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Category: AVID

GoPro Hero cameras are everywhere lately. It seems like there isn’t a production I am working on that doesn’t utilize this camera in some way. They are mounted in cars to either see the driver and passengers, or aimed at the road. They are mounted on back hoes as they dig, mounted on drills as they burrow into the ground. They are mounted on people as they do crazy things. They get angles that you normally cannot get.

First, let me mention the three models currently available from GoPro:

Hero 3 White Edition can shoot video at 1080p30, 960p30 and 720p60, and 5MP photos at up to 3 frames per second. It can shoot timelapse from half second to 60 second intervals. It has built in WiFi, and can work with the GoPro WiFi remote or a free smartphone app.

Hero 3+ Silver Edition does all that, but shoots up to 1080p60 and 720p120, and shoots still photos at 10MP up to 10 frames per second.

Hero 3+ Black Edition does all that the Silver Edition does, but adds 1440 at 48fps, 960p100, as well as 720p100 and 720p120.  It also shoots in ultra-high resolution, going to 2.7k at 30fps and even 4k at 15fps. And it has an option called SUPERVIEW, which enables ultra-wide angle perspectives.  It can shoot stills at 12MP stills,  30fps.  All cameras have built in WiFi and work with the remote, or smart phone app, and all perform much better in low light situations than their predecessors.

For this post, I was provided with a Hero 3+ Black Edition camera, and a slew of accessories.  What is really handy about the Hero 3+, is that it can shoot in a wide variety of ways that might suit various aspects of production. For example, The ultra high speeds is shoots makes it great for smooth slow motion conformed shots.The ultra-HD frame size it shoots allows for repositioning the shots in post to focus on the areas of interest we want to focus on. They all can be controlled wirelessly from an iPhone or Android device with a free app…and you can change the settings in those apps, far easier than the in-camera menus.

OK, so the GoPro Hero 3 line of cameras prove to be very useful cameras, enabling you to get all sorts of useful footage. But the point of this post is to showcase workflows for ingesting the footage into various edit applications so that you can take advantage of these advanced shooting modes.

AVID MEDIA COMPOSER

Let me start with Avid Media Composer, only because that is what I have been using the most lately. If you set up the camera to shoot in normal shooting modes, like 1080p30 (29.97), 1080p24 23.98 or 720p60, then importing is easy. Simply access the footage via AMA, and then transcode to DNxHD…either full resolutions like 145, 175 or 220…or an offline codec like DNxHD36, DV25 or 15:1 so you can cut in low resolution, and then relink to the original footage and transcode to a higher resolution when you go to online.

First, go FILE>AMA LINK and you’ll get the following interface. Select the clips you want to link to:

Once you have all your clips in a bin, go to the CLIP menu and choose CONSOLIDATE/TRANSCODE:

If you shot 720p60, so that you can use the footage either normal speed, or as smooth slow motion in a 29.97 or 23.98 project, then you need to first import the footage in a project that matches the shooting settings…720p60. Then copy the bin over to your main project and cut the footage into the sequence. You will note that the footage will appear with a green dot in the middle of it, indicating it is of a different frame rate than the project:

The footage will play at the frame rate of the project, or you can adjust it to smooth slow…take all of the frames shot and play them back at a different frame rate. First, open the SPEED CHANGE interface, and then click on the PROMOTE button:

That enables more controls, including the graph. When you open the graph, you’ll note that the playback speed is different. If you shot 60fps and are in a 29.97 project, then the percentage will be 150%. Change that number to 100% and now the clip will play back in smooth slow motion.

If you shot at a higher frame rate and want it to be slow motion…say 720p 120fps, then you’ll have to use the GoPro Studio app to convert that footage. The cool thing about that application is that it’ll conform the frame rate, and convert the frame size to suit your needs. I’ll get to that later.

NOTE: You can edit the footage native via AMA. When you bring it into the main project, and drop it into the timeline, it’ll be 60fps, or 120fps (note the image above of the timeline and green dots…those are AMA clips, thus why one shows 119.8fps). So when you promote to Timewarp, and adjust the percentage, it will play in slow motion. But know that editing MP4 native in Avid MC is anything but snappy. It will cause your system to be sluggish, because there are some formats that Avid MC doesn’t edit natively as smoothly as it can Avid media.

One trick you can do is to AMA the GoPro footage, cut it into the sequence, promote to Timewarp and adjust the playback speed…and then do a Video Mixdown of that. Then you’ll have a new clip of only the portion you want, slowed down. The main issue with this trick is that any and all reference to the master footage is gone. If you are doing an offline/online workflow this might not be the best idea. It’s a simple trick/workaround.

Now let’s say you shot a higher frame size, such as 2.7K or 4K, and you want to reframe inside Media Composer. First thing you do is use AMA to access the footage. But DO NOT TRANSCODE IT. Once you transcode, the footage will revert to the project frame size…1920×1080 or 1280×720. Avid MC does not have settings for 2.7K or 4K. I’ll get to the workaround for that in a second.

Once you add the clip to the timeline, you’ll notice it has a BLUE DOT in the middle of the clip. Similar to the GREEN dot, except where green indicates a frame rate difference, blue indicates frame size difference. If you then open the EFFECT MODE on that clip, FRAME FLEX will come into play.

You can then use the Frame Flex interface to reposition and resize the shot to suit your needs. If you shot a nice wide shot to make sure you captured the action, Frame Flex will allow you to zoom into that action without quality loss. Unlike zooming into footage using the RESIZE or 3D WARP effects on regular 1080 footage.

One drawback is you cannot rotate the area of interest. The other is that you cannot convert the footage to an Avid native format…something I mentioned earlier. So you can either work with the 4K MP4 footage native…which might prove to be difficult as Media Composer doesn’t like to work with native MP4 footage natively, much less at 4K. So one workaround is to do your reposition, and then do a VIDEO MIXDOWN. This will “bake in” the effect, but at least the footage will now be Avid media:

ADOBE PREMIERE PRO CC

The workflow for Premiere Pro CC is by far the easiest, because Premiere Pro will work with the footage natively. There’s no converting when you bring the footage in. Simply use the MEDIA BROWSER to navigate to your footage and then drag it into the project.


