Ingesting media is the process of taking footage from your camera and getting it onto your computer. The goal here is to maintain the highest quality of footage, and not to compress or downgrade your video in the process. A card reader, either built into your computer or purchased separately, can be very helpful here. It will allow you to remove the card (either SD or CF card) from your camera and connect it directly to your computer, instead of connecting your camera to your computer. Of course, this will only be helpful if you are recording your footage to a card and not to your camera’s internal storage.
Folder Structure & Naming Protocols
Before you copy any files, it’s important to establish a folder structure and naming protocols for your archive. You’ll want to think carefully about this structure before you begin importing content so that you can keep consistent. Be sure to consider the following:
- What kind of content do you have? Does it make more sense to organize everything by date, by genre, by researcher, or by some other identifier?
- How are you recording the locations of your files in your metadata spreadsheet? Your folder structure should be easy to navigate.
- Is the structure clear enough so that a stranger can understand and find content?
- Is the naming protocol both consistent and descriptive? For dates, use YYYYMMDD, so that you can sort the folders or files chronologically. Avoid special characters and spaces in your naming. This file name also becomes your archive ID (see p. 7 for the discussion of metadata).
Here’s a sample structure for what we recommend:
Folklife Archive (name of primary folder)
Photos — Program — Video (or folders for other types of content you have)
MOV, MPEG, and MP4 Files
If your camera saves footage as a .mov, .mpeg or .mp4 file, then all you need to do is connect the card or camera to your computer and copy those files into your archive, in the folder that you have designated for video content.
Many professional video cameras record Advanced Video Coding High Definition (AVCHD). This format records high-quality video and is widely used in the video industry, but the footage can be difficult to unpack and requires powerful machines to edit. When you view the folders on the SD card, you’ll see a complicated file structure:
For your archive, you need to ingest the footage, found in the “XXXXX.MTS” video clips, into a different format for long-term storage. This process will also allow you to divide the video clips into different folders so they are organized according to your metadata schema.
For this process, we recommend using the software Adobe Prelude. This programs lets you combine multiple video clips, transcode the file format from AVCHD to something more accessible and archive-ready, and add metadata to the video files. You have many options for exactly how to transcode the video clips, including the following:
- P2 or MXF: an uncompressed file that will retain the quality of your original AVCHD file. This format is a standard in archives and video production and is compatible with popular non-linear editing (NLE) programs such as Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Avid. However, the files are very large and are not playable on standard video players like Windows Media Player, QuickTime, or the VLC player. You can, however, upload MXF files directly to YouTube.
- AVI: acceptable for archival use, but a Windows-only file type.
- MP4: a relatively small file and easy to edit and/or share online with other people, but not considered archival quality. It works well on both Mac and PC platforms.
- MPEG2: the format to use if you need to burn a DVD.
We recommend transcoding AVCHD files to both MXF for archival storage and MP4 for quick editing and sharing.
Guide to Adobe Prelude
Ingest your videos:
- Connect your video camera (or SD card) to your computer and make sure it is powered on.
- Open Prelude and create a new project. Although it doesn’t really matter where you save this project, since you are just using it to move files, you can put it in your archive folder. It will create a .plproj file. You can use the same .plproj file every time you ingest new video files.
- Click “ingest” in the top right.
- On the left side of the new window, navigate to your camera or SD card and click the correct folder to view all your clips. Your clips are probably in PRIVATE > AVCHD.
- Select the clips that you want to ingest at a time. Since you can combine clips, you may want to select all clips from one program, and do each program at a time.
- On the right, check “Transfer clips to destination” and select your video folder (see p. 9 for how to organize your folders).
- Check “transcode.” This is where you need to decide what format is best suited for your purposes. See p. 11 for some considerations to make in this decision. Some specific recommendations:
- Primary destination (your small, shareable file): Format = “H.264.” Preset=”HD 1080p 23.976” (or whatever matches your camera’s frame rate). Stitch clips together and give that file a name that matches your file naming schema.
- Add destination 01 (your high-quality archival file): Format: “MXF OP1a.” Preset: “AVC-Intra Class100 1080 24p” (to match your camera’s frame rate).
- Click “Ingest.” The Adobe Media Encoder software will open and process your files. You can continue to work in Prelude while Media Encoder works in the background. Ingesting can take a long time, so don’t be alarmed!
Some helpful tips:
- In Prelude, go to Preferences > Audio. Uncheck “Automatic conforming and peak file generation on ingest.”
- If you find the text hard to read, you can lighten the background color under Preferences > Appearance.
- When reviewing your video clips, you can view the clips as thumbnails or as a list. With thumbnails, you can scrub your mouse over the thumbnail and view the video content. You can also zoom in to see a larger thumbnail with the little mountain icon: With the list view, you can edit the columns to view the video frame rate, frame size, date, or other fields. This is helpful when it comes to choosing the correct presets:
- If you want to ingest a section of a given clip, and not the entire clip, view the clips as thumbnails, then click on that clip. You’ll see a blue bar at the bottom of the clip and a playhead. Find the desired beginning and type “I” on your keyboard to set the in point (start), then find the desired end and type “O” to set the out point (end). The blue line will indicate the section that will be ingested.
Alternative to Adobe Prelude
If you don’t have access to Adobe Prelude, there are several alternatives to convert video clips in the AVCHD file.
On a Mac, open the main AVCHD file on your camera’s SD card with QuickTime. Select the clip(s) that you want to ingest, and click Open. Go to File > Export > 1080p. Rename the file and save it in your video folder.
The problem with this approach is that you have to save each clip individually, and can only save as an MOV file.
On a Mac or PC, download HandBrake, an open source video transcoder. Click “source” and find the .MTS files on your SD card. [Tip: on a Mac, you may have to right-click on the AVCHD file and select “show package contents,” and repeat this on the BDMV file you’ll see next. The MTS files will be in the “STREAM” folder. Copy those files and paste them into a different folder temporarily.] Make sure “format” is set to MP4 file, and “large file size” is checked. The “video codec” should be set to H.264. Click “start” and the file will convert.
The problem with this approach is that MP4 files are quite compressed and you’ll lose video quality. You also have to convert one file at a time, which is time consuming.