Optimize Your Media or Create Proxies
This one seems like it’s going to add time to the workflow, and it does… at first. As mentioned above, even in 2019, most NLEs still don’t love working with compressed video (H.264 and H.265 being the biggest culprits), especially if you’re on an underpowered system and working with 4K video (or beyond). Sure, it’ll work, but you’ll find your system choking at various points, sometimes even suffering delays and choppy video just when hitting Play.
If you don’t have the budget to pick up a pricey Atomos Ninja or Shogun, you still have an option. Although it might add a bit of time upfront, it may be worth creating optimized media or proxies on all but the simplest of projects. Let’s explore what each really means:
Creating Optimized Media: This term refers to telling your NLE to take your original media and create newly transcoded versions in high-end codecs (sometimes generally called mezzanine or intermediate codes) that are more edit-friendly (the most common of which are ProRes, DNxHR, and Cineform). Despite being larger files in most cases, they counterintuitively take less processing power to handle and your NLE will zip along as you scrub through the timeline, render, etc. Every program handles this process a bit different, so you might have to a do a bit of searching, but the settings are usually found somewhere in the import window for your respective program.
Creating Proxies: This is where your NLE keeps your original, untouched media that you import, but additionally creates low-res, lower quality “proxy” files. Why would you ever want low-res, lower quality copies of your media? Because with the click of a button or shortcut, you can have your NLE toggle between referencing the original high-quality media (which obviously shows the full-quality image, but might slow your system down) and the proxy media (allowing you to edit faster). It’s great to do your rough cut editing quickly in proxy mode, and just switch back to the original media toward the end perhaps when checking color grades or other image-affecting effects.