How to rerender for file size in editing

What that means is unlike tape where you have the laborious process of figuring out where all the takes are, and separately sampling them onto the editing system hard drive, you have all the footage already in files. The downside is, you have ALL the footage, even the bad takes. The rough footage for “Devious, Inc.” takes nearly 500GB.

Editing HD is painful on my dual 2GHz pre-Intel G5. Rendering about 20 seconds, with color correction, takes around 15 minutes. Editing this way is next to impossible.

So! There’s a workaround process that I’ve patched together. In summary:

  • import all XDCAM footage
  • convert all footage into your Final Cut Pro project
  • render all the footage down to a smaller size; this creates a new project
  • do all your editing in the new project with the smaller size
  • when you are done, disconnect all the media… and reconnect them to their original, hi-res counterparts

Import the footage

Importing XDCAM EX data is easy– the card looks like a drive. You just copy the entire file structure over.

You can view the files in the utility provided from Sony. The utility as well as the FCP plugins for importing only work on Intel processors, however. Bummer.

Make your FCP project convert the footage to Quicktime

In FCP, import the footage. Unlike tape, which is what I’m used to, you no longer use “Log and Capture.” Instead, you use the file-based “Log and Transfer.” If you don’t see this, your FCP is misconfigured. I actually had to reinstall FCP as well as my entire operating system (Leopard) so be prepared.

In Log and Transfer, you can view the clips. Because I need all the footage, I just selected EVERYTHING. I did this in smallish batches (about 40GB each) because occasionally when I added a huge list of files to the queue, the entire application crashed!

The transfer process actually doesn’t take long– once I figured it out, importing everything took me the daylight hours of a single Saturday. The reason for this is there is no rendering happening: all that is going on is the XDCAM EX files are being wrapped in a Quicktime file. BUT this means that the resultant files are going to be roughly the size of your original files! Better have a large hard drive handy; I’m using a 1TB.

Now you’ve imported everything. Make sure there are no folders when you import everything. The reason for this is you want to be able to see every single file, in order. The XDCAM files are numbered sequentially, and if you had good on-set file naming discipline, they will all be unique… However, we had a couple software engineers and a guy who actually does professional radio, all people who are known for being pretty precise and anal-retentive, but we STILL had clips with the identical file names.

When imported into FCP, this means that the file names will end in things like “_001” and “_002.” Why is that bad? Well, if you import in a certain order, those files will be named in one order… if someone else imports in a different order, their files will be named differently. Also, your reel information may get messed up, which will kill you when returning to hi-res from low-res.

Move all your files

This part is very important. Quick Final Cut Pro.

When you import files into Final Cut Pro, generally they end up in a folder called “Capture Scratch.” We need to find that folder in Finder, and move all your imported files for this project into a new one we’ll call “hi-res clips” or something evocative like that. Since I edit a bunch of things in parallel, I have a whole bunch of folders for a whole bunch of projects… obviously, the hi-res clips will be in the proper project.

Start FCP again and make sure the clips still play. If not, find and reconnect them with Reconnect Media: Select all the clips, and right-click (hold control key down while clicking on a clip), and choose Reconnect media from the menu. Find your clip! Do it!

Rerender to a small size

Now we’re ready for the first scary part: converting all the footage to low-res.

  • Select all the clips. All of them. Use “Select All.”
  • Right-click (hold down the control key and click on any highlighted clip)
  • . Choose the Media Manager from the menu that appears

  • Here we are in the Media Manager. Isn’t it pretty.
  • We want to rerender to something SMALL. Make sure it’s at least roughly analogous to your original footage. Since my original footage was shot at 24 frames per second, or technically 23.98, I’m choosing “Recompress” media at “Offline RT JPEG” at 23.98. This will look crummy but will be real small
  • Base media on file names. This will let you play with the files on your file system without getting confused.
  • Also select “duplicate clips and place into a new project”
  • BEFORE YOU START, look at how much space the new renders will take. Is it what you expected? Do you have enough space? Mine was a savings of something like 90%.

This step could potentially take a long time. Rendering the 450GB+ (close to 500GB, I forget exactly) on my 2.4GHz Intel Core Duo MacBookPro took over three days. Which is a marked improvement from my initial attempt to render on my pre-Intel G5 tower… that estimate was over six days! Imagine what happens if the computer crashes! You get to start over!


Archive your old project somewhere safe. You may need it later.

Now archive all your lo-res clips somewhere logical. I have mine in “lo-res clips” right next to “hi-res clips.”

So now you’re in your new project, which is an exact duplicate of your other one, except now all the clips are in low-res. Now you can start organizing your thousands of clips of footage into bins so you don’t lose your mind trying to grapple with dozens of hours of footage…

Make your sequence. While having the sequence selected, make sure the sequence settings are set to your original footage. Even though the clips in the sequence are your low-res format.

Now do some editing or whatever.

Print lo-res

For previewing: making a low-res preview file. This is for posting to servers so the Director, and Producers etc can see your work.

Choose Export to Quicktime File. However, the settings are important: your sequence is a hi-res sequence. So if you used Current Settings, it will re-render all your lo-res footage as HD. That would be dumb. Select your compression type from the pulldown (in my case Offline JPEG 23.98).

Print hi-res

At some point someone will want to see your edit at high-res. Who knows why! Producers and Directors, what do they know!

I usually copy the entire project at this point. Disconnecting and reconnecting repeatedly seems to me a recipe for clips with misset configurations.

You don’t disconnect ALL your clips, oh no no no. Just the ones in the sequence to be rendered. One (of many) ways to do this is to make a new bin, Select All the clips in the sequence itself, and drag them into the new bin. You now have a bin of just the clips you used in your edit! Ta daaa.

Now select all of them in that bin, do Reconnect Media again, as described above. There’s actually the ability to reconnect the media to a different file here, which is what we’re doing. Reconnect to the hi-res originals!

Watch your sequence. Isn’t it pretty?

Occaisionally you will see a weirdly scaled-and-cropped clip, or all of them. Like you’ll see just the actor’s eye, the scale is so huge. The way to fix this is to select all the clips and choose “Conform to Sequence” or something.

Now render, if necessary, and output. I always use Export to Quicktime File, carefully choosing the proper settings, which are generally the Current Settings.

And, since you copied your project beforehand, you can continue editing in low-res.