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PROCESSING

Of all the topic around video production, process would have to be one of the driest and least exciting. This wouldn't be such a tragedy if it also wasn't so completely crucial. Processing in the context of this tutorial is anything that needs to happen to footage between shooting it and actually getting to edit it, this includes converting formats, fixing potential visual anomalies and naming it correctly to make work in the future more feasible / enjoyable.

CONVERTING VIDEO TO DIFFERENT FORMATS

Before the standardisation of SD card and solid state storage, video on the camera was generally recorded to a tape. This meant that before any editing could be done you have to get the data off of the tape and encode it into a video format. This essentially forced you to choose a video format before you could even touch your video.
These days most camera's will record directly to files on an SD card or equivalent. This means that the files are essentially ready to be viewed and edited from the moment you click 'stop' on your camera. "Fantastic" you might say "we can skip this step entirely", unfortunately this is not the case. Whilst you might be able to straight to editing if your camera record into something appropriate for it, there is a good chance that the files are ideal for what you need to do. See codecs.

CODECS

Video files are essentially just a string of photos that are played back rapidly so that they appear to be moving, this concept is the same of every type of video out there. The problem lies in the shear volume of images you need to create a video of any reasonable length. Lets take a 10 minute film running at 25fps (25 Frames Per Second). thats 10 minutes X 60 second per minute X 25 frames per second, 10x60x25 = 15,000.
So it takes 15,000 images to create a 10 minute video, but how big is each picture. Let's assume it is Full High Def, which is 1920x1080 pixels. A jpeg images of this size with complexity (e.g. a picture of a street, face, forrest) would be at least 1mb in size. 15,000 images X 1mb = 15,000mb or 15GB. let say you had 2 hours of footage, that is 180GB of footage, and it's not hard for even a short film to be edited down from 10s or 100s of hours.

At this point i'll apologise for waffling, i'm sure you figured out where i was going with this very early on. Video files by their nature want to be huge,  but hard drive space is usually scarce. This is where Codec coming in, a codec is an algorithm that is used to compress and store video. The means by which they do it is likely to complex / irrelevant to go into detail here. What is important is that each codec has it's own properties.

Some codecs are designing to compress video to be tiny for internet use (e.g. H.264), others are closer to be lossless (where no compression occurs that will lose detail) and there are many in between. At this point you might be led to think "lets just get the smallest file that still looks good" but unfortunately the more you compress a video, despite also risking losing quality, the more your computer has to work hard un de-compressing it. So for video editing where you are constantly scrubbing around video, cutting it, applying effects etc etc. You really don't want you computer to have to pull every frame apart just to show you. this is why in editing and special effects you will generally work with what is known as a "transport codec"

Transport codecs are designed specifically with editing in mind, they can be set up to reduce file size if you like but are geared towards being very quick for the computer to handle, the tradeoff is that they are still quite large.

Here at Change Media we almost exclusively use a format developed by apple called 'ProRes', this codec comes with several versions for different video quality.

DO I NEED TO CONVERT?

Before you can know if you need to convert your footage into another codec it pays to check what formats your editor supports, how much space you have to spare and the power of the machine you are using.

CONVERTING FILE FORMATS

Once you have determined if you need to convert the format of your footage. You will need to decided on software to do the conversion. Luckily almost every piece of editing software will come with the required software to convert footage into, at very least, the formats required to use it in the software.

Most of the conversions here at Change Media would take place directly in Final Cut Pro which is the software package that we use for editing. Alternatively we also used a standalone piece of free software known at Mpeg Stream-clip, an open source project that I can't recommend highly enough.

OTHER FORMS OF PROCESSING

Converting video between codecs is not the only form of process that can happen in this phase of the production line. This point also provides one of the last opportunities to do bulk processing of footage to fix mistake that might have happened during shooting. Potential other problems could including, wrong exposure or colour settings at the time of filming. Also one problem that we faced when we were working on 'when does the light turn on' was that all of our slow motion footage contained a slight flicker, this all had to be removed before we could edit it.

 

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