Editing Canon MXF footage in Final Cut Pro X ( FCPX ) without transcoding

I’ve dabbled with Final Cut Pro X a few times since it was released and although I still struggle to understand apple’s weird naming conventions the application does have quite a few things going for it. Multicam editing is fantastic in FCPX, it automatically syncs clips using audio in the same way the PluralEyes did/does in FCP7. FCPX is also great value and with each new version Apple add’s back in features that were sorely missed by FCP7 users when it first appeared.

The one thing that’s stopped me using FCPX more has been that it couldn’t handle the Canon MXF files from my C300 natively. There were plugins available that would import and transcode / re-wrap the Canon footage into more Apple friendly Pro Res files but after using Adobe Premiere Pro for a couple of years I’ve been spoiled by it’s ability to edit directly from the source footage and no longer dealing with duplicate media..

With media files getting larger as the camera technology improves it makes sense to edit direct from the source files as it saves having to create a duplicate set of transcoded files using up more valuable storage space.

Today saw the release of Final Cut Pro X version 10.0.6. Among a large list of improvements and new features was it’s ability to support MXF plugins. Support for plugins is obviously not as useful as the application being able to read MXF files natively but it does at least offer a solution.

One of the suggested plugins is MXF Import by Calibrated Software. At $249 the plugin is bordering on being as costly as FCPX itself but they do offer a feature limited demo so I thought I’d give it a try out. The website doesn’t actually list Canon MXF as being supported but it was worth a shot anyway.

After downloading the demo version of MXF Import and running the installer nothing much seemed to happen, but the next time I ran FCPX and navigated to some C300 footage with the import window it could see the MXF files.

One word of caution here. if I selected an individual MXF file in the import window dialogue box and tried to preview it FCPX would lock up, so that part didn’t work to well.

Next I selected the top containing ‘Contents’ folder, hit import and chose the options to tell FCPX to not copy my files or create proxy’s etc.

Upon import I got the usual message explaining that there were a load of files that were not imported but those are just all the non footage meta data files etc that are created by the C300.

After that all the clips appeared in FCPX and I could hover scrub through them.  Even my ageing 17″ MacBook Pro was able to seamlessly play back and edit the 1080p mxf files so the results look good so far. Just to be clear the import didn’t do any transcoding or file conversion, it simply linked to my source media and allowed me to edit them directly.

So it seems to work so far, more investigation will be required especially as Canon MXF isn’t listed as being supported but it seems there’s a chance this could work. It’s a shame that the plugin is relatively expensive at $249 but it could easily save that amount of cash in saved transcode time and storage space should it prove to be reliable.

You can download and demo Final Cut Pro X 10.0.6 for 30 days even if you’ve tried a previous version. Click here to get it.

For the demo version or to purchase the MXF Plugin visit Calibrated Software’s website.

Let me know how it works out for you.

 

Update 26-10-2012

I’ve been trying out this workflow more and although it does appear to work well there are a couple of things that do concern me.

Reliance on a third party

This one may just be me being paranoid but I would be concerned about relying on a third party plugin to be able to access my source media. It may work well today but what if a future update from apple broke the ability for the MXF plugin to function? Also what happens if the plugin manufacturer goes out of business? And what about sharing projects with other editors who don’t have the plugin? These are all things to consider when you choose a workflow that is so reliant on a third party.

Relinking is tough

I’ve been doing some tests whereby I deleted the ‘Source Media’ folders created by FCPX. These folders contain aliases or links to the original MXF media and when opening FCPX after deleting these folders all of the source media needs to be relinked. I found it was possible to relink to the original MXF media but only one clip at a time because FCPX was looking for the alias and not the original files. That could be a major pain if the project had 1000  clips in it!

 

 

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    • Alban Egger
    • October 24th, 2012 7:55pm

    I hope you are aware of the Canon plugin that allows C300 footage to be edited natively since February!!!

    • Hi
      The Canon plugin allows you to ingest the MXF file and transcode it into something FCPX can handle, it does not however allow you to edit the files natively (using the original files).

      • Alban is correct – as far as I can tell. See my blog post here: http://www.jonroemer.com/blog/2012/07/quick-easy-batch-canon-c300-mxf-to-mov-via-fcp-x/ .

        It looks like it rewraps the files in a MOV wrapper and once done Quicktime shows them to be “Canon XF 50 Mbps…”

        • Yes that part may be correct but the point I’m making is that in order to be able to work on the footage a duplicate set of media is created. FCPX is not reading the the source files directly whilst editing using the canon plugin, ie, it’s not native editing of the canon mxf files.

          • Just an FYI, Calibrated Software does list Canon MXF – in its user manual and has notes on p. 80 about metadata mapping in FCP X.

            http://www.calibratedsoftware.com/downloads/CalibratedQ-MXF-UserGuide.pdf

            Have you found if this function works, if any of the metadata is carried over in FCP X?

          • Hi Jon

            Well spotted. Yes I have noticed that some of the camera data is carried over, things like camera model and serial number are retained although nothing more useful like camera settings appear.

  1. The Canon plugin re-wraps the MXF files into a FCP X friendly QuickTime MOV file. It does not transcode but only takes as long as it takes to copy the file to the FCP X Events folder. I have FCP X set up to Copy Files to Final Cut Events folder by default & don’t see any disadvantage to keeping all files together other than using up disk space. For backup purposes you can never have too many copies of your files.

    • Hi Nigel

      For me the disk space is the biggest issue, I really don’t want to be storing two versions of the same footage as storage is expensive, especially high speed storage. I also don’t like having all media stored in the FCP events folder, I much prefer to use my own file structure.

      With regards to backups, I also keep a copy of source media off site as well. If I had both the source media and the re-wraps online I’d feel inclined to have to do the same with those as well. It all adds up, both in media cost and handling time.

      • Obviously one man’s backup is another man’s needless extra copy:-)

        Incidentally I have just bought an LTO-5 tape drive to offload backups so that I don’t keep everything forever on spinning disks. At about £20/TB it’s a bargain & tape is far more reliable than discs.

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