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Best color / profile settings for gradeable video – Sony NEX-5N

October 17, 2011

Hi All

I’ve been shooting a little more with my NEX-5N, also reading a little more, especially about color settings to retain detail across the maximum brightness range (i.e. squeeze maximum latitude out of the camera) while minimising artifacts to deliver the most gradeable footage out of some pretty difficult, harshly-lit situations.

- Some people have encountered banding issues in areas of smoothly-graduated tones, e.g. skies. I have not — yet.

- Some folks recommend using the ‘Sunset’ Creative Style setting to deal with this (Menu > Brightness / Color > Creative Style > Sunset) e.g. http://www.eoshd.com/content/3995/optimising-the-sony-nex-5n-for-cinematic-video . I don’t like this Creative Style as it brings an extraordinarily warm color balance to virtually every scene and I couldn’t be bothered to deal with that every time I shoot.

- As some others have found, the ‘Portrait’ Creative Style is very low contrast, and I have found it retains noticeably more detail in bright highlights than the ‘Standard’ Creative Style with fewer weird colors than ‘Sunset’.

- I’ve experimented with tweaking the contrast, saturation and sharpness settings within ‘Portrait’, and conclude that to get the most gradeable footage with the fewest artifacts all three must be set to -3. Yes, this will give you very flat-looking images before you tweak them, but lowering the contrast gives you even more highlight and shadow tone separation, lowering saturation minimises the effects of chromatic aberration (so-called ‘purple fringing’) that unfortunately plagues many Sony lenses, and lowering sharpness noticeably decreases halos and other artifacts along contrasting edges.

In summary: For most gradeable, smoothest, least artifactual (haha) video, use the ‘Portrait’ Creative Style with contrast, saturation & sharpness all set to -3.

AND ANOTHER THING: I find the NEX-5N suffers badly from rolling shutter / jellocam when moved around rapidly, filming fast-moving objects or walking while shooting. Don’t move during that shot, folks!

Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Cheers

Adam

WARNING: Sony NEX-5N

September 20, 2011

UPDATE: Sony is offering its US customers a free ‘performance improvement’ to address the clicking problem the NEX-5N has when shooting video. Whether this is a 100% fix remains to be seen, but if you call the Sony helpline on 888-868-7392 they will email you a voucher so you can send it to them for free. According to the Sony customer care rep I spoke to, the fix will take between 5 and 7 business days to complete once your camera arrives at their facility in Laredo, Texas. I don’t know of any similar offers made elsewhere in the world.

I had boxed up my NEX-5N and was about to return it when this announcement was made, so I’ve decided to keep the unit and will be posting first impressions soon. I can already confirm that my unit clicks when shooting video with even very modest, normal movements, not just the ‘sudden’ motion that Sony claims causes the problem.

***

Hi All

I pre-ordered an NEX-5N as an experimental b-camera for my NX5 when it was announced. It arrived today from Amazon.

On taking the cam out of the box I instantly heard the awful clicking sound that has ruined the videos of many early adopters. Something is definitely loose inside.

Amazon will not take returns unless they are in unopened/pristine condition, so before I even put the battery in I called the Sony US helpline to ask if, when Sony figures out how to fix this problem, the repair will be free.

The Sony rep would only say that Sony are aware of the issue. He would not say when or if a repair would be forthcoming, and even after asking twice, would not commit to the repair being free.

So, sadly, I will be sending my NEX-5N back to Amazon without even shooting a second of footage with it, and I advise any of you to whom audio is of any consequence to cancel any orders you may have for this camera. It’s a real pity because I was really looking forward to producing some interesting images with this extremely small unit.

Sony, this is simply not good enough!

Cheers

Adam

Zoom rocker on Sony HXR-NX70 really bad?

August 13, 2011

Hi All

I’ve been very busy lately with small jobs and securing funding for a big project leaving me not much time to blog, but I’m still getting a lot of hits here so I’ll be adding more material as soon as I can.

I’ve been considering buying an NX70 to use alongside my NX5 – but the sample unit I tried out at B&H in New York a few days ago had a very unfriendly zoom rocker. It was impossible for me to get an even or slow zoom.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop the zoom from jumping in speed as it went through the range. It also went from zero to 60mph in no space at all.

