canon vixia hf10

Logging And Transferring Video

This section deals with importing footage from the Canon VIXIA HF10 into Final Cut Pro.

The Canon VIXIA HF10 cameras only record in high definition format using a special codec (compression/decompression) called AVCHD. This new codec is revolutionary for it's ability to compress very high quality HD video in a relatively very small space. In fact, it so good that it can compress about one-hour of video into 8GB of space. When uncompressed, that same video would typically need about 60GB.


AVCHD is a great compression codec, however there are some drawbacks. Because the footage is so tightly wound up to make it small, it is virtually impossible to edit AVCHD footage natively with today's computers. What does this mean for us? Well, it means that in order to do any editing to the footage taken with the Canon VIXIA HF10, students must first go through a process of converting the footage to an Intermediate Codec, one that can be edited.

Once converted to this intermediate codec, the footage will be quite large -- about one gigabyte per minute. This means students should import only the footage they need, and develop a strategy early on for archiving and storing the original compressed footage.

How footage is stored on the memory card

The Canon HF10 stores all of the footage in a master folder called AVCHD. This might be inside another folder called "private," which is superfluous and isn't required. Inside the AVCHD folder are several other folders.

Footage on card of Canon HF 10

If students choose to ever backup their footage, they should back up the ENTIRE AVCHD folder and all of its contents! The AVCHD folder itself can be renamed to something more relvant, but the folder structure and all of its files must stay intact. If not, the video editing program will throw an error message when trying to import.

The message will say: [card name] contains unsupported media or has an invalid directory structure. Please choose a folder whose directory structure matches supported media.

Error message when trying to import directory structure message

For the most part, students won't have to really touch the media on the card, but simply import it through Final Cut Pro. Just make sure these concepts are understood for archiving purposes. If students wish to archive or back up their raw footage, they should copy the AVCHD folder and all of its contents.

These can also be burned to a CD/DVD for more permanent storage.

Importing into Final Cut Pro using Log and Transfer

To import footage from the Canon HF10 into FCP, first insert the memory card and launch the program. If an error message comes up explaining that no device is connected, simply click "Continue," this means there is no camera physically connected to the computer.

Opening Final Cut Pro with error message that no camera is connected

Setting the scratch disks

The first step, as always in Final Cut Pro, is to set the scratch disks. The scratch disks refers to the location where all of the footage is stored during the editing process. This is also the location FCP will place the footage when converted to the Apple Intermediate Codec.

To set the scratch disks, go into the Final Cut Pro menu at the top of the screen, and select System Settings.

System settings menu in Final Cut Pro to set scratch disks

There are four places where student should set their scratch disks.

Scratch disk window in Final Cut Pro

IMPORTANT: Students at the School of Journalism should only set the scratch disks to their connected Firewire drive. DO NOT set the scratch disks to any local folders, such as Documents or the Desktop. The reason for this is because there is a 5GB limit on every student's account, and setting the scratch disks to any local folder is likely to exceed those limits.

Log and Transfer dialogue in Final Cut Pro

Next, in Final Cut Pro, to to the File menu and select Log And Transfer.

Log and transfer menu in Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro will display a special transfer dialogue box. It should automatically find the SDHC memory card that is plugged into the system. If not, click the plus-folder icon at the upper left-hand corner of the window and locate the media.

Log and transfer window in Final Cut Pro

  • #1 - This area will show a list of the video clips on the card, as well as the duration of each clip.
  • #2 - This button is used to change the Intermediate Codec setting, which will be described in the next section.
  • #3 - This is the preview window for each clip. This can be played even before the clip has been logged.
  • #4 - This is the area where the clip can be marked with IN and OUT points, either by using the buttons here, or by pressing the letters "i" and "o" on the keyboard.
  • #5 - This area is to identify clips and include descriptions. It is extremely important to identify clips with relevant information.
  • #6 - Only after the IN and OUT points have been set, and the info has been added to the clip, students can drag clips to this area to begin the logging process.

Before logging clips, students should take a moment to change the Intermediate Codec setting. FCP uses two different codecs for logging AVCHD footage, Apple ProRes 422 and Apple Intermediate Codec. The ProRes codec is technically better, but takes up substantially more space. Since the desired output for all footage for the School of Journalism will be the Web, students should use Apple Intermediate Codec. This will help save storage on the drive.

Changing the intermediate codec

Click the gear-shaped icon as shown in #2 in the image above and select Preferences.

Codec preferences menu in Final Cut Pro

Import preferences in Final Cut Pro

The P2 Plugin menu refers to a special type of memory card used in high-end digital cameras. The Canon HF10 does not use P2 cards, but rather memory cards with the AVCHD codec, so this is the only menu that needs adjusting. Change the AVCHD setting to Apple Intermediate Codec. The audio codec can be left alone.

Menu to change codec in Final Cut Pro

Logging footage

Once the codec has been changed, student can begin going through their footage and marking them with IN and OUT points. Once they have been identified, student should properly label their footage then drag the clips to the queue.

Clips processing in Final Cut Pro

The system is setup in such a way that allows student to drag over several clips even when some are not finished, which simply adds them to the queue for processing. The status column will show a swirl to indicate that clip is processing. The processing can also be paused using the pause button at the top of the queue.

Since the processing takes several minutes (possibly twice as long as the duration of each clip) students should add all of their clips to the queue, then -- as they say -- "go get lunch." The clips should be completed when one returns.