(the above picture has my card on the Desktop. This is only an example picture. I do not recommend working from media stored on your main computer hard drive.)

But I highly recommend not working with the camera masters. Copy the card structure, or even just the MP4 files themselves, to your media drive. Leave the camera masters on a separate drive or other backup medium.

So all you need to so is browse to the folder containing the media, and drag it into the project, or drag the individual files into your project. Bam, done.

CHANGE IN FRAME SIZE

Ok, let’s say you shot 720p60…but you want to use your footage in a 1080p project. When you add the clip to the timeline, you’ll see that it is smaller:

That’s an easy fix. Simply right-click on the clip, and in the menu that appears select SCALE TO FRAME SIZE:

But what if you want this 720p 120fps footage you shot to play in slow motion? Well, that’s very easy too. Right-click on the clip in the Project, and in the menu select MODIFY>INTERPRET FOOTAGE:

Then in the interface that appears, type in the frame rate you want it to play back as. In this example, I choose 23.98.

Done…now the clip will play back slow…even if you already have it in the timeline.

FINAL CUT PRO X

Importing is really easy; File > Import > Media. You can either work natively, or choose the OPTIMIZE MEDIA option. Optimize media will transcode the footage to ProRes 422.

You get a nice box to import with an image viewer.

Now, as I said before, you can work with the footage natively, but I’ve found that GoPro, because it’s H264, it likes to be optimized. I haven’t worked with GoPro native extensively in FCPX so I cannot attest to how well it works compared to how it does in Premiere Pro CC. Premiere has the advantage of the Mercury Engine and CUDA acceleration with the right graphics cards.

OK, so to transcode all you need to do is right click and choose TRANSCODE MEDIA:

Get these options:

You can create ProRes master media, and proxy media at the same time if you wish. Or just full res optimized media (ProRes 422), or just Optimized Media (ProRes Proxie) that you can relink back to the masters when you are done editing, that you can transcode to full res Optimized Media when you have locked picture. When you create the optimized media, or proxy, the frame rate of the footage is retained.

When it comes to speed changes, unlike FCP 7 and earlier that required you to use CINEMA TOOLS, you conform the GoPro footage internally in FCPX. As long as you set the timeline to the desired editing frame rate, 23.98 for example, then you can conform any off frame rate clip to it by selecting it and choosing Automatic Speed from the retime menu.

OK, lets say you shot 4K, but want to use it in a 1080 or 720 project. FCPX has what is called Spatial Conform. When set to NONE the clips go into a timeline at the natural resolution. For example, a 4K clip will be at a 100% scale, but will be zoomed in. All you need to do is scale back to like 35% to see the entire 4K image.

GoPro STUDIO

All right, let’s take a look at the tool that GoPro provides free of charge…GOPRO STUDIO. I use this application quite a bit, not only to pull selects (only portions of clips), but also to convert the footage into a easier to edit codec. H.264 works OK in Premiere, better if you have CUDA acceleration. But my laptop doesn’t enable that, so I choose to use the CINEFORM codec that GoPro Studio transcodes to. I also use it to convert higher speed rates for use in Avid Media Composer…like I mentioned earlier. If I have a 120fps clip, I cannot bring that directly into Avid and transcode it to that same frame rate. So I will convert it here first, to match the frame rate of the project….then AMA link and transcode.

Importing is easy. In the main window, on the left side, simply click on the “+” button, that allows you to import the clips. Grab as many clips as you want to. And then when you click on a clip to select it, it opens it into the center interface, and that allows you to mark IN and OUT points…if you only want portions of the clip:

To adjust the speed of the clip, click on the ADVANCED SETTINGS button. You’ll be presented with the following interface:

In here is where you change the speed to what you want. Simply click on the frame rate drop down menu and choose the one you want:

You can also remove the fish eye distortion from the footage if you want.

If the speed change is all you need to do, then click on ADD TO CONVERSION LIST and be done with it. But since the 120fps frame rate is only available at 720p, and most of my projects are 1080, you can also up convert the size to 1080 in GoPro Studio as well. And the conversion is pretty good. For that you go into the Advanced Settings again, and in the Frame Size drop down menu, choose the frame size you want:

If you want to convert 720p 120fps to 1080p 23.98, then the settings would look like this…I also removed FishEye:

So there you have it. Some of these workflows are just the basics, others go into more detail. But I’m sure there are lots more tips and tricks out there that some of the more “power users” of the edit systems employ. My hope is that these tips will enable you to use your GoPro Hero cameras to their fullest.

(Thanks to Scott Simmons (@editblog on Twitter) of the EditBlog on PVC, for helping me with the FCPX workflow)

A GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition was provided to enable me to test various aspects to the workflows. GoPro was kind enough to let me keep the unit, enabling me to shoot family activities in super slow motion, or in “Ultra HD” resolutions.  It was used to shoot a sledding outting, including a couple crashes…and a couple cat videos. They weren’t interesting enough to post…my cats are boring.

One thing I find myself doing very often while editing remotely…me in L.A., the production company in Virginia…is exporting Quicktime files of my project for my producers at “home base” to watch.  I will do this on an Act by Act basis…when I finish an act, I’ll export it, upload to their FTP.

Now, like most, if not all of you, I don’t like to sit and wait for a long time while this process happens.  I have stuff to do. So I want this to go fast.  And I have found a formula that makes it not only go fast, but keeps the file sizes small too.  Without making the video look too crappy.

First off, I want to note, this is REVIEW quality. Meaning, you watch it for content, not quality.  The outputs aren’t high res, they aren’t high quality.  They are OK quality.  This is how I keep the file sizes small, and export times fast.  How fast?  Real time fast.  A 48 min sequence exports in about 50 min. OK, a little SLOWER than real time.  But what if I told you this includes a timecode window? One that I didn’t render before exporting?  Yeah, that impressed me too.

OK, so the first thing I do is highlight all my tracks, and from start to finish on the timeline.  Then I do an EXPERT RENDER…meaning, “render all effects that aren’t real time effects.”  Since I render as I edit, this often takes little to no time…but some stuff slips through the cracks.  Then, I make a new blank layer, and drop on my Timecode Generator effect.  And then, without rendering again (if you did another expert render, it would want to render that timecode…for the entire length of the sequence)…I simply choose FILE>EXPORT.  A window pops up asking for export type, and location of where the file should go.  From there I click on the drop down menu and choose EXPORT TO QT MOVIE, and set my destination, and file name.  Then I use the following settings.