It was so bad it’s made me rethink my purchasing plans, and although there are very few reviews of the NX-70 on the net, I did find a reviewer that has had the same problems as I have: http://www.hdwarrior.co.uk/2011/06/23/review-of-the-sony-hxr-nx70/

Have any readers had similar experiences? Is there a bad batch of NX70s out there or do they all have unusable zoom rockers? Your comments would be most welcome!

Cheers

Adam

Smooth Slow Rec: The NX5′s slow-mo mode

February 22, 2011

Hi All

I’ve occasionally used the HXR-NX5′s Smooth Slow Rec feature. It’s a lot of fun. The NX5′s manual, in typical Sony style, is a little unclear on exactly how to use it and what its limitations are; this blog post aims to get past that.

What is it?

Smooth Slow Rec (SSR) is a feature that allows the recording of 1080 High Definition or Standard Definition clips at four times the normal frame rate, which, when played back at normal speed, slow action down four times. What I mean by ‘normal’ frame rate is the default frame rate of the recording format your camera is using: In NTSC-land this is (almost exactly) 30 frames per second, in PAL-land this is 25 frames per second. Using SSR, you can shoot at 120 frames per second in NTSC-land mode, and 100 frames per second in PAL-land mode.

(The HXR-NX5U shoots what I call ‘NTSC-land’ frame rates, the HXR-NX5E shoots ‘PAL-land’ frame rates. You can get a WorldCam upgrade for either of these models which allows you to switch between PAL-land and NTSC-land modes. Ask your local Sony pro dealer or service center.)

Limitations:

1) You can’t shoot SSR footage at 720 lines’ resolution – only 1080 High Def and Standard Def.
2) You can’t shoot progressive-scan footage in SSR mode – it’s interlaced only, whether you’re shooting High Def or Standard Def.
3) No audio is recorded in SSR mode.
4) You can only use shutter speeds of 1/250th of a second and higher, up to 1/10 000th of a second.
5) You can only record clips of 3, 6 or 12 seconds’ duration in SSR mode.
6) 1080 HD SSR image quality is noticeably worse than normal frame rate 1080 HD. Furthermore, it gets progressively worse the longer the clip – 12 sec clips are worse than 3 sec clips. (Standard Def SSR clips are not significantly degraded relative to normal frame rate clips.)
6) SSR clips can’t be shot back-to-back because the camera needs about four times the clip length to record each clip to memory after it has been captured, during which time the camera is inactive. In other words, a 6-second SSR clip takes about 24 seconds to record to memory. This is true for both High Def and Standard Def clips.
7) You can’t record SSR clips to the onboard Secure Digital/Memory Stick memory and the FMU128 simultaneously, in other words you can’t do a realtime backup. You have to choose whether to shoot Standard Def or HD, and record this to one destination.
8 ) The camera cannot record an SSR clip across more than one memory card, in other words relay recording is deactivated. If there’s not enough space in the selected destination memory card for the whole clip, the camera will cut the clip short.

Smooth Slow Rec setup:

