It used to be that transcoding to a mezzanine format was mandatory before post-production could begin. But with modern improvements to editing platforms like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut X, editing footage from a wide range of camera and video formats is much easier than it used to be. Given this, many people are asking: to transcode, or not to transcode?
While there’s no simple answer, there are some common misconceptions when it comes to video transcoding.
Misconception #1: You don’t need a transcoder that reads and recombines spanned clips.
For those unaware, a spanned clip is when a camera records a large video and splits it into multiple, smaller files.
Every editor knows they need a transcoder that understands multiple file formats. But not everyone knows that their camera is spanning their video, or that their transcoder will need to have the ability to take spanned clips and recombine them into a single video clip.
If you don’t have a transcoder such as Vantage or Adobe Media Encoder that recombines spanned clips, any number of problems can arise. Syncing audio across clips becomes challenging, as does keeping color grading consistent. Additionally, any notes from a producer or director become harder to locate.
Misconception #2: A dedicated server is better (or worse) for transcoding than using your own computer.
There are many strong opinions around whether to use a dedicated server or your PC for transcoding. The right answer, as it turns out, is: it depends.
If your personal computer is running a dozen different programs, it probably won’t handle the additional task of transcoding, in which case a dedicated server makes sense. On the other hand, if there are five editors on staff but typically only three or four in the office at a given time, it probably makes sense to use a spare computer for dedicated transcoding. However, this strategy can result in an unfortunate game of musical chairs, causing unnecessary complication.
Additionally, running a transcoding task in the background while performing other video tasks in the foreground of your computer can result in transcoding errors and artifacts added to the files, depending on the codecs being used, your video card, and other factors. It’s always good to leave a computer doing a heavy transcoding task alone to prevent these errors.
While a dedicated transcoding server ensures the task of transcoding won’t be affected by the other jobs a personal computer would be doing, there can be drawbacks. If the server hardware is outdated, or the transcoding software is not up to date with support for the latest formats, it might not transcode videos properly or fast enough.
Companies need to assess their current hardware capabilities, usage, and transcoding requirements and plan accordingly.
Misconception #3: You don’t need to transcode to a mezzanine format before you edit
This is tricky and is not necessarily a myth. To get to the root of the problem, there are three factors that need to be considered: the length of the video being edited, the amount of footage, and the variety of formats.
If working with a shorter video, you’re more likely to get away working with multiple formats without transcoding. This is because a shorter video is less taxing on your computer and is easier for your editing software to manage. In contrast, a longer video may cause your computer to grind to a halt while trying to generate previews or play back the footage.
Another consideration is the amount of data that is required to host your mezzanine files alongside the originals. If you have a lot of footage, you need to be sure you have enough space for the mezzanine versions, or a way to archive the originals after transcoding is done. If you absolutely don’t have the space, you can try to get away without transcoding, but you’re rolling the dice with the stability of your editing system.
Finally, if all of your media is coming from the same camera—and therefore is all the same format—you may have less need to transcode to mezzanine for stability reasons. But be warned: some formats are more stable than others, so you may find in post production that you should have transcoded, and then it becomes a headache of relinking to mezzanine versions in the middle of the edit.
To learn more about how Media Asset Management (MAM) can help you solve the problem of transcoding and automate the process for you, check out Evolphin Zoom today.