… for Codecs & Media

Tip #303: What is MXF OP1a?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

MXF is an industry-workhorse because it is so flexible.

Topic $TipTopic

MXF (Material Exchange Format) was invented by SMPTE in 2004. MXF is a container that holds digital video and audio media. OP1a (Operational Pattern 1a) defines how the media inside it is stored.

MXF has full timecode and metadata support, and is intended as a platform-agnostic stable standard for professional video and audio applications.

MXF had a checkered beginning. In 2005, there were interoperability problems between Sony and Panasonic cameras. Both recorded “MXF” – but the two formats were incompatible. Other incompatibilities, such as randomly generating the links that connect files, were resolved in a 2009 redefinition of the spec.

MXF generally stores media in separate files. For example: video, audio, timecode and metadata are all separate. This means that a single MXF container actually supports a variety of different media codecs inside it.

Another benefit to MXF OP1a is that it supports “growing files.” These are files that can be edited while they are still being recorded. (Think sports highlights.)

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… for Visual Effects

Tip #101: What’s the Difference Between Color Grading and Color Correction?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Both involve color, but in different ways.

Topic $TipTopic

The short answer is that color correction fixes problems, while color grading gives images a “look.”

Typical color correction involves:

  • Removing color casts
  • Setting proper highlight and shadow levels
  • Controlling any excessive highlights (speculars)

For example, the top image was color corrected to boost highlights and increase saturation.

Color grading, on the other hand, takes what we have done in color correction and tweaks the color and grayscale levels to match the story. For example:

  • Boosting saturation for a romantic comedy
  • Decreasing saturation for dystopian scifi
  • Removing color for a film noir

And so on.

Generally, you fix problems first, then create looks second.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #223: What Do Render Bar Colors Mean

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Premiere is fast, but sometimes not fast enough.

Different render bar colors in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.
Render bar colors indicate what needs to be rendered before playback.

Topic $TipTopic

Most of the time, Premiere can play back your sequence in real-time displaying high-quality, full frame-rate images by harnessing the power of the Mercury Playback Engine.

However, every so often, you’ll create an effect that is so complex, it needs to render for optimum playback.

DEFINITION: Render means to calculate. But “calculate” is a very boring word. “Render” is much sexier. To render an effect means we are calculating the effect and turning it into video.

How can you tell if rendering is necessary? By the color of the render bar at the top of the Timeline.

  • No bar. Everything is playing perfectly. No rendering is necessary.
  • Yellow. An unrendered section that is complex, but may not need to be rendered in order to play back the sequence in real-time and at the full frame-rate.
  • Red. An unrendered section that needs to be rendered in order to play back the sequence in real-time and at the full frame-rate.
  • Green. A fully-rendered section of the sequence.


To render some or all of a sequence, select the clips you want to render, then choose Sequence > Render Selection. A dialog appears showing the render status.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #150: USB Bandwidth

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Different versions of USB provide different amounts of bandwidth

Topic $TipTopic The speed of USB has increased significantly since its initial release. For example, USB 1.0 was released January 15, 1996, with a maximum speed of 1.5 MB/second. Compare that to USB 4.0 which was released August 29, 2019, with a maximum speed of 5 GB/second! USB4 is based on the Thunderbolt 3 protocol.

However, recently, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) renamed virtually all USB versions and made things REALLY confused. Here are the new names and speeds of the different versions of USB.

Old Name Released New Name Speed
USB 2.0 April, 2000 USB 2.0 Up to 60 MB/sec
USB 3.0 Nov. 2008 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Up to 625 MB/sec
USB 3.1 July, 2013 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Up to 1.25 GB/sec
USB 3.2 August, 2017 USB 3.1 Gen 2×2 Up to 2.5 GB/sec
USB4 August, 2019 USB 4 Up to 5 GB/sec

NOTE: Keep in mind that all versions of USB, except for USB4, are optimized for small file transfers and generally don’t provide all the bandwidth that the spec calls for. I don’t recommend any version of USB earlier than USB 3.2 for video editing.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #167: 3 Tips to Picking Stock Footage

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Three things to consider when looking at stock footage.

Topic $TipTopic

Wipster recently shared these stock footage tips:

1. Go for story-driven footage

Rather than settling for searching on multiple sites for stand alone stock video shots that “kind of” look similar to one another, look for story driven footage. Story-driven shots are ones that show the same subject in action and also provide multiple shot types of similar action.

2. Use high quality, Raw or Log Footage

When searching for stock footage, look for clips that enable high resolution downloads, like Raw, Arri, Red or Phantom. You won’t have to sift through a library full of less-than-stellar quality or overused footage to find what you’re looking for.

3. Don’t pay per clip. Go unlimited

Your film’s budget can easily go through the roof if you pay per clip. This is why we recommend using footage sites that use single umbrella licensing and unlimited subscription models.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #228: How Much RAM Do You Need For Editing?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

More RAM helps – to a point.

This chart illustrates how RAM needs increase as frame sizes increase.
RAM requirements for 30-fps, 8-bit video at different frame sizes (MB/second).

Topic $TipTopic

The way most NLEs work is that, during an edit, the software will load (“buffer”) a portion of a clip into RAM. This allows for smoother playback and skimming, as you drag your playhead across the timeline.