1) To put the camera into SSR mode, push either of the MODE buttons, select CAMERA via the touchscreen or navigation buttons, then select SMOOTH SLOW REC.
2) You’ll then get an option to choose whether to shoot Standard Def or 1080 HD footage, and whether to record this to memory in the Secure Digital / Memory Stick slots or to the FMU128 unit (if you have one). Make your choice.
3) You’ll then have to select the length of SSR clips you’re going to record. Choose either 3, 6 or 12 seconds.
4) You’re now set to go. Push a Rec button (don’t hold it down) to start recording a clip.
5) But wait, there’s more! Once you’re in Smooth Slow rec mode, you can hit either of the MENU buttons for more options. Do this.
6) At the top of the column of icons in the overlay that now appears on your screen, you’ll see a little film frame with SLOW on it. This is the SMOOTH SLOW REC SET menu. Here you can select the image quality of High-Def SSR footage under HD REC MODE. I always use the 1080/60i FX option for best quality, but this takes up more memory space than lower quality options.
7) The second item in the SMOOTH SLOW REC SET menu is REC TIMING, where you get to choose between START TRIGGER or END TRIGGER. This choice determines whether the camera records the footage stored in a buffer before the Rec button is hit, or the footage stored in the buffer after the Rec button is hit. When set to START TRIGGER mode, the camera will start acquiring a high-framerate clip in a buffer as soon as the Rec button is hit. Once the clip of either 3, 6 or 12 seconds is in the buffer, it then gets recorded to the selected memory. Buffering takes length of the clip in time, recording four times as long. In END TRIGGER mode, the camera is continuously recording a clip of the earlier-designated length to the buffer. When you push the Rec button, it will record the preceding 3, 6 or 12 seconds to memory. The Rec button is inactive during the buffering & recording process in both START TRIGGER and END TRIGGER modes, so once you’ve hit it you’re committed to the whole process of recording the clip. (I find END TRIGGER to be best for most occasions unless you can predict your subject’s movement.)
8 ) When in SSR mode, hitting either one of the MODE buttons will send you instantly back into regular MOVIE mode. You’ll have to go through the setup again to get back to SSR mode. Clip length, Standard Def vs. High Def and clip destination settings will have to be re-chosen, but HD clip quality and trigger settings will by default be the same as the previous time you used SSR mode.

More notes:

You can change most of the camera settings in SMOOTH SLOW REC mode just as you do in regular MOVIE mode. SSR clips played back in the VISUAL INDEX appear slowed down, in other words they’re played back at normal frame rate.

What are your experiences with Smooth Slow Rec? Have I left anything out? Tell me by leaving a comment.

Cheers!

Adam

My NX5 menu settings

February 15, 2011

Hi All

I’ve not posted here in a while because I’ve been busy on other stuff. However, this blog is still very popular, averaging over 1 000 pageviews a month!

Here are the menu settings I use on my NX5, along with notes. Some of you might find these useful.

Cheers!

Adam

Adam’s Sony HXR-NX5 menu settings:

