Fergle Gibson

Director of Photography


Transcoding Canon 5D Mark II h.264 Files

From a stills point of view, the Canon 5D Mark II is a fantastic camera, and totally kicks the ass of my 5D Mark I. But from a motion stand point, sure, the footage LOOKS great, but you’re very limited in terms of what you can actually do with it, and here’s why…

The Canon 5D Mark II records to the famous h.264 codec, which, when rendered at a low bit-rate, is great for web-distribution, and also produces some really awesome results at low file sizes. However, at higher bit-rates (let’s say 35Mb/s and above), it becomes almost impossible to view, let alone edit with… Unless you own a monster super computer that doesn’t yet exist. Don’t get me wrong! High bit-rates are where it’s at, just not if recording to the h.264 codec.

What owners of the Canon 5D Mark II are expected to do at the moment, is transcode (convert) the 5D’s source files from h.264, to a more usable codec for editing, such as Cineform HD (if you’re using a PC), or ProRes 422 HQ or SQ (if you’re using a Mac). I decided to do both, and here’s what I have found so far…

• Converting the 5D’s source files (please stop calling them “RAW”, alright? They’re not RAW!) using the Cineform HD codec, via Neo HD, on the PC, produces transcodes that are softer, higher in gamma, and less faithful in colour than the originals.

• Converting the 5D’s source files using the Cineform HD Codec, via Vegas Pro 9, on the PC, produces transcodes that are faithful in gamma AND colour to the originals, but only when viewed in Vegas (or Premiere Pro). However, the softness still remains.

The reason why the second option isn’t a viable solution, is because 1: converting those files, one by one, in Vegas (or Premiere Pro) would be WAY too time consuming, and would likely drive me, or anyone else, insane, and 2: the footage is soft. Not desperately soft, but soft enough to make me not want to use it. And yes, this is after ensuring the Field Order of those clips was set to “Progressive Scan” in Vegas Pro 9.

• Converting the 5D’s source files using the ProRes 422 HQ (or SQ) codec, via MPEG Streamclip, on the Mac, produces transcodes that are just as sharp as the originals, and have the same brightness and contrast (or gamma), but suffer from the same (or similar) colour shift issues you get when transcoding to the Cineform HD codec via Neo HD.

So, at the moment, it looks like we have three options available to us…

1) Put up with incorrect looking transcodes.

2) Edit by proxy.

3) Put up with the performance issues associated with the h.264 codec.

… none of which are acceptable.

Why Canon didn’t “pull a Sony” and include a program (like XDCAM EX ClipBrowser) that would do the transcoding for you, is beyond me. Sure, the 5D Mark II is a stills camera with a video feature, but what’s the point in even HAVING that feature if you can’t do anything with the footage you’ve shot, or have to compromise on quality? Exactly. There isn’t one.

If I come up with any more interesting results, or find a solution, I shall post it here. But until then…

Stay frosty.

Fergle Gibson,
Writer, Director & Cinematographer.

6 Responses

  1. Canon EOS cameras such as canon 1d, canon 5d, canon 7d, canon 550d, canon 500d, canon 600d and canon 1000d, etc. are capable of recording stunning videos in MOV format, which is a hard-working format for Mac software like FCP, FCE, iMovie, the quickest way to edit canon eos mov on mac is to convert mov to prores for fcp, or convert mov to aic for imovie or fce, that is all I know, after google convert 600d mov to prores on google, i got this article, hope it helps.


  2. esbenhardt — what is that program / where does one find it?

  3. This post is old news. Canon HAS made a transfer program. It works wonderful and transcodes to ProRes 422 faster than Compressor. Maybe you need to update this page ?