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Advanced Final Cut Pro Techniques: Exporting QuickTime and QuickTime Conversion Movies

By Heath McKnight

Whether youre exporting a QuickTime (QT) movie for archiving purposes, a less compressed file for output to HDCAM or DVCPro, or a smaller version for the Web, you need to know the settings.  But you also need to know the difference between QT Movie and QT Conversion, because they arent the same. [Note: this is for users of versions 4.5 to 5.1.4.]

Archival/Export to Tape
If youre like me, you tend to not only archive to tape in the format you shot (DV and HDV to minidv tape, etc.), but you also want a digital QT version of your film.  A few years ago, I exported a QuickTime Conversion of a short film I did, in the highest possible quality, and it created a QT movie that anyone could see.

I had a FireWire drive crash that wiped my original files.  No problem, I could either re-capture the footage from the tapes, or I could grab my archived QT movie, which is what I did.  Well, lets just say I learned a lesson about the difference between a QT movie and a QT conversion.  The video, a movie that anyone could see (QT Conversion), had artifacting and looked terrible (though the audio was fine).  I thought Id set it to the highest possible standards!

I later found out through a discussion with Graeme Nattress (www.nattress.com) that QT Conversion was pretty much a way to create Internet-ready movies.  Even if you could export a high definition, 10-bit QT Conversion, the quality wouldnt be so hot.  I ended up spending the better part of the night hunting down tapes, recapturing and rendering everything.

In the first two or three versions of FCP, you could export a QT Movie (now Conversion) or a Final Cut Pro Movie (now QT Movie).  It was high quality and looked like I had dubbed it to tape.  However, you can only edit these old FCP Movies, again now called QT Movies, in Final Cut Pro.

Under the Sequence Settings and in QuickTime Video Settings, you can tell the Compressor what you want your final QT Movie or Conversions codec and quality to be, either default (if youre cutting HDV 1080i60, thats whatll be) or something different altogether.  Ill touch on that in just a moment.

Once youve finished and youre ready to create a digital, FCP-only QuickTime Movie, render and put an in and out at the head and tail of your project.  Then go to File>Export> QuickTime Movie and designate where youll want it stored.  I recommend a hard drive (or FireWire drive) that isnt a start up, which can damage your main drive.

Now, what if you have an HDV project that needs to go to HDCAM or DVCPro HD, or a DV project that needs to go to Beta, DVCAM or DVCPro?  Create a less compressed version of your project.  For HDCAM and such, setting the QT Video Settings to Uncompressed 8- or 10-bit 4:2:2 is a very popular way to go.  However, the file will be enormous (using 8-bit, I created a three minute 1920x1080 movie that was around 45GB!).

Sequence Settings for Photo Jpeg.

A lesser known strategy is to change the settings to Photo Jpeg and the Quality to 75% (4:2:2)?dont worry, it doesnt mean the quality drops, it just sets it to 4:2:2.  The same three minute HD movie was only about 200MB or so in size.  I used Photo Jpeg for all my less compression QT Movies, even DV/NTSC projects.

Going to the Web
This is where QT Conversion shines, creating QT movies for the web.  I prefer to use Apples H.264 to compress the movies, as its very good quality to put up on the web.  You can even designate the video and sound quality and type, the size of the frame, add effects and more.

One question I hear a lot is how to export an HDV 1080i project to the web.  My cinematographer friend Jon Fordham gave me a great solution that would create a nice-looking movie that was around 8MB for a 1 1/2 clip.

Recommended settings for a QuickTime Movie for the web, original source HDV

Go to File> Export> QuickTime Conversion.  Click on Options> Settings and set it to: H.264, High Quality and everything else in the default settings.  Hit OK and then click on Size.  Change it to Custom and set the frame size to 600x338 (do NOT checkmark Preserve Aspect Ratio; you can deinterlace the video if you have NOT done so in FCP).  Hit OK.

Click on Sound Settings and set the Format to AAC, and the Target Bit Rate to 128kbps.  Leave everything else at its default settings (48 kHz, etc.).  Hit OK, then OK again; select a separate drive from the start up disk and save.

This is by no means a thorough look at QT Movie and Conversion, but something to get you started.  I hope its clear that QT Movie is best for high-quality FCP-ready movies to archive or in creating less compressed files for export to a different format (HDV to HDCAM, etc.), and that QT Conversion is best for making QuickTimes for the Web.
Special thanks to Graeme Nattress and Jon Fordham for their guidance on making these movies, and what the differences between QT Movie and Conversion is.

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Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.

Related Keywords:QuickTime (QT) movie , QuickTime Conversions


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