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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for April, 2010

Avid just isn’t slowing down. I advised them that they just needed to slow down. But did they listen? Nope. Why slow down? Because just as soon as you get used to one version, another version comes along and has tons more features that you want. And when you JUST CONVINCE a company to upgrade to one version of Media Composer, you might be hard pressed to get them to do it again. Many large facilities don’t upgrade often, so when Avid keeps hitting us with new release after new release, we might not be able to benefit from those as many companies won’t upgrade because they just did. But us independents? We like upgrading, when the new features call for it.

And boy, will the new features of Avid Media Composer 5.0 call for it.

First let me mention hardware. And no, this hardware isn’t something Avid makes. They are now opening up to third party vendors…specifically Matrox. Avid Media Composer 5.0 now works with the Matrox MXO2 Mini. But not for capture, but for monitoring on a large monitor. This is so you can save money on multiple systems. You can have the one or two bays that you use to capture/output, and the rest…say the other 8 – 30 bays… can utilize the MXO2 mini to throw that image on the nice big client monitor. Before, if you wanted this, you’d have to equip each bay with Nitris DX or Mojo DX boxes, and that can be VERY expensive. Especially if you don’t utilize those machines as capture machines. There are many places that have Mojos just for monitoring, and that is a tad much. Add the MXO2 mini for roughly $450 and BAM! There’s your inexpensive monitoring.

No, you can’t capture with this. No, you cannot output with deck control with this. This is a monitoring solution only. BUT, you can output to a DVD recorder say, for client approval copies. With timecode. Realtime output. And with HDMI connections, and Component and composite outputs…you have monitoring options. And I’m sorry…it only works with the MXO2 MINI.

OPINION: Yeah, I know. I have the main MXO2 box, but it doesn’t work with that. Nor the LE. The reasoning is this… they want to provide an inexpensive monitoring solution to new systems. Make the MXO2 Mini the new bottom end of the Avid MC hardware spectrum. Why not also work with the MXO2 and LE? Got me. That is something between Avid and Matrox. I’m just happy that they opened up to third party hardware. And I heard that this is just the start. Baby steps. More might be coming…this is just the first few footprints on the moon.


New AVID Media Composer 5.0 timeline

Second, let me mention my favorite new feature… the new advanced Avid Media Access (AMA). This new version of AMA now allows Avid MC to access Quicktime files directly, and allows MC to EDIT those QTs without converting or transcoding them. So things like ProRes, the new Canon XF codec…they are directly accessed via AMA and you can just start editing them right away.

This also includes native RED files. Media Composer can edit them without the need to transcode.

And you can adjust the color of the footage before you bring it over…apply a general look while you edit. Darn handy.

OPINION: Now how this works is very familiar to FCP users. AMA will just access the files where they currently reside. Just like importing QTs into FCP. Avid MC just points to the media where it lies and works with it. Move the files, and the connection is broken. SO, if you want to work with the footage natively, then move it to the folder you want it to reside in on your media drive, then import. For all you Avid users…well, the same explaination applies. So now you know how FCP works in regards to media. Yes, you can transcode to DNxHD if you want, and then throw it into the Avid media management. I wouldn’t blame you, that’s rock solid. But I have a different idea.

Now that Avid works with the MXO2 Mini…and now that it works with ProRes… And while I still know a lot of editors that REFUSE to use FCP, and INSIST on using Avid, because they feel more comfortable on the Avid…well, now you can use both. Why not utilize FCP to capture the footage (ProRes), use AMA to import that footage into AVID MC 5.0…edit…then send that sequence back to FCP (via Automatic Duck) linking to the original media…send to Color to color correct, then output from FCP? I think that just might work. This way I can use FCP and Avid…and make all those Avid editors happy, yet still keep costs down for the production companies that have tight wallets.

Speaking of Avid and FCP editors…this brings us to the third new feature that Avid MC 5.0 brings to the table: Avid Smart Tools.

This is something that Avid has added from great demand from us FCP editors. I guessing, because this adds FCP like editing to the Avid platform. Avid is trying to win over the FCP editors, and win back us FCP converts. And it might work. Now you can set up your timeline to either work like a classic Avid MC setup, or you can toggle on the Smart Tools (or pick and choose which ones you want), and now you have an FCP like interface. Grab clips and move them, or grab the cuts and trim them with the mouse. You can even lock audio and video together so that it does both in one click.

