Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Getting our HD and SD vids onto a DVD

You know that saying, "if I knew then what I know now"? Well I am wishing someone had schooled me on outputting HD videos before we decided to use HD for our four-day documentary filmmaking challenge project. You may say that's neither here nor there, especially since we won the whole darned competition, but we almost didn't even get it turned in on time due to the outputting problems we had!!

ANYWAYS I wanted to share the story of how we got around these issues when it came time to put together the final timeline and DVD for this year's Reel Grrls Spring Showcase. I was pretty worried about the headaches we were in store for, since the spring showcase this year included five SD (Standard Definition) projects and two HD (High Definition) projects. I wondered if we would be able to burn one DVD that would show the HD pieces in their true def without messing up the SD pieces, or if we would have to down convert the HD pieces to SD.

In researching all this I came across a number of hugely useful resources. Here are some of my faves:

On burning HD videos to an HD DVD

On burning HD videos to an SD DVD

On exporting HD for the internet
And this one

After reading up and asking advice from everyone I knew (HD is such a new technology that I think most people are still figuring out things like this), I concluded that:
• There are some pretty simple steps you can take to burn HD DVDs in either DVD Studio Pro or iDVD, BUT we couldn't burn an HD DVD that would include SD projects AND
• We could not burn an HD DVD if we wanted it to be able to play on most commercial DVD players.

So. No HD DVD. That left
• Down-converting the HD projects to SD so that we could put all seven final projects in one timeline and then compress them using our usual methods.

Which is what I ended up doing. Here's how I did it:

1. First I exported each HD project from their respective Final Cut Pro timelines as Quicktime files with full resolution (using the same settings as the HDV preset sequences in which they were edited).
2. Then I imported the HD Quicktime Files back into a new Final Cut Pro project and dropped them into a timeline with Standard Definition settings.
3. After this step I was forced to render the timeline, which took FOREVER (so leave yourself time for it)! What's nice is that Final Cut does all the work of interpreting the HD files as SD (including letterboxing the video and squishing it down to the right size), but the side effect is the long wait for rendering.
4. At this point if you want to export your video as a Standard Def Quicktime, print it to regular SD miniDV tape, or export it for the internet, you're all set to go from your new down-converted SD timeline. I exported the finished product using Compressor's standard settings for a DVD of the length of our final productions, then imported the compressed files into DVD Studio Pro.

Voila! I hope this is helpful for you in your HD adventures. Please comment if you have thoughts on how to improve the process.