Proxy Matters, Part 2

Previously, I wrote about what can happen when someone asks for proxies without talking about what they’d be used for.

In my example, the proxies were to be used by a transcription service. The issue was file size. With all the uploading and downloading, very small files would have been helpful instead of the 1920×1080 mp4s provided.

However, there’s another issue to consider: timestamps. Transcripts usually have a timestamp at the start of a bite, change of thought or change of speakers. The times come from a counter that is started at the beginning of the file.

Transcripts that have timestamps that start at 0:00 can’t really match up with the original footage unless it also starts at timecode 00:00:00:00. If you’re working on only one clip, this might not be an issue. If you have several hours or days of interviews, it can be a real issue.

Although you could try to modify the timecode of the original clip so that it starts at 00:00:00:00, that can get messy as you move through the post-production workflow. It’s better if you try to keep all the metadata unchanged.

There are also ways to enter timecode at the transcription service. But if you have multiple clips, that’s a lot of work. An easier option is to use a transcription service that can sync transcripts to the timecode of the clip instead of just starting at 0:00.

In other words, the transcript of the start of a sound bite will use the actual footage timecode, like 13:25:14:00, as opposed to simply 0:00. That way you can easily track bites within your footage. Some editing applications even allow you to attach the transcripts to the clips in your bin.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It is, if that’s what actually happens. But if you merely send “a proxy”—a generic, one-size-fits-all proxy—to the transcription service, there’s a good chance it won’t work. It won’t have timecode. Why? If the proxy maker created a typical mp4, it won’t have timecode.

Note: There is a way to get timecode into mp4s, but it’s not easy. Even then, it might not be supported by the transcription service.

But, if the proxies that are created are QuickTime movies (.mov), there’s a timecode track in the file that can be used. The QuickTime movies can even use the h.264 codec (like you would for an mp4) to reduce the file size.

By sending a QuickTime movie that has the timecode of the original footage embedded in it, you’ll be able to get transcripts with all the bites timestamped properly. No need to add a timestamp offset—it just happens.

All of the above is just another reason for people to ask a few questions when someone “needs proxies.” But what about proxies for actual editing? Next time.

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