The first option is that RED arrow. If you hover on the clip on the top half of it, say above it’s mid point, you get the RED arrow. This allows you to grab and move it and overwrite over clips you happen to drop it on. Or just move things around. Hold down the CMD key to lock the move to cuts or the playhead.

Second option is the YELLOW arrow. If you hover below the midpoint you get this option. THis allows you to move the clip and SWAP places with the clip you drag it in front of or behind. This is what you usually have to hold OPT for in FCP. Again, the CMD key snaps to cut points.

Then there is the trim options. RED trim will allow you to trim footage away and leave a gap (you can trim one side, or the other, or both).

YELLOW trim allows you to trim footage, and close the gap. So cut into a clip and have the timeline move in to fill the void. What is really cool about these trim options is that when you activate them, they activate the Avid MC trim mode…their normal, really cool trim mode. So you can now use the keyboard commands to do some really cool trimming.

OPINION: Is this a feature that Avid editors have been clamoring for? Nope. In fact, most of the Avid editors I know HATE this feature in FCP. They don’t want this access to the timeline. No, this is a feature that FCP editors have wanted Avid MC to have. And Avid has given it to them. This isn’t the first time Avid has added a FCP feature. In Media Composer 3.0.5 they added the SELECT ALL DOWNSTREAM and UPSTREAM and BETWEEN IN AND OUT points. This is something us FCP editors know well. It is very helpful, and Avid knew it…so they added it. Now with these new Smart Tools, they are very obviously trying to win back FCP editors, or people like myself who use both. They want to give us the same comfort level of editing that we have with FCP. And it is true, FCPs open timeline is one of my favorite parts…so now seeing it in Avid, I can’t wait to play with it. When it is released, I’ll be sure to grab the demo and play with it for the 30 days.

You want more? Guess what? I got more. This is going to be one LONG article.

AVCHD import. Before now you had to use third party applications to convert the footage to DNxHD, like ClipWrap. Not anymore. Now you can import the AVCHD footage directly into Avid MC via the IMPORT feature.

Opinion: Yaay! Adding support for more codecs is always a good thing. Relying on third parties can be a drag, unless the third party software offers things the base software does not. But it is nice to not NEED to rely on the third party software. Now I hope this is stable, as there are multiple types of AVCHD. That always seems to throw a wrench into the works.

AUDIO. Now there are a lot more audio features.

You can now SOLO and MUTE on the timeline. You can now access the Audio Suite plugins directly from the timeline. And you can….Ooooooo I love this… turn on Audio Waveforms on SELECT TRACKS ONLY. Meaning not ALL of them. Meaning that the draw time it took to draw ALL the audio waveforms will be severely reduced. And you won’t have them on the tracks you don’t NEED them. I only want them on say, the MUSIC tracks. Boom, I can activate them on only the music tracks.

OPINION: All I can say is awesome. NICE options here. OH! And look at the upper right of that picture. See the timecode window on the timeline? That’s cool too.

Speaking of music tracks, you can now make a stereo pair appear as only ONE TRACK on the timeline. YUP! Because when you make changes to them you want it to adjust the levels and cuts and dissolves to both, so why not have them appear as one track. So now instead of having 24 layers of audio, you can have 16…or 12. This works for stereo sound effects too.

And they added direct access to many audio suite plugins directly on the timeline. No need to go digging in the Audio Tool for them, there they are, at your fingertips.

Man o man will that make editing easier.

And that seems to be the theme for Avid this year. To make editing easier. To allow us to use the tools we feel comfortable with using. Are you an FCP editor and want the ease and speed you developed with FCP, they now have tools to allow you to do that. Are you hard core old school Avid? Turn those off and edit like you always have.

Oh, and I haven’t even talked about CLOUD editing. I missed the demo, but basically this is having the media and main project on a central server, and the editors then are able to access that via a web interface, on any computer with an internet connection. Edit anywhere…with even a netbook. No carrying around media. Let me find a web demo and point to that. Steve Cohen has a blog post about it here, and link to the videos.

There’s a reason that Avid won a lot of awards at NAB 2010.  The improvements to Media Composer are stellar.  Well, on paper.  Let’s see what happens when we get our hands on it.

