Can beginner get FCP X encoding results w/ just Compressor?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Brian33, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)

    I'm just a home video and production newbie with nearly 70 hours of typical home video on MiniDV tape. My most immediate goal is to get the tapes imported in the best quality I can while the tapes and camera are still in good condition. The imported files will be backed up.

    Next, or concurrently, I'd like to put the contents onto DVDs in a relatively quick manner -- no editing needed. The DVDs are for my wife and family to watch. (It's not convenient for them to watch them on a computer and I have no easier way to get digital content to our TV -- it has no HDMI input.)

    Lastly, I'd like to do some editing and make a more "finished" video.

    I've been using iMovie '08 and now '11, and iDVD (sometimes Toast) and I'm fairly competent with those. But I tried the 30-day Final Cut Pro X trial version, and without knowing much of anything used the "default" settings for making a DVD, and it came out significantly better! I did not use any of the analysis features, either, but the resulting picture had fewer "jaggies" and seemed overall much clearer. It make me wonder what could be done if I knew what I was doing...

    Finally, here's my question: if I bought Compressor (only $50), would I be likely to get results like I did the the FCP X trial? From what I can figure out I could use Compressor to do what I want, but there's no trial version for it (boo!). I'd spend the $50, but not likely $300!

    Actually, Compressor is what got me to download the FCP trial -- I thought it would be included but was not. I'd read that Compressor could off-load work to other machines on your local network and I would love to be able to do that. (I work on a C2D iMac, but have a 4-core early 2011 MacBook Pro that can do the iMovie encodings twice as fast.) Does this actually work? I've got a gig-E network. Again, I'd happily fork over the dough if it cut my encoding times in half.

    I know Compressor is supposed to be a "Pro" app and not for everyday users, but I've got strong technical skills and time to figure it out if I think it will turn out to be worthwhile. Any opinions?
  2. floh macrumors 6502

    Nov 28, 2011
    Stuttgart, Germany
    First: Compressor will definitely give you the same (most likely even better) results than the FCPX export function. It is made for the sole purpose of encoding video and it's very good at that.

    Second: Yes, you can theoretically use "render farms" or another computer to encode your videos. But be aware that doing that over a network will lead you C2D editing machine to still have a lot of sending and receiving to do and maybe you won't be able to work smoothly. You can try it though, it'll definitely be better than encoding on the same machine. You can also export the unencoded (ProRes) movie to an external drive and just carry than to the other Mac for encoding, which is what I often do. It's not as comfortable a workflow, but it's enough for me, since I only export a movie for encoding every other week...

    To sum up: Compressor is a very fine tool for encoding video, and it doesn't depend on FCPX. You won't regret buying it if you care about the quality of your videos.

    Just one more final tipp: Practically any encoding tool with DVD burning abilities is better than the iMovie export function. There are free tools out there (iDVD, SimplyBurns, DVDStyler) that will re-encode your video files and burn a simple DVD for you. You can try them first if you want to save the $50.
  3. Brian33 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    floh, thanks a lot for your input! It's good to know that I could expect Compressor to equal or better the results I got from FCP X. I'll have to think about whether I want to try the free alternatives -- the trying and testing take a bit of time.

    Plus, I'm really curious about Compressor's distributed processing capabilities, partly just because it seems really neat, technically (I used to be a software developer). I understand about the overhead of breaking the task up and transferring large files around, but still I guess it would speed my workflow. I can transfer a 12 GB DV file to my MacBook Pro in about 3 1/2 minutes and the machine is so much faster. I've got 70 hours of tapes to process so any time savings would add up.

    I was able to download the documentation, and it doesn't look too hard to set up a "Quick Cluster".

    I have thought about physically taking the hard drive to the faster portable, and I may end up doing that in the end, but I guess right now I'm leaning toward purchasing Compressor and investing the time to learn it. It's really nice for me that it's sold separately from the other pro apps.

    Do I get any phone support from Apple if I buy Compressor? My MBP is still under warranty for another month -- would I be able to get meaningful help by calling Applecare? Just wondering how support works for the "pro apps".

  4. arjen92 macrumors 65816


    Sep 9, 2008
    Below sea level
    I don't think compressor allows you to import from your camera though. You either need the file already, or have it sent from final cut pro.
  5. Brian33 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    arjen92, I think you're right. However, I was thinking of importing from my camera with iMovie '11, which imports the individual clips as .dv files. Then using Share->Export Using Quicktime->Movie to DV Stream which (I've just discovered) exports the whole project in one .dv file. I'm hoping that this will preserve the quality, as iMovie doesn't seem to need to reencode it. (It takes my C2D iMac 15 minutes I think, compared to 1/2 hour or more to Share->Export Movie->Large which I believe does some encoding.)

    I am starting to wonder, though, if importing with FCP X would result in better quality than importing with iMovie. Does anyone know?

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