1) This is the main export window.  I’m not going to repeat all the settings you see here, I only want to point out that I use 640×360, as I am editing a 16:9 sequence, and I make sure it is chosen in both the WIDTH AND HEIGHT section, and the DISPLAY ASPECT RATIO section.  This frame dimension must be consistent in all export window options. Oh, and USE MARKS means that the IN and OUT points I set are the range that will be exported. I will have my full timeline up, but only want to export one Act, so I mark IN and OUT for the act I want to export. Make sure that is checked, otherwise it’ll export the whole sequence.

OK…moving on.

2) I click on FORMAT OPTIONS to get the above menu.  I make sure to enable AUDIO and VIDEO here. Even though I might have it chosen to do video and audio in the previous menu, if it isn’t chosen here, you won’t get it. Gotta to it in both places.  Click on AUDIO…choose 44.1 and 16-bit stereo. If you want smaller QT files, make it mono, or 22.0 and mono.  I don’t do this. Because audio is very important. If the picture quality sucks…fine.  People can see past that. But if the audio sucks, is noisy…then the QT is unwatchable.  This is the one area I keep the settings in the GOOD range.

OK, click on VIDEO and you get:

3) A couple things to mention here.  At first Avid defaults to SORENSON 3.  So click on the drop down menu and choose H.264.  If you leave the DATA RATE on AUTOMATIC, that allows you to adjust the slider.  If you type in a number, RESTRICT TO, then you can’t. I generally keep it on AUTOMATIC and put the quality at MEDIUM.  For smaller files, you can restrict to 1000 or 1500 kbps.  I just find MEDIUM to be a good middle ground. Another important thing to do, is change the encoding from BEST QUALITY, where it defaults, to FASTER.  This is the key to the fast export times.

Click OK.  Click OK again..the other OK, in the MOVIE settings.  Then click SAVE AS…and name it whatever you will.  This way you don’t need to redo your settings.  Just choose the preset you make and you are ready to go.

Then watch it progress in real time.

Now, if you want fast encoding of QT H.264 files…also in real time. Then look at the Matrox solutions. Compress HD is a PCIe card that fits in the MacPro computers. And then there are the MAX versions of their hardware IO devices.  If you use the Matrox H.264 option, that will trigger these devices to kick in and aid the encoding process. Making high res H.264s in real time.  Chew on that.

(NOTE: I am working with footage from the Canon C300…accessed via AMA and consolidated, not transcoded. So our footage is XDCAM 422…a GOP format. And GOP formats don’t allow for SAME AS SOURCE exports. So I can’t do that and use, say COMPRESSOR and add the TC burn there. If your footage was DNxHD in any flavor, you’d be able to do that. But I wonder if doing that, then taking into Compressor or Sorenson and compressing is any quicker than the real time, direct output from Avid that I have laid out here.)

OK, so I’ve been bad about blogging lately. I blame work.  Long hours are bad for bloggers.

ANYWAY…so that you all don’t go into withdrawl, I’ll link to a great post by my friend Jon Chappell over at digitalrebellion.com.  His post on Avid AMA best practices is one that anyone who uses and Avid must read.  Not “should” read…but MUST read.  This is required reading.  There will be a pop quiz.

OK, this has been an odd couple weeks, as I took half a week off to vacation up at Lake Arrowhead, and then I had a tight tight deadline to get this show done.  But I’ll keep this short and sweet too.  I’ll mention the obstacles I faced, and how I solved them.

OBSTACLE #1: The heat.

Yes, it was getting hot in LA.  In the 90’s in the valley where my office…er…garage…is located.  And my garage lacks one major component…insulation.  So while I did buy a 12,000 BTU air conditioner, it really didn’t cool the office down at all.  And that made working out there intolerable, and dangerous for the equipment.  So, I did the only thing I could do at the time…moved into the house.  I set up a small table in my bedroom and set up my new 2012 MacBook Pro (non-retina) along with one of my Dell 24″ monitors and a speaker so that I could continue editing in a nice cool setting. I brought in my nice chair, bought a Griffin laptop mount to get the computer up to a reasonable height to match the Dell, connected the hard drive and was ready to go.  This setup helped with obstacle #2.

OBSTACLE #2: Slow computer

Even though it is a tower with loads of RAM (if you think 16GB is loads) and a nice graphics card (Nvidia 285GT) with a Kona 3 card…Avid Symphony seemed to struggle. I would get beach balls periodically that would last about 30-45 seconds, then finally go away. The system would lag behind my keystrokes, meaning I’d hit 5-6 keys…then wait two seconds for the Avid to catch up to me.  And I would get consistent FATAL IO ERRORS…related to the Kona.  And this horrid “K” key bug where I’d press “K” to pause playback, only it wouldn’t, it just slowed playback down until I released it…in which case it resumed at full speed.  I’d need to his the spacebar to stop.  That happened periodically.

So in moving into the house, I began using my laptop to edit.  And let me tell you, most of those problems went away. By most I mean the “K” key issue persisted, and I got one FATAL IO ERROR…but only after I installed the AJA IoXT box to the system.  And then it only happened once in two weeks. And I didn’t use the IoXT all the time, as my reference monitor had to be left out in the office/garage, as I have no room on my bedroom setup for it.  Ah well.  But overall, the laptop performed a lot better than my tower.  Even encoding an H.264 with TC burn was faster on that laptop.  My 2008 MacPro is showing it’s age.

OBSTACLE #3: lots of footage, lots of scenes, music to be added…

Basically…time.  I was running short on time, and I had a lot of footage to cut.  In the end I went a couple days over my deadline, and ended up with a 57 min rough cut.  The cut should be in the 48 min range for international, with three minutes removed for domestic.  So I am 10 minutes long.  No biggie, that just means that the episode will have to be attacked with a machete to cut out enough stuff to get me to time.  It took me longer than usual as I had a small library of music that I needed to choose from, and I’m a bit too much of a perfectionist when it comes to music editing and temp audio mixing.  It’s a blessing, and a curse. My cuts sound good…but take longer to do.  It turned out to be fine, as the producers were still focused on the first episode that another editor cut…so I had some breathing room.  Still, it took eighteen 12-14 hour days to get this cut done.  3 days more than I was allotted for this.  I hope the next episode will go smoother.  I think it will.