CAMERA SET

GAIN SET: I use values of 0dB, 9 dB and 18dB for L, M and H respectively. [I have not experimented with negative gain settings and find 21dB too noisy.]
SMOOTH GAIN: OFF [When I want it to change, I don't want that to happen slowly!]
HYPER GAIN: OFF [I set an assign button rather than the menu item to activate hyper gain. It's sometimes useful if you absolutely have to get a shot in near-total darkness. Image is extremely noisy.]
AGC LIMIT: OFF [I hardly ever use auto gain. If I am using it, it means the situation is extreme and changing fast, so I don't want it to be limited.]
MINUS AGC: ON [I'm often shooting outdoors in bright light, and this is useful.]
IRIS RING ROTATE: NORMAL [Change this if you're used to lens zoom rings that go the other way.]
WB PRESET: OUTDOOR [I like this for most general shooting. It can be crudely adjusted on the fly. Some users might want to use MANU WB TEMP to have finer manual control over white balance - some fun effects can be had here.]
WB OUTDOOR LEVEL: 0 [I prefer neutral colour outdoors, so zero is my default here. This can be easily adjusted while shooting, anyway.]
WB TEMP SET: 6500K [You set the starting/default value for the manual color temperature setting, MANU WB TEMP, here. I leave it as is.]
ATW SENS: INTELLIGENT [If I'm going to use auto white balance, which I hardly ever do, I want it to be as auto as possible. I haven't tried the other options.]
SMOOTH WB: OFF [If I want to change the white balance via the switch, I want it to change instantly.]
AE SHIFT: OFF [I don't use this much, but if you are shooting in auto mode while moving in and out of an area that constantly fools the meter, you will need settings appropriate to the specific situation.]
AE RESPONSE: FAST [If I'm using auto exposure, I want it to react as fast as possible to changing conditions. You might want to slow it down if you don't like abrupt changes.]
AUTO IRIS LIMIT: F11 [I leave this as-is, because I often shoot in very bright light and want to be prepared to handle it without fear of overexposure. Bear in mind that very small iris openings, for example f11, cause a significant reduction in image sharpness due to diffraction even though depth-of-field is increased. If you want to keep your image maximally sharp you might want to set the auto iris limit to f5.6 or so, but you might have blown out images in bright situations even with the neutral density (ND) filter set to 3.]
FLICKER REDUCE: ON [I hate the sort of flicker that one sometimes gets from fluourescent lights and computer screens. If my camera can automatically sense this and do away with it, so much the better. If you want it as an effect, turn this setting OFF.]
BACK LIGHT: OFF [If you want to use this feature, that helps get correct autoexposure of backlit subjects, you should set an assign button to turn it on and off.]
SPOTLIGHT: OFF [If you want to use this feature, that helps get correct autoexposure of spotlit subjects, you should set an assign button to turn it on and off.]
STEADYSHOT: [I set an assign button for this as it's something that I change a lot depending if I'm shooting handheld or off a tripod, monopod or a vibrating platform like a running vehicle.]
SET > STEADYSHOT [I have this as my default setting, as I'm usually shooting handheld.]
STEADYSHOT TYPE > STANDARD [Change according to your style of shooting. Remember that HARD will make pans and tilts hectically jumpy, even more so than other settings.]
ACTIVE STEADYSHOT TYPE > STANDARD [I don't have a wide conversion lens. This is an amazing feature, allowing steady shots in some very unsteady circumstances.]
AF ASSIST: ON [If you're in autofocus mode and the camera just isn't focusing on an obvious subject (which it sometimes infuriatingly does) you can override the autofocus temporarily and manually focus by turning the focus ring. If the subject you manually focus on is not near the centre of the frame or not obvious, the camera might autofocus back to the original 'wrong' subject after a bit. If AF ASSIST is OFF then turning the focus ring will have no effect when the cam is in autofocus mode. I generally keep the camera in manual focus mode, using the push focus button to activate the autofocus if I need to.]
FOCUS MACRO: ON [The main reason I would want this OFF is if I was using a lot of autofocus and wanted to reduce the range through which the lens might hunt to do this. Since I don't use much autofocus, I prefer being able to focus as close as the lens can. It seems that the NX5's lens can't focus closer than 80cm while zoomed fully in, but can focus a lot closer at wide settings.]
HANDLE ZOOM: 1 [If I want to zoom at a fixed speed, it's usually to zoom very slowly, hence I set this to the slowest possible value. I reset if and when needed.]
SPEED ZOOM: OFF [The default zoom speed is plenty fast, and speed zooming is very noisy on the internal mics. If I want to zoom really fast I'll crash-zoom with the lens zoom ring.]
D. EXTENDER: OFF [This degrades image quality, and I don't want to risk doing that accidentally. If I want to be in tighter on a far-off subject, I can always crop in while editing.]
FADER: OFF [Useless to me. Will rather do a fade in the edit.]
x.v. COLOR: OFF [Have never used this feature. Looks intriguing.]
COLOR BAR: OFF [Useful when you're using an external monitor and want to set it up. Turn ON when needed.]

REC/OUT SET

I change these settings to suit the shoot/display I’m working with, and depending on which type of output I’m using. No particular defaults.

AUDIO SET

AUDIO FORMAT: LINEAR PCM [Higher quality than DOLBY DIGITAL, though takes up more space and causes trouble when transcoding long clips to ProRes in Final Cut Pro if you have version 7.02 or earlier. There is no trouble transcoding long clips to ProRes in FCP if you have version 7.03 or later.]
AUDIO LIMIT: OFF [Your mileage may vary. I don't like the sound of a limiter, but it might be useful sometimes.]
HEADPHONE OUT: STEREO [Why would you want mono? I have no idea. I want to hear both channels of audio separately.]
INT MIC SET:
INT MIC SENS > NORMAL [The internal mics pick up enough noise from the Steadyshot mechanism and handling as it is - I don't want more!]
INT MIC WIND > OFF [Don't need weird interference with the signal usually. Just keep wind off the mic.]
XLR SET: I leave all these default, i.e. SEPARATE or OFF, as appropriate.

