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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…
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Archive for August, 2011

I am onlining a show that has a new delivery requirement…not tape, but rather a Quicktime file with embedded audio.  OK, this isn’t new…this is new to Avid.  This is something I have been doing for a while in FCP land.  Delivering ProRes or HQ files with 8 to 12 channels of embedded audio.  This is something FCP 7 does rather easily…it was designed to do this.  I have a tutorial on how to do that here. But this is something Avid Media Composer doesn’t do at all.  Sure, you can export a Quicktime file, but only with stereo audio.  Avid MC was designed for many things…outputting to tape, spitting out EDLs for online, cut lists for film…but not Quicktime with embedded audio.

So how are we supposed to make this QT file with embedded audio?  If Avid MC doesn’t allow you to export it?  Well, I had no clue, so I asked a lot of people.  Phone calls, Twitter, email.  A lot of people said they use Quicktime Pro to do this.  They export out a Quicktime Reference file, then add the audio mix, and then SAVE AS a self contained movie.  I can see doing that…I see how that works.  I’ve done that before…but only adding a stereo pair or other type of audio.  But I need these QT files to have audio in a very specific order. And I know best how to do that in FCP (see the above linked tutorial).  And interestingly enough, most of the responses I got were people saying, “oh, we use FCP for this.”  They export a QT file from Avid, take that into FCP to add the audio and export a self contained file with the audio assigned they way they need it.

So that is what I opted to do.

It was fairly simple and straightforward.  But I would get some oddness from the exported file.  FCP would load it, and make a sequence setting to match.  Of course I couldn’t view this on the external monitor when I played, because it wasn’t a codec FCP, nor the capture cards worked with.  But one odd thing caused lots of strangeness.  Where I had picture, I could see the picture.  But in the black…it didn’t show up as black, but rather as gray.  And when I scrubbed the playhead from the black…gray…to picture, suddenly the picture would glitch out big time.  Oversaturate and pixelate.  I scrubbed a little more, then it would go away.

But, when I exported a small section of this as a self contained file…to test the export to ensure it would play and the audio was assigned properly, the file looked fine.  So I exported the full file.  But, when I checked it, I noticed oddness.  Every cut before picture would go to black, would have one frame of that odd oversaturated pixelization.  Just one frame, but at the end of every clip right before a cut.  End of acts, and in all the clean covers…er…textless elements at the end.  This had me scratching my head.

But wait…this didn’t happen after the bars or slate.  Why not?  Hmmm…well, after a bit of pondering I hit upon it.  The slate and bars I built in FCP.  And between them I had placed SLUG…black.  But the rest of the show was a full self contained QT file from the Avid.  And the blacks were FILLER.  Now, the odd thing about Filler in the Avid is that it is both something, AND nothing.  Like FCP, when you have nothing in between clips, it is nothing…not black, just nothing.  But in Avid land, the Filler is black…sorta. It goes back to film….it is supposed to be black film filler.  Something you splice onto the film if you want black.  If you want a gap between clips, you need to LOAD FILLER and cut it in between the clips (although the newer updates to Avid allow you to move things, and Filler appears between the footage).

It is also something you can apply filters to.  If you drop a filter on a layer above your cut, it get applied to the entire track of FILLER, and effects everything below it.  You can add splices to this Filler so that the effect only falls within that range.  If you grab clips, you cannot grab just the clips, you must also grab the Filler in between the clips.  If you don’t, you cannot move the clips.

But then it also doesn’t act like a physical thing.  If I want to add black at the end of my sequence, you would think I load Filler and attach it to the end of the sequence.  That works with SLUG in FCP…but not with FIller.  It won’t do it.  You add it, and nothing happens.  So what I do to solve that is make a new Title…and leave it black.  Then add that as the black at the end.  Another solution was to put only one frame of something and then add the Filler before that…in between it and your sequence.

