Foxvideo Productions

Media Production

May 2014

Corrupt .mov file repair


In the old days (well a few years ago, give or take) videotape problems could be fixed easily, a dropout was easy to fix in an NLE, a broken tape could be fixed with splicing tape (I’ve fixed many!) and even a broken cassette shell could be replaced, then came digital video files on memory cards…

I’ve lost count of the amount of posts I’ve seen on forums asking for help with lost files, cards formatted before removing files and corrupt files, very often deleted files can be recovered easily with modern recovery software and on occasions, I’ve done it with success.

Corrupt files are a different ball game, a common cause is turning the camera off before the buffer has fully written the file or battery failure, the data is there it just can’t be read by any program.

It happened this weekend with a friend of mine, it started with an email asking what programs could read corrupt files, I replied with my standard list of ‘go to’ programs, MpegStreamclip, VLC player, Handbrake, Video Monkey etc, none of these worked so I suggested he Dropbox the file to me.

The original file was from a JVC HM100 camera, when it arrived none of my fixes worked, the file had data - 2.3Gb so something was there, another friend of mine had a similar problem a few months back, he’d used a trial version of repair software from Grau GmbH, this saw his file and suggested it could be repaired so he bought the program for 99 Euros (they also offer a 5 file repair for 29 Euros), it worked fine and his lost files were recovered, saving a costly return trip abroad!

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The problem with the current repair was it had an inverse budget, 99 Euros was a little out of the question for a repair, the footage was cutaways and B roll so it wasn’t critical to the project but would have been helpful.

I searched the web for any other solutions I might have missed, in a short post from several years ago on a forum, one guy had suggested using File Juicer, which I have, I’ve used it for extracting photos from PDF documents and PowerPoints and would never have thought of it as a video program in any way.

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It was worth a try - I dropped the broken file onto it and within 2 minutes it had extracted 15 .mpg files from the 2.3Gb damaged file!

The HD files opened and played perfectly in Quicktime with no corruption but there was no audio, I emailed my friend and told him the news, he was fine about the missing audio as the shots were only for cutaways, so I sent them back to him via Copy.

When he’d got them, I got an email asking how to get them into Final Cut Pro, I’d been so pleased to see working video files I’d forgotten to convert the .mpg files to ProRes .mov files, a simple fix in MpegStreamclip using the Batch facility, so I emailed him the details on how to do it.

The solution offered by Grau GmbH seems to work well, I’ve heard from several users this is the ideal way to recover damaged .mov or .mp4 files and I’ll probably buy it at some stage, but who’d have thought a little known, $18 program would save the day?

F8 and be there

The golden rule of photography is 'F8 and be there' but post processing has more options these days than it ever did with 'dip and dunk' so, as it’s a little quiet on the editing side at the moment, I'm re-kindling some of my photography skills.

Before getting into video back in 1989, I was a photographer, I’d started in 1972 as a freelance press photographer working for 3 different local papers, I went onto wedding photography with a national agency and then into commercial photography for an Ad agency, I took a break around 1982 to work as a driver for a national children's adventure centre but returned to freelance press, wedding and commercial work in 1986. In the early 1990's I saw photography starting to go digital but at that time, the costs were too high for me to justify spending £24k on a camera, the 1.3 megapixel Kodak DCS 100 based on a Nikon F3, so I side-stepped into analogue video, little did I realise video would quickly go digital in the same way as photography and end up costing me more than if I'd stayed in stills!

The reason for the prologue? In the past couple of weeks I've discovered some great new programs for photography, we're all aware of Photoshop (I started with version PS3) and other mainstream programs like Aperture, Lightroom, Pixelmator and even Gimp but there are some real time savers now appearing. The first program I discovered was Topaz Detail, a marketing email (yes, they do work sometimes!) arrived outlining their new Detail plugin. Sharpening is a dark art and we often don't spend enough time getting it right, over the years I've tried many different techniques and plugins with varying results. Topaz Detail seemed to offer a solution, there was a free trial and a 50% discount offer so I downloaded it - straight off I could see the difference on some of my recent shots and bought the program for £11.92, my only complaint is I’m now going to have to go through hundreds of my photos from the last few years using Detail - it makes that much of a difference!

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Topaz Detail

Another recent acquisition was Darktable, this has been around for a while, I’d just not come across it. It’s a free open source, cross platform RAW catalogue and processing program, normally I'd use the Canon Digital Photo Professional program for RAW files, just recently I've been using Adobe Camera RAW as it seemed to suit me more, Darktable opens up a whole new ball game and with a little learning, seems to work well for me. It uses a system of modules and layers to virtually finish and export a photo file ready for printing, I've only worked on few files so far but the results suit me and I'll look forward to using it more, if you want to check it out there’s plenty of info on the web and video tutorials on YouTube.

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Darktable

Next came onOne Perfect Effects 8 Free, this is a cutdown version of their $99 version, a quick look around the website and, at the price (!) it seemed too good to miss as the included effects would probably be more than enough for me and I didn't need the additional features of the paid version. The onOne site also has a wealth of information and very good tutorials for their software, well worth checking out.

