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video formats for the long term

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watermelonman

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I take lots of footage on my flights. Pictures I understand. JPG and RAW files get stored where I want, and I have data that most every image program on the planet can work with.

Video is a totally different ball game. I use Mobius, 808, and Go Pro cameras. I open up the camera output in Quicktime on OSX and export a segment to share and that works well enough. But when it comes to archiving I want to have a better handle on my data.

I know that some of my cameras save AVI files and some save MOV files. I know that there are container formats as well as differing codecs, but that is about all I know. Oh and when I exit Quicktime it wants to save the file even if I did not edit it, which tells me it is working with a different format than what it initially imported. What a pain.

What are standards that I can rely on, both for container and codec? What software is recommendable?
 

JohnCoker

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I think you will always be able to convert from older formats to newer ones in future so I wouldn't worry about format, but it's always best to shoot in the highest resolution you can. So far, I've been shooting and posting my videos in 1080p, but I'll probably buy a new camera so that I can move to 4K soon.

As far as editing software, I use iMovie (free software with macOS). I think simpler is better here and many people get carried away with transitions and other effects that just distract from the content.
 

manixFan

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Short answer:

* make a new folder on your storage device (hopefully a large, fast, external hard drive)
* copy the ENTIRE contents of your camera's storage device (SD card, internal memory, etc.) into that new folder
* disconnect the camera
* import all your footage from the folder rather than the camera
* copy the folder to a backup hard drive

Alternately on the Mac you can use Disk Utility to make a disk image of your storage device. That will be an exact copy of everything on the camera. When you want to use the video, you just double click the disk image to mount it, and then unmount it when you are done. By making a copy of the entire folder you are making sure that you have all the metadata recorded by the camera which helps many video programs correctly interpret the footage.

The GoPro and Mobius cameras use file formats and codecs that aren't going away any time soon. So I don't think you need to worry about that footage. The 808 is different though, it is a bit of a mash-up. It would be a bad idea to convert the 808 footage to a high bit-rate MP4 file to make sure it's easy to use in the future.

The biggest issue are video formats that require you to install a decoder ring to get them to work correctly. The GoPro cameras can use a format called CineForm but since it is owned by GoPro and now used by a lot of pros it should be available well into the future.


Tony
 

manixFan

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As a follow up to John's comment, highest resolution doesn't always mean the most pixels. Without going into a lot of details many cameras actually shoot higher resolution 1080P footage than they do 4K footage. Even though you are seemingly getting far more pixels with a 4K format the quality of the image data is greatly reduced compared to 1080p. Then the video has to be scaled on most systems to be displayed at either 1080p or 720p resulting in a further loss of resolution.

It is such a pain to work with 4K files that at this point in time I just don't think the rewards are worth the effort.


Tony
 

jadebox

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I think you will always be able to convert from older formats to newer ones in future so I wouldn't worry about format, but it's always best to shoot in the highest resolution you can. So far, I've been shooting and posting my videos in 1080p, but I'll probably buy a new camera so that I can move to 4K soon.
Resolution isn't a good indicator of quality. A good 1080p camera will produce a better image than a not-so-good 4K camera. The size of the sensor and quality of the lens are more important than the resolution. Having said that, camera makers have done some amazing things with small cameras. The tiny little 4K camera in my quadcopter takes amazing video.

And shooting in 4K is good, not just for future-proofing. Using a 4K source to produce an HD video allows you to crop and zoom in post.

I haven't thought much about what format I store my video in. So far, I haven't had problems converting old formats (even the weird one used by the Estes Oracle). But, there have been some hiccups. The special Matrox video editor card I used to have saved audio and video in separate files. That's just an annoyance now. And, older files systems limited files to 4GB, so sometimes I find that older video files are truncated.

-- Roger
 

manixFan

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The ultimate indicator of quality is the data rate of the compressed video. AVCHD - which has been the standard HD format for years has a max data rate of 28Mbps which isn't nearly enough for 4K video. Ideally 4K should be at 100Mbps or greater. But many cameras use the same data rate for 4K as they do for 1080p, so you are compressing 4X as much data into the same file size as 1080p which greatly limits the quality of the 4K image.

