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Final Cut Pro Advanced Technique: Using Sorenson Video 3

Looking for a high quality compression codec to create great looking QuickTime? By Heath McKnight

Looking for an alternative compression codec to create QuickTime (QT) videos that can be emailed and edited in any sort of non-linear edit program (NLE) that supports QT? Sorenson Video 3 is an excellent option, and this article aims to help you with creating the videos in Final Cut Pro (FCP). You can use this codec for offline edits, especially if your editor is in a location that's not easy to get to.

Currently, I am in post-production on a short film, HELLEVATOR (www.hellevatormovie.com), which was shot on the Panasonic HPX500. Matt Miller, the Director of Photography and Visual Effects Supervisor, and I decided to shoot in 720p 24pn (native), so there is no pulldown to remove, straight 24p. We shot some scenes in 60p for slow motion, but for the most part, its 23.98 frames per second. I set up my FCP project to DVCPRO HD 720p24 and got to work importing the clips from the camera.

Matt uses a PC running Windows and Vegas Pro 8, whereas I am on FCP, so we've developed a workflow to get the clips to him, though I'm sure in the future, it will evolve. I cut the short together, which isn't easy since the movie was filmed entirely in front of a green screen. Matt took photos with a Nikon D200, of an elevator, office hallway, and lobby for the virtual sets, which he assembled in his computer.

Click for full view. The original DVCPRO HD file is above, the Sorenson Video 3 file is below. The size of the images is native 960 x 720, hence the square shape.

Click for full view

Now that the rough cut is done, I need to send Matt the raw clips of the footage I used for the movie. When it came time to decide which compression codec to use to create QuickTime videos that Matt can use to work on the VFX in Windows, and I can then use to edit back into FCP in Apple, Sorenson Video 3 was a viable option, and so far it's working. The FX are coming out looking great. Keep in mind, we're creating something like a comic book (similar to "300" and "Sin City"), so there will be a lot of FX work and color correction.  Clips run on my HDTV at home look great to my eye.

To give an example, an unedited 1 minute 37 second DVCPRO HD clip, in 960 x 720 resolution (the native frame size, which becomes 1280 x 720 in your NLE), 23.98 fps, is 570 MB in size. The same clip, now compressed in Sorenson Video 3 and exported as a QuickTime video in the same frame size, frame rate, etc., is just under 93 MB! Once I finished creating the QT videos, I burned some CDs and mailed them off to Matt. If there weren't so many clips, I would have sent them via www.yousendit.com, or I would have FTP'd them.

Sorenson 3 QT conversion

To create a Sorenson 3 QuickTime video that will run on any compatible NLE, simply put an in and out on the clip or project in the timeline you wish to export, in FCP. Then, go to File, Export, Using QuickTime Conversion. Click on Options, then under Video, click on Settings. Change the Compression Type to Sorenson Video 3, then change the Quality to Best and keep everything else the same. Hit OK, don't touch the sound options and uncheck the Prepare for Internet Streaming box. It should look like this:

QT conversion

If you need to create QT movies for Final Cut Pro users only, you can either use the QT Conversion process I described above, or you can create a QuickTime Movie, which will create a QT video that can only be used in FCP. In fact, the unopened file will resemble a Final Cut Pro project file vs. a QuickTime video file. To change the settings, you need to go into Sequence Settings for the timeline you are cutting in, and then change the QuickTime Video Settings to Sorenson Video 3, and the quality should be kept at 100%.  The settings should look like this:
(insert qtmovies)

After that, go to File, Export, Using QuickTime Movie, keep all settings Current (don't touch them), re-name and hit Save.  Either one of these options can create smaller-in-size QuickTime videos that can be edited in any NLE, except for those created using QuickTime Movie, which is only compatible with Apple's Final Cut Pro.

Many may question why Matt and I are using this method. It's not perfect, but we've been working with no issues so far. If you look at both images above, there is artifacting on the DVCPRO HD footage (from P2 cards), same with the Sorenson Video 3 footage, though a little more. This is an alternative you can try, but if it doesn't work out, try it for offline editing and/or web delivery.

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Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.

Related Keywords:NLE, sorenson 3, video compression, video editing, FCP, final cut pro,

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