Canon 5D Mark II video workflow and you

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickwheeleroz/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0UPDATE: This post was updated in June 2010 to reflect trending codec use and Canon's firmware upgrade to the 5D Mark II DSLR.

The Canon 5D Mark II is a year old and many newspapers have adopted this DSLR as their video camera of choice.

The 1080p high definition video is stunning. Throw a fast lens on it, like a 50mm 1.4, and the short depth of field make you think you're shooting on an outrageously expensive film camera. All for US$2,799.

A lot of people have been asking me how it fits into our post-production workflow at The Courier-Journal in Louisville.

While serving on the faculty at the Mountain Workshops inOctober I solicited the help of video gurus Chad Stevens and Bob Sacha, who produce work for MediaStorm. I adopted MediaStorm's workflow at our shop and came up with our own streamlined process from captured 5D Mark II footage to Final Cut Pro export.

INGEST: First I dump all of the video files into one folder on a hard drive. 

UPDATE: With the new firmware updates during the spring of 2010, the 5D Mark II can now shoot 29.97 or 23.978 frames per second, negating the need to convert files to new framerates.

29.97: Since the Mark II shoots in 30 fps I convert the files to 29.97 fps. (Philip Bloom has said a future firmware upgrade might take care of this.) But for now I must convert because QuickTime interprets the files as 29.97 fps. To do this I use Final Cut's Cinema Tools and after a few clicks the files are converted: First, open the application and click Create New Database from the pop up. Cancel out the dialogue box that opens and go to File>Batch Conform. Next, I pick one video file from that last ingest. Select 29.97 from the drop down menu and Cinema Tools will conform every video file within that folder to the proper spec. It should only take a few seconds.

CONVERT: While newer MacBook Pro's have on-board h.264 decompression built into their video cards, Apple's big bad Mac Pro tower machines do not. At our newspaper we're working on those towers, so viewing the gorgeous 1080p h.264 files that the 5D Mark II captures is a struggle. I convert from 1080p to 720p h.264 and Final Cut Pro on those Mac Pro's seems to handle them OK. Another method is to convert to ProRes 422. (Vincent Laforet outlines how to do that with either MPEG StreamClip or Final Cut's Compressor here. Since ProRes codec decompresses the h.264 files, a lot more storage space is needed for those video files.)

UPDATE: ProRes 422 or ProRes 4444 is being widely used as a codec for 5D Mark II files being edited in Final Cut Pro. Rendering is realtime and ProRes Final Cut projects are ready to be exported back into h.264 for posting on the Web or exporting to other compressed formats or uncompressed formats for use on HD TVs.

When I use Compressor I have a custom conversion method setup to scale the files down to 720p and keep the 29.97 framerate. It works for us and our online video player created by the people at Brightcove.

Once the files are converted they can be dropped into Final Cut.

To check out MediaStorm's full workflow head over to their submissions page.