Just another conversion job…..

By | 21st August 2011

Client confidentiality means that most of the time we can’t talk about the more challenging, interesting and varied work that we undertake.

We decided it was time to document a small commercial project on our blog and at the same time get a little bit technical. If you don’t know your NTFS from your FPS then you may want to click away now.

At Manchester Video we do a lot of commercial video encoding and conversion work. Often our clients usually have deadlines to meet. Whenever possible we try to accommodate them. One Friday in August we received a call from a production company in Manchester with a very tight deadline. They had 22 videos, some of which were still being worked on, needing conversion from their (various) current formats to NTSC DVD for 6PM on Saturday.

After confirming when we could have the source files our answer was, “Yes, we can do the job and meet the deadline”. The caller was silent for a while and then asked for assurances about the quality of the conversion. Whenever anyone asks us about video encoding quality, especially standards conversion, we have a simple answer. The better quality the source material, the better the output will be. He seemed happy with that.

So there we were on a Friday afternoon with a solution for a brand new client and a very short deadline. Here’s how we got on……


14:00hrs Telephone enquiry. Can we convert 22 PAL DV Quicktime files to 3 x different NTSC compilation DVDs for tomorrow? Answer: Oh yes!

15:30hrs Client is struggling to prepare files – Can we take Apple ProRes and/or WMV files instead? Yes – no problem.

17:30hrs Email arrives with notification that client’s hard drive is on a bike and a full briefing of which files need to go onto which discs. There are now more files (27) and an additional NTSC disc required.

18:30hrs Courier arrives with USB HDD HFS+ (Apple Mac formatted). I’ve already fired up the iMac just in case I need to push the files around the network.

19:30hrs  No need for the iMac. Files easily transferred to newly built Windows 7 workstation using the excellent HFSExplorer. Source files are a mixture of Apple ProRes, QuickTime and Windows Media files at various resolutions and field settings.

20:00hrs ProCoder project is well under-way. The mixed bag of source files are being batch converted with our custom profiles to NTSC MPEG-2 at full mastering quality.

22:00hrs First set of NTSC MPEGs loaded into Encore CS5. Yikes – the opening shot shows an aeroplane landing – the image breaks up badly. The rest of the film looks fine. Phone call made and still frame sent by email to client.

23:00hrs Client is not surprised – advises this particular shot was from archive footage. Client will try to sort out an alternative version of the edit overnight.


07:00hrs Download new Apple ProRes version of the edit without the offending clip via YouSendIt.com. Transcode to NTSC MPEG-2 then immediately import into Encore CS5 project from last night.

08:00hrs DVD One is authored, ISO file made, disc burned and all clips tested on NTSC player and display. It looks terrific.

09:00hrs Bacon butty (on brown) with brown sauce. Large Latte.

10.00hrs Phone call from lady in London. Can we convert 10 x WMV files to NTSC DVDs for this evening? Err…YES but it sounds familiar… Turns out that another person within the organisation is desperately trying to sort out some additional files for the same project. I leave them to sort out what’s wanted and await further instruction.

12:00hrs DVD two, three and four are completed. All tested and look stunning. The footage is very, very nice. I later discover that the majority of the films were shot on a Canon 5D MKII.

13:00hrs Client arrives with the 10 additional files on another hard drive. This time it’s a lovely little Firewire 800 G-DRIVE with RAID. I really do like the kit you can buy for Apple Macs – most of it works on PCs too.

15:30hrs Final set of files have been transcoded and authored onto the last DVD. Client has viewed all the discs and is very happy.

We’ve had very positive feedback from our new client since completing the work and look forward working with them again in the future.

The title of this bog-post is “Just another conversion job…”. In all honestly we never treat any job as “Just another” anything. Every single one of our projects, big and small, are incredibly important to us.

Gavin Gration
Director – Manchester Video Limited.

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