Brief Background

I have a 30 minute film originally edited on Premiere Pro 1.5 in 2005/2006 that used 4:3 720x576 PAL interlaced DV AVI footage imported by firewire from a DV Cam. The entire raw footage totals at around 100Gb. I have archived/backed up this.

My question

I'd also like to work with the footage in a more efficient codec/file format (but preserving quality) that used much less space than the DV/AVI format and that works in both Final Cut Studio 7 and Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.

Further background

I have both licensed copies of Premiere Pro CS6 and Final Cut Studio 7. I am in the process of importing the old Premiere Pro 1.5 project into both tools. This has worked with reasonable success with the original AVIs (used Premiere Pro CS3 as an intermediate step) though there are some effects that didn't migrate but I am happy to tweak these manually.

I would like to keep the project that made this film in a current format so that it is still workable and to serve as practice for learning both tools. I believe that modern codecs provide efficiency in file size compared with the AVI file but still retaining the quality. I believe that FCP7 still does have some fans even though FCP X is said to be improved.

Detail about my technique for replacing the .AVI with the newer efficient file format

I am hoping that I can batch create copies of all the original footage files but in a more efficient commonly compatible format. I would expect the efficient version of the files to have the same name but with a new extension, e.g. .MOV for quicktime instead of the original .AVI. Assuming that both tools use a text-based/XML project file, in a text editor I should be able to global replace .AVI with .MOV so that the tool refers to the new efficient version of the file.

Research so far on a auitable codec/format

I have done some research including the FCP7 manual and on this site but not found many options. At the moment QuickTime seems to be the common format to use, but how efficient is this compared to the original AVI. I am not so concerned about Adobe Premiere Pro as this seems to be compatible with many formats.

1 Answer 1


Your best bet is probably MPEG2 or MPEG4. Both are going to have quality loss compared to your high quality DV format though, but proportionally, they should be pretty good. You should be able to use Adobe Media Encoder to make the transition to whichever format you want to use. Simply setup a profile and drag all the files in to Encoder and let it rip.

As to the type of MPEG2 or MPEG4, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I would personally probably go with h.264 at a fairly high quality level, though there will be some amount of difficulty working with the format in an NLE since it doesn't store very frame. You really have to choose a trade off between space and efficiency in your NLE. Large, less compressed videos can more readily access a particular frame without hammering the CPU, but they take up more space.

Motion JPEG is an in-between format that compresses each frame individually (or you can use all I frame H.264) but both give up a LOT in terms of compression since they compress each frame individually instead of making use of multiple frames at a time (which complicates non-linear playback).

One final option, (which is likely what I would do in your shoes) is to not recompress at all, but rather move the DV format video to an MOV container. AVI and MOV are just containers and while AVI may not play nice in Mac world, MOV should play nice in both.

  • +1 upvote. Which "flavour" of MPEG4? There seem to be a few: AVC, H263, H264, with container this, container that etc. etc. Can you advise on which MPEG4 type Final Cut will support - for Adobe I would expect it to support it as it does very well at supporting most formats. If you can get back to me I would like to accept your answer. I can't really understand why these would have visible quality loss when MPEG4 is also used in HD video (and the file sizes compare favourably to uncompressed AVI). If I choose the correct quality settings then surely there will be no noticeable degradation? Apr 8, 2013 at 16:24
  • @therobyouknow there is quality loss because it is the nature of the beast. There are two types of compression, lossy and lossless. Lossless at most typically only saves 2/3 the uncompressed file size and that quality level is very VERY high data rates. Lossy compression, which is what you are looking for produces a loss in data that is unrecoverable. Each additional generation of compression will also cause further deterioration (compared to an initial compression to the final data rate).
    – AJ Henderson
    Apr 8, 2013 at 16:40
  • As far as Final Cut formats go. I know it should support H264, but I'd be surprised if it didn't support any of the 3. The best bet is to try running a short sample of whatever settings you like and verify it works well in both. I have not used Final Cut since about version 6.
    – AJ Henderson
    Apr 8, 2013 at 16:41
  • Thanks @AJ Henderson yes I am aware of the meanings - i.e. lossless (decompressed lossless file is identical to original, e.g. as in FLAC for audio) and lossy means information thrown away but smaller file size/data rate. Apr 8, 2013 at 16:50
  • FYI h.263 is a very low bitrate format for video phone use. AVC is a synonym of h.264. MP4 is the container format, the "flavours" are the codecs. H.264 is very efficient, but FCP7 doesn't get along with it, because it uses inter-frame compression (one frame will be dependant on others to play back). Though for standard def you might be ok. Premiere works fine with h.264 because it transcodes anyway to an all i-frame codec. Which brings me to my suggestion if h.64 doesn't work: give good-ol' motion jpeg (mjpeg) a go. Not as efficient as h264, but better for editing because it's all i-frame.
    – stib
    Jan 31, 2014 at 12:42

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