It is common to find 4K and other high end video formats on phones, drones and video cameras. These files are very large and include so much information that they put a real on an editing computer and slow it down. So we work with proxies, or proxy files which are smaller versions of the higher-resolution raw files. This proxy editing gives you a smaller file to use that remains linked to your high-resolution source footage. You can then replace it at the end of editing before delivery.
Transcoding is the process of converting video files from one format to another. The reason to transcode is that 2K, 4K, or ultra high-definition (UHD) footage is not ideal for editing.
You don’t need to edit with proxies if you are editing Standard Definition or High Definition. But you may want to edit with proxies if you are editing a multi-camera shoot, or if you are editing 4K or higher. Many of the editing software packages intended to edit specific camera footage such GoPro Quik for GoPro, Capture NX-D for Nikon, or Capture Cam Express for Sony devices have a transcoding option for proxy editing built-in.
They ask you to specify an output folder or Network Access Storage (NAS) location such as hard drive connected by wifi. They ask for a video & audio codec configuration, and a container format, like MP4. They make transcoding an easy and normal part of the process.
Many editors work with the Apple ProRes Medium resolution proxy which creates 1280 x 720 clips so it is still HD. In Premiere Pro just check Ingest and click create proxies. Then you edit on the lower res footage and later relink to the Hi Res footage. Premiere makes it very easy.
Adobe Media Encoder is another option from Adobe. It starts at $33.99 as a flat rate, per month.
Davinci 17 is the software intended for editing footage from Blackmagic cameras. It costs $295.00. You just enter all clips into a folder, create a timeline of those clips, then export all the clips. Remember, when transcoding you will edit the proxy footage then will have to relink all of your clips back to the hi-res versions. So even though the file size changes, it’s important to keep the clips with the same name. When you relink, it knows exactly what clip to relink to. After your edit, you are going to tell the software to point to the hi-res folder instead of the lo-res folder. If the names are different or the length of the clips is different, your software is going to get confused. The edits will not line up.
At the other end of the transcoding spectrum is a program called Wondershare UniConverter which I have used for converting many types of video. They say it will convert more than 150 video formats including 4K. It costs $40/year and has been a good investment for me. While I have transcoded some 4K clips with it, I do not know if it is suitable for conforming the 4K footage after they are transcoded and edited in a lower resolution format.
Proxy Editing In A Three Codec World
In today’s world we shoot one codec for the camera; we transcode to a second codec for editing; we transcode to a third codec for distribution. The camera codec is optimized for the camera. The intermediate codec is optimized for editing. The distribution codec is optimized to so it is easy to distribute.
Proxy editing has been with us for a long time. It was not that long ago that editing HD footage was more than most computers could handle. Here’s an article we published entitled The Difficulty of Editing AVCHD and What to Do About It. And before that there was online and offline editing with various video formats.