Not too long ago, I posted an article on how to transcode .mov files from a Canon t2i using Avid’s DNxHD codec. Overall, that was a good solution (and still is) but I think I’ve found a solution I like more.
I noticed on Eugenia’s blog that she discovered a way to trancode .mov files using the recently released Matrox codecs. The solution works, but it’s very cumbersome for the average user (no offense intended; I’ve learned much from reading Eugenia’s blog). I’ve discovered a significantly simpler (and less time-consuming) solution (in my opinion) with the help of a professional videographer who prefers me not to use his name.
This solution should be appropriate for anyone looking for an excellent intermediate format for editing in Sony Vegas or another non-linear video editing program (NLE). It’s fast, easy and free.
A couple quick words (before I start) on why transcoding for editing is a good idea.
There are different codecs for different purposes. There are capture codecs (H.264, AVCHD, etc.). They encode fast but decode slow. Thus, they’re excellent for capturing but terrible for playback. There are editing codecs (DNxHD, Matrox, Cineform) which create large files but which don’t lose much information during the color grading / editing processes. Then there are delivery codecs which compress efficiently while maintaining visual quality. These files are high quality and small.
Professionals will transcode for each step of the process, unless they shoot something at four o’ clock and they need to roll out a finished product by five o’ clock. But to maintain optimal quality, transcoding for each step is necessary. It is often possible to edit .mov files directly, but if you do much color grading and editing you’ll end up with a far inferior product than if you’d transcoded to an appropriate intermediate format.
O.K. There’s my reasoning (mostly given to me by my friend, the professional videographer). So let’s get started on this tutorial.
First, you’re going to need two items. You’ll need Prism Video Converter (free version) and you’ll need the Matrox codecs. Be sure to use my link. Don’t google it or you’re likely to end up with an older version of the codecs. That’s all you’ll need.
If you have any problems, you may need to download a few other things, but for now, let’s start with the two previous items. Download and install the items. Start up Prism Video Converter. You’ll see the following screen.
Click on “Add Files” in the upper left and select the videos you want to transcode. It’s easy to select multiple videos at once by holding down the “Ctrl” button on your keyboard while clicking each video clip you want. After you’ve selected the clips you want, click “Open.”
Next, you’ll want to change the “Output Format” to “avi.” Since this tutorial is primarily focused on making intermediate files that will play nicely with Sony Vegas, it’s important to create .avi files. Why? Sony Vegas likes .avi files and gets along with them, that’s why.
Now it’s time to set the “Encoder Options.” Be sure that your “Video Compressor” is set to “Matrox MPEG-2 I-frame HD” and set your “Sound Format” to “48000 Hz, 16 bits, stereo.”
Before closing out your encoder options, click on “Video Compression Settings.” Set your data rate to whatever you’d like (I use the maximum, but that really is overkill; 150MB/sec is a good starting point) and set the frame rate to match your source file.
Under “Video Options” set the size to match your source file. You shouldn’t have to do this, but if you happen to get an error message when converting, this is something you can try. Tick “resize video” (even though we aren’t really re-sizing). Tick “shrink or enlarge the video to the selected size.” Untick “constrain proportions” and then type in the numbers to match your source file (e.g., 1920×1080). Then re-tick “constrain proportions.”
Click the “Browse” button (lower right) to choose your output folder. I typically choose the desktop because it’s a nice temporary location. Remember, we’ll be deleting these files after we edit them. There’s no need to save these monstrous intermediate files.
You can now click “Preview” if you’d like. It’s an optional step. What it does is convert the first few seconds of the video and place the clip into your output folder. If you get any errors at this point it’s time to try something else. It’s a good idea to try this step before converting a huge batch of files.
If you don’t run into any errors during preview, it’s now time to hit “Convert.” Prism will do it’s thing and you’ll end up with some quite large Matrox .avi files on your desktop. You’re now ready to edit!
If you do run into errors, don’t panic. There’s something else to try. Go to “Options” then click on the “Conversions” tab. Under “Decoder Options” tick the box that says, “Use FFMPEG decoder (try this if you are having problems converting or playing the file).” Try converting again. If you still continue getting errors, this is where things can get dicey.
If you’ve tried all the above and you still can’t convert your files, you probably have a codec issue. Either you have codecs you shouldn’t have or you don’t have codecs that you should have. You can try downloading ffdshow tryouts, installing it (stick with the defaults), then attempting this process again. I typically don’t like codec packs and avoid them whenever possible. I’m running Windows 7 without any codec packs. The only extra codecs I’ve installed at this point are the Matrox codecs. If all else fails, you can try re-installing Windows (you should do that once in a while anyway). It’ll make your computer run like new and alleviate any codec problems that you may have inadvertently created.
Not too long ago I could not get this method to work. I couldn’t get any of my files to convert – no matter what. I finally installed ffdshow and only then would Prism convert my files. But without ffdshow it simply would not work. Over the course of the last year I’ve downloaded lots of different codecs for this reason or that reason. I also tried a few different codec packs. Over time, I collected a lot of conflicting codecs and codec packs. Simply uninstalling them didn’t fix my problems. The solution? I re-installed Windows and only installed the codecs I absolutely needed. For now, the only additional codecs on my computer are the Matrox VFW codecs. That’s it. And now this solution works flawlessly every time.