When a clip is loaded into RAM, it is uncompressed, allowing each pixel to be processed individually. This means that the amount of RAM used for buffering depends upon several factors:

  • How much RAM you have
  • The frame size of the source video clip
  • The frame rate of the source video clip
  • The bit-depth of the source video clip

This graph illustrates this. It displays the MB required per second to cache 8-bit video into RAM. As you can see, RAM requirements skyrocket with frame size. These numbers increase when you have multiple clips playing at the same time.

NOTE: These numbers also increase as bit-depth increases, however the proportions remain the same.

The amount of RAM you need varies, depending upon the type of editing you are doing.

  • 8 GB RAM. You can edit with this amount of RAM, but editing performance may suffer for anything larger than 720p HD
  • 16 GB RAM. Good for most editing.
  • 32 GB RAM. My recommendation for editing 4K, 6K, multicam and HDR.
  • 64 GB RAM. Potentially good for massive frame sizes, but not required.

Anything more than 64 GB of RAM won’t hurt, but you won’t see any significant improvement in performance; especially considering the cost of more RAM.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #222: Offline Does Not Mean Inaccessible

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Organize clips without needing media.

The Edit Offline File window
This window allows adding metadata to any offline clip.

Topic $TipTopic

NOTE: This tip originated in the days of capturing media from video tape, but it can still be helpful in working with today’s huge media files.

Normally, when we think of “offline clips,” we think of media that is inaccessible. While it is true that we can’t edit or playback offline clips, we can still organize them.

For example, Control-click an offline clip and this menu appears, which allows us to add metadata (labels) to any offline clip. Then, the next time these clips are either connected or relinked, all this information remains available because it is stored in the project file, not with the clip itself.

The benefit of using this screen is that you can transfer a project to another computer – say a laptop – to add this information, without having to copy and carry all the media files as well.


The Metadata panel in Premiere (Window > Metadata) has far more fields available, which can also be used for both online and offline clips.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #108: Speed Test: i5 vs. i7 CPUs for Video Compression

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Conventional Wisdom says bet on the i7

A chart comparing i5 vs. i7 CPU speeds for video compression
Speed comparison of i5 vs. i7 CPUs running Apple Compressor.

Topic $TipTopic

In a series of tests that I ran comparing the speed of Apple Compressor 4.4.5 running on a 3.8 GHz i5 vs. a 3.2 GHz i7, I discovered that you can’t predict which processor will be faster.

Testing involved XDCAM EX, ProRes 422 HQ and ProRes 4444 media and compressing it into H.264, 8-bit HEVC and 10-bit HEVC. (The three test files had different durations, so we can’t compare speed between formats.)

H.264 and HEVC 8-bit are hardware-accelerated. HEVC 10-bit is not. I used the same compression settings for each test.

  • When compressing media for H.264, the i7 is faster 33% of the time (2 out of 6).
  • When compressing media for HEVC 8-bit, the i7 is faster 66% of the time (4 out of 6).
  • Both CPUs running Apple Compressor were unable to successfully compress a ProRes 4444 file into 10-bit HEVC.

Based upon these tests with the latest version of Compressor, I would say the speed is a wash. Some tasks are faster, some are slower.

However, if you are doing any HEVC compression – 8-bit or 10-bit – based on my full suite of tests, Adobe Media Encoder is consistently and significantly faster than Apple Compressor.


Here’s the full report.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #110: Set a Default Location in Apple Compressor

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Set a default location for all your compressed files.

Use Compressor preferences to set default location.
Set a default compression location in Compressor preferences.

Topic $TipTopic

By default, Apple Compressor stores compressed media in the same folder as the source media. Which just confuses the heck out of me, because I can’t ever remember which folder I used for which source media file.

To solve this problem of not knowing where my compressed files are stored, I create a folder on my external storage called “Compressed Files.” Then, I make sure that ALL the files I compress go into that folder.

How? By setting it up as an automatic Location.

  • Create the folder you want to use as your destination using the Finder.
  • Start Compressor and switch to the Locations panel on the left.
  • Click the small plus icon in the lower left corner. Then, navigate to the Compressed Files folder you just created and select it. You’ve now created a custom location for Compressor.
  • Finally, go to Compressor > Preferences > General and select the custom Location you just created in the Location menu.

Now, every time you import a file into Compressor, the compressed version will automatically appear in the Compressed Files folder.

Great! One less thing to worry about.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #126: Set a Default Location in Adobe Media Encoder

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Default locations make finding files easy.

Set default compression location in preferences.
Set a default compression location using this preference checkbox.

Topic $TipTopic

By default, Adobe Media Encoder (AME) stores compressed media in the same folder as the source media. Which just confuses me. How am I supposed to remember where I stored all my source media?

To solve this problem of not knowing where AME hid my compressed files, I created a folder on my external storage called “Compressed Files.” Then, I make sure that ALL the files I compress go into that folder.

How? By setting it up as an automatic destination.

  • Create the folder you want to use as your destination using the Finder.
  • Start Adobe Media Encoder and go to Media Encoder > Preferences > General.
  • About 2/3s the way down, in the Output section, check Specify output file destination.
  • Click Browse and navigate to the Compressed Files folder you just created and click Choose.

Now, every time you import a file into AME, the compressed version will automatically appear in the Compressed Files folder.

Great! One less thing to worry about.