DISPLAY SET

ZEBRA: ON, 100 [Need to know when things are blowing out, also good to know exactly, 70 is therefore useless to me as it will show zebras before that part of the image is completely blown out.]
PEAKING: ON, YELLOW, MIDDLE [Extremely useful focusing aid. Yellow most visible. Middle setting most useful across various situations. Remember to set an assign button to be able to quickly turn it on/off, as in certain rare situations peaking lines can obscure large sections of the frame.]
MARKER: ON, ASPECT 4:3 [Since a lot of HDTV material also goes out as pillarboxed (cropped in from sides) standard-definition 4:3, it's often useful to keep vital action inside the 4:3 markers. I also set an assign button to turn this marker on/off.]
EXPANDED FOCUS TYPE: TYPE 2 [I prefer the B&W expanded focus image, makes it easier to focus and adds a visual cue that you are in expanded focus display mode.]
CAMERA DATA DISPLAY: ON [Displays iris, gain & shutter speed constantly in viewfinder, even when in auto mode. Very useful.]
AUDIO LEVEL DISPLAY: ON [Shows audio level meter in viewfinder. Vital for almost every type of shooting.]
ZOOM DISPLAY: BAR [I prefer the visual icon to another number on my screen. I wish there was a way of preventing it from disappearing after zooming, though!]
FOCUS DISPLAY: METER [Because I grew up metric. I really, really wish one could display this permanently on the screen and also when in autofocus mode, and not have it vanish after turning the focus ring!!!]
SHUTTER DISPLAY: SECOND [Because I come from a stills background and this makes more sense than shutter angles.]
LCD BRIGHT: [I max this out. Better outdoors that way.]
LCD COLOR: [I leave this in the middle. Looks most like the image that comes out of the camera that way.]
LCD BACKLIGHT LEVEL: NORMAL [Saves battery power, but the brighter setting might be more useful outdoors.]
VF BACKLIGHT LEVEL: NORMAL [You don't want to force your eyes to look at bright screens unnecessarily.]
VF COLOR: ON [The only reason to set this OFF, in other words to B&W, is to focus more easily. Since I've already set my expanded focus to B&W, I'd rather see what I'm shooting really looks like.]
VF POWERMODE: ON [This confusingly-named option keeps the rear eyepiece viewfinder on when the flip-out LCD screen is open and on, instead of automatically turning it off. Even though it uses more power, it's very useful to be able to quickly use the rear viewfinder without having to close the LCD screen while shooting doc work in rapidly changing circumstances.]
REMAINING: ON [This is nearly always a need-to-know!]
GPS TIME DISPLAY: LOCAL TIME [This is more useful to me, but your mileage may vary. NOTE: You can only see and access this menu item while in Visual Index mode, in other words after pushing the Visual Index button. Have no idea why, a Sony quirk.]
DISPLAY OUTPUT: LCD PANEL [I would change this to ALL OUTPUT if I were monitoring the image via a monitor hooked up to the SDI output while shooting.]

TC/UB SET

TC PRESET: When rarely needed.
UB PRESET: As above.
TC FORMAT: DF [Never had a need to change it away from drop frame]
TC RUN: REC RUN [Never had a need to change it.]
TC MAKE: PRESET [This setting is less relevant than with tape camcorders, where timecode breaks can be more of a pain in the postproduction stage.]
UB TIME REC: ON [Because it's often useful to have the local time recorded in the data, especially for documentary work.]

