The Work vs. The Quicktime

Quicktime PresetsI recently had to take care of a few small picture changes. The work itself took just a couple of hours and I was soon ready to present the results. But my producer and director couldn’t make it to the cutting room. To get their feedback I just had to make Quicktimes and upload them to an ftp site for viewing.

Easy, right? Wrong. I always worry about doing something when the task is preceeded by the word “just.” “Just bump that up to HD and blast it over to us, okay?” “Just recut all the music and make a new DVD, okay?” Just create cold fusion or a perpetual motion machine — it’ll just take a few minutes! In fact, making and uploading those files took exactly twice the time needed to make the changes themselves.

The export process is so convoluted, with so many different dialog boxes (four?) that anybody would be intimidated, but assistants are familiar with it and tend not to complain. Editors, on the other hand, are rarely confronted with this task and that probably reduces it’s priority level in Tewksbury. A lot of the code was apparently taken from Quicktime itself and some of the complexity comes from there. In their defense, the folks at Avid have made a valiant attempt at simplifying the task by offering us a bunch of canned presets. The problem is that the language used to describe them is often unclear (see above), and the process, whatever you do, seems to take forever.

If you’re making a Quicktime for a unique purpose, you should always try your settings on a short sequence first, see how long the conversion takes, how small the resulting file is, and whether you’ve inadvertently squeezed or cropped the image. If you don’t, be prepared to wait and to do it again when you don’t like the result.

Many people give up on all this and simply make DVDs with a standalone DVD burner. That works fine as long as you don’t have to use the Internet for viewing. Others make a basic Quicktime and then use Sorenson Squeeze, to shrink the file. Sometimes that can help, but it doesn’t make the task much simpler.

For the rest of us, particularly those who don’t do this every day, the complexity is pretty daunting. It sure would be nice if those Quicktime options were explained better. I’d love to see an estimate of how long your conversion will take and how big the resulting file might be — so you could make some intelligent choices before pressing the save button.

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5 Comments on “The Work vs. The Quicktime”

  1. Edit Says:

    Sometimes I think it would be nice to do it the other way around. Define the maximum filesize first and see what Avid recommends, but I suppose that would be too difficult.

  2. Steve Says:

    Good idea. Specify a desired filesize and build in the intelligence to let the machine suggest a codec and image size for you — or simply offer suggestions.

  3. L.R. Pebler Says:

    If you’re willing to look “outside the box” a bit, the people at my show have taken to using a program called Snapz Pro to make easy QTs of Avid play-outs. You just click the window and hit play; very analgous to real-time DVD recording, but for online sending/viewing.

    Snapz, of course, has its own presets and options, but they are generally simpler and harder to screw up than Avid’s.

  4. Claude LaVallee Says:

    “Just” is a four letter word.

  5. Steve Says:

    My point exactly.


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