The better cameras now allow for much higher data rates with of course the tradeoff of fewer minutes of video per unit of storage. The video app I use on my iPhone allows 100Mbps for 4k and it is noticeably better than the standard 50Mbps that most use, especially with any kind of motion.

Find the data rate and compression scheme of the camera you are using and that will help you understand the ultimate quality of the footage.

It is truly amazing the quality of video that we get out of even inexpensive video cameras today. However I still think that for many 4K is way overkill and actually reduces quality by the time all is said and done. While Roger is right that it does allow pan/scan in post, so few have the time, inclination, or software to use that capability that it is a moot point. Heck, most folks barely know how to trim the beginning or end off their footage. And unless you have a 4K monitor you can't ever see your original footage at 100% size.

But like most things, almost everyone thinks bigger and more is better, regardless of reality.


Tony
 

Winston

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As a follow up to John's comment, highest resolution doesn't always mean the most pixels.
Right. Higher pixel counts crammed into a sensor of a given size results in more noise per pixel which is then approximately "corrected" with digital noise reduction techniques which often result in artifacts in images with high levels of detail. Examples - tree and bush leaf, grass, gravel, etc. detail being interpreted as noise and being "smoothed out." Larger sensor size and lower compression (higher data rate settings) are generally what you want for better video image quality.
 

manixFan

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Good point about the data rate. It's hard to find that, for example I don't see it at all on the Nikon D500 specs page.
Wow, they did not make that easy!

Bit rate
3840 × 2160 (4K UHD): 144 Mbps
1920 × 1080 60p/50p ★ high: 48 Mbps
1920 × 1080 60p/50p normal: 24 Mbps
1920 × 1080 30p/25p/24p ★ high: 24 Mbps
1920 × 1080 30p/25p/24p normal: 12 Mbps
1280 × 720 ★ high: 24 Mbps
1280 × 720 normal: 12 Mbps

http://nps.nikonimaging.com/technical_solutions/d500_tips/movie/movie_specifications/

It's also important to note that nearly all modern DSLRs and video cameras will output a very high quality video signal either via HDMI or SDI that can be recorded using an external recorder at far higher quality than can be done in camera. Examples are something like:

https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/blackmagicvideoassist

On the other hand, the inexpensive keychain cameras used in so many rockets shoots remarkable quality at a cost most of us can afford to lose if the rocket goes boom. But with a modern DSLR and some decent lenses and accessories a person can shoot video that rivals what we see from Hollywood.

And to speak to Winson's point, many of the newer video cameras have gone to 1" sensors which greatly reduce noise and create a more film-like look.


Tony
 

JohnCoker

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Wow, they did not make that easy!
Thanks for finding that Tony. That was the camera I had my eye on, but wasn't quiet prepared to buy yet. In the past, i've used separate cameras for stills and video, but it looks like this might be a good option for both (and I would finally be able to use my lenses with a video camera).

Note that I wouldn't fly this camera in a rocket, it would be solely for land-bound photos and video.
 

watermelonman

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Short answer:

* make a new folder on your storage device (hopefully a large, fast, external hard drive)
* copy the ENTIRE contents of your camera's storage device (SD card, internal memory, etc.) into that new folder
* disconnect the camera
* import all your footage from the folder rather than the camera
* copy the folder to a backup hard drive

Alternately on the Mac you can use Disk Utility to make a disk image of your storage device. That will be an exact copy of everything on the camera. When you want to use the video, you just double click the disk image to mount it, and then unmount it when you are done. By making a copy of the entire folder you are making sure that you have all the metadata recorded by the camera which helps many video programs correctly interpret the footage.
This is exactly what I had been doing but it is no longer sustainable. I come home with 16gb and now 64gb cards full, for only a few minutes of footage I care about. I probably would not have asked at all if I could simply trim without altering formats, but like I said Quicktime wants to save it in a different format than the original when I go to exit.
 
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