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Perfect Effects Free 8

Just sometimes, I'll produce a picture and think it just needs that little tweak, I spotted EasyFocus on a Mac App site, discounted to free, again too good to miss at the price, it allows you to apply an ‘out of focus’ area around your picture, not difficult to do in Photoshop or Pixelmator but for a ‘one click’ program it does a great job, it also includes the current favourite effect ‘tilt shift’ which, used on the correct photo can look stunning.

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Easyfocus

So with all my new tools, I've got some work to do going back over some favourite shots and seeing what more I can get out of them, my only concern now is I might start thinking of upgrading my current Canon 7D to a 5D Mark III……..

First edit with FCPX

Screen

So……an edit with FCPX, not a working job just an edit from scratch from a previous edit I’d done in FCP 7. First, a little info about my system, it’s a 2009 Mac Pro Quad with 4 internal drives, Drive 1 is an SSD with FCP 7 and 10.8.5, Drive 2 is 10.9.2 and used as a general working Mac (web, email etc), Drive 3 is Time Machine and finally Drive 4 is a clean install of 10.9.2 with FCPX only, I have 12Gb Triple Channel RAM and 5 external drives - both Firewire 800 and E-SATA.

I’d found, and watched some great tutorials on the new features in 10.1.1 on YouTube so I was quite confident in setting up an edit using the new Library features. I hadn't deleted the files from my JVC 700 and my last shoot was still on the card, so opening FCPX I imported from the SD card as a new project. FCPX imported my footage and I then setup my prefs for layout and viewing, I also have a BlackMagic Intensity Pro fitted, so could view my output via HDMI on an external HD monitor.

We all have our own ways of working, there’s nothing that say’s you have to work in a specific way with an edit, personally with this type of edit using FCP 7 (a 2 person ‘chat’ about life and work in general, while one of them is cutting hair) I'd normally drop the whole shoot on a timeline, then go through using Ctrl + V blading the cuts and using Alt+up arrow moving the clips I wanted to Track 2, then delete all the clips on Track 1, close all gaps and then fine tune the cuts dropping cutaways and 'b roll' where needed - I can cut and edit a 5 to 10 minute piece in under 30 minutes, fine tuning, colour correcting, lower thirds etc can then take a further several hours.

The first problems I had with FCPX was the audio which I’d not setup correctly, I'd somehow selected Surround sound rather than Stereo, once fixed I could then select my clips, turn off stereo and select dual mono (I’d used 2 mics). I then used the same technique I’d use in FCP 7, drop the bulk of the shoot in the Primary storyline, blade the cuts, delete sections I didn't want and the magnetic timeline (love it or hate it!) closed the gaps for me. I missed using the normal Ctrl+V I used in FCP 7, so I setup 2 buttons on my 7 button mouse for the blade and pointer tools, then I found a post on the web saying Cmd + B would work, which I'm now using, although working with 2 tracks of dual mono audio in FCPX is an area I'm going to have to spend more time getting to grips with.

Another area I'm going to have to work on is precision cuts, I was used to quickly getting frame accurate cuts in FCP7 and I often cut syllables from words or breaths, but I found it difficult in FCPX without zooming right in on the Primary storyline, again probably user error more than shortcomings of the program, using the waveform in FCPX is not as good as FCP7 or if it is, I've not found a way to view it yet.

To get to the same point as my FCP 7 edit probably took a day and a half, admittedly I was having a play along the way, trying various features of FCPX - colour correction, exposure correction, various transitions etc and seeing what happens if I just click this..…?

Audio crossfades caused me a bit of a problem, I quite often use a 0dB audio x-fade - FCPX doesn’t have one, I did find someone had written one that I downloaded which worked fine, I rarely use transitions other than a dissolve or fade, but this particular edit called for a cross (or smash) zoom transition at one point - FCPX doesn't have one but again someone had written one that I was able to find, download and install. While the program worked flawlessly in use, I did have a 30 second period when everything just froze - no spinning beach ball, no mouse, no cursor, no keyboard commands - nothing, but it all came back just as quick as it had disappeared.

After nearly 14 years using Final Cut Pro, the move to FCPX is going to be neither quick or a piece of cake, but I did like the instant feedback even with my old Mac Pro. The new transitions, effects, audio effects and title / graphics options all offer far more than those in FCP7 although many, I'll probably never use. I only scratched the surface and kicked the tyres this time out, many features of FCPX I've yet to find out how to use - Secondary storylines, Compound clips, Auditions and 101 other features but I'll certainly try them out next time round. I'm in a lucky position with my 4 drive setup, I can keep my rock solid, tried and tested 10.8.5 / FCS 3 setup totally separate from an FCPX install, if I'm in hurry I'll use FCP 7, after an edit I can try the same edit in FCPX, I guess in another 14 years FCP 7 will just be a distant memory, anyone remember Media100......?

My next new camera

Just placed my order ;-)

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