So......codecs. What the heck are they? Well, it's how your movie will be encoded in order to provide proper playback on the device or medium you want the video to be seen. There are certain codecs required for You Tube and Vimeo. There are certain codecs required for burning to a DVD or Blu-ray. There are also codecs that allow you to render uncompressed video footage which gives you the best picture quality available (along with an enormous file size to deal with).
There's a lot of talk going on nowadays about RAW, Pro Res 422, VXCAM 422, DnX 422, 2.5K, and 4K. Where do those file types come from? Your camera. Most DSLR, Consumer, and some Prosumer cameras record video data as AVCHD files (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) -which is a format owned by Sony and Panasonic. In order to get the higher quality RAW or uncompressed formats, your camera needs to have the capability to record data in that format. Cameras like the Blackmagic Design 2.5K/4K, the Blackmagic Pocket, Canon 60D, Canon 5D Mark III, Sony FS700, and etc. You cannot simply take an AVCHD file and upgrade it to 4K RAW. That just simply cannot happen primarily because the RAW format records tons more data and creates a picture size so much larger than standard AVCHD.
So, what's the big deal. Why can't you use just any codec and be happy with it? Well, again, it comes back to your end game. What will you be doing with this video? That will determine the quality you want to have. But, be wary. Some HD codecs can compress your video down so much, that it will have no difference between standard definition and high definition. It is important when choosing a codec to see how big the exported file size will be. The larger the file size (MB or GB), the better quality it has because it's not compressing the data so much. Most software programs will tell you what the file size will be after exporting is complete. If your software does not, then..............get a different software. Adobe Premiere, Final Cut, AVID, Sony Vegas....all let you see the file size before exporting.
Here are some options to consider for export codecs:
There are lots of tutorials out there to help you decide which codec is best for your project, but ultimately you will have to decide which one gives you the quality you are looking for. You also need to recognize that what ever device will be playing your video, it needs to have the proper codecs to decode the video format. DVD and Blu-ray players generally do not support Apple ProRes 422 or XDCAM 422 unless you author the video file onto a DVD or Blu-ray disc. Likewise, online streaming services generally do not accept uncompressed codecs because the file size is too large.
It's always a good idea once you have completed exporting your video to play the video on several different sources to make sure it works on a variety of things.
So……audio formats. You are probably already familiar with the two most common formats: MP3 and WAV. MP3 is a compressed file that is standard for anything on a CD album, Apple iTunes, and most internet digital download services –basically anything for the average consumer. WAV files are usually not as compressed (or not compressed at all) and gives you a better audio quality. However, when it comes to the world of film, there are LOTS of different formats.
Most portable field recording devices (such as Zoom or Tascam -as mentioned in another post) record in WAV formats and you generally have control over how much it is compressed. It might be good to stop and Google “WAV” at this point to learn more about the intricacies of this format. Basically, if you capture sound at 96kHz in 24-bit, you would have really good, relatively uncompressed audio. Anything less than that and you start to lose quality.
More sophisticated devices and even some prosumer cameras can capture Linear PCM audio. What’s that? It’s purely uncompressed audio. Think of it as the same as RAW for video. In fact, DVDs and Blu-rays use Linear PCM audio. Given the option, you should always choose LPCM over anything else your camera or recording device has to offer. It will give you the highest fidelity –of course the quality also greatly depends upon your recording equipment.
Most video editing software available (stay away from the free or cheap versions…we’re talking pro stuff here) accepts LPCM just fine. You don’t even have to worry about it. There’s no need to convert it into WAV (unless you have a lousy software program). You should avoid using any audio on your film that is MP3 format since it is highly compressed. Sound effects and music should always be in at least a WAV format.
Once you have finished editing your video, you must now edit your audio. Keep in mind that your video editing software is just that….VIDEO editing software. Your program may give you tools to add effects or correct audio, but they generally are just bandaids and shouldn’t be relied upon. To give your video truly professional sound, you must export your audio into an audio editing software program. There are many of them out there and most professional video editing software programs have audio software included with the product. Here’s a list of audio editing programs that come bundled with video editing software:
Adobe Premier – Adobe Audition
AVID Media Composer – AVID Pro Tools
Sony Vegas Pro – Sony Sound Forge
Final Cut Pro – Audio Essentials
There’s also numerous other programs out there for professionals like Steinberg Nuendo that can do much, much more –but have a pretty stiff price tag associated with them.
Another post will deal with how to export and mix good audio.
Learning how to capture and mix good audio is just as essential as learning how to capture and edit good video. Both work together and either one can take the whole project down if not done right.
So.......software. Which one? There’s many. Too many. They all pretty much do about the same thing, right? Ummmm…..nope.