OBSTACLE #4: other things

Yes, other things needed my attention.  I was on vacation, so was busy trying to work and pack at the same time. Then trying to work with the kids constantly coming in because they heard some cool moment they wanted to see, and they wanted to watch me edit (at that point I switched to using headphones so they couldn’t hear things), and I was trying to deal with two onlines for MSNBC that needed tweaks here and there (Defending Casey Anthony and Ted Bundy: Death Row Tapes.  Casey already aired).

All in all I like my cut.  I will need to go back and “fancify” things…rock and roll it a little.  Add speed effects and cool transitions and the like.  I did a bit while I was doing the rough after seeing what the first cut had, I had to try to keep the same style, and make it “not boring.” I did mainly focus on the story, but also wanted to have SOME cool things to make it stand out.  And that cool stuff takes a while.  I wonder how long the editors of AMERICAN HORROR STORY get to cut a show?  I’ll see if the assistant editor Misha comments here and lets us know.  He follows me on Twitter, and we’ve had pizza together…so I hope he might.

OK…the cut is done, and I’m off to eat dinner and watch a movie with my family.  Here’s a picture of my timeline:

Yesterday I took a stab at editing the show using my laptop.  The laptop in question is the new 2012 MacBook Pro…2.3Ghz i7, 8GB of RAM, matte screen. I took the external drive with the episode and connected it via Firewire 800 (glad I got the non-retina…I need that connector).  I ordered a Thunderbolt to DVI/HDMI adapter from monoprice.com for a very reasonable $14 so that I could connect it to one of my Dell 24″ monitors.  Now, the laptop on the desk is a little low, and I’d like to get it semi close to the level of my Dell that I will be connecting it to, but I didn’t get a laptop stand…not for this test.  I’m too cheap…actually, too busy to go buy one.  So I used a box.

Yes, a box.

So as you can see, I have the laptop on the left, complete with project window, bins and mixer.  The large Dell has the Composer and timeline window. Nothing feeding my broadcast monitor yet.  I’m saving up for the AJA IOXT…or at least the AJA T-TAP.  Although of those only the IO XT has dual Thunderbolt, so I could connect the IO box and external monitor.  The T-TAP has one Thunderbolt port, so it’d be a choice of external monitor, or second computer monitor.  Not both….unless I shelled out for an Apple Display.  Not gonna happen.

So I set out to edit, and edit I did.

The new computer was definitely faster than my old one…a 2008 Octo-Core 3.0Ghz Mac Pro with 16GB of RAM. It ran circles around it.  It was able to keep up with my keystrokes, where the MacPro lagged behind a few keystrokes.  It scrubbed better, less skippy. Less beach balls.  Faster renders.  It was great.

Sorta.

You see, I have a script I need to follow, and I didn’t want to print it out and waste paper.  I like to look at it on the computer. But because I was editing with my computer, I could just lean over an look at the script.  I had to hide the Avid interface, or click away from it…read…then go back.  Distracting to say the least.  And I still needed to check email, look at show notes contained in emails, tweet, and iChat with the wife.  More than a few people on Twitter suggested that I get an iPad for this.  But guys, I just shelled out $2200 for a new laptop, I’m not about to shell out $500 more for an iPad.  Not just for reading the script.  The screen was small.  I’m used to two 24″ Dells to look at.  Suddenly I had a 15″ and a 24″.  It might have been better to have the second monitor to be smaller too. I might look into that.

So I put up with it for the day, but that was it.  I switched back to the tower the next day…just so I could have my script at my ready. But I miss my laptop already as the edit station.  It was solid.  A pretty good replacement for my tower, at least for running Avid Symphony and FCP.  I haven’t tackled Premiere with it yet.  I did tackle FCP with it today, rendering out an online I am working on at the same time.  The renders were much faster, and I didn’t get any General Errors like I did with the Tower. The laptop was better.

I might have to print out the script.  Because I under such a crunch, any speed boost would help.

*snifff!*  I love that new computer smell.

Yes, I did it.  I got a new MacBook Pro.  2.3Ghz i7 with 8GB of RAM.

My older one…a 2008 model…had a cracked LCD that I tried to replace, and it worked for a while, but the panel just won’t continue to work. Loos connection.  And then my entertainment center MacMini died (logic board), so I put my old MBP in the entertainment center…and waited 3 weeks until WWDC and the new MacBook Pro announcements.  It paid off…a new one was released.

But TWO were released.  An updated original, and the new ‘retina display’ model.  I opted to get the updated original, as it has all the connection types I need, and I can update components when I see fit. The new Retina MBP is non-upgradeable.  The RAM is soldered on, the battery is glued in, the hard drive is soldered and glued, the GFX card is soldered in.  If anything breaks…you need to send the unit in and get it replaced. Plus I hate…and I mean totally despise…the GLOSSY display.  They blow chunks.  Rarely am I in “ideal lighting conditions” with my laptop.

So I special ordered the new updated MBP.  And it arrived today.  Woot!

But, it shipped with the most current OS, 10.7.4.  As it should.  Only I plan on installing Avid Symphony 6 on this, as well as FCP Legacy and Adobe CS6, and the current version of Avid MC and Symphony is only supported on 10.7.2.  So…I’m going to install Lion fresh, and then the combo update to 10.7.2.  And then copy over all my data and install apps.  I do plan on using this on my new Avid show, just to see how it performs vs my 2008 MacPro.

EDIT: Seems I cannot even BOOT to Lion 10.7.1.  That’s surprising.  I knew I couldn’t boot to a previous major OS, like Snow Leopard.  But a dot.update?  Surprising.  Guess I’ll be running Symphony under a non-supported system for the time being.

…as in “going native.”  Get it?  OK, sorry…moving on.

I have a new project starting up in June.  This is a revival of a TV series that aired on the Discovery Channel called “A Haunting.”  The name is changing slightly to “An American Haunting,” but will pick up where the last series ended, episode number wise.  This time it is going to be aired on the new DESTINATION AMERICA network, one of their secondary channels.

