten much better in the last release. Native format support in FCP X isn't bad, and there is some kind of offline/online workflow capabilities built into it with a few gaping holes. Many users of FCP X tend to fall back on FCP 7 for certain essential workflow tools. Eg. To export omf, edl, FCP7 XML, get a project to Apple Color, conform, etc...

>but until tracks return as an end game

Nope. Not tracks in the way that we know of, because there is a high tendency that tracks- the idea of one clip vertically per track- stand in the way of the magnetic timeline. Roles, stems and a search tool will probably replace tracks. Metadata and the magnetic timeline is really the essence of what FCP X is about.
Re: Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 27, 2012 10:45AM
the magnetic timeline is really the essence of what FCP X is about.
i hate to hijack the thread here and i know this isnt the x forum. but i cant for the life of me comprehend the value of the "magnetic" timeline... i mean in what scenario would the timeline dictating clip placement be more desirable than you putting them exactly where and how you want them?
Re: Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 27, 2012 12:39PM
The magnetic timeline?

It's the time you save when you don't need to patch tracks, simply because it has no tracks. You can choose to connect clips to the primary storyline (add a connecting clip), or insert it into the primary storyline. Some of the "magnetism" can be turned off by hitting the "position" key, which is kinda like overwrite mode in Avid, or as some people call it "the FCP 7 key", because FCP 7 is predominantly in what Avid calls the "overwrite segment mode".

What is a Secondary storyline? Think of the time when you had to make a change to a scene in the middle of the timeline in FCP, and you don't want to insert a clip into the timeline, because that will break up your music track, so you shift the clip onto its own track, and lock it. And there are times when you want to ripple trim a Broll, and you don't want to ripple the rest of the clips on that track because you're really just trying to extend a Broll clip by 5 frames, so you shift that little scene up to its own track and ripple it, then you shift that scene back down. In FCP X, the secondary storyline is like having a little Broll sequence with its own track.

Not having separate video and audio tracks also has its perks, not only because it helps save on screen real estate for the timeline (video with synced audio is 1 graphical object as opposed to being 2 objects), but also because of this, when you shift clips around in the timeline in FCPX, you don't have to worry about whether you are dragging its related audio clip (synced sound fx eg. punches, or explosions that are synced to a visual point on the clip) and whether it's going to overwrite into any clips when you release the segment tool. This is a bit of a hassle when you have many tracks in the timeline. As we speak, I only have 12 audio tracks in the FCP7 timeline, and 4 video tracks, and I can only visibly see 10 audio tracks due to my monitor configuration and track height (and I'm using a pretty big screen already), so when shifting a scene around, I need to scroll up and down in my timeline or collapse the height of my tracks to make sure I have every clip that i need selected before I move it. So in FCPX think about getting rid of that entire bottom audio section in your timeline and only worry about the top half of the timeline while you are editing. Want that synced sound effect to stay synced with your video clip? Connect the audio clip to the video clip as a connecting clip.

Of course, with regards to connecting clips and attaching synced sound effects, some NLEs (eg. PPro), lets you group a bunch of clips together, so that in a way, is similar to connecting clips.
Re: Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 27, 2012 12:59PM
>what scenario would the timeline dictating clip placement be more desirable than you putting them exactly
>where and how you want them?

We had this discussion in the FCP X forum, and Craig Seeman mentioned that "tracks" have served conflicting purposes. Tracks are used for both compositing and organization. For organization in FCP X (eg. subtitles, lower thirds, etc), and he sees roles as a way to replace tracks.

This is a statement that I both agree and disagree with. And I mentioned that tracks and the timeline has grown to serve more functions than just purely compositing, organization and even editing. I use it often to sort out my rushes, because being a "timeline", it also shows me the visual relationship of clips to actual time, and also, I have a lot of control navigating through a lot of clips for a scene in a traditional timeline. Much less than I have navigating in the Event Browser in FCP X, which has a mind of its own when zooming in and out. So yea, I think Smart Collections/ Keyword Collections are great for things like building a database of production music, and sorting out Brolls, but the Event Browser itself is lacking as a visual relational database, and it lacks user precision for navigation.