But because this Filler isn’t really filler…it isn’t BLACK…it is something else…it causes issues.  I had forgotten about this, having used FCP for so long.  But I used to either use a blank title as black…or I would capture black from a tape and use that as “filler.”  because when I’d export QT files, I’d get that odd grey issue, or when outputtting to tape at times I’d get some oddness.

And I was getting it again.  So, I put SLUG between the acts, and all the textless elements, and exported the file again.  Boom, it worked.  It was fine.  I have now taken it upon myself to export SLUG from FCP as a self contained file, and then transcoded that to DNxHD, and use that as black.

Quite a side track from the main topic, but that was a big issue that plagued me all day, and caused a huge delay in delivering the master.  Back to the main topic…this is something that should be addressed soon by Avid, I hope.  The ability to export QT files with multiple channels of embedded audio.  Well, and that odd Filler issue.  Until then, I’ll be using FCP to do it.

So Apple came out with this shiny new operating system with a really cool name…LION. And you are thinking to yourself, “Hey, I’d like to install that new OS on my computer.” OK, I can dig that. But there are a few things you should do FIRST, before you install. Especially if you use this computer to edit with Final Cut Pro…and depend on that machine to earn your keep. Because if you install LION, and things don’t continue to work as well as they used to, then that will cost you in lost time that can lead to lost money.

Step #1 – RESEARCH!!!
You need to look into whether or not your current applications will even work under the new OS. You might be shocked to find that many of them won’t. For example, Final Cut Studio 2 will work…but the INSTALLER will not. Because the INSTALLER isn’t Intel native…it requires Rosetta to work, and LION doesn’t have Rosetta. For this reason, MANY applications that rely on it won’t work. Adobe CS2 will not work on Lion. So do your research to find out if the applications you rely on will work on the LION OS. Make sure that the hardware you rely on for video input and output (capture cards) have drivers for LION.

Step #2 – CLONE YOUR WORKING SYSTEM!
Clone your current working OS drive. Get a cheapish firewire drive…something that the system can boot from…and use Carbon Copy Cloner (bombich.com/download.html) to completely copy the current working system drive to another drive. This way you have a copy of your working setup in case LION doesn’t work out. If things don’t work, just boot from that drive and erase your main drive and clone it back. You will lose a day, tops. And this keeps you from needing to reformat the drive, install the OS fresh, and all the applications fresh, then bring back all of your files, set up all the applications properly again…stuff that can take days.

You can back up any files you want manually as well..but the clone will have everything in case you forgot something.

Step #3 – DO A CLEAN INSTALL
Boot from the LION drive and then ERASE your system. Wipe it clean. Then install the Lion OS fresh. This ensures that you are getting the best possible OS install. Installing on top of existing OS might work…it does for some…or it might not. Some people report issues, others do not. But doing it completely fresh ensures that you have the best possible install. After the install, check for any possible updates with the SOFTWARE UPDATES in the System Preferences.

Step #4 – INSTALL ALL OF YOUR APPLICATIONS FROM THEIR INSTALLERS
DO NOT use Migration Assistant for applications. Install them fresh from their install disks or installer files. Because many of them, like FCP, install bits and pieces of the application throughout the OS, and Migration Assistant might miss those files. Correction, WILL miss those files. So if you want to have a good working application, install from the installers. You can migrate your files if you want…or manually drag them from the clone drive…but not the applications.

Then run the updates for the applications (if they are Apple apps, use the SOFTWARE UPDATE in the System Preferences) to update them fully. And install any drivers, firmware, other bits for other things on your system. Like Capture card software (make sure you get the latest versions of the drivers) and plugins and graphics cards drivers.

If I forgot anything, please feel free to comment and add that to the list.

Personally, IMHO, if I have a good working system, I do not update. Because my system is working, and I might not need any of the new things the new OS offers. I recently upgraded to Snow Leopard only in March, because one application I relied on…the new version of it…only ran on Snow Leopard.