This will be an interesting project, as it is being produced by New Dominion Pictures out of Suffolk, Virginia…with interviews done around the country and re-creations being shot on the New Dominion backlot in Suffolk…and post will happen in Los Angeles.  Well, not only L.A., two of the three editors will be here.  The third is on the east coast, based out of Philly, although he is relocating to Virginia for the production so that one editor is at home base.  The assistant editor will also be in Suffolk in the main offices, and will prep the footage for the editors there.

(New Dominion was a very busy production company 10 years ago, with multiple shows happening at the same time. But they had to shutter their doors and sell off just about everything when the re-creation market dried up in favor of cheaper “reality” programming. Thus the need to re-build from the ground up).

It will be shot with the new Canon C300, and we will have two of them going.  The camera shoots to MXF in the XDCAM format, and that is only one of the reasons we have decided to use Avid Media Composer, and Symphony, to cut and finish this show. We will use AMA to access the media, then consolidate it to our drives, keeping it in the native format. In many cases, these files will then be grouped as multi-camera clips. We’ve done a few tests, and it seems to work well. And the plan is to finish using the Symphony software, that all of us editors will have anyway.

Final Cut Pro 7 was touched upon, but because of the cameras used, the transcode time involved…and because we want to move forward with technology that will keep up with the ever changing production landscape, we opted to go with Avid Symphony and Media Composer 6.  Build systems that will move forward.  Yes, there is Adobe Premiere…but because the assisting will be done in Virginia, and media shipped to Los Angeles, and all sorts of media management needing to happen, and needing to be rock solid, Avid seemed like the obvious choice.

FCP-X was mentioned, but not considered, as none of the editors were interested in using it.

Adobe CS6 was a thought…because of how it works with files natively.  And because the editing workflow, editing language, was very close to FCP 7.  And all the editors were well versed with FCP 7. But the main reason we chose not to use it was media management issues.  Currently they are below where FCP 7 is…and as many know, FCP 7’s media management was pretty iffy.  I will be more than willing to use Premiere Pro CS6 on a single editor show or special…and for many of the smaller projects I work on.  But for this show, with an assistant editor in Virginia, ingesting and organizing the media for two editors in L.A. and the other in a third location, and with a short production schedule, we opted to go for Avid editing solutions as they are tried and true with media management. Rock solid.  And with Symphony being offered to people with FCP 7 licenses for $999…all three editors will be going that route. The main office going for Media Composer, as they are starting post from the ground up.

This will give me the opportunity to edit full time in my home office on my system. Lately I have been working on systems at production companies primarily, and using my system for smaller side projects that I do after hours. I will be able to sit in front of my own system, full time, for the first time in over a year. During the heat of the summer, so I need to make sure the huge stand-alone AC unit is up and running soon.

And just as I started this blog when I made my transition from FCP to Avid…now I’ll blog about my transition from FCP back to Avid.  Triumphs and frustrations.

I started this blog in 2005, when I made my leap from editing on an Avid in standard definition…to editing with FCP in high definition…thus the name Little Frog in High Def (Little Frog being my Indian name from my youth). This blog was me talking about my foray into the world of HD specifically using Final Cut Pro…for broadcast TV shows. A diary of my successes and my failures…lessons I wanted to share so that people could learn from my…well, successes and failures.

So now, with the EOL of FCP and me moving back to using Avid Media Composer…and Adobe Premiere…I’d like to list off my 10 favorite things about FCP that I will miss.  My favorite features that made me love the application.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still use it for a while, my current job as a matter of fact most likely will use it for a few more years.  Companies out here tend to do that…use what they have because it works…until it no longer works (in some cases, even when it doesn’t work).  I post these in hopes that the other NLE makers will see them and go “yeah, that’s a cool feature” and try to incorporate it into their future releases.

Here are the top 10 favorite features that I’ll miss in FCP…in no particular order:

1. Resolution independence. I like that I can add HD to an SD sequence, and it works fine.  720p in a 1080p sequence look fine too.  And I can take 1080, put it into a 720p sequence, and scale and reposition to show what I want to show.  Adobe has this too…Avid does not. If I put a 1080p clip into a 720p project…it becomes 720p.

2. Audio mixing on the timeline, and with keystrokes. My favorite ability is to lasso audio, and press the CONTROL key and bracket and + – keys to increase and decrease audio by a few db.  Control brackets adjusts by 3db in either direction, – and + by 1db.  This allows for very quick and very precise audio mixing. And if I didn’t do that, just toggling Clip Overlays brings up the level lines and I can drag up or down, quickly add keyframes for more controlled audio dips.  Yeah, Avid does this too, but it isn’t as elegant. And Avid doesn’t do keyboard audio mixing. Nor Adobe.

3. Speaking of audio…I like having more than 16 tracks of realtime audio. Most times I don’t have more than 8-14 channels of audio, but it isn’t all that rare for me to have between 24 and 48 channels of audio. I have been in that boat many a time, especially when dealing with 6 people on individual mics, the need to add b-roll audio, extensive sound design for SFX, and smoother music editing.  And yes, as a picture editor I am responsible for a lot of the pre-mix. Many clients/network execs can’t watch a cut with temp sounding audio…so it needs to sound finished.  And be very in depth.  Avid stops at 24 total tracks of audio…only 16 audible at a time.  PPro is better…it allows, well, at least 48. Although the audio mixer is track based, not clip based, and mixing audio on the timeline is lacking…more difficult than it should be.

4. The ability to work with picture files at full size on the timeline without plugins. Being able to add picture files, in their full size (well, they have to be under 4000 pixels or FCP gives the über helpul “general error”) onto my timeline and do small moves, or temp moves on them and have them remain sharp is handy.  Avid imports still as media, unless you use the Avid Pan & Zoom plugin, which allows for manipulation. But isn’t as easy as direct picture access.  Adobe works like FCP in this respect…so that is good.

