Even when the new Avid Video Engine was introduced with Pro Tools 11, the advice has been not to use heavily compressed video files using codecs like H264, which although they create small files, put a load onto the computer that can cause sync and reliability issues. Instead, the recommendation is to convert incoming video files to Avid’s DNxHD format to put the minimum load on the host computer.
MPEG StreamClip Won’t Work For Much Longer For Mac Users
For many years Mac users have come to depend on the great free app MPEG Streamclip and the Avid Codecs that you can find in your Avid account to create or convert video files to the preferred video file format for Pro Tools, which is Avid DNxHD. However, because Apple will be ending support for 32-bit applications in the next Apple operating system, this method will not be available to macOS Pro Tools users.
What this means, is that the macOS that replaces Mojave, which will be 10.15, will not support any applications that have 32-bit code in them. You can read more about this in our macOS Mojave Pro Audio Applications compatibility article. This will include Quicktime 7 and QuickTime 7 Pro. The QuickTime player will still be there as that uses AV Foundation, which is the QuickTime replacement, but unlike QuickTime 7 you cannot add codecs, like the Avid Codec packs, to AV Foundation as Apple is also choosing to restrict codec support to a handful of known safe and speedy codecs and this will not include Avid DNxHD codecs amongst others.
From macOS 10.15 individual applications will need to support any codecs Apple doesn’t and that will need to include Pro Tools. It also includes MPEG Streamclip, which hasn’t been updated since 2012 and is not 64-bit compliant and uses QuickTime based codecs, so MPEG Streamclip will also not be available to us when macOS 10.15 is released.
FFmpeg Could Be The Answer
With the like of QuickTime 7 and MPEG Streamclip closed to us, how will we be able to convert video files into Avid DNxHD in the future? We decided to undertake some research and conduct some tests to see what cost effective solutions are out there and share them with you.
Our research has shown that the answer lies in a cross platform free open-source command line application called FFmpeg. However there is a snag. With any command-line app, you need to communicate with it using text based commands in Terminal, which isn’t the most user-friendly interface. Take a look at this example, if you were to type this into Terminal…
ffmpeg -i ~/Desktop/Scripts/abc.mp4 ~/Desktop/Scripts/convertedabc.avi
Then you could take an mp4 file on the Desktop called abc.mp4 and convert it to an avi file called convertedabc.avi, but you have to get all the formatting of the text exactly right and all the characters have to exactly correct or at best it won’t work and at worst you can do serious damage, so not the easiest way to communicate with an application.
Good News - All Is Not Lost!
The good news is that, as with a number of command-line based apps, there are applications that offer a graphical user interface (GUI) to FFmpeg. We tried several and in our opinion the best one we found for macOS is ffWorks. It costs 20 Euros, which is a small price to pay for a video transcoding application, but it doesn’t come with FFmpeg included, you will also need to download a compiled version of the free FFmpeg code and install it into ffWorks. But don’t worry we explain exactly how to do it in this tutorial.
Alternatively, community member Marco Bernardo has created some Python scripts which he has turned into little Applets that he has very kindly made available to the Production Expert community for free.
Option 1 - ffWorks - Installation, Setup And Use
You can download ffWorks from their download page and you have up to 10 launches to try it out before you will need to pay for it.
When you first launch ffWorks, wou will get this screen below
I chose to download a static version, which you can get from the ffmpeg download pages.
For the latest macOS static version first hover over the Apple logo and then download the latest version.
At the time of writing this is 4.1.3. I chose to go for the snapshot version on the left hand side based on the instructions, but there is not problem with using the release version on the right hand side if you prefer.
I also chose to use the .dmg version. Once downloaded, double click on the dmg file and you will get a window with a single file labeled ffmpeg like this…
Now go back to the ffWorks, click on the Install FFmpeg button and navigate to the ffmpeg file and select it.
Be aware that when the FFmpeg is updated you will need to reinstall it and you can do this from the FFmpeg tab of the ffWorks preferences window. Once FFmpeg is in place ffWorks will open with a blank window like this...
