READ UPDATE AT BOTTOM:
During our summer recess, i have been experimenting with getting our 1080p HD footage on a standard DVD. This is a HUGE issue and, i assure you, extremely frustrating!
Take that load off your shoulders, throw off your shackles, quit on that Prozac, and follow my workflow to get the best HD to SD conversion possible by software. And… it even beats expensive hardware solutions, but that’s my humble opinion.
If you read the many threads on the subject on websites such as DVForum, Creative Cow and the numerous sites dedicated to FCP editing, you’ll get an impression of the frustration that people are experiencing with this issue. I myself tried a number of work flows and methods to get our Sony EX1 and EX3 HD footage to look good on a DVD, without much avail. You can paste a HD edit into a SD sequence, you can export using either Compressor, After effects and other non-Adobe tools. You can resize and sharpen each frame separately using Photoshop and one can use expensive hardware converters… But each time i burned a DVD and watched it on a normal consumer Plasma television, i was disappointed with the results. The difference in quality compared with other DVDs was significant.
The well known problems are:
- sharpness -> footage is as blurry as hell; did i buy a HD camera to end up with this crap?!
- jaggies and noise-> if sharpening the footage using Unsharp-Mask, the down conversion introduces strong jagging and additional noise
I admit that the resizing algorithm of After Effects is much better than FCP’s, but it’s still not what you want.
We are talking commercial DVD and broadcast material here- please, do me a favor!!! – there must be a way to get this right!! Well.., it took me many many hours and a whole spindle of DVD’s to find a method that produced something worth watching AND comparable to the quality of any other commercial DVD production. Read on – even if you don’t use a Sony EX camera!
Here is my work flow – and i repeat: also if you don’t use a Sony EX camera!
- Download and install the Sony XDCAM-EX Clip Browser for Mac or Windows from http://www.sony.ca/xdcamex/software.htm
- Download and install the Sony XDCam Transfer package for Mac or Windows from http://www.sony.ca/xdcamex/software.htm
- Edit your HD footage in FCP (v6.x) as usual, in a HD timeline, using Prores or whatever suites you best, and finalize your production
- Set your audio tracks to Dual Mono – instead of Stereo – in the Audio Outputs Tab (Sequence settings dialog)
- Select Export from the FCP file menu and select SONY XDCAM
- CHANGED THIS: Select an export path, MXF as format, leave any other setting as-is
- INTO THIS: Select an export path, MP4 (XDCAM) as format, leave any other setting as-is
- Run the XDCAM EX Clip Browser program
- Locate and load the sequence you’ve just exported
- Select Export from the File menu and select either Raw DV or DVCAM
- Click on the Details button on the Raw DV window that has appeared; set aspect ratio as preferred (eg. letterbox)
- This will bloody well take some time, so sit back and relax…
- Use the resulting DV file directly in any DVD mastering/burning software, or import into a FCP SD sequence timeline, if you want to do additional grading or sharpening, or whatever…
- Ready! Pin-sharp, pure gold…
We’ve used Sony’s XDCam technology (program and codecs) to downconvert a 720 or 1080 HD sequence to Standard Definition TV format, for output to DVD or Tape. It does a much better job than any other conversion method (except maybe for converting and sharpening each frame with Photoshop).
4K footage (Red) looks even better if you apply a slight blur to the hole HD sequence before exporting it to XDCam in FCP – this to eliminate jaggies. This was suggested in some newsgroup and it makes sense – maybe it’s not needed if you follow the workflow above.
Again, i apologise for any English errors – i am not a native English speaker – but i hope that my 25+ years of experience with this matter helps you off that Prozac (and Cialis at the same time…) 😉
UPDATE: the amazing little program MPEG STREAMCLIP does the job very very good! Best software downconversion seen to date. For both MAC and PC: http://www.squared5.com/