How Roxio Toast Titanium Pro harmonised my video workflow

Pretty sure I’ve settled on a solution to manage home-grown AVCHD video footage on the mac. I’ve wasted a few dollars getting there and lost more than a few hours sleep but I sense tranquility ahead.

I tried software such as Voltaic, iDive, VideoPier, Perian, RevolverHD, CatDV with shareware FFMPEG plugin along the way and experienced many crashes trying to establish a workable footage-library-to-produced-movie workflow. Yes boys and girls, Mac software can be just as unstable as Windows software if you venture into the realms of shareware and fledging company software.

To be fair to the Mac OS, uninstalling the flaky apps seemed painless enough and, though I was sorely tempted, I didn’t have to resort to the Time Machine backup to get my system working nicely again.

In an increasingly desperate search to find stable software that produced AVCHD archives, I turned to a big and stable product: Toast.

Toast Titanium Pro 10 - Box Shot

Toast was a breath of fresh air. Initially I feared that installing Toast on the Mac would have the same weighty impact that installing Roxio Creator has on the PC i.e. it would install background services like the media browser, dragging down system performance until you find a means to disable them. I’m pleased to report that Toast didn’t create any bloat.

The media browser on the Mac only runs when Toast is running. Pretty pleased about that since I don’t use the damn thing!

The AVCHD Archive root turned out to be a dead end – Toast only supports creating AVCHD archives direct from the camera, you can’t drop AVCHD footage into the tool that you’ve already copied locally.

No matter.

Toast has a simple video converter tool that produces high quality AppleTV/iPad compatible H264 movies with very little effort. It also performs a similar-bitrate conversion (so the output file is no bigger and looks as good as the original) from windows formats to AppleTV/iPad compatible movies with minimal fuss.

The quality of the converted video is good enough at 720p to be my storage format of choice for HD footage. I don’t need 1080p. I don’t really want 1080p per se, I just want high quality footage. 1080p 50fps footage downsized to 720p 25fps looks damn good and even better at 50p, it plays on all my devices and CatDV (my favourite footage cataloguing software) can process it natively so no need for buggy add-ons. Good enough!

Roxio uses the Elgato player and during the conversion there’s a message asking if you have the  Turbo.264 HD converter. In my euphoria I decided to check this out and ended up buying it at a 30% premium from Amazon just to get it delivered this week. The argument for buying it was that it would soon save me enough conversion time to be worth the price. We’ll see.

The next day I had a reality check: why am I converting videos on a MacBook Pro when I have a Windows Quad Core i7 computer sitting idle? Having done some studies the answer appears to be: I can rely on the Mac to produce H264 videos of the right size and quality even if it does take 3 times as long to create them. Time difference should reduce when the Elgato device arrives.

With more effort I could probably get a reasonable conversion set up on the PC but to be honest, I’m addicted to the Mac at the moment.

Another reality check: why am I using Final Cut Express to edit videos on the Mac when I have a Windows PC and can use Adobe Premier Pro CS4?

This is a harder question to answer especially when you consider that I have the professional versions of the Adobe products, more processing power and native AVCHD support in CS4. However,

  • I made a conscious decision to switch my Adobe CS5 license to the Mac without the video apps (i.e. downgrade to Design Premium) ,
  • CS4 is buggy and
  • in my limited experience, I found it harder to set up the premiere pro output to create movies in the format(s) I want.

I’m rambling now. To sum up: Toast’s Video Converter helped me to create a viable workflow for video archival and production.

Here’s my plan:

  • I’m going to store all footage – except backups of awesome raw AVCHD footage if I ever shoot any – in 720p 25fps/50fps H.264 format.
  • The Drobo will be the primary store with backups on loose hard-drives.
  • I will use CatDV to index all MP4 footage (it can’t handle AVCHD natively).
  • When I want to create a video, I’ll convert the chosen footage to Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) and use Final Cut for the production. When I’m done, I can delete the AIC files.

That’s about it.

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