Saturday, October 29, 2011

Video Editing & Final Cut Pro

One of the more significant reasons I decided to get a Mac was because of my video editing issues that I often experienced on the PC.  Below is my story and I hope it gives a little more insight into my experience and reasoning.

I have been filming videos ever since 2002. Back then I purchased my first Sony video recorder in anticipation of our first child, Kaitlyn.  It proved to be a great purchase and I captured many moments of her, and countless other events (Christmas parties, Weddings, Birthdays, etc) since then.  That was quite a few years before HD came out and I was pretty content with the camera.

Going even further back... I can remember my grandfather (Dad's side) first introduced me to a VHS camera when I was probably around 10 years old. He was always the guy with the camera whenever we had family events, particularly on Christmas.  As my Dad tells it, he was always more excited than even the kids were growing up and having Christmas morning. So it made a lot of sense that he would spend much of his time filming from the chair in the corner of the living room when we went to visit Grandma & Grandpa.  I suppose my Grandfather first got me interested in doing video. In a way, I think I have picked up the torch- now it is me sitting in the chair taking everything in.

Fast forward another 8-10 years to College. I was involved in a campus ministry, Campus Crusade for Christ.  Every now and then we decided to create some video skits. These skits usually became epic works that years later were still talked about.  A good buddy (and roommate) of mine would spend countless hours at the PC using Ulead Studio, his Packard Bell doing basic video editing. I learned a lot about working with video through this process.  I also learned that 30 seconds "is an eternity" on video and you have to work hard to fill it up with something interesting...

Not long after I graduated college I found myself still quite interested in the whole AV/Video thing. Being a long time computer nerd as well, it made perfect since for me to be at "the intersection of computers and video".  Some of the things I dove into were Windows Media Center (the early version that was an add on to the OS) and programming... with the vision of having all your media at your finger tips on your living room TV, as opposed to looking at a computer screen in the damp, dingy, dusty basement.  Media Center ended up being a pretty pivotal piece of technology and allowed me to display all my old school videos on my TV.

Things changed again in 2006.  High Definition was finally affordable, though I was definitely an early adopter of the technology.  I picked up a JVC HD video camera that did "full HD" which turned out to not really be full HD, but 1080i (close enough).  The video quality on this camera was stunning but it came with a big price... disk space and huge cpu needs. The camera itself has a 60GB hdd which ends up holding about 4 hours of video.  For several years, my computer was a bottleneck- it was really difficult to do much with the footage.  But that was OK- recording the files and simply watching them were good enough most of the time.

A few years later Intel came out with the i7 chipset which finally meant I could easily edit and render video without having to wait several hours while doing so.  I built a PC and experimented with several different NLE's (video editing tools) including the latest version of Ulead Studio and Sony Vegas. During that time I had some great "use case" footage- including the Youth Lockin where we filmed about 10 video skits.  The total footage was well over 8 hours, but each video ended up rendering around 5 minutes or less once I cleaned them up and put into content.  They were quite the hit at the Church and are still talked about today. For some reason, people just love to see themselves in videos! :)  I've also done several weddings, rehearsal dinners, church events, family vacations, etc. over the years.

Although the PC generally did the job, I would get the occasional lock up or freeze and lose my work. Certain file formats (like .MOV) would not import well from the lower end camera that I had picked up to take on Disney trips (rather than lugging around my larger camera).  This was frustrating me and I started to look around and consider my options.  With everything going on in the Apple World, and having known for many years that a lot of the "pro's" use Mac's for video editing, I thought I would at least get more educated about it.  I didn't have to look too far.  There was a new couple that started coming to our church and they were both very talented.  Tom teaches a class at UT on Video / Multimedia... and his wife Cheri plays piano professionally for the Toledo Opera (and joined the music team).  I talked to him several times about some of my challenges, especially after seeing some of the exceptional video work he has created for our Church.

As you may have been following my Mac Adventures, you know that I haven't really reported too much on the video experience simply because I haven't had that time until now.  Well, I've finally got a chance to get hands on and I am here to tell you:


I am using Final Cut Pro, iMovie, iPhoto, and a few utilities. But it is so amazing working on a Mac to edit video.  Coming from Sony Vegas / Ulead in the past it was quite easy to come up to speed for basic editing with Final Cut Pro (version 7).  I found a web site that also greatly assisted me:

I have been able to successfully edit my high definition MPEG 2 camera footage as well as my low end camera that creates .MOV footage.  One downside is that I have to convert all my MPEG 2 footage into .MOV in order to get Final Cut Pro working how I want, but that conversion is very quick and I can't discern any loss of quality (huge!!)!  To convert, I am using a utility called MPEG Stream which is apparently available on both PC and Mac.  If I want to create a slideshow movie with photos, I use iMovie.  The best thing about all these utilities is that the Mac gives you complete control over what format your video is in across all these tools.  That means there is no conversion, stuttering, lag, or other general ugliness when working on a video. No drivers, codecs to mess with, etc.

It just works!

So the verdict is in... it has been totally worth the switch. If I wasn't convinced before, I am now! I spend a lot of time working with multimedia and now I can do so in a very nice environment.

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