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Transcode Files for Davinci Resolve 16

Today I learned that you only have to transcode files to import them into the free version of Resolve. If you’re rocking the full version, then this shouldn’t really apply, unless you have an absolutely crazy file format on your hands.

Didn’t We Already Cover This?

So this stems off a previous blog post from a while back, where I was using ffmpeg to transcode some .MTS files (from a Panasonic/Sony camcorders similar to this) for use in Resolve on Linux. The code snippets from that post were okay… But not great. The biggest problem was that after transcoding, the file size often inflated… I mean DEFINITELY inflated. FFMPEG often defaults to the highest tier of quality in a given codec if you don’t take the time to specify exactly what you want.


I really struggled with this because it’s easily argued that ProRes is the codec that is literally designed to be edited. So it’s great to just cut ProRes from the start, right? And I’ve been involved in a lot of professional workflows where the first step is to convert to ProRes. Sounds like a good idea. Except when you consider file size.

Recently, I’ve been getting lots of projects involving mass quantities of footage. Often times I’ll get 3-5 hours of footage, climbing up to 60GB for a single project. Keep doing projects like that and I’ll have to start an Amazon subscription to hard drives… So I’m not in a place where I can afford to transcode 60GB of .MTS into 240GB of ProRes.


Luckily Resolve takes codecs other than ProRes! So I experimented a bit trying to figure out how to transcode a ton of .MTS files into something that Resolve can read, but without inflating the file size to something that’s nearly unusable. After a bunch of trial and mostly error, I came up with a pretty good preset. I even saved it as a text file so I can reference it later and use it in bash scripts.

So here it is, mostly for my own reference so I can go back here and copy it again:

ffmpeg -i "file.MTS" -c:v mpeg4 -b:v 20M -c:a pcm_s24le /output/

I’ve also tested this export setting with .MOV files that came from an iPhone and didn’t play natively with Resolve. I just converted them using the snippet above, and they played back perfectly in Resolve. Plus with the variable bitrate setting, the filesizes are VERY comparable to the original sizes. Often only off by a few megabytes.

Enjoy, and happy editing on Linux!

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