OPINION:  Many people that I have spoken with think that Avid’s decision to support ProRes…Quicktime in general…means that it is giving in to Apple and Final Cut Pro.  I disagree.  There are other reasons I believe.  One of them is the popular recording device, the AJA KiPro.  This recorder records directly to ProRes QT files, and up until now…or when Avid MC 5 comes out, the files only worked with FCP.  Well now they can work with Avid MC as well.  And the fact that Arri also announced the ALEXA, a high end camera that also records to ProRes quicktime files.  And there are the JVC cameras that also record to Quicktime files…albiet XDCAM and HDV codecs.  It appears that Avid is doing their best to support all the camera formats, and recording devices.

The twenty-fifth episode of THE EDIT BAY is now available for download.

A funny thing happened at a conference…we found out that a show we were doing for one network, was also being done by ANOTHER network…

To play in your browser or download direct, click here.

To subscribe to this podcast in iTunes, CLICK HERE.

Wanna know how to make your audio sound like it is coming from a telephone, or a cheap radio?  Well, I did too.  I googled it, and after a few hits I came across a great solution for this.  So you don’t have to go searching, I’ll post it for you.  Just know, I don’t take credit for this, nor can I figure out who to attribute it too.  I just wanna post it so when people ask, I can point them here.  Or you can bookmark it…or attach it to a stickie…or…

I’ll shut up now.  Here’ the tip:

* Apply a Low-pass filter to your audio clip, set the frequency to 2500 and Q = 1

* Apply a High-pass filter to the same clip with the frequency set to 500 and Q = 1

While I am on this 2 week hiatus, and working on the pilot, and working at NAB, I am really NOT on hiatus.  I will be working a little bit on the Long Beach Job from my home editing studio.  And while I can’t take ALL of the footage home with me, I was allowed to take some.  What I really needed to do was cut down Acts 1 and 2…tighten them up.  Make them flow better.  I cut them fat for the rough with the intention of going back and smoothing out after I got the first four acts roughed out.  But then I made Act 3 darn tight and good, so now I need to go back and work on 1 and 2.

And there is a small section of an interesting detour from the main story that I found fun, and thought it would work well to break up Act 2.  So I needed to bring home some footage of that to work on too.  So, what I did was make a new bin for each act, and a bin for the selects needed to cut this other section.  I then CONSOLIDATED the footage to a small external drive.  This made a new sequence and new media (with the .new after the new clips) that linked to that consolidated media.

Now, for the FCP people out there, this was basically MEDIA MANAGING.  Taking only what was used in the cut, with handles, and making separate clips on a separate drive that linked to the cut.  BUT, this is an area that FCP really falls behind Avid.  Let me explain how.

So, I take this footage and the bins of the consolidated footage and make a new project.  Avid projects are actually several files, one file for each bin, plus a couple master files.  So I make a new project with the same settings, add the bins to the folder, and they appear in the project. And they point to the media on the external drive.  Now I can cut away to my hearts content, and make the footage shine.

OH!  But now I need to add new interview bytes!  And music!  OK, my assistant back in the office makes a bin of selects from the interview, and consolidates them and will FTP (or YOUSENDIT) me the media and bin.  There’s that.  Now I need music.  No problem, I have the same stock library that we are using for the show, so I just import the same tracks and work from those.

NOW… when I am all done cutting, and I am ready to bring these cuts back to the main sequence… you might think that I need to bring back all this consolidated media too, huh?  I mean, the cut is linked to them, right?  Well, maybe for the music, but the other footage was part of longer MASTER footage already captured by the Avid.  So I don’t need to bring the consolidated media.  I just bring a bin with the new cuts back to the main system, add them to the project, and then hit RELINK.  What this does is create a new sequence that now relinks back to the master clips!

I shit you not.

FCP, you see, looks at the starting timecode, ending timecode, duration, and reel number.  If the clip you have doesn’t start at the same time as the one you are trying to link to, or have the same duration, it goes “sorry dude, this isn’t the same clip.  I mean, it is TOTALLY wrong.  I mean, look at the start time, look at the duration.  Not even close dude.”  Avid, on the other hand, is smart.  It doesn’t look at the start and end and duration and reel ONLY.  No…it looks at those and says “Hey, the timecode range of this clip falls inside that clip, and they have the same reel number.  Let me see…Ahhh!  There is the timecode we are looking for, let me just connect this to that and viola!”  Yup, it connects it.  Back to the original media.