OTHERS

ASSIGN BUTTON: Set up to your needs. I have 1: PEAKING [I sometimes need to get rid of this quickly e.g. when focusing on finely textured item and screen is obscured.] 2: STEADYSHOT [Often taking cam on/off tripod/monopod and need to change settings fast.] 3: HYPER GAIN [Useful when moving quickly into unexpectedly dark environment. Like a seriously noisy, colour nightshot mode, not to be confused with regular high gain setting, which has much less noise.] 4: ZEBRA [Sometimes need to turn off to see image clearly.] 5: AE SHIFT [Hardly ever use this, but just in case.] 6: MARKER [More useful than another button for visual index - if I need to see the visual index I look at the flip out screen and use the top panel button.] 7: EXPANDED FOCUS [Just where you need it.]
CLOCK SET: Check this regularly and keep it up to date!
AREA SET: Change whenever you move to another time zone.
DST SET/SUMMERTIME: Only relevant to countries that have daylight savings time. Set on changeover days. [Does not, as far as I can tell, automatically revert on changeover days!]
LANGUAGE: Obvious. Set as required.
DATE REC: OFF. Only set this on if you really, really need the date superimposed on the image. [Remember its virtually impossible to get rid of afterwards.]
BEEP: OFF [One should not need this. It could interrupt recording with unwanted noise, I don't know, never had it on.]
REC LAMP [F]: OFF [The fewer lights, the better, usually.]
REC LAMP [R]: OFF [As above.]
REMOTE CONTROL: ON [You might need it. I only use one cam at a time, so no chance of confused signals.]
50i/60i SEL: Allows you to reboot the camera into PAL- or NTSC-land recording modes, ONLY IF YOU’VE ALREADY HAD A WorldCam UPGRADE DONE.
OPERATION TIME: Worth keeping an eye on. Tells you how heavily the cam has been used.
CALIBRATION: Calibrates the touchscreen. Do it once. [I hardly ever used the touchscreen because I can't stand having to clean it and it's also doesn't work too well with gloves. You can do pretty much everything via buttons anyway.]

THE END Comments welcome below!

Transcoding NXCAM AVCHD footage to ProRes: Adobe CS5 vs FCP 7 vs Clipwrap

August 30, 2010

Hi All

I’ve just read this very useful post by John Vasey on dvinfo.net comparing different ways of transcoding AVCHD footage from the NX5 to ProRes:

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/sony-nxcam-hxr-nx5u/483644-those-nx5u-users-encoding-prores-422-check-out-results-test.html

In summary: FCP 7′s Log & Transfer does not carry timecode through *see update in next post* (as well as all the other problems with it) but there are image quality problems with the ProRes footage produced by Adobe CS5′s Media Encoder. Clipwrap produced ProRes footage of identical quality to FCP 7.

If you’re having trouble transcoding AVCHD footage using Log & transfer in FCP, make sure you upgrade to FCP version 7.03 before giving up. Log & Transfer in 7.03 brings through timecode and does its job far more efficiently than previous versions!

Cheers

Adam

Ingesting AVCHD footage: Problems with Final Cut Pro’s Log and Transfer tool

April 13, 2010

UPDATE 22 September 2010: Apple has released an upgrade to FCP, 7.03. Having used it for a couple of days I can confirm that FCP no longer has an issue with long clips shot with LCPM audio (they transcode very quickly all the way through, what a relief!) and original timecode is carried through (at last). However, Log & Transfer is still unstable and you must be careful not to preview clips by moving the scrubber manually in the L&T preview window while transcoding as it has a tendency (on my machines at least) to crash. High-spec desktop machines seem to have fewer issues with L&T than laptops, no matter how high-spec the latter are.

Note: All comments below are drawn from my experiences using Final Cut Pro 7.01 and 7.02. Not all problems will necessarily apply to both versions all the time.

Final Cut Pro (FCP) cannot handle AVCHD footage, like that created by the NXCAM, on the timeline. You need to transcode the AVCHD files created in the camera to another codec, such as ProRes 422, in order to edit the footage (this transcoding is also called ‘ingesting’). This is accomplished via the Log and Transfer (L&T) tool, which can be found under the File menu in FCP.

You can use L&T to ingest footage direct from recording media (via a card reader, for example) or from AVCHD files stored on a harddrive. [*note: AVCHD files should be stored on harddrives along with all companion files created in the camera – in other words you should copy the whole contents of the recording media into a folder together, not just the .mts files alone. L&T will not be able to deal with .mts files that have been separated from their companion files. I create storage folders with names that begin with the date that the footage was shot on in the order YYYYMMDD_Subject , for example 20100223_JimmyBirthday . This way the folders can easily be arranged in date order.]

However, I’ve encountered a few problems with L&T. I’ll list these along with workarounds, if any.

