HD Fan Videos—a Tutorial

Editing in High Definition (HD) for fan videos, for Windows and Macintosh software.

I’ve done some more messing around with HD for fan videos, and have had some success! Here are a few things I’ve learned.

I know there are other methods for doing HD, particularly on Windows, by using Avisynth scripts and VirtualDubMod. So if you want to learn more about how to do that, this tutorial on AMV.org (and the whole AMV.org “guide”) will be the place to start.

I figured out a way to do at least acceptable HD without the Avisynth scripts. I’m NOT saying that my way is better or less complicated, but it might be less intimidating to some users. But I’d never discourage someone from going the AMV.org route, because I have no doubt that the quality is gorgeous.

Some actual HD fan videos:

Before starting on the HD tutorials, it might not hurt to show you some examples of HD fan videos made using this process or something similar. This page lists the ones hosted on RAfanvids.com. If the quality of these videos looks good to you, then read on.

Starting out with your downloaded MKV file.

I’m going to assume that you’re using a downloaded H.264 720p or 1080 MKV file. (This is what I’ve been using.)

Follow this tutorial for converting HD MKV files to MJPEG AVI using Avidemux. A longer tutorial for using Avidemux is here. (Free forum membership required to view tutorial.)

Mac users can also follow this tutorial for Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express. (Though to be honest I have also edited the MJPEG AVI files that Avidemux makes, because encoding/converting time of the MKV file is so much faster with Avidemux.)

Editing HD fan videos in Windows.

If your video software opens the MJPEG AVI files that Avidemux makes, then you’re halfway there. If not, you can convert the files to MJPEG AVI (again!) in MPEG Streamclip, or to JPEG 2000 in MPEG Streamclip. (The above-linked tutorial explains how to do that and links to the proper tutorials.)

In my most recent tests, I had no problems editing in the MJPEG AVI files (some which were converted within MPEG Streamclip). I had good results and nice quality in both Sony Vegas and Corel VideoStudio.

Setting up HD Sony Vegas:

You need to have Sony Vegas Pro or Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum to edit in HD.

Set up your project properties as either HDV 720-25p (for PAL footage) or HDV 720-30p (for NTSC footage). If you’re not sure which to choose, go with NTSC.

Edit your video as usual, then export out as either HD WMV, or uncompressed AVI with the custom frame size of 1280x720. (Warning, resulting file will be HUGE.) Then open this file in MPEG Streamclip and convert to a H.264 MP4 file with a data rate of 4000. Or, follow one of the other exporting tutorials on the Foolish Passion video forums, but export at the HD frame size of 1280x720, with a data rate of 4000 or above.

Editing HD in Corel VideoStudio:

Set up your project as widescreen 16:9. (The screenshot is for VideoStudio 11, but it looks the same in VideoStudio X2 as well.)

I was able to successfully edit MJPEG AVI files that were converted in MPEG Streamclip with Corel VideoStudio X2. If you find that you can’t get that to work, try opening the big MJPEG AVI files (that Avidemux made) in MPEG Streamclip, and converting to JPEG 2000 MOV files. (The tutorial linked above gives more information on this.)

When I wanted to export out my finished video, I found that the easiest way was to export as HDV:

I had set up my project as 25 frames per second (PAL and SEACAM) so I was given the “25p” option. If you set up your Corel VideoStudio software as NTSC (you are given the choice between PAL and NTSC when you first install VideoStudio) then your export settings will be different (30p instead of 25p). I exported my finished video as HDV 720p (For HDV). VideoStudio makes a big MPEG-2 HD file.

I then opened this file in MPEG Streamclip and converted it to an H.264 MP4 file (keeping the frame size at 1280x720 and with a data rate of 4000). It looked pretty good! (Note, you will need the Apple MPEG-2 Playback Component in order to get MPEG Streamclip to open up the big HD MPEG-2 file that VideoStudio created.)

Sample downloads: I made a sample fan video that is so abysmal that I daren’t have it hosted on my regular fan video site (RAfanvids) so it is an “exclusive” to this site. It does show off how nice HD can look when edited in Corel VideoStudio, however. I threw in a few NewBlue filters in there while I was at it.

Corel VideoStudio HD video featuring Guy of Gisborne (H.264 MP4) Right-click to download file.

Corel VideoStudio HD video featuring Guy of Gisborne (XviD AVI) Right-click to download.

The XviD AVI file looks a little lighter and might look “washed out” compared to the MP4 file. It just depends on how your monitor is calibrated.

HD fan videos with Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, iMovie 6, iMovie 09

Since I am primarily a Mac user, I’ve done most of my HD experimentation on the Mac. So some tutorials are already in place. (Free forum membership may be required to access some of the tutorials.)

HD for Final Cut Express, Final Cut Pro.  Since writing that tutorial, I’ve upgraded to Final Cut Pro 7, and am now experimenting with editing HD in the codec ProRes LT, and so far am liking it.

iMovie 6 in HD is another tutorial on this site. Go there if you are using iMovie 6. It’s great for HD!

And so that leaves iMovie 09. Which I love. I’m going to show you how I’ve made HD videos in iMovie 09. I’m not saying it’s the best way, but it is working so far for me.

I want to import shorter clips into iMovie, rather than a whole long episode. So I open the MJPEG AVI file (created in Avidemux) or the HD MOV file (created in MPEG Streamclip/Quicktime Pro) in MPEG Streamclip and I trim down to just selected scenes.  I convert the clips to H.264 MOV files with the same frame size (1280x720), a high data rate, and with no audio. (No audio eliminates the weird audio bug that iMovie 09 can have.) For more specific information on how to convert your clips to HD H.264 MOV files, consult this tutorial.

I start a new project in iMovie 09, making sure to choose Widescreen as the aspect ratio. Then I choose to import Movies. I can set up a new “Event” or add to an existing Event. I advise putting all HD clips in their own Event.

When I import the clips, I select “Optimize video:” and choose “Full Size.” This keeps the HD clips at HD!

Yeah, I know that iMovie warns you that this might “degrade video playback” and it might if you have less RAM or an older Mac. (I recommend trying this only on an Intel Mac.) Try it for yourself and see how it works. I noticed no problems with my 2009 Intel Mac Mini with 4 GB of RAM.

You can select a bunch of clips to import at the same time, or pick them one-by-one. Whichever way you choose, iMovie will take its time importing the clips and CONVERTING each one to a large MOV file with the Apple Intermediate Codec. (This will mean that you will have an iMovie media folder with a lot of larger-sized files in there—so make sure you have the disk space to accommodate this. Estimate about 1 GB of disk space needed for every 5 minutes of footage converted.)

You want to convert your files (aka “Optimize”) because playback will be smoother and more stable (compared to trying to get iMovie 09 to edit compressed H.264 files) and if you want to speed up or slow down any clip, you’re going to end up converting it any way. So just get it out of the way now.

Edit your video as usual, and then when it’s time to export it, choose to save it as a Quicktime file, and follow the exporting tutorial as outlined in the iMovie 6 HD page (the process is identical, as both applications use Quicktime to export the video).

Caveat about iMovie 09: There is some quality loss (in the form of a more “blocky” effect sometimes showing up in backgrounds and shadows) but your HD video will still have a lot of the HD detail, so in my opinion it’s still completely worth it to edit HD in iMovie 09. Overall the quality looks great.

More HD ramblings to follow on this page, I am sure.

Tutorial keywords: HD editing for vidding, fan videos, Sony Vegas Movie Studio, Sony Vegas Pro, Corel VideoStudio, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, vids vidder, HD fanvids tutorial.