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.
Let me know how it works out for you.
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!