1) L&T takes extraordinarily long to transcode long AVCHD clips shot with uncompressed LCPM audio – by long clips I mean more than a couple of minutes. Short clips of a few seconds will often transcode in less time than the duration of the clip; clips of 20 minutes can take an hour and a half to transcode. Workaround: Set the camera to record Dolby Digital audio – MENU > AUDIO SET > AUDIO FORMAT > DOLBY DIGITAL – and yes, yes I know, LCPM audio is one of the selling points of the HXR-NX5, don’t tell me…

2) L&T sometimes populates the clip menu (if that’s what you call it) automatically. This can be a real pain in the rear end because it can take ages if you’ve plugged a drive with masses of clips on it into the computer and, I’ve noticed, it also OFTEN does not find all the clips or folders on the drive, so you’re left having to add those to the menu manually anyway, using the ‘folder-plus’ icon in the top left of the L&T window. Workaround: It’s not 100% reliable, but if you make sure to remove all AVCHD clips from the L&T clip menu before closing L&T they tend not to reappear next time you open the tool.

3) L&T does not bring the source timecode of the clip through when transcoding. Each clip, after transcoding, has timecode starting at zero. This can be a serious issue if, for example, you plan to transcode into a low-resolution version of ProRes 422 like ProRes Proxy for an ‘offline’ edit and then reconform the project by re-ingesting the footage for a final ‘online’ edit at higher quality; FCP will not be able to find the points in the original files to ‘know’ which sections of those files to re-ingest because the timecode in the transcoded footage is not the same as that in the ‘parent’ AVCHD files. Workaround: Ingest and work in a high-quality ‘online’ format like ProRes 422 HQ from the start so you don’t have to re-ingest, or a format at least as good as that which you want to deliver the project in. Yes, this can take a lot of disk space!

4) The L&T playhead is screwy and moving it around can cause FCP to crash. L&T offers users a preview window for looking through clips prior to ingestion. In theory, you can look at a clip and only ingest the short sections you need by marking in and out points. However, I have found this to be very risky. Firstly, moving the preview playhead around too much can make it freak out and jump to the end of the timeline from where it will not budge. Sometimes it freaks out so much that it freezes or crashes Final Cut Pro. Sudden crashes can also occur if you try to ingest more than one section of a camera clip. Workaround: Transcode whole camera clips. Don’t scrub through clips by manually moving the scrubber arrow around – play through in real time using play button if you have to look at the clip before transcoding. Yes, it’s a pain, but you’re less likely to have FCP crash on you. [This bug has been carried over into FCP 7 from FCP 6, sadly.]

5) L&T often crashes if you queue up a lot of clips for transcoding. In my experience this happens if you queue up around 20 or more clips. No workaround that I know of other than to keep the number lower than that.

6) After FCP crashes and you restart it, L&T will sometimes not recognize the project you are working in. You will (yes, really) have to restart of the whole computer, not just FCP, so L&T can recognise the project. A real pain!

7) Sometimes L&T somehow thinks that there’s 0 space left on your scratch disk, even if there’s a lot. You’ll queue a clip, processing will not start and a bright octagon with a ! sign will appear in the status column. (If you try to delete the clip from the queue you will be told that the clip is in the process of being transcoded. This is not, as far as I can see, true.) Look down to the bottom of the L&T box for Total Free Space — if it says 0 and you know you have space on that scratch disk, you have this issue. Restarting FCP and restarting your computer will have no effect on this problem. I eventually discovered that if you change the scratch disk settings (Final Cut Pro > System Settings) to another disk and then back to the disk you want L&T will behave itself again.

In short, L&T needs a serious overhaul. You have to handle it very, very gently. It is a substandard tool within what presents itself as a world-class movie editing application. We all need to tell Apple to fix it via the help websites etc.

If any of you know of any other bugs in Log and Transfer, please add a comment to this blog post. If you have improvement suggestions, please mention those too, and I’ll send them on to contacts in Sony who will suggest them directly to Apple.

NOTE: It’s been suggested to me that Log & Transfer is more stable if you open L&T before attaching or turning on the device you’re digitising from.

Cheers!

Adam

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