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In the early part of Chapter 2, we looked at creating projects and project management. They we are going to compare how Media Composer and Final Cut are designed to access and handle media. In video, film, web, and TV production, there are various different types of media to be dealt with. With Media Composer and Final Cut, there are two or three main ways to get that material into the system and ready for editing. Now tape based media are things like D5, HDCam SR, DVCPRO HD, HDV, DigiBeta, and so on.
This material is captured into Final Cut or Media Composer from a VTR or a live feed. The next category is what we would call file-based media. This tends to be from modern cameras such as XDCAM, P2, AF-100, 5D, 7D, RED or Arri Alexa. And the material tends to be linked to by both applications and then transcoded at some point in the project's lifecycle. And now our third category is multimedia files.
Digital stills, QuickTime movies, digital audio files. In Final Cut Pro, we link to these file types using the Import command; in Media Composer, we transcode them. Let's look at each category in a little bit more detail. First off, tape based media. With either Final Cut or Media Composer, tape based media is created by reading information over a video cable, i.e. base band or a FireWire cable, and then writing a version of that data as a new file onto the system's media drive.
In Avid, this is done as an MXF file. You can actually write different types of file, but MXF is really the preferred format for Avid to use. In Final Cut this is really QuickTime. ProRes is based on QuickTime and it's really the most useful codec to be using in a Final Cut environment. During the capturing process, both applications need to be able to write the information generated to a specified location on a hard drive. That place in Final Cut Pro is the Scratch Capture folder.
That place in Media Composer is the Avid MediaFiles folder, which always needs to be on the root of your media drive. Now file based media. With this approach but Final Cut and Media Composer can link to media from popular file-based cameras. Linking to the media means that the file that you point to upon import is actually the file you reference in the bin or your sequence. Nothing new is written to your scratch disk or the Avid MediaFiles location. Regardless of the source files location, if the file is recognized then Media Composer or Final Cut will pull the data from the source file and display it real time through the interface as clips or sequences.
There is no process of reading the file and then writing a new file to manage media files location. Instead we look at that file through the software interface. In Final Cut Pro this is what we get when we import a file. In Media Composer, this is what we get when we AMA link to a file and we will cover that in detail in Chapter 4. One thing I should note here is that when you're linking to material then you need to make sure that material is also placed on a relatively fast drive.
I would like to therefore put that media inside the container folder for my project and I make sure that the container folder is always sitting on the fastest drive available to my system. Otherwise performance will suffer. Okay, let's talk about multimedia files. This is the third option for working with more general multimedia files and confusingly for us in Media Composer this process is referred to as import. But as you'll see in Media Composer importing means something completely different from importing in Final Cut Pro.
With these more general multimedia files, all those file types which are not AMA linkable in Media Composer, we can access them through the Import command and have them transcoded in a single pass. In this process, media is created by reading the contents of the source file and then transcoding it and writing a description of that data as a new file on the system's media drive. In Media Composer this version of the data is created as an MXF file, just as it would be if it were a captured file, and it will inherit most if not all of the metadata available in the source file.
And since these MXF versions of your material can be created at very high quality, the same level of quality used when capturing from tape provided you follow the right steps, you can rely on the MXF media to be the new master for your editing and final output. Media Composer writes this information to the Avid MediaFiles folder on the root of your media drive. In Final Cut Pro, the best counterpart to this process would be when you have files that FCP can't use in either log and transfer or wire import.
In this case, we take the files, let's say from the Canon 7D, transcode them first using Compressor into a file format that FCP can handle, and then go ahead and import them. So as you know it from Final Cut, this process can take a quit a while depending on the source file's codec. How much it's compressed, the speed of your machine, the amount of RAM you have got, etc. In Media Composer the happy exception to this are certain common file types such as QuickTime movies, which when encoded to the Avid D and XHD codec can be imported at rightly accelerated speed.
In post-production with Media Composer, at the beginning of your project one of the first format related questions to ask is, will my workflow be linking to files or will I write new files to my managed media files folder? We ask this question because there are pros and cons to both. With linking to original media files, called import in FCP and AMA linking in Media Composer, the pro is that I have instant access to my media. The con is since the media might be in a codec that is not optimized for editing, for example, Long GOP, performance with different file types can vary greatly, from quite snappy and easy to edit with to wading through quicksand with spinning beach balls.
Whether that you are importing multimedia files or tape-based capture, I am going to write new MXF file to my Avid MediaFiles folder. Pro: once I am in editing I will have a seamless experience, variables are minimized, and I have the stability to accommodate a client driven session. The con is it's a front-loaded task where time is spent importing before editing can even begin. Note, you'll so need the room on your media storage to accommodate the NXF versions of your files.
This is a good thing. Having a full backup of your media is essential anyway, whether the backup takes the form of a duplicate of the original file or in this case a duplicate it by virtue if being an Avid MXF file as well now. Obviously, with capturing, there is no choice. You'll be writing new media to a managed media location both in FCP or in Media Composer regardless. In practice of course, a hybrid approach of both linking and creating new MXF media is most usual. And the mix will be dictated largely by budget or time considerations.
One difference to note between Final Cut and Media Composer regarding codecs is that while both applications can import or capture multiple codecs, when it comes time to mixing those different codecs in a sequence, FCP tends to require more rendering. With Media Composer, you can expect a sequence containing multiple codecs to play back a greater variety of those files without rendering being necessary. In conclusion, we've talked about the methods or approaches of getting material into the Media Composer environment and since we know that either capture or import in Media Composer creates a new media file, which is written to the Avid MediaFiles folder, let's now turn our attention to where that media is directed upon creation and at what resolution.
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