Exporting HD from Final Cut Express 3.5

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Sunday July 13, 2008.

This is one of those things that has driven me absolutely insane the past few months. I searched and searched for the solution, but it was always bogged down with results from Final Cut Pro, which is considerably more suited to this, since it ships with Compressor.

I use Final Cut Express 3.5 (Does FCE 4 have a better system for this?). It edits in HD formats quite well, but I have long struggled with getting my completed movies out of the program and formatted properly (aspect ratio/resolution) for upload to high quality video sharing sites like Vimeo. My old method was to take the completed HD sequence, open a new sequence in DV NTSC, drop the HD sequence in there, and re-render. Sucky, and the quality lessens, of course.

While tooling around the other day, I finally figured it out. It’s so obvious that I figured that might be the reason it doesn’t come up in searches. Here’s what I did.

The Solution

  • Export using QuickTime Conversion
  • Choose the Codec (I use H.264 with just about everything auto)
  • Choose a new size for the movie
    • For Vimeo, I use 1280 × 720 (you need 1280 width to qualify it as HD on Vimeo)
    • For smaller (YouTube, others) use 720 × 405 or 480 × 270. You can certainly use a larger size, but if it’s all you’re doing, you’ll improve speed by keeping it smaller
  • I leave everything else defaulted

It’s much easier than I thought it would be. With the video requirements being what they are (500MB/week on Vimeo, 100MB per upload on YouTube) you should be able to get a decent video uploaded based on these specs. A 90-second video I encoded came out to about 120MB at 1280 × 720. Making it smaller for YouTube should give you more flexibility to get under the requirement. YouTube also does the task of fitting the video into a letterbox format for you, which I believe was not the case a while back.

Check out the quality of the Vimeo videos here. It’s truly incredible-looking stuff.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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