Exporting Videos for YouTube using Final Cut Express

December 13, 2008 - zenoconsultingzenoconsulting


Recently I purchased an HD video camera — the Sony HDR-SR11. I have been nothing but pleased with this camera. I am a total neophyte at video, etc., but I buy and use a lot of high-tech gadgetry, and this little unit shines in every category. There are plenty of online reviews for the camera. I'm not going to do a review here, but I'm going to attempt to figure out the best format to export video content for upload to YouTube.

In the box, Sony provides a DVD with some kind of free Windows-only software for extracting video off the device onto the computer and editing. I did not bother with it. I can only imagine it disappoints. Plus, I don't really have a good Windows box for general purpose use. I have one AMD64 Vista machine, but all the rest run some variant of Ubuntu. I also have a Mac Book Pro with Leopard. I had heard a lot of good things about Final Cut Express. Alternatives were Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere.

I went for Final Cut Express. My $.02 review on that software — the UI is extraordinarily complicated and difficult to learn. The manual is 1000+ pages long, and there are not that many good books on the software — but, it is powerful software if you learn it well. My other gripe is that I hate applications that are made up of several independent floating application windows. I end up spending more time trying to move the stupid windows around and re-size them than I would like. Why not provide a snap-in container for the UI that allows you to show/hide various modules (most likely the reason is legacy code) ?

To use FCE with the HDR-SR11, all video has to be converted to the Apple Intermediate Codec before it can be used in the software — it does this on-the-fly when you import the content. This is another annoying facet of the application…plus the Dolby 5.1 sound gets converted down to stereo. I guess the Apple Intermediate Codec is better suited to video editing, but it explodes the size of the files up to 10x their original size from the HD format on the cameras disk. Oh well, disk space is cheap so I bought a 1TB USB external drive.

Once you have your clips in FCE and you create a project, you can export it to just about any format under the sun. The trick is finding the right settings to export a video that doesn't get mangled when you upload it to YouTube and they run their own compression algorithms on it. There's a tutorial on the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro Users Group that attempts to address this. I tried following what it said, but the quality after sending to YouTube still ended up very blocky and distorted.

Anyway, here's a video I made. It features my dog Dakota. He's an American Eskimo Mini. In this clip, Dakota is accompanied by music from the fantastic, now defunct musical outfit Gastr Del Sol. I think it is pretty hilarious.

Anyway, when I tried the recommendations from the LAFCUG, and I went tweaking all manner of FCE export settings — I got pretty bad results. I played around with various settings, but I found that the K.I.S.S. principle works here. FCE has an export option for Internet. When I chose that, it looked pretty good on YouTube.

Here are the settings I used. Your mileage may vary.

fce-export1.pngfce-export2.png

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