Pretty slick, huh?  Would you like to see this in FCP?  I’m sure you would.  GUESS WHAT!?  Someone made this possible.

I shit you not.

It is called FCP Reconnect and it is from Video Toolshed.  I have tested it and it works.  VERY slick.  Watch the demo.

OK, the Long Beach job is on hold for two weeks – planned hiatus while they do more shooting.  One week for NAB, that I leave for on Sunday…and the other for a quick 6-10 day gig cutting a pilot for a TV show for a cable network.  Not a FULL pilot, but a 10 min pitch pilot.  I’ve cut a few of these in my day, and they can be fun…or they can be maddening.  Trying to make some old washed up actor into something fun…not fun.  But taking genuine good material and helping CREATE the look/feel of a show?  FUN!  This project looks like the latter.

So this will be my first big foray into AVCHD.  I have worked with it in the past, but only as footage from a second or third camera that came it, or personal stuff from a borrowed camera.  Nothing like full blown production.  This show was shot with the new Sony NXCAM camera.  Unlike the other projects where the footage was on a 16GB card, or 8GB card…this show has two folders, each with 53GB of footage at AVCHD compression…that’s 5 hours on each camera.  I am using FCP for this one, as it has a better AVCHD workflow at this time, and I want to use COLOR.

This footage is being converted to ProRes with Log and Transfer…and let me tell you, it is taking while.  When both cards are done I’ll give you the time it took.  Longer than realtime though.  And the cool thing about tapeless and Log and Transfer is that once the first clip comes in, you can now watch it, and add comments or rename it, while the rest are being imported.  Try that with tape!  I am capturing to an internal 500GB SATA drive.  We’ll see if I have enough space for this.  I should.

I like cutting these.  Quick, to the point, fun, fast paced.  With the possibility of going to series, and long term work.

OK, I’m not gonna write a lot of stuff that already hasn’t been written.  First off, here’s Scott Simmons’ post over at PVC about the Canon EOS Log and Transfer plugin for Final Cut Pro.

Now, this plugin covers the 1D, 5D and 7D cameras, but NOT the Canon T2i, the one I have.  BUT HAVE NO FEAR…if you have this camera, there is a HACK.  And it is pretty simple.  I followed the instructions (click on the picture of the code and make sure you type ALL of it) and BOOM, there my footage was.

Why would you use this over, say, Compressor (which allows for multiple processors) or MPEG STREAMCLIP (which is pretty easy)?  Several reasons:

1) This way you have a direct interface from the card or card backup (always backup the cards…full file structure) with FCP.

2) This give the footage a REEL number.  Which you can do manually, but why not have it happen automatically.  A reel number is very helpful when you need to track footage, like where it came from, and if you need to reimport.

3) TIME OF DAY timecode.  This is PRETTY important.  Compressor or MPEG STREAMCLIP will transcode the footage fine, but the timecode of each and every clip will be 00:00:00:00.  The FCP log and transfer option reads the Time of Day code of the footage, and uses that.  Pretty frickin’ cool!

4) Custom Clip Name.  FCP 7 allows you to apply a custom clip name, with consecutive numbering.  So you can do without the MV101.mov name…you can apply a new name, like the location, or subject.  That is cool too.

Now, treat the footage like any other tapeless format.  Backup the full cards to an archival solution of your choice.  Heck, if you have the cash, save the SD cards.  Certainly cheaper than SxS and P2.

OK, now I have to edit this footage from my T2i that I just transferred into FCP.  It took a while, as I transcoded to ProRes LT (destined for web only)  I’ll have to see this compared to the transfer time of the regular ProRes option.

Well, I suspect that the vanishing media doesn’t have anything to do with what version of Avid MC we were running.  I suspect that it has to do with the drives that are currently being used.  The main drive attached is big Avid SCSI Raid or something…but it is full.  So this project is on two USB drives.  And yes, the USB drives do play back the full res DVCPRO HD footage fine, albiet things are a tad sluggish.  But, since we have shoot days ahead, and the vanishing media issue, we will be getting a better drive solution soon.

In the meantime, I’ve finished roughing out Acts 1-3, and REALLY like Act 3.  So I have to go and fix Acts 1-2.  But, I have to finish stringing out Act 4 and filling it in before I start looking back.