My family has purchased a new camcorder, the Samsung SMX-C10 (standard def). Unlike most Flash/HDD cams, it writes its files in H.264/AVC (MPEG-4).
I am trying to figure out how to get our footage onto a DVD. I'm not a newbie; I edit DV in FCP (and output using Compressor or Procoder), and often work with MPEG-2 files in Womble Video Wizard to avoid recompression. But I do not have ANY experience working with H.264.
What is the best method to convert the H.264 files that are stored on my Flash card to MPEG-2 files, without losing quality? (Is such a thing possible?)
Should I: Convert the camera's H.264 files to MPEG-2 using a program such as Compressor or Procoder--the same as I do with DV files? Or: should I work with these files in Womble? Or: should I use some type of simple conversion program like MPEG Streamclip? I'm very confused about the best way to go to keep the original quality as intact as possible.
I understand that editing H.264 files is a pain. That's not my primary interest, but it would be helpful to have a take on that too, just in case I would need to edit these files in the future.
Oh, and either Mac or PC recommendations are fine--I use both.
Thanks in advance.
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If you don't actually need to edit and just want to get the files into DVD format at high quality, use AVStoDVD.
If you want to edit, you probably want to either convert to an intermediate codec (high-bitrate intraframe-only MPEG-2 for example) or to DVD-level MPEG-2 (and then use an NLE with smart rendering to edit it). Unfortunately I don't know which encoding tools are the best for this purpose, but Cineform's gets mentioned a lot.
OK...that's the first I've heard of AVStoDVD for this work, but I'll check on it. (I seem to run into MPEG Streamclip more often.)
For editing, why would I want to convert to MPEG-2 right off the bat? Some folks online mention converting H.264 files to DV for editing. Is there a quality advantage to going to MPEG-2 instead for H.264 files?
Actually, I have a more specific question:
For the conversion of H.264 to MPEG-2, is it better to use a program such as AVStoDVD, or a dedicated encoder such as MainConcept or Procoder? Which will provide the best carryover quality from the original H.264 file? (Remember, this is all standard def material.)
I probably should have posted this question in the Video Conversion forum, oh well. I hope someone sees this question here--I think this is the main thing I need to know.
OK, now I'm really confused! I thought if I used AVStoDVD, that would convert the H.264 files that my camcorder creates into MPEG-2 files. Why would I need an additional MPEG-2 encoder as part of the job? Maybe I'm missing something here...
I'm used to using a few different encoders as part of my DV to MPEG-2 work (Compressor, Procoder, etc.) I just didn't know if that was appropriate for H.264 material as well, or if some other program such as AVStoDVD would be a better option.
I recently went through the same struggle to find and develop as simple a workflow as possible for working with these files, and ultimately creating a DVD. If you are aware of MPEG Streamclip do you use it? I have found it to be a superior tool for working with h.264 AVC files.
I use MPEG Streamclip to:
1. Join all my clips together in the "Batch List" mode to create a new movie timeline
2. Edit my new timeline (something other tools have a VERY difficult time doing)
I personally then open my newly edited MOV file in VirtualDub to apply filters (optional) and frameserve out to my MPEG2 encoder. If your MPEG2 encoder can accept MOV files then all you need is MPEG Streamclip for the simplest workflow for getting your files from your camera to your encoder and DVD. Be aware that MPEG Video Wizard DVD doesn't maintain audio/video sync when working with (editing) these h.264 files. It is really designed for MPEG2 files, which have a very different GOP structure!
While MPEG Streamclip could convert your h.264 file to another "more compatible" format, I wouldn't suggest it. Keep your original file format if your encoder can accept it, or frameserve an "AVI" to your encoder. My HD h.264 material looks far better on DVD than my Mini DV material (from a high-end Canon) ever did. Hope this info helps
Wow, so many good suggestions!
Michael - if you would go from your H.264 file straight to a compliant MPEG-2, would you use MPEG Streamclip for this as well? From what I understand, in your workflow, you are converting to MOV and then to the MPEG-2 encoder, even when your VirtualDub editing work is optional. Why would you convert to MOV if you're not going to edit? Or is that part of your step 2 ("edit my new timeline")?
Thanks so much for the help!
The files from my camera have a "MOV" extension. Do yours have a "MP4" extension? The files are H.264 files with MPEG-4 audio. If your files can be opened in QuickTime then you are ready to use MPEG Streamclip to join them all together into one (unconverted) QuickTime MOV file. There is no conversion or recompression during this process. All the files are nicely appended to to each other and everything is kept in sync. If you want to edit this new file then MPEG Streamclip allows editing (cutting) on key frames, again, to keep your audio and video in sync (this is where many other tools stumble).
If you didn't want to edit the new file then just open the MOV in your MPEG2 encoder and generate your system or elementary streams, readying them for authoring/burning. I would think ProCoder and Compressor accept MOV file input, if not, then you would need to either convert the MOV to an acceptable input format (again, not recommended due to generational loss) or frameserve an AVI from, let's say, VirtualDub. I don't want this process to sound complicated, it is just I don't know what your MPEG2 encoder is capable of. I myself have one encoder that accepts MOV files, and one that doesn't.
So... the big hurdle with these H.264 files is joining and editing them in their native format. I haven't had any issues with encoding to MPEG2. Let me know if you have any other questions, I may have already found the answers. For a quicker response I would suggest you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I don't get on these forums very often (I'm too busy shooting video and making DVDs) but I'd still like to help.Michael