5. Clip enable/disable. With the click of Control-B, I could turn off clips in the timeline that I had highlighted…rendering them invisible and silent.  This was a quick and easy way to see clips under clips, without turning off track visibility and un-rendering EVERYTHING. It enabled me to only turn of portions of my timeline. To be fair, Avid doesn’t need this, as you can monitor separate video tracks, and go under clips without losing one render.  Disabling audio files quickly, so that I can only hear the music though…that is something Avid doesn’t do. Yeah, I could click-click-click to turn off tracks.  But it is so easy to lasso/disble in two quick strokes. And I could use it to turn off clips surrounding others for easier soloing of audio elements.

6. Simple compositing on the timeline. FCP is a far better compositor than Avid…for an NLE. Adobe is good too, but the simplicity and ease that I can composite shots in FCP dwarfs what I can do in the Avid.  And I can blend elements better, add filters to single clips only, rather than from a clip, and everything below that clip.  Composite modes right there on the timeline for many cool effects (not all broadcast safe, so beware). Building a composite shot, or funky transition is easy in FCP…a tad more involved and difficult with Avid.  As I said earlier, Adobe Premiere Pro does this well too.

7. The wide variety of plugins.  Let’s face it, there are simply a LOT of plugins available for FCP.  Enough free ones to keep you occupied and happy…and dozens more cheap ones.  A few spendy ones.  But really, A LOT of plugins.  Did I use them all? No, I have favorites, and I don’t rely on them a lot.  But when I need them, I know that I have a wide variety that I can choose from, give the look I want to make.  Avid has darn few, and of those few, they are EXPENSIVE. The only free ones are the ones built in.  There are no great free fan-made plugins for Avid.  FCP had lots of people doing this for free…for fun. FCP has a great and vast plugin community.

8. Organization of materials. This is big…so big that I had a tutorial DVD that covered all aspects of this topic. I am big on organization.  But the strength of this, the beauty of it, was also a curse. If you are new to FCP, or don’t know how it dealt with assets or  just weren’t paying attention, you could hose your project in a big way, or make life difficult down the road.  So it’s a gift, and a curse…to quote Monk.  FCP allowed for organizing footage in the project, and outside of the project, on the desktop level. It kept all tape imports and tapeless imports separated by project. And renders as well.  All captured/imported media was imported into the Capture Scratch folder, into project subfolders.  This made it really easy to find only the assets used by certain projects. I liked to make one folder per project, point FCP to that project for captures and renders, and make folders for audio assets, stills, graphics…everything.  So that all assets for one project were in one location. Easy to backup, easy to transfer…easy to delete.  The danger of the way FCP did things is that if you just grabbed a picture file, or audio file from your desktop and put it into the FCP project, the original file REMAINED on the desktop. So when you transferred the media to a drive for mobile editing, or to hand off, you might forget those odd stray files. So you really had to pay attention and be organized on the desktop level, and in the application. But this was a REALLY powerful way of doing things.

Adobe does this too…so that point is moot.

Avid doesn’t. Avid puts ALL imported assets, regardless of project, into one location. Or if you need to use multiple drives, into single folder locations on multiple drives.  And the media wasn’t accessable via the desktop level, all organization needed to be done inside the Media Composer itself.  I find this limiting.  But, it is just one way that Avid keeps track of everything, and VERY well.  There are power-user things you can do, like change the MXF folder names so that you keep multiple folders, separated out by project. But you should only do this if you know what you are doing, and know how Avid does things.

9. Exporting a Quicktime file with multiple channels of discreet audio.  Before MC6, this was something ONLY Final Cut Pro did. In fact, when I asked someone how to do this from Avid as DNxHD, they responded “it can’t. And that is the reason we have one FCP station, so that we can do just that.” But now, with MC 6, I can do that too. Isn’t as smooth as it is in FCP, but it is close, and will only improve.  Adobe PPro cannot do that…it has Mono, Stereo, and Dolby 5.1 options only. We’ll have to see if CS6 adds this ability.

10 – The ability to import only portions of tapeless media via Log and Transfer.  In Final Cut Pro you can import only portions of clips if you want.  Have a 1 hour clip of nothing, then 2 min of something happening?  Import only that.  Premiere Pro, being native only, does not do this. All or nothing. With Avid, you have to do a few tricks…extra steps.  Access via AMA, put your selects onto a timeline, and then transcode.  I guess that isn’t too bad, but not as slick as Log and Transfer.  And again, Premiere Pro doesn’t do this.

OK…eleven things.  I will also miss the ability to open multiple projects…and especially multiple sequences.

Avid and PPro have improved, and might now include something I used to only be able to do in FCP.  Either that or I simply only have 9 things.  Either way, I’m keeping the title the same…sounds better to say “my top 10 list” rather than “my top 9 list.”  Monk knows what I’m talking about.

Please feel free to add your favorite features you will miss in the comments section. Doesn’t need to be 10, but I am interested in what tricks other people do in FCP, that aren’t doable in other apps.

I’m going to start out by saying that I was one of the beta testers of this version of Media Composer. One of a couple hundred actual end-users of the software. Editors from all walks of professional life who used the beta on some of our actual projects. Because it was a beta I only used it on non-time critical projects, but I did use it in real world application. Avid is showing a true commitment to professional editors by having the pros test every aspect of MC6 and provide feedback. Even on the UI. There were several instances when Avid conferenced-called us users and got our feedback on what we liked and didn’t like. What worked and didn’t work. And the feedback was almost instantaneous, as we’d have a new build to look at every week or two. They really listened to their base.

OK…that all said and done, let’s move onto the new features of Media Composer 6.0.

I will start first with what we all see when we first open up the application…the User Interface (UI). It has been updated from the old UI we have been using for a decade or two now, and it is pretty sleek. It is something we all got a taste of at the Avid Event in July (that I blogged about here), but at that time it wasn’t locked down. There were minor changes done since then…refinements to every part of the interface. Here, I’ll show you several pics, so you can see for yourself.

Here is a big picture of the grey interface.

And here is a pic of the black interface (what I use)

You can have it look the normal flat grey…or you can go very dark grey.

You can choose one of 6 highlight colors (I like gold personally, and very dark). Missing are all the bin color options and various window color options, which I find refreshing. Mainly because I’d open up my in my assistant’s (or another editors) settings and be confronted with neon chaos. Avid is now keeping this simple. Some may like it, some may not. MC6_TimecodeReadout The timecode displays in the Composer window are green, like you’d see on a deck. This is not modifiable…which is fine by me (and the other editors on the beta). It is very readable, and stands out, without being obnoxious.

