15
Sep
09

Revisited: The one and definitive FCP HD to SD downconversion method

READ UPDATE AT BOTTOM

As a lucky owner of a Sony EX-1, i stumbled upon another good (maybe even better) hardware HD->SD downconversion method.

If you own a EX1, export your FCP sequence to XDCAM-EX (like in the previous walkthrough) and copy it back onto a EX1 memory card; configure your EX1 video output to deliver SD letterbox or framecrop, and play your movie from the EX1 !  Simple!  You will have to record the output signal to a SD recorder, capture card or a professional broadcast quality sampling device to get it digital again.

Don’t laugh: i tried this with an old Sony 1 inch video taperecorder (once top-of-the-broadcast-bill), played it on my Philips plasma TV and it looked better (read: sharper) than any other SD output i’ve seen from my HD footage!  Since this is a fully analogue picture, i find this conclusion pretty shocking!

Am i getting crazy, or is the hardware-and-rerecording way the only solution to get an acceptable SD down-conversion?

Just to get you started with a new discussion. Maybe some SD capturing device gurus out there can jump to it.

Martin

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/


11 Responses to “Revisited: The one and definitive FCP HD to SD downconversion method”


  1. 1 Jason
    September 23, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Hey Martin,

    I have an EX3 – and Am also doing a lot of “Shoot in HD and deliver in SD” work. I want to try your method of using the EX3 to downconvert my HD to SD. Do you have any examples of the hard ware you attach to the EX3 to capture the SD footage. A black magic Card?

    Also my current HD to SD work flow: Shoot XDCAM EX – Edit in an XDCAM EX timeline – Then I Down convert straight out of FCP using Compressor. I let Compressor do all the resizing and mpeg-2 conversion, and I make sure that I set the Frame Controls to “ON” and the resize filter to “Best” (For Me that is the secret) I get pretty good results, I bet if you came out of FCP -> Compressor – And Output a ProRes 422 HQ video file – and then used something like. Episode or http://www.omni-cinemacraft.com/ would produce a nicer mpeg-2 file.

    For Me the 2 main variables to consider are: How are you resizing, and how are you converting to mpeg-2.

  2. 2 marvelsfilm
    October 4, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Hi Jason.
    At the moment, i do only software conversion. I’ve learned that both the “fcp>compressor” route (with the best settings) AND “my fcp>export to xdcam>export to dvcam” both have varying results. As far as i can see now, i think i’ll stick to the compressor method because of the workflow -> fewer steps, faster workflow. I still see a little difference in sharpness between the two workflows, but that’s all purely subjective.
    I once sugeested to use the EX1/3 to play the clip and let the camera do the hardware downconversion. It works and it looks better than the compressor method, but you’ll need a capturing device – as you already mentioned – like the black magic card.

    I think the bottom line is: downconverting from a high resolution to SD without dropping lines is asking for trouble…

    Martin

  3. 3 Andrew
    November 4, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Hey Martin, thanks for putting these tips up. I thought I was crazy that I couldn’t get decent downconvert from my EX1 to DVD without hardware.

    I DO have mpeg streamclip and tried it today but didn’t get very good results. Do you have a workflow that works for you?

    My native files were 1080 59.94 XDCam EX, transcoded to DNxHD 220 in avid. I exported a quicktime reference and also a “same as source” quicktime, but didn’t get very good results in Mpeg Streamclip.

  4. 4 marvelsfilm
    November 5, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Hello Andrew.

    My current workflow for SD is as follows.
    1 – edit and render to Apple ProRes-HQ (change your project settings, don’t forget the Render tab to read “same as input codec”)
    2 – export to Quicktime movie, selfcontained movie, current project settings
    3 – open in MPEG Streamclip
    4 – Export to Quicktime, Apple Prores HQ, max quality, best rescaling stuff ON, upper field, NO interlacing stuff
    optional:
    5 – Beauty pass: import into FCP again (new project) add the Regrain filter (http://www.mattias.nu/plugins/) (level 60, treshold 60) to the whole clip; export to another Prores movie. Use MPEG streamclip to convert to convert to any other format from here.

    I render to prores and leave the whole XDCam format right after edit.

    I must say that only when mastering for DVD, i use Compressor as the last step instead of MPEG streamclip; but i always use the regrain filter on all of my downscaled work – also for youtube.

    Regards,

    Martin

  5. 5 Simon B
    May 10, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks Martin. I’ve tested around 25 workflows now. My issue was flickering on slides included in the DVD video. I’m not sure why but putting through streamclip seems to have been the only solution to stop this. There is a hit on the overall video quality though.

  6. 6 marvelsfilm
    May 10, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Simon.

    MPEG Streamclip does something “special” that’s true, but if we must be grateful for that, i don’t know… For example, I see that noise is added when i convert XDCAM-HD to QT ProRes HQ; which should not happen! So apart from “standard” quicktime conversion, MPEG Streamclip touches the input material in a number of obscure(d) ways…. Having said that; i still use MPEG Streamclip for downscaling to SD; then i import in FCP again and add sharpening with the TMTS Regrain pplugin and then i export to Compressor for DVD MPeg. Very time consuming but OK…

    Cheers,

    Martin

  7. July 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Referring to your suggestion:

    “If you own a EX1, export your FCP sequence to XDCAM-EX (like in the previous walkthrough) and copy it back onto a EX1 memory card; configure your EX1 video output to deliver SD letterbox or framecrop, and play your movie from the EX1 ! Simple! You will have to record the output signal to a SD recorder, capture card or a professional broadcast quality sampling device to get it digital again.”

    I would love to be able to do this. However, will the EX1 recognise and play back a .mov file? Doesn’t it require mp4 files with all the weird accessory files that come with it in the folders the EX1 generates? How do you produce those?

  8. 8 marvelsfilm
    July 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Chaim.

    Do you use FCP? FCP has an Export to XDCAM function that makes all files for you. You are asked to select an xdcam codec (xdcam-ex VBR; eg. 1024p25vbr ) and check “MP4” for method. The export is not very quick, but it will give you a directory/file structure identical to the ones on your xdcam-ex memory card.

    If you DON’T have fcp – let me know and i’ll try to figure this out – i know that it is possible with a free conversion tool as well, can’t remember which one. Could be the Sony xdcam transfer suite.

    Cheers!

    Martin

  9. July 4, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Hi Martin,

    Thank you for your prompt reply. I do have FCP and following your instructions have converted a timeline which XDCAM EX Clip Browser plays!

    One more question. If I’m going to use the EX1 method of downscaling, I’ll need something to convert the component or SDI output of my EX1 to Firewire. Or would it just be better to buy a SD-SDI capture card?

    Thanks in anticipation.

    C

  10. 10 Bostjan Grabnar
    May 10, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Best conversion HD to SD:
    I try almost everything and throw away hundreds and more DVDs, finally I found what I was looking for! XDCAM footage edit in FCP, than export using QT conversion, I use DV STREAM (PAL) preset, then open this file with compressor or with Main concept converter and export it to MPEG 2 file. I use IMAC with 3.2 GHz dual core proc. and for 1 hour movie it tooks aproc. 1,5 h for both conversins. Works great.

  11. January 7, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Generally I don’t learn post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice article.


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