3 softwares to look at before editing your DSLR footage
As everyone should know by now, DSLR mostly shoot in formats that are not optimal for editing, but instead, are for delivery. Canon DSLRs with their h.264s and Nikon DSLRs with their mjpeg, etc etc. Almost all the major NLEs have released versions that for the most part support native h.264 editing. Meaning, you don’t need to render the image before previewing it. But I’ve always been a sucker for transcoding and consolidating all my footages into a common codec/format for me to edit with. Some people swear by Premiere Pro’s mercury engine and the ability to edit DSLR footage natively with it. I don’t know, just not my kind of thing.
Well, for me, at the end of the day, editing with transcoded footage yield’s faster results. Period. I don’t see the debate going in any other direction. Yes, sometimes we are pressed for time and the luxury of transcoding your footage just doesn’t fit into your post production workflow. But let’s put it this way. Would you rather want to be able to see your christmas gifts when you’re figuring out which gifts belong to who, or would you rather open the wrapper of each gift you’ve bought to see what it is and decide who it’s for? Of course, both methods get the job done, but I like to think of footages in that manner. It makes life simpler. It makes dealing with DSLR footage simpler.
Well, now on to the more important matters. A lot of softwares / methods / plugins have sprung up to help make the process of transcoding DSLR footage easier, more efficient, etc. I have been in touch with a few popular ones, (they probably might be much more unknown ones out there which many don’t know of including me), and here’s my take on some of them.
Probably one of the most popular transcoding softwares out there. Might have been popularised by Phillip Bloom (not too sure about that), but I figure it’s probably because it’s free. And the fact that it supports so many formats and codecs is also another big plus. Without a doubt, its the fastest amongst them all. When I’m in a rush to transcode my DSLR footages, I’ll just pop it into the batch mode, and off it processes. Choose your destination, your final format, and done. No hassle, no complications, bleck. Simple as simple can get.
Pros : Extremely Fast, Free
Cons : Unable to rename files, quality of transcode is uncompared
Red Giant has risen up to be quite a monster in this industry. Their plugins and software are uncomparable. So when they finally come up with a software to transcode DSLR footages, one naturally expects a good product to come out of it. And they won’t be disappointed. Magic Bullet Grinder worries about the technical aspect of things so that you need not worry about it. A simple, straight forward interface, I like the fact that it allows to transcode 2 different versions. A main highres version, and also a proxy one for quick editing.
One of my favourite features about it is the ability to rename the transcoded footages into a customised sequence based on your preference. I’m a sucker for organising my things properly and I really love it when I don’t have to be troubled to do stuff like that. But the thing I hate most about it? Speed. Its extremely slow as compared to MPEG streamclip. I wouldn’t use it if I’m in a rush to say edit a Same Day Edit wedding video. I would be committing suicide to do that. What I use it for mainly is when I cover events, and I need to deliver unedited archives of the footages. Yeah, pop in the DSLR footages, rename it nicely and voila. Everything neat and proper.
Pros : 2 separate versions (Main + Proxy) , Renaming of files, Timecode support
Cons : Slow, Paid (USD 49)
5D to RGB is developed by RareVision. You can head over to their site and have a look at their explainations behind their software. Apparently it’s been proven that their software yields the best results when transcoding DSLR footages. If their examples are anything to go by, then I’d say no one has anything to argue about that. They have a free version that only transcodes one clip at a time, the paid version costs about USD49.90 from the Mac App store.
I tried the free version and when comparing colour intensive clips, you can really see a noticeable difference.. when you zoom in. Other than that, I don’t really see the need to go all crazy with it. However, if you’re using your DSLR for cinematic work, or planning to shoot VFX sequences with it, or even heavy colour grading with it, I’d recommend you go with this one. No doubts about it.
Pros : Undoubtedly highest quality DSLR transcoding software, timecode support, Technicolor cinestyle support, Framerate support
Cons : Paid version (USD49.90)
There is a plug in to be used in FCP, called the Canon EOS Movie plugin E1, and it allows you to “Log & Transfer” your footages in FCP 7/6 as you would your older cameras. Its a fine plugin but I wouldn’t recommend it because it’s not as if you can start editing for you to be opening FCP and transcoding it at the same time. So might as well, transcode it beforehand, and then dump everything in once you’ve opened FCP.
If you’re a cheapo (nothing wrong with that!) and you require fast transcode times, I’d recommend getting the MPEG Streamclip. It does its job well, no hassles, no complications.
If you’re willing to spend a little bit more for quality, I’d recommend the 5DtoRGB. The amount of work you can throw onto footages transcoded with it will be worth it.
If you have money lying around or you require separate versions of your footages (for offline and online editing), then I’d recommend the Magic Bullet Grinder. The ability to transcode into a main & a proxy version is a huge plus point and shouldn’t be ignored.
You won’t go wrong following any of these 3 softwares. I have them all. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I edit natively on FCP X and Premiere Pro. There are times when you use these things and there are times when you don’t. I suggest experimenting with them when you have the time so that you won’t screw up when you’re doing a commercial work and fail to learn the cons of each of those softwares.
If you disagree with any of my reviews on those softwares, feel free to enlighten me. Or if you have queries about post production workflow with DSLRs, feel free to comment or drop me an email.
If you’ve decided on getting the MPEG streamclip, here’s a video guiding you on the process of using it.