There are bin highlight colors on the top bar, so you can see which bin is active. Note that the close/expand/minimize button are also colored when active, so they are easily spotted.

Clip color. Instead of highlighting the whole clip in the bin with the color, there is a little box next to the clip that contains the color. And if you right-click on that, you can change the color to what you want…within a limited palette.

And you can move that box indicating clip color to wherever in the bin you want.

Meanwhile, on the timeline, the entire clip does show up as the color you gave it in the bin, making it easy to spot. And if you change the color in the bin, the color is instantly changed on the timeline as well. One thing you may notice with those above pictures…the bin has TABS.

This is yet another idea that Avid has borrowed from FCP (because it is very useful), BIN TABS. Now instead of a SUPERBIN, which I personally despised because navigating between bins wasn’t easy, and the single click nature of it went against all my muscle memory of opening bins. So now you can have one bin that is several, just click back and forth on the tabs. This is great if you are working on a laptop, and also great if you are in the habit of opening lots of bins on your tower to access a variety of footage. And you can rearrange the order of the tabs too, by dragging them where you want. Sorry, no tabbed sequences. Avid is still limited to one sequence open at a time.

One big thing that I need to point out is that Avid didn’t do any radical changes. Meaning that they didn’t re-arrange buttons on us. They didn’t change the interface as drastically as Apple did with FCP-X. They know, as they got constant feedback from us editors, that we rely heavily on muscle memory in order to edit quickly. Start moving things and things go haywire, and we get grumpy (note the Smart Tool). And if you don’t like where some, or ALL of the buttons are, you can open the Command Palette and put whatever you want, wherever you want. The Smart Tool was a minor change that Avid added to MC 5, and that small change caused a lot of uproar within the Avid community. It was a good change, in my opinion, as it did offer an improved toolset (borrowing again from FCP). But Avid has learned that make too many drastic changes, and you risk angering your base. And really, why fix what isn’t broken? The interface works. If you don’t think so…change it to your hearts delight. The tools are there.

Alright, now let’s delve deeper into things, moving on to the 64-bit architecture that MC6 is built on. Now, what you won’t get with this is what you see with other 64-bit NLEs…like 8 layers of video with text and moving graphics and no need to render. Sorry, you won’t get that with this version of Media Composer. But what 64-bit does for this version of Media Composer is fix a lot of issues it had with previous versions. It enables the application to utilize more RAM, so that it can handle some of the routine tasks better. Like sluggish performance when you had multiple bins open, or bins with tons of footage. When scrolling on long, complex timelines. When keyframing or dealing with effects. 64-bit simply makes things faster…more responsive. Less waiting on our end. This means that I no longer press 15 keyboard combinations to complete a task and then 15-30 seconds later the Avid catches up with me. No, now it keeps pace with me. Scrolling on the timeline is quicker, zippier…no lag on long complex sequences. I can click on a clip, open the effects editor, make changes, and close the editor as quick as I can click. If you are new to Avid, this is something you won’t really notice. But if you are an old hand, you’ll see how 64-bit breathes new life into the application, making it able to work as fast as we can.

What 64-bit also opens the door for, hopefully, is background rendering and background transcoding. Those aren’t things available with this version of Media Composer. Those are just hopes that I have for future options. And I think they are possible.

I know what you are thinking…well, some of you anyway. Does 64-bit enhance Avid’s AMA? Meaning, can we now access footage via AMA in it’s native format, and edit that native format without loss of performance? Well, I did test this, and for many formats (like DVCPRO HD, XDCAM, AVCHD, ProRes and RED) direct AMA does work well. Far better than previous versions. So your edit times are greatly sped up because the need to transcode to Avid codecs isn’t always required. You can work natively with many professional formats, saving you hours of transcoding time. And even a few minutes of savings, multiplied by multiple edit bays, over a few days, adds up.

But some formats, such as H.264 from DSLR camera, AMA and working native isn’t a viable option for longer programs. It is quicker, at first. But add more and more clips, and it slows down. Transcoding is still a better option for that format.

Speaking of which…Avid has added a new codec. DNxHD 4444. Now they too have a full 4:4:4 codec. Alpha channel support isn’t quite there yet, but it will be soon.

AND, Avid Media Composer on the Mac can now encode to ProRes (Sorry, not available for Windows). Yup, all of the ProRes codecs are available…ProRes Proxy, ProRes LT, ProRes, ProRes HQ and ProRes 4444 (ProRes 4444 is available when your timeline is set to an RGB colorspace). You can encode to a ProRes Quicktime file when you do an export of your sequence, or, as you can see in the picture…

…capture or encode to ProRes MXF.

ProRes support is not limited to Quicktime, but available as MXF as well. So if you have ProRes QT media that you want to work with in the Avid, but you don’t want to transcode that footage to DNxHD as that will result in quality loss, or perhaps a gamma shift…you can either Fast Import it, or access via AMA and transcode as ProRes MXF. This causes the ProRes QT file to simply be re-wrapped as MXF…zero quality loss! How does that grab you? All that footage you captured while using FCP is available at full resolution in Avid MC6.

And Avid has expanded support for the RED and AVCHD formats as well. This is a clear sign that Avid is moving towards being more of an open application. Open to more workflows, more formats…and more hardware.

And remember when in July Avid announced that they’d be supporting third party hardware from AJA, Matrox, BlackMagic Design, MOTU and BlueFish? But they couldn’t say which specific models they’d be able to support? Well, I can now provide you with a full list…in a bit. I tested the AJA Kona LHi with Media Composer 6…and the first time I captured video with it I did a happy dance. Yup, I got up and danced about in my bay/garage. Here I was, capturing video into my Avid using an AJA card…and it WORKED! I did all sorts of capturing: HDCAM, HDCAM (using the Sony JH-3 deck), digibeta, betaSP, BetaSX (using the Sony J-30)…all very successfully. When you choose the VIDEO TOOL, the AJA Control panel opens up. If you have used this card with FCP, the interface is exactly the same…all the tools you had before with the Kona cards, are available here. One feature I rely on a lot with the Kona is the great clean upconverts I get with it. Upconverting BetaSP and Digibeta to 1080i HD are commonplace in my world. And the card still does that beautifully. And I can capture as 1:1, or 2:1, or DNxHD, or ProRes HQ MXF.

