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I'm looking for a method to convert compressed video files (like h.264) into uncompressed formats for editing.

What are the best options to look at?

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The answer to your question depends on the software you will use for editing.

Uncompressed RAW video is rarely used for editing for performance reasons. If you have actually recorded your media in 10-bit RAW format (some cameras can do that), then it can be subsequently used for processes that require as much colour information as possible (colour grading, for example).

Modern non-linear editors can be capable of working with H.264 (see Adobe Premiere and its Mercury engine), but you waste a lot of processing power that way.

At the time of writing, the most widely used codecs in the broadcast industry are:

  • Avid DNxHD
  • Apple ProRes HQ
  • AVC-intra

So depending on your operating system and software you may want to transcode to one of these codecs and then re-link your edit to the source H.264 files, to ensure that you get the maximum quality.

Additionally, if you don't have a powerful machine for video editing, you can convert your media to a low resolution codec (to make the edit with it), to later re-link the sequence to high-res media. This process is explained here

  • Strictly speaking, true, but H.264 is fine for editing depending on the profile (AVC-Intra is an example of that). Transcode to baseline profile with a low GOP size and decent bitrate and one should be fine. – Gyan Jun 18 '17 at 12:33
  • @Mulvya I understand and agree with the core message of your comment (like I said, some editors can work with H.264). Also, apologies for the pun but AVC-Intra is "Intra", meaning it doesn't have a GOP concept (I-frames only). That's why it is good for video editing (editor doesn't have to calculate the frame using the neighbouring frames), and that is why AVC-Intra isn't a good example of H.264. Just adding this for the benefit of Jammer, as you must know this already ;) – Tony Sepia Jun 18 '17 at 12:43
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    But it's not predicted frames per-se that's responsible for sluggish editing performance. It's the reference count, transform block sizes, entropy coding used..etc. Baseline profile alleviates most of these that contribute to the lag without giving up the efficiency of motion compensation altogether. Which is sort of the raison d'etre of H.26x codecs. – Gyan Jun 18 '17 at 13:01
  • Thanks for the info, I have files recorded at 1080p h.264 and I was looking at the viability of using DNxHD but I can't find a converter app. I've installed the Avid Codecs on my Mac and Windows 10 PC but looking for a method of transcoding seems to be alluding me at the moment. – Jammer Jun 18 '17 at 14:00
  • @Jammer Adobe Media Encoder can definitely do that for you – Tony Sepia Jun 18 '17 at 15:04

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