One thing I find myself doing very often while editing remotely…me in L.A., the production company in Virginia…is exporting Quicktime files of my project for my producers at “home base” to watch. I will do this on an Act by Act basis…when I finish an act, I’ll export it, upload to their FTP.
Now, like most, if not all of you, I don’t like to sit and wait for a long time while this process happens. I have stuff to do. So I want this to go fast. And I have found a formula that makes it not only go fast, but keeps the file sizes small too. Without making the video look too crappy.
First off, I want to note, this is REVIEW quality. Meaning, you watch it for content, not quality. The outputs aren’t high res, they aren’t high quality. They are OK quality. This is how I keep the file sizes small, and export times fast. How fast? Real time fast. A 48 min sequence exports in about 50 min. OK, a little SLOWER than real time. But what if I told you this includes a timecode window? One that I didn’t render before exporting? Yeah, that impressed me too.
OK, so the first thing I do is highlight all my tracks, and from start to finish on the timeline. Then I do an EXPERT RENDER…meaning, “render all effects that aren’t real time effects.” Since I render as I edit, this often takes little to no time…but some stuff slips through the cracks. Then, I make a new blank layer, and drop on my Timecode Generator effect. And then, without rendering again (if you did another expert render, it would want to render that timecode…for the entire length of the sequence)…I simply choose FILE>EXPORT. A window pops up asking for export type, and location of where the file should go. From there I click on the drop down menu and choose EXPORT TO QT MOVIE, and set my destination, and file name. Then I use the following settings.
1) This is the main export window. I’m not going to repeat all the settings you see here, I only want to point out that I use 640×360, as I am editing a 16:9 sequence, and I make sure it is chosen in both the WIDTH AND HEIGHT section, and the DISPLAY ASPECT RATIO section. This frame dimension must be consistent in all export window options. Oh, and USE MARKS means that the IN and OUT points I set are the range that will be exported. I will have my full timeline up, but only want to export one Act, so I mark IN and OUT for the act I want to export. Make sure that is checked, otherwise it’ll export the whole sequence.
2) I click on FORMAT OPTIONS to get the above menu. I make sure to enable AUDIO and VIDEO here. Even though I might have it chosen to do video and audio in the previous menu, if it isn’t chosen here, you won’t get it. Gotta to it in both places. Click on AUDIO…choose 44.1 and 16-bit stereo. If you want smaller QT files, make it mono, or 22.0 and mono. I don’t do this. Because audio is very important. If the picture quality sucks…fine. People can see past that. But if the audio sucks, is noisy…then the QT is unwatchable. This is the one area I keep the settings in the GOOD range.
OK, click on VIDEO and you get:
3) A couple things to mention here. At first Avid defaults to SORENSON 3. So click on the drop down menu and choose H.264. If you leave the DATA RATE on AUTOMATIC, that allows you to adjust the slider. If you type in a number, RESTRICT TO, then you can’t. I generally keep it on AUTOMATIC and put the quality at MEDIUM. For smaller files, you can restrict to 1000 or 1500 kbps. I just find MEDIUM to be a good middle ground. Another important thing to do, is change the encoding from BEST QUALITY, where it defaults, to FASTER. This is the key to the fast export times.
Click OK. Click OK again..the other OK, in the MOVIE settings. Then click SAVE AS…and name it whatever you will. This way you don’t need to redo your settings. Just choose the preset you make and you are ready to go.
Then watch it progress in real time.
Now, if you want fast encoding of QT H.264 files…also in real time. Then look at the Matrox solutions. Compress HD is a PCIe card that fits in the MacPro computers. And then there are the MAX versions of their hardware IO devices. If you use the Matrox H.264 option, that will trigger these devices to kick in and aid the encoding process. Making high res H.264s in real time. Chew on that.
(NOTE: I am working with footage from the Canon C300…accessed via AMA and consolidated, not transcoded. So our footage is XDCAM 422…a GOP format. And GOP formats don’t allow for SAME AS SOURCE exports. So I can’t do that and use, say COMPRESSOR and add the TC burn there. If your footage was DNxHD in any flavor, you’d be able to do that. But I wonder if doing that, then taking into Compressor or Sorenson and compressing is any quicker than the real time, direct output from Avid that I have laid out here.)