FCP 7: Adding Chapter Markers to H.264 Files

Posted: August 5, 2011

[This article was first published in the December, 2010, issue of
Larry's Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.]

 

William Aleman wrote to me recently about adding chapter markers to my webinars to make them easier to navigate and, more importantly, jump to the information you specifically need without have to watch stuff you don’t.

This was a great idea – it may have been obvious to you, but it never occurred to me. The question was: how to create them.

Well, it turns out there are two different ways:

  1. Inside Final Cut Pro while you are editing your video, or,
  2. After the H.264 file is compressed.

ADDING CHAPTER MARKERS INSIDE FINAL CUT PRO

Creating markers for H.264 is exactly the same as creating markers for a DVD. The steps are:

1. Put your playhead where you want to place a marker. Generally, this is done in the Timeline, but you can also do it in the Canvas. (You could use the Viewer, but since you want the markers to export, the Timeline is generally a better option.)

 

2. With FCP 7, type Shift+Option+M. This creates a marker and opens the Edit Marker dialog box.

 

2a. Or, for FCP 6 and earlier, type M (or select Mark > Markers > Add). This adds a marker at the position of the playhead. Type M a second time to open the Edit Marker dialog.

 

 

3. Click the Chapter Marker button to add <Chapter> to the comments field. This step is critical, because without it, your marker won’t export.

 

4. Add all remaining markers, and label with the <Chapter> flag.

 

5. To export your markers, select the sequence you want to export in the Browser. (I found exporting from the Browser is more reliable than using the Timeline.)

 

6. Select File > Export > QuickTime movie (or type Cmd+E in FCP 7).

 

 

7. In the Save dialog, give your file a name and location. The one KEY step you must do is change the Marker pop-up menu from None to DVD Studio Pro Markers. Even though it looks like other menu options MIGHT work, the only option that DOES work consistently is to export using DVD Studio Pro Markers.

 

8. Make sure Setting is set to Current Setting, and Make Movie Self-Contained is checked.

 

9. Click Save and compress into and H.264 file as normal; in my case, I use Compressor.

 

 

When you open your compressed file in QuickTime, a new chapter marker pop-up menu appears in the lower-right corner.

 

When you click it, all the chapter markers you set in Final Cut are displayed, allowing you to immediately navigate to that section.

This is the technique we used to create markers for our latest two webinars.

ADDING CHAPTER MARKERS INSIDE AN EXISTING H.264 FILE

However, what if your video has already been compressed into H.264 and you can no longer access the original source files. Is it too late to add markers?

Well, yes and no. You can NOT do it using Final Cut Studio, but you CAN using a program that William Aleman pointed out to me: Metadata Hootenanny, by Noah Sorscher.

In spite of it’s name, Metadata Hootenanny is a very flexible program that’s designed to add metadata and markers to a wide variety of video files. In this case, I only want to illustrate how to add chapter markers to an already compressed video file.

To add markers:

1. Open the application.

 

 

2. Drag the movie to which you want to add markers into the right-side of the window. (Um, yes, the window is actually called “MetaHoot”.)

 

 

3. Click the Book icon in the lower right corner to switch to Chapter View.

 

 

4. Position the diamond playhead, either by clicking the Play button or dragging the playhead, so that it is on the frame you want to create a chapter marker for.

 

 

5. Click the Plus button to create a new marker at the playhead position. (To remove a marker, select it and press the Minus button.)

 

6. Press the Enter key to allow you to edit the marker name. Change the name of the marker, then press the Enter key again to accept it.

 

 

7. To see the timecode associated with a marker, slide the scroll bar at the bottom to the left. (If the markers get out of order, don’t worry about it. QuickTime always displays them in chronological order.)

 

 

8. If you make a mistake, you can change the location of a marker by repositioning the playhead, selecting the marker name, then clicking the clock hands. This assigns the current playhead location to the selected marker.

 

9. When you are done adding markers, select File > Save. By default, the program saves your movies into [ Home Directory ] > Movies folder. So, although the menu says “Save,” it is actually doing a “Save As…”

 

Be sure to set the movie to save as Self-contained, then click Save.

 

 

10. Go to your Movies folder in your Home directory, and open the movie in QuickTime. Your chapter markers are displayed in the lower right corner, the same as if you created them before compressing the movie.

Very, very helpful.

 

Your thoughts are welcome



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