I have been shooting lots of video lately and have really nailed down my editing workflow. I recently got serious about it in the last year and a half while working on Mike DeVries “Get Real” educational tattooing DVD’s. This is my HD video workflow using proxy files to speed up the editing process.

I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II using the 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. The project I’m currently working on was shot with 2 5DmkII cameras, a Zoom H4n Portable Digital Recorder for audio, and a bunch of other goodies. The Zoom records a stereo track using it’s onboard microphone and also has two mic inputs that we used for wireless lavaliers.

For filming we used SanDisk 16 GB Extreme III memory cards which allow about an hour of footage from the 5D. The camera has a limitation due to the sensor getting hot, that only allows it to shoot for around 12 minutes so the camera must be restarted continually while recording.

These files add up quickly, so in between shots we download the cards to a Western Digital 2 TB FireWire 800 External Hard Drive and organized them by Roll. So we were capable of shooting for about 45 minutes before we had to download all the footage and format to keep going. Lots of data management here, definitely something you want to have your head together for. Losing footage is simply not an option, yet happens very easily and great care must be taken to reduce the risk of that.

When we finished shooting I renamed all the files per Roll so that they followed a common naming scheme. Each camera was shooting different file sequences so converting the file names to a serial number that I could easily read later made a big difference. I used the format “Roll, Source, – Sequece” so they ended up like 1N-01.mov. The 1 is for Roll 1, the N stands for Nate’s Camera, and the 01 is the number of the clip in that roll. This saved me lots of time and only took a few minutes to do.

Next I open Compressor and convert all the footage to Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) so that it is all in a native format. Additionally, I drop the frame size down to 480×270 so that it is roughly a 1/4 the pixel size of the original. These files are saved in a folder called Proxy next to the Source footage with the exact same file names as the original.

After the files are all compressed I open up Final Cut Pro and drop the files in the proxy folder into a Bin called Video. I create a new sequence, set the settings to my HD clip, 23.89 frames a second, with Apple ProRes (Proxy) codec. I turn the render down to 50% so that it plays without any problems on my Macbook Pro. I drop all the clips for each Roll into the sequence and open the PluralEyes plugin. Pluraleyes will sync all your video and audio clips using the audio from each. This saves so much time during editing.

Now the easy part of going through and making the cuts. This particular project is about 8 hours of uncut footage which when finished will be closer to 3 or 4. This part takes a few days, but because of the proxy files is infinitely faster then before without them. I save this working file as “Proxy”. When I’m finished, I do a save file as, and save a copy as “Final”. Then, I disconnect media by right clicking on the “Video” bin I created. Once it is disconnected, I right click again and go to Reconnect Media. Select the Source folder of video files, and Final Cut reconnects all the footage but this time as HD. You’ll have to select all on the timeline, and right click Remove Attributes, so that the HD files aren’t blown up all huge.

That about sums it up. I’ll post updates to this as I figure them out. This should be enough to give you a great start using proxies to edit HD video.

Once I’ve finished editing