Either click on the Import Media button or drag a file on the window and ffWorks will open up the Stream Passthru Wizard window…
Click Ignore, because we are going to make changes. If this Passthru Wizard annoys you, it is possible to disable it popping up everytime from the ffWorks Preferences window.
You will now get an entry in the window for the selected video. It would appear that ffWorks remembers the settings you last used, but if you need to change them, then click on the Target drop-down menu and select DNxHD from the Common Presets list…
To check the settings, click on the Edit button in the Video (DNxHD section on the right hand side) and make any adjustments you need, you can resize the video, but the key one is the data rate and I would recommend a bitrate of 36000 as this will give you a Avid DNxHD36 video file.
Once you are happy click the Start button in the Target section of the window and away it will go. Once done, the default location for the converted file is the Movies folder in your macOS user account.
If you want to change the destination folder location, click on the Folder icon in the bottom right hand corner of the ffWorks window. Navigate to the location you want the converted files to go to and then click on the Save button. From now on ffWorks will put converted files in that location.
ffWorks can do lot more but that will enable you to be able to convert incoming video files to the Pro Tools friendly DNxHD 36 format.
Option 2 - MB Applets - Installation, Setup And Use
Community member Marco Bernardo has produced some clever Python scripts using the ffmpeg library that he has turned into what the macOS labels as Applications although Marco is at pains to point out that they are not applications in the strict sense of the word.
Marco has very kindly made 2 of his Applets available for free for the Production Expert community to download and use for free. All we would ask is that you do not share them directly with other people but point people back to this article as we will update them when necessary.
Download your chosen Applet, we are going to use the DNxHD version but the same process will work for the ProRes Applet.
Unzip it and place the Applet in a suitable location on your computer. As you can see above, I chose my Applications folder but it can be wherever you prefer. Double click on the icon to run it and the first time you will get this window pop up…
This is because Apple sees Marco’s applications as a risk and because they aren’t applications from a known developer, the macOS throws up this warning. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. Go into your System Preferences and open the Security and Privacy pane and you will see this…
There is no need to unlock the window, just click on the Open Anyway button. The macOS will then throw up this second warning…
Click the Open button and the Applet will open. Almost immediately the Applet icon in the macOS Dock will start bouncing asking for your attention.
When you click on it you will see the first message window from Marco’s Python script…
Click on the ‘Please Make Your Selection’. Don’t worry, there is only one option and that is DNxHD. Make sure it is highlighted and then click the OK button.
You will be offered a macOS navigation window…
Navigate to where the source file file you want converting to Avid DNxHD is located. Select it and click on the Choose button.
Next the Applet will ask you where you want the target converted video file to be placed.
Again select your location, in this case a Convert Folder on my Desktop and click Choose. The Applet will then start the conversion process and you will be notified of this in the macOS Notifications window, which you can access by clicking on the list icon at the right hand of the Apple Menu bar at the top of the window.
Now you wait, there aren’t any progress bars. But when the conversion is completed the Applet posts another message to the Notifications list….
You will find the completed converted file with the file name appended with “_DNxHD36” and again you have a Pro Tools friendly video file ready to import into your Pro Tools session.
You Choose Which Works For You
There you have it. Two easy and cost effective solutions to be able to continue to convert incoming video files to the preferred Avid DNxHD format for Pro Tools.
You can spend 20 Euros and get a powerful video and audio conversion application that can do way more than just convert video files to Avid DNxHD, and so has lots of options and menus, or you can go for Marco Bernardo’s simple, one task, Applets, which he has made available free to the Production Expert community.
Don’t forget that when macOS 10.15 comes out, none of the Apple apps like FCPX, Compressor and QuickTime player will support Avid DNxHD files amongst others. If you are happy with Apple ProRes then you will be OK but a number of codecs including footage from GoPro cameras recorded in the CineForm format, Avid DNxHD and DNxHR will not be supported at all in Apple’s applications from macOS 10.15.
Thank you to Marco for his work and for offering to make these freely available to the community. Enjoy…