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Editing Sony HDR produced MPEG2 files with Adobe Premier Pro or Adobe After Effects

Sony HDR-SR8EA solution / tutorial to a problem that shouldn't happen in the first place. I wrote this article because it was exactly the sort of thing I spent a day looking for, and hopefully it might save you some time if you find it first.

So, I got this new Sony HDR-SR8E camera at work. A very nice piece of kit for the price, and records directly to its hard drive in mpeg2, 720x576, DVD sized format. I went out, shot some stuff on the customers premisies then came back to edit the results into a larger presentation. I fire up Adobe After Effects first, and open one of the .MPG files I'd copied from the Sony's hard drive. Simple you'd think? No. After Effects crashed. Badly. I figured I'd just convert the file to an uncompressed avi with Adobe Premiere, and then AFX it that way. No such luck. Both my Premier and my After Effects have a big problem with Sony's MPEG files. (They are legit copies in case you're wondering, bought and paid for by the company as part of the Adobe Video Suite). You'd think that opening a standard mpeg file would be the first thing a video editing package could do, but not in this instance. After an entire day devoted to finding some software that would open these files and convert them to something I could use, I eventually arrived at the following solution: - (and I tried many things that did half the job, or made AVI files that Premiere would still not open)

Update, 7th April 2009. , I've been using Solution #1 since writing this article, but I've recently (2009) been made aware by Horst Wendorf (thanks!) of another, potentially better solution, using a program called Prism and now I'm thinking to use Solution #2 more frequently.

Solution #1 - MPEG Streamclip

1) Download and Install MPEG Streamclip. This handy bit of free software not only opens the files, (as many things will), but actually saves them out again as something else, with the minimum of processing time.

2) Since Steamclip needs Quicktime to work (and specifically... the Quicktime MPEG2 codec, which is not free), the best thing to do is remove Quicktime altogether, and install Quicktime Alternative which comes with MPEG2 support already, and is free.

3) Run Streamclip and open the MPG file. It will display correctly and play if you want.

4) Select file->Export to Quicktime on the menu (see below)

Streamclip

5) Follow the settings in the picture below. (Actually, other settings will work, and even exporting as AVI can work ,but if you're in a hurry for a solution, then using Quicktime and all the settings and examples in this tutorial will guarantee you a result)

Streamclip

6) Save the file as a Quicktime MOV, and you'll find that both Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effect will open the file, and allow you to edit it, add effects, etc etc. The exported MOV file won't be any noticeably different in quality, nor will the processing from MPG to MOV take an especially long time either. Whatever Streamclip does, it doesn't re-encode the entire lot as the process takes place way too quickly for that.

Solution #2 - Prism

The free/trial version of the software did all that I needed. You can get this here: www.nchsoftware.com/prism/.

Refer to the screenshot below of Prism and the instructions below that.

Using Prism file convertor

1) Drag your mpg file here.
2) Set the output format to .wmv (and set the ouptput folder if you need it)
3) Click encoder options and then
4) Select Windows Media Video 9
5) The higher this number, the better quality output. You can type your own numbers here. I've not tried what the highest might be
6) Click Ok and the 7) click convert.

Voila! It is done and the resulting WMV file will open and be ready to be edited in either Premiere or After Effects. Apparently (I've not tested this) this doesn't work well for files above 15 minutes. But then, Solution #1 doesn't work that well for >15 mins either. Suggest you keep your shots short.

Like this article? Hate it? Then let me know.

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