Basically, FCP X you shouldn't care about tracks, not in the traditional sense of the word. It's a different paradigm. You decide whether a clip is a primary storyline or a secondary storyline.

So if you are cutting a docu and the VO drives the story, that VO is the primary storyline and the Brolls would be the connecting clips or secondary storyline. So if you decide to decide to re-organize the VO lines, the clips that are connected to the VO will shift along with the particular VO clip. But that's the ideal world, but I've found that more often than not, I don't care whether the VO connects to the connecting clips, because the little sequence of connecting clips is a "scene" and I want that scene to occur in order. So in those cases, I can choose to make that little sequence of connecting clips a secondary storyline.

The FCP 7 paradigm is a little similar but different. Usually when we have an interviewee, we'll put that interview on track 1 and then cutaway shots over it on track 2. And when we shift segments around, we'll marquee select and cut/copy/paste around or "segment drag" it around.
Re: Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 27, 2012 03:18PM
At the risk of diverging from a slight um...sidetrack (albeit a very informative one!) and returning to the mainline of the thread, one of the advantages to the OP of doing a wholescale system upgrade to tapeless HD might be that because you're an in-house shop doing ongoing work, your footage library may be an invaluable resource. The longer you keep doing anything in DV, the more obsolete footage you keep piling up, and the less value you add to your library with each shoot.

That said, backup, storage, and a method for organizing that storage are going to become of major importance. Stacks of tapes aren't going to work anymore.

Also, dunno exactly what kind of shows you're doing, but 'doc/educational' suggests interviews. If that's the case, you might also consider *adding, as a secondary camera* some flavour of HDSLR. Even a cheap one will dramatically improve the look of them- as well as facilitating arty B-roll.

Re: Camera and Editing System Compatibility
November 27, 2012 05:15PM
That's a pretty good point from Randy to add an inexpensive DSLR as a secondary camera, because more footage means more options in post, generally. Be careful that the DSLR shoots only progressive and you may have issues matching the image to interlaced footage, though. But a DSLR is handy for production stills, recce, time lapse, amongst others.

One thing I have to say about DV is that it almost completely killed the quality of low end video production many years ago. Before DV, most guys used to shoot on Beta. Get out of DV, because you'll love the image fidelity that HD has to offer.

HDV on DV tapes is another dying format. Has anyone seen a Hi-8 deck lately? That was fairly common before DV took over. But the point is that if you get a camera that shoots to a fast obsolete tape format, you'll eventually find yourself hard pressed to find a deck to capture those old tapes just a few years on.

The point of the discussion is that, yes, we highly recommend you to upgrade your machine because it's very obsolete. Even FCP 7, which was released 4 years ago will not install without some hacks, and it doesn't support the Avchd formats of the cameras you mentioned. And you get far more juice from a modern iMac than you do a G5. And you don't have to dedicate it to be "the editing machine in the cave". You can use it for other things like surfing Facebook, writing emails and random other stuff you do on computers.

Also while you're at it, consider the 2 modern NLEs which I believe will better suit your needs than FCP7, because FCP7 is dead and is fast showing its age. I picked these 2 because (A), you mentioned that you are not video/editing professionals, (B) you own FCP5, so you should be reasonably familiar with the editing functionality of legacy FCP, and (C) you are considering cameras that shoot to AVCHD. And also why I didn't discuss Avid, because I find the learning curve considerably steeper than the 2 NLEs I mentioned, and just because an NLE is "industry standard" accounts for little, because that alone doesn't get your videos edited and that is mainly useful if you are trying to learn it to get a job, and also, you may not need the much vaunted media management tools that Avid is known for.

Of course, if you ask my opinion, I feel PPro is much better suited for users like you (legacy FCP users), because you really don't have to learn much to adapt to it, and you should be up to speed on it in no time. And you get the benefits of a native workflow, which includes saving time and drive space transcoding footage, which is something you'll need to learn if you take up FCP7, because between FCP5 and FCP7 came a LOT of tapeless formats that required transcoding. With native workflow, the only thing you need to do is to forget about capturing footage, and troubleshooting when you run into dropped frame messages, because native is all about drag and drop.

Also, all that rendering in FCP5, is largely history too. The modern softwares are better able to make use of the processors in your machine, so most of it is real time playback and effects.
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