- I needed to edit in 1080i (rather than 720p)
- I needed to be able to color correct accurately
- I needed to mix the sound up to broadcast standards
- I didn't want to use any more power than I absolutely needed
- I needed the computer parts to be no more than around $3000
Since I needed to do accurate color correction, didn't have a $2,000+ broadcast-quality LCD monitor, and did have a professional NTSC video monitor, I opted for the Blackmagic Intensity Pro card, a $250 wonder that uses HDMI to input HD, then your captured/edited HD can be viewed over an HDMI-equipped HDTV/monitor or analog component video-equipped TV/monitor. Using the latter, it worked just fine, since my monitor can do pseudo-HD (Only 800 lines, but enough for color correction).
If you're wondering what any of that has to do with a codec, here's the catch: In order to use the video output features of the Intensity Pro, I would have to use one of the Blackmagic codecs to edit in. Two of the codecs were uncompressed (8-bit and 10-bit HD), so that left an MJPEG variant. The upside of "Online JPEG" (as they named it) was that the storage requirements (both disk space and throughput) are about 1/10th the size they would be for uncompressed 8-bit HD. The downside (I found out) is that it's a processor-intensive codec to use.
In order to get the most bang for my buck (remember, this is towards the start of 2008), I decided on an Intel Core 2 Quad 6600 CPU. All the video benchmarks I could find put it way ahead of equivalent (and even more expensive) CPUs in video encoding benchmarks. I didn't want to fork over the insane cash to get a Quad-core Xeon, or I would've used that.
To make a long story short, I use Premiere Pro CS3 to edit, and I started to notice that just playing back the footage on the editing timeline was eating up 40-60% of my total processing power. That's a little worrying, but it's nothing compared to trying to use more than one video layer unrendered. All of a sudden, attempting to play back a simple transition or still made the CPU jump to around 95% usage, which means frames were being dropped in playback. Sometimes it would crash Premiere Pro entirely. Add to this other problems, including Premiere Pro randomly refusing to render (or even pre-render) footage, and I began to realize I had a problem.
After checking out help files and forums, I upgraded the following programs/drivers (in more or less this order):
- Premiere Pro CS3
- Intensity Pro (including a new firmware)
- NVIDIA Geforce 8800GT
Update - I finally found a way to design titles and put in pictures, as well as edit DV footage natively. I recieved some XDCAM EX footage, and in the process of converting/importing it, I noticed it ran smoothly and stable (as well as using about 1/3 the processor power). Then I had an idea. I took my existing MJPEG project and imported it into a new XDCAM EX project. The source files were still MJPEG, and I can't do too much preview rendering, but I can now work unrendered with everything. Even Magic Bullet doesn't crash the system unless I have too much open. So, problem solved, but man, what a stupid work-around.
Update 2 - Turns it this didn't solve the full problem after all. During rendering a whole rough cut, Premiere Pro kept crashing on the end credits. Turns out, the titler was doing most of the crashing. The solution? The Windows XP "/3GB" switch in boot.ini, which basically allows individual programs to access more of the total system memory. Now, the titler doesn't crash, and not even the multi-layer Magic Bullet "misfire" effects crash Premiere Pro. The downside? Slower overall file access. I can live with that, though.
I also tried re-importing my XDCAM edit of the project back into an MJPEG project, but unrendered stuff still wouldn't play back well (although it didn't crash), so I;m going to continue to work with the XDCAM project until I'm ready to release the final cut.
Update 3 - Looks like either the /3GB switch causes some sort of memory leak if you try to run several programs in succession, or I have some odd other problem. If I use the computer for an extended period of time (say over 6 hours) or use other programs in the background while Premiere Pro is open, it starts to getting buggier and less responsive, until it needs a forced reboot. I'm going to look into this some more.