First of all, let’s make it perfectly clear that as a filmmaker you have absolutely no intention of using (and I shudder to even type them) Windows Live Movie Maker, iMovie or any other editing software that came free with your PC or Mac, something you got out of the bargain bin at Walmart, or anything that cost you less than $200. (Now pardon me while I go take a shower. I feel dirty for having even mentioned those. I may have also vomited a little in my mouth.)
The software I am discussing is actual video editing software. Free or poopie-cheap software will most certainly not give you the kind of professionalism that you want your videos to have. You must step into the realm of professional video editing software. I am talking about the all-powerful Adobe Creative Suite, AVID Media Composer, Apple Final Cut Pro, Sony Vegas Pro, and other comparable products. Adobe and AVID have the lion’s share of the market by far. Final Cut is starting to fade and Sony is picking up steam. All are good options for editing video.
That being said, there are differences between them. If you are into graphic design, animation, or love to use Adobe Photoshop, then you definitely want to go with Adobe Premiere Pro since you can link all your imported files. This is a feature Adobe calls “Dynamic Link”. So, if you make a change to your picture in Photoshop, it is automatically updated in Premiere Pro…without you having to do anything. The same goes for projects created in Illustrator, InDesign, and After Effects. Honestly, this is what gives Premiere Pro such an edge over other products. You get all of Adobe’s powerful line of products working simultaneously. You can’t go wrong.
I have also used Final Cut Pro and Sony Vegas Pro extensively and they are spectacular as well. I will say that I prefer Sony Vegas Pro over Final Cut Pro because the user interface and workflow is so much better. In fact, I use Sony Vegas for little projects or home movies because it is so easy and fluid to use. I use Adobe for large and complex projects because of all the needed resources.
The answer here, you really need to put some research into a software program that not only meets your needs, but also meets your level of computer proficiency. If you struggle to check email or pull up your bank account online, then you probably will go blind or have a mental breakdown from just looking at Premiere Pro or AVID. If you can navigate your way around a computer really well and catch on quick, then you are probably safe getting whatever software fits your needs.
In order to understand what software you need, you need to consider what the software offers. You need to find out answers to these questions:
There are many other things you should be asking about your potential software, but these are perhaps the most important and will give you a good starting point.
One thing is doubly important….make sure your computer can handle the software! Complex systems like Adobe and AVID require a ton of computing power. Meaning, they need fast processors, lots of RAM, a heavy-duty graphics card, and a lot of hard drive space. Please understand that the minimum requirements posted on product packaging is just that…..the MINIMUM. You should aim for a computer that exceeds the minimum requirements.
A computer that only meets the minimum requirements or doesn’t meet them at all will cause you way too much misery and will take years off your life. The program will not be able to handle large projects, it will lag while editing or playing back, it will constantly crash or error, it will take excruciatingly large amounts of time to export/render final projects……like hours and hours and hours….like start rendering before you go to bed and hopefully by the time you get up in the morning it will be finished….that’s how bad. It’s not good if you’re working with tight deadlines. You just don’t have that kind of time to waste rendering things that way. Be sure that you have figured purchasing a powerful computer into your business plan.
It is also important to note that your video editing computer should be just that….your editing computer. This should not be your main home computer that the kids play games on, the wife clutters with terabytes of photos, and unscrupulous internet browsing occurs. This machine needs to be solely dedicated to processing nothing more than video projects. This will help the machine stay uncluttered, virus and error free, and running smooth and fast.
When choosing a computer, consider the following hardware suggestions:
These configurations may not be available on all models of PC or MAC, so you may have to do some manual configuring on the product websites to see what can be upgraded. Please note that most laptops do not allow for extensive upgrades because they simply do not have the space for the larger, more powerful components. I would highly suggest looking at a desktop computer since more hardware options are available to you. I would also suggest looking at gaming computer brands like Alienware or HP ENVY since those models are already enhanced with more RAM, faster processors, and beefy graphics cards. MAC users beware. Any upgrades to your Mac Pro or iMac will be extremely costly. You should expect to spend $2000-$3000 more for a MAC than a PC.
When choosing a software program, be sure to research what types of codecs come with the program and if it’s possible to install additional rendering codecs. In a nutshell, codecs are video formats that your software will compress your final project to for viewing online or burning to a DVD. Codecs are covered in another post. Make sure that your software can render using high-quality codecs.
There are literally thousands of online tutorial videos demonstrating different editing software programs. It would be wise to check them out on YouTube or the product websites to learn more about them before making a final purchase. They also come in handy for learning more about your software by teaching things like animations and special effects.
Copyright 2018 Steven Vest. All rights reserved.
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