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HD to DVD Workflow for Matrox RT.X2

HD video has been around for more than a few years now, and HD editing has been supported for a couple of generations with Premiere Pro. One would assume then that all the kinks have been worked out regarding the HD editing workflow, especially with the latest release of Premiere Pro CS4. Yet for all its power and rich feature set, CS4 is still lacking in one fundamental area – it can’t do a decent export of HD material to DVD!

Whether moving to HD shooting by choice, or by necessity of replacing aging SD gear, more and more videographers are shooting HD video today. With the slow adoption of Blu-ray by the public, DVD is still the delivery format of choice for most productions.

Exporting a standard-definition MPEG-2 file for DVD from an HD project requires that the video be downscaled from HD resolution to SD resolution, and Premiere Pro just doesn’t handle the conversion very well at all. The resulting DVD video will look jaggedy, almost like it has a reversed field order, with horizontal lines flickering and an overall look of low-resolution. The viewer may not be able to say exactly what’s wrong with the image, other than “it just doesn’t look right.”

There are workarounds for Premiere Pro users involving 3rd-party applications and scripting, but Matrox provides an easier solution for RT.X2 users by doing realtime downconversion from HD to SD in hardware. In the CS4 Sequence Settings (or CS3 Project Settings), users can change the Master Output from 1080i to NTSC and the analog output from the RT.X2 breakout box can then be displayed on an SD display. 1080i video downscaled to NTSC looks very clean on a standard CRT display, meaning the Matrox hardware conversion works well.

RT.X2 users can benefit from this realtime downconversion to bypass the inherent scaling issues in Premiere when creating DVDs from Matrox HD projects. When you’ve completed the editing of a Matrox 1080i project and you are ready to export to DVD, follow these steps for good results.First, Export the HD timeline as a Matrox standard-definition .avi file. The Matrox MPEG-2 I-Frame HD codec is the default codec and needs to be changed. In the Export Settings dialog, change the compressor to “NTSC Matrox MPEG-2 I-Frame”, then change the Pixel Aspect Ratio from “1.333” to “D1/DV NTSC Widescreen 16:9 (1.2).”

Optionally, you can bump up the data rate for your .avi file using the “Configure” button. The default setting of 25Mbps looks good, but I often just use 30Mbps to give it a little extra boost.

This Export process uses the Matrox hardware to downscale the HD video to SD, using the high-quality Matrox codec which has a 4:2:2 colorspace. HDV video uses 4:2:0 color, so be sure to choose the Matrox MPEG-2 codec and NOT Matrox DV, which is 4:1:1. The 4:2:2 codec will maintain more of the color fidelity when converting from HD to SD, and ultimately to DVD.

Exporting the HD timeline to the SD avi should be a faster-than-realtime process, so not much of a delay in the workflow. Once the file is exported, open a NEW Matrox DV widescreen project, Import the new video file and place it on the timeline. You can preview it and should find the quality to be very good.

From the timeline, you can then use the Matrox Media Encoder (CS3) or the Adobe Media Encoder (CS4) to create an MPEG-2 for DVD file with good results. Be sure to check the 16:9 aspect box in the encoder to match the aspect of the original footage. Since Matrox did the actual conversion from HD to SD, the new file can be rendered to MPEG-2 as you normally would for SD files without quality issues since Premiere is not doing any scaling on the video.

I’m confident that you’ll find this workflow to be a quick and easy way to achieve good results on your next HD to DVD project using the RT.X2.

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HD to DVD Workflow for Matrox RT.X2