Avid Export to XDCAM Tutorial

April 3, 2012

I recently had to export a lot of 7D and 5D footage to XDCAM from Avid. This assigned timecode to the footage, allowed me to bring it back into the system at a more friendly Avid codec than h.264, and made upressing later a breeze. I used Avid Media Composer 4 and Sony’s PDW-F1600 deck. No other hardware was necessary.

Note that there is one major limitation when exporting to XDCAM; only two channels of audio can be put on the disc. If more channels are necessary, then the tape should be created with the digital cut tool in direct out mode instead.

If two audio channels is ok, which is the case with 5D and 7D footage, here’s the process –

1. Download and install the XDCAM Browser software from Sony – http://pro.sony.com/bbsc/ssr/micro-xdcam/resource.downloads.bbsccms-assets-micro-xdcam-downloads-XDCAMSoftwareDownload.shtml#apps. This will allow the XDCAM deck to be hooked up to the computer via firewire. When a tape is inserted into the deck, it will mount on the desktop similar to working with an external hard drive.

2. Open an Avid project. If possible, make the project format the same as the source format of the footage being exported, even if the project will finish at a different format later. This way, the original frame rate of the source footage is maintained on the XDCAM disc. The PDW-F1600 can add pulldown later if needed. If it’s not possible to choose a project that’s the same format as the source footage, then I recommend choosing the format you plan on finishing at.

There are two exceptions –

  • Avid will not export 720p/29.97 to XDCAM. The project must be 1080p/29.97 instead.

  • The PDW-F1600 and Avid 5.0.3 don’t cooperate when attempting to digitize a 720p/59.94 tape. Instead, the deck freezes and stops working, and must be turned off and back on from the switch on the back before the deck will function again. So I don’t recommend making 720p/59.94 tapes unless this issue is fixed.

3. Prep the clips or sequences that are being exported in Avid.

  • The start/end timecode of the clips/sequences will be the same start/end timecodes on the finished tape. So I don’t suggest having overlapping timecode. Otherwise, upressing via batch capture won’t work.

  • When I have to choose timecodes for the clips/sequences, I put at least a 10 second gap in timecode between consecutive clips. If there is no gap, and the tape is digitized later on, the deck will create one master clip in Avid instead of two separate clips.

  • The order of the clips/sequences in the bin determines the order they will appear on the tape. Sort the bin by start timecode so that they are in the correct chronological order. Otherwise, upressing via batch capture won’t work.

4. Check the AMA settings in Avid to make sure they’re correct. I like to have Avid create a new bin when it loads AMA footage, and the setting “Enable AMA Volume Management” must be checked.

 

5. Prep the deck

  • Before connecting a firewire cord from the deck to the computer, the deck frequency must be set to the desired frequency. With the PDW-F1600, press the menu button, scroll down to “013: System Frequency”, turn it on, select the desired frequency, press the save button, and turn the deck off and on.

  • Connect a firewire cord from the deck to the computer. The deck will go into File Access Mode (FAM), and the deck will display the words “PC REMOTE!”

  • Select an XDCAM disc to export to. Make sure the record inhibit tab is unlocked on the disc so that it can be written to.

  • Insert the tape into the deck, and if the XDCAM Browser software was installed correctly, the disc should mount on the machine like a drive. Here’s how it looks on a Mac desktop

    **Footage can be added to a disc that already has clips on it, but it will be added to the end of the disc. So the timecodes should start after the end timecode of the last clip on the disc.

    **Depending on the codec being exported, a disc can fit different amounts of footage. Here’s a chart of the storage capacities of Sony’s PFD23A 23 GB and PFD50DLA 50 GB discs, as well as the frequencies, aspect ratios, audio bits, audio channels, and chroma sub-sampling supported by each codec.

If everything is correct, soon after a disc is inserted into the deck, one of two things will happen. If the disc has clips on it, a bin will open and populate with those clips and be colored yellow.

If there are no clips on the disc, Avid will display two messages…

 

Hit OK both times.

6. Select all the clips/sequences that are being exported. Go to the menu “Output”->”Export to device”->”XDCAM…”

7. Depending on whether the project format is SD or HD, there will be different options for video format. MPEG 50 is the highest quality SD codec, and XDCAM HD 50Mbits is the highest quality HD codec. Check out the chart above to help choose which one to use. Make sure the other settings are correct and hit ok!

 

If you get this error, MPEGEncoderImpl::WaitForEncodingToBeDone – timeout is too low or something wrong…, it most likely means the deck is a different frequency than the project format.

The amount of time it takes to export a disc depends on the codec of the footage in the Avid, as well as whether frame rates are being converted (such as 24fps to 30fps), or the image is being resized (such as 720 to 1080). If the codec is the same as the codec being exported, and the frame rate and size are all the same, then the export should be approximately equal to the total running time of the footage being exported.

If the disc couldn’t fit all the footage being exported, neither Avid nor the deck will give any indication that the export didn’t finish correctly. So, once the export is finished, check the disc via AMA to make sure everything went well. To do this, go to File->Link to AMA Volume… select the disc and press open.

If you have footage that needs exporting, but not the time or means, I’m available to work. Check out my services and contact info here.

-Matt Rittorno

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