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In Avid Media Composer 5 Getting Started, author Steve Holyhead explores the tools and techniques in Media Composer for producing great looking video, as well as the basics of high definition media formats. This course walks through the video production workflow from input to editing to output, covers key information such as trim concepts and frame rates, and introduces techniques such as color correction, footage stabilization, and real-time audio effects. Exercise files accompany the course.
Having a basic understanding of frame sizes, frame rates, and image quality will help you manage material from different cameras. It will also help you deliver the right type of file for the project you're working on. First off, let's consider Media Formats. Now there're a lot of Media Formats out there, and it can seem a little confusing. Here is the way to simplify it for yourself. There are only three frame sizes that you need to worry about. There's HD-1080, which is 1080 pixels high x 1920 pixels wide.
There's actually a different flavor of HD-1080 as well, which is just a little skinnier, at 1440 pixels wide. Then there's HD-720. You can see that the frame size is considerably smaller: 720 high x 1280 wide, or the skinny version: 960 wide. And then finally, the only other category of frame sizes we have are SD, SD Pal - largely used in Europe - and SD NTSC, mostly used in North America.
And that's really it. It doesn't get any more complicated than that. And the beautiful thing is that inside of the Media Composer interface, we have the Format tab. The Format tab reflects exactly those three frame sizes. Here's your SD, here's your 720, and here's your 1080. If I need to input, output, or create any of these three different frame sizes, all I need to do is come to the Format tab, select the frame size that I want to input, create Media at or Output at, and there we go.
The system is prepped for that. One thing you're probably going to notice here is that when I've selected 1080, I've got a Raster Dimension here. This is the description of the pixels from height to width. So there's the fat version of 1080. And there's the skinny version of 1080. If I switch back to 720, same thing again. There's the big version, and there's the skinny version. Before I switch to SD, notice that the Aspect Ratio for 720 and for 1080 is locked to 16:9.
That basically means that there are 16 units for the width and 9 units for the height. However, if I go to SD now, you can see that the Aspect Ratio is not locked. SD can, in actual fact, be the 16:9 or 4:3. Notice how the display changes over here in the Composer window to reflect that. Of course, I can go and switch it back. So if you're ever working with SD material and you find that people's faces are either too thin or too fat, come here to the Format tab, and change the Aspect Ratio to correct the display.
Another implication of switching your format here in the Format tab is the effect that it will have on your Media Creation settings. If I come to tools and to Media Creation, you can see here now that because I'm selected on 1080, when I come to the various different Media Creation settings, the Video Resolution, in other words the quality of the video material that I'm importing, exporting, or creating, is reflected by this list.
At the bottom of this list here, we have 1:1. That means that there's no compression taking place when we use these setting. If I went ahead and created media using this setting here, for example, for every minute that I captured or imported, I would be using close to 12 gigabytes of storage space. On the other hand, if I come down here to DNxHD 36, for every minute I capture or import, I'm only using 215 megabytes of storage space.
So understanding resolution is very important. Here, for example, AVC-Intra. This is a Panasonic Codec, recoding at 100 megabits per second. Here is a Sony Codec, recoding at 35 megabits per second, or 50 megabytes per second. And here are Avid resolutions, 36, 115, 175. The reason that this is very important is if you are recording on a camera that only shoots at 35 megabits per second, there really won't be any reason for you to ingest the material at uncompressed resolutions, or even the higher Avid resolutions.
So choose a resolution which will preserve the image quality, but take up as little storage space as possible. If I close this window and switch to 720 and then use Command+5 or Ctrl+5 on my keyboard to bring the Media Creation settings back up, you can see I get a different sets of resolutions. I've still got my uncompressed resolutions here. I've still got my Sony and my Panasonic resolutions. But now the Avid resolutions are a little smaller in size, to reflect the fact that this is a smaller frame size.
Finally, let's go to NTSC, to our SD settings, and again, Ctrl+5 or Command+5. You can see that this time the Video Resolutions look different again. I have uncompressed 1:1, no compression taking place. I also have a 25 megabit and a 50 megabit version of an SD frame size here. However, I've also got these, 2:1, 3:1, 14:1, 28:1. What does that mean? Well, 1:1 means there's no compression, 2:1 a little bit of compression, 28:1 a lot of compression.
So the way it works is that the higher the number, the lower the quality, and the lower the number, the higher the quality. Finally, let's just switch back to 720. I'd like to talk about frame rates. When a camera shoots a scene, it is recording every second of time as a series of consecutive images called frames. Media can be shot by a camera at various different frame rates. And the frame rates are expressed as the number of individual frames playing back each second.
Traditionally, productions tend to use the same frame rate for all material. Film productions tend to be at 24 frames per second. Some of the newer HD cameras will call this 23.98 frames per second. Television production in Europe is based upon a 50 hertz electrical system, in other words 50 cycles per second. That dictated that we have frame rates of 25 frames per second, or sometimes referred to as 50 hertz. In North America, the electrical system works on a 60 hertz cycle, 60 cycles per second.
And that's given us frame rates of 30 frames per second or HD frequency rates of 59.94. If I close my bin, exit back to the Project Selection dialog and hit New Project, now this should make a lot more sense to us. Here are our 1080 frame sizes. Here are our 720, and then below that are our SD frame sizes. If I needed to create a 720p project, I would know to come to this category here, and then it would simply be a case of me figuring out what frame rate I need to select for the material I'm working with.
So how do you use all of this information? Well, it's pretty simple. When someone brings you material from a shoot, you need to know if the material they shot was 1080, 720 or SD. Once they've told you that, then you need to find out what was the frame rate? Was it 23, or 24 or 25, 50, 30 or 59.94? Once you've figured that out, the final thing to do would be to come to your Media Creation settings and set the appropriate image quality for the material that's been captured or imported into your system.
Media will be provided to you in all shapes and sizes, and you need to be prepared to work with it at all. The final output should drive your choice of frame size, frame rate and bit rate.
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