[ This article was first published in the February, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]
The native format of HDV isn’t QuickTime, its .M2T.
M2T, otherwise called an MPEG-2 Transport stream, is not the same thing as the standard MPEG-2 file that we create in Compressor to use in DVD Studio Pro. I was told recently that there are 14 different versions of MPEG-2, which I find strangely reassuring. Why should there be any more standardization in compressed files than there is in video formats?
Sigh… the world is perverse.
Anyway, while working on my latest book, I needed to convert .M2T files into something that Final Cut can edit. Final Cut likes lots and lots of different files – but not .M2T.
This means that if someone captures an HDV file in another application, such as Adobe OnLocation or Adobe Premiere, then sends it to you, you’ll need to transcode it to QuickTime before bringing it into Final Cut.
Note: You can not use QuickTime Player to preview an M2T file. The Finder displays it as a generic document icon.
There are a variety of ways of doing this, but the two easiest are:
* MPEG Streamclip
The benefits to using Compressor is that you already own the software, its fully integrated with Final Cut Pro, it supports batch processing, and it works.
The benefit to using MPEG Streamclip is that it is free, which means you can use it on a system which doesn’t have Final Cut installed, and it supports transcoding into far more formats than Compressor.
Both are good choices.
To convert a clip in Compressor, click the Add Clip icon in the top left corner to import your file.
From the Settings tab twirl down Apple, twirl down Advanced Conversions, and select the HDV option that most closely resembles the footage that you shot. In this case, I’m using HDV 1080i/60.
Note: You can also transcode the .M2T file into another format for editing. For my projects, I would probably transcode into ProRes 422. (Not the HQ version because HDV doesn’t have a high enough quality to justify the increased file size.) However, as our goal was to create an HDV file compatible with Final Cut, we will transcode into HDV for this example.
Drag the setting on top of the file we just imported into the Task window. With Compressor, you only need to set the OUTPUT. Compressor will automatically determine the file type of the source file.
From the Destination tab, select where you want the compressed file to appear.
In this case, we want the compressed file to be stored at the same location as the source file, so we select Source and drag this destination on top of the file we just added the Setting in the Task window.
Note: In real-life, I create a custom Destination, called “Compressed Files” on my second drive, which is where all my compressed files get stored. This makes finding compressed files a lot easier because I don’t need to remember where the source file was stored.
Once you’ve applied a Setting and a Destination, click Submit in the lower right corner of the Task window to begin the compression.
At this point, you can quit Compressor, as it is only used to set up a file for compression. Other software does the actual compression.
USING MPEG STREAMCLIP
MPEG Streamclip, by Squared 5 Software, is designed as a general purpose video converter.
This free utility is like the Swiss Army knife of video – it converts almost anything to almost anything.
Here’s a quick look at how it works.
Start MPEG Streamclip and drag the file you want to convert on top of the five blue dots. (Normally, I would say “into the center of the window.” But, how many other applications have very kindly put five blue dots in the center of their application? It makes my life easier.)
Here, for example, is a green screen shot that I want to convert from M2T to HDV to illustration problems with shadows in keys. (This is Andrew, by the way.)
From the File menu, select Export to QuickTime. Just as with Compressor, you only need to tell the application how you want the file output. It will figure out what kind of file the source is.
With dozens and dozens of different video formats to choose from, I selected HDV 1080i/60. Again, we could just as easily transcode this to ProRes, or some other format.
Note: In talking with Graeme Nattress, I learned that converting HDV to DVCPRO HD is not a good option as both are compressed formats and tend to degrade the image more than necessary.
This screen looks more frightening than it is. Mainly because almost all the defaults are fine. Once you’ve selected the codec (HDV), slide the Quality slider to 100%, then…
.. click the Make Movie button.
Your video immediately starts to export.
UPDATE – Feb. 3, 2009
Tom Wolsky points out:
If you don’t have Final Cut Pro installed, or some other pro app, you will probably need to purchase from Apple the MPEG Playback Component, which is I think about $20.
Larry replies: Thanks, Tom, for the update. (I also fixed the graphic.)
UPDATE – Feb. 7, 2009
As soon as I released my newsletter, I had several people tell me about ClipWrap, a new piece of software. Dave Barnard’s comments were similar to what others wrote:
An alternative to re-compressing HDV .M2T files is to use Divergent Media’s Clipwrap software, which re-wraps the files to an FCP compatible Quicktime format much faster than transcoding. It also doesn’t need the extra disk space transcoding requires, very useful when you have several hours of material.
I used Clipwrap very successfully recently for a direct-to-disk multi-camera recording system for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. A few minutes after a performance, over 4 hours of HD footage was ready for multicam editing in Final Cut – everyone was amazed!
Great work on the newsletter, always good to read – including the make-up tips! 🙂
The Powder Gel looks well worth having around for any studio shoot situation – thanks for the heads-up
Good to see you are doing the Pro Techniques seminar in London, see you then
Larry replies: Thanks, Dave. I always like hearing from people that are using the product. See you in London!
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