We’ve had a HD videocam since 2006, and have been building up a backlog of unprocessed video, since the stuff is so huge and slow to process. This is one of the reasons I recently bought a Mac Pro. Things are better, but the story doesn’t have a happy ending yet.
I’ve never really liked iMovie, it seems like it’s trying too hard to be “easy” and hiding the direct path to where you’re going. And I’ve sat in on some commercial video-editing sessions and have an inkling of what’s possible. So when I ordered the Pro, I got it shipped with Final Cut Express.
Now, that is a program with a nasty learning curve. The user’s guide is a thousand-page-plus PDF, and it’s OK, but not that great. Too often the description of how you do something doesn’t end up corresponding with what I see on the screen when I try to do that; they’ve omitted to mention the crucial step you need to get to that intermediate dialog box or whatever.
But anyhow, I sat down with an hour or so of HD video shot over the 2006-2007 holiday season and banged my head on FCE till I had it figured out enough to get what I wanted. It’s easy to like once the learning pain eases off, and on an 8-core 2.6GHz Mac Pro with 6G of memory, it’s damn snappy; my first experience of any video-related software software being responsive. It will do way more than I’ll ever need, and what it does, it does fast; what’s not to like?
One problem is that I’ve been spoiled by Lightroom, which doesn’t have a “save” button because it doesn’t need one, what a concept. So my first extended FCE editing session edited sadly with a crash that cost me a couple of hours’ work. Save early, save often.
After a few days of poking around, an hour here, and hour there, I had things edited down to a pretty pleasing 8-minute movie, with nifty voice-overs and decent fades and so on.
Then I wanted to cut a DVD, you know, to send to my Mom or whatever. Which means, I guess, iDVD, a program I’ve always hated. I don’t know what it is, it just seems like it’s much harder than it should be. And I’m particularly upset that all the “themes” come with Apple branding on the title page. Fuck you Apple, this is my film of my kids.
The instructions sure seemed to be simple: export from FCE as a QuickTime movie, import into iDVD, press “burn”; and indeed I got a shiny silver disk. But also one minor and one major disappointment.
The minor disappointment is the picture quality; the DVD playback just doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the raw HD QuickTime on my nice Sun monitor. It still looks pretty good, but once you’ve seen better... The DVD playback looks weaker not just on the TV, but on the computer screen.
The major disappointment is that the sound is completely borked; but only on the DVD player, not on the computer. It sounds like it was all recorded at much too high a level, so it’s breaking up and distorting in a bunch of ugly ways. I review in FCE and I don’t see the levels ever hitting 0dB. Maybe my DVD player is the problem? But I watch movies all the time, with no sound problems. Maybe it’s my lame old DVD player, or because I used a DVD-R instead of a DVD+R? Maybe iDVD just hates me?
Working on it...