I didn’t test output, as I only had access to player decks. But rest assured, that is supported as well. So all the hardware can capture, and output…they aren’t limited solely to output.

This is a HUGE thing for Avid. This means that if you already own this hardware due to having a Final Cut Pro workstation…or several Final Cut Pro workstations, you can simply purchase Media Composer 6.0, install it, and run it on all the same hardware you did before. You heard me right…NO NEW HARDWARE. You can transition to Avid and still be able to capture tapes, output to tape, output to your broadcast and client monitors, without skipping a beat. So where Apple might have left you high and dry with the release of FCP-X, Avid throws you a line and lets you continue to work with the professional tools you need without major costs involved.

Now, what does this mean for the Avid hardware? Why should I buy a Nitris DX for the new discounted price of $5499 when i can get a Kona 3G and K-Box for under $3000? I thought of the same thing. Well, the selling point for the DX hardware (Nitris and Mojo) is that with them, you get several advantages:.

- HD-RGB capture through dual link
- DNxHD encoding (dual stream) Hardware encoding, built into the box
- AVC-Intra encoding (dual stream), hardware encoding, built into the box
- Both DNxHD and AVC-Intra encoders in the box at the same time
- Full frame stereoscopic (3D) capture/monitor/output
- Thin raster format support (meaning that it takes the burden of stretching out anamorphic footage to full screen off of the computer and shoulders the task itself)
- Dual live sync
- Always active analog and digital audio monitoring

The third party options have other limitations as well: LTC I/O isn’t supported (but RS-422 is), they cannot be used to perform audio punch-ins on tape, they don’t support full frame stereoscopic capture or output, don’t support ancillary data nor universal mastering. So if you need a high end Avid with all the options available, it is best to get the DX hardware. The third party cards work fine, they just don’t do everything.

OK, that list of supported hardware I promised? Here it is:

AJA: Kona 3, Kona 3G, Kona LHi, Kona LHe Plus and IO Express

MATROX: MXO2, MXO2 LE, MXO2 Mini, MXO2 Rack (and all the MAX versions as well)

BlackMagic Design: All current DeckLink, Multibridge, Intensity and UltraStudio models.

MOTU: HDX-SDI and HD Express

BlueFish: All models.

So we have a new UI, 64-bit architecture, ProRes encode, third party hardware IO support…and 3D support

Ah… 3D. If you are going to be working in 3D anytime soon, you will be working with an Avid Media Composer. It pretty much is the only option going now. Final Cut Pro? Sure, with the aid of a third party plugin…but FCP 7 is End of Life, so that will be short lived. And FCX doesn’t do 3D, so that is a dead end. Sure, you can use FCP 7 for some current 3D workflows, but it being discontinued means that it won’t advance with technology. And the current workflows can be a tad complicated. Adobe Premiere Pro? At this time it too will only do 3D with the help of third party plugins. And again, the workflow is a bit involved. So if you are going to be working with 3D, the clear choice is Avid Media Composer 6. It is the only NLE that makes it simple. Avid has 3D sewn up tight.

Artist Color. With the acquisition of Euphonix, Avid now has a great color correction interface tool, the Artist Color. This works with all the built in Avid color correction tools, and interfaces with Resolve and Color as well. And it controls the Avid timeline for those keen on a tool to do that. And it is only $1500 to boot!

And I need to mention that with this release, Avid Symphony will be available as a software only option. And it too works with all the third party capture cards. How about them apples?

Finally, Avid has added a new feature that will greatly help those of us in the documentary world. The Avid Marketplace. This is an in-system portal to the Thought Equity Motion stock footage library, which allows you to download footage directly into the Avid…track that footage and the footage costs, and then order and download master footage that will then replace the lower resolution versions in your timeline. Avid isn’t limiting itself to Though Equity, it is just starting with them. We might soon see other stock footage libraries added to the Marketplace so that we have a wider variety of options. The Marketplace also enables customers to browse available audio and video plugins, so the won’t need to scour the web for them.

All in all I am very pleased with the current release. It might not have all the WHIZ BANG POW that people might have been expecting with the 64-bit architecture, but it does pack a punch. I was very pleased with the performance on the timeline when scrolling through footage, and when the system was able to keep pace with my keystrokes, no matter how fast I went, how many bins I had open and how big my timeline was. I like the fact that the UI has an updated look, but didn’t change where the buttons are, and didn’t change the editing workflow. I love that Avid now has tabbed bins. I liked how I could bring in my RED footage via AMA and work with the footage natively, without transcoding. I jumped for joy and did a happy dance when I was able to capture footage with my Kona card, meaning that I can transition back to Avid and retain all of my hardware. I like that I can fast-import all of my ProRes footage without losing one ounce of quality.

OH…and one more little trick that Avid has up it’s sleeve that isn’t in the press release, and only came out when I complained to an Avid employee at a recent Customer Advisory Board meeting. He informed me that Avid MC6 now allows the export of self contained Quicktime files with multiple channels of embedded audio. Mappable to the channels that you want. Meaning that I don’t need to resort to FCP or Quicktime Pro when I need to deliver that DNxHD Quicktime file with 16 channels of discreet audio. You can now do this directly from the Avid.

I give Avid MC6 a thumbs up.

OH…and to quote the great detective Colombo…”one more thing…” Avid Media Composer 6 on the Mac side is Mac OS 10.7 LION only, and Windows 7 only on the PC side. It won’t run on Snow Leopard or Windows Vista. So in an uncharacteristic move…but something I’m sure has to do with the 64-bit nature of the app…Avid software only works on the most current OS.

Pricing and Availability

New versions of Media Composer, Symphony and NewsCutter software will be available on November 15, 2011. Beginning with these releases, NewsCutter will be available for the same price as Media Composer, Symphony 6.0 will be available as a standalone software option and Nitris DX will be available as a standalone hardware option.

• Pricing for Media Composer 6.0 starts at $2499 USD. Upgrade pricing starts at $299 USD.
• NewsCutter 10 starts at $2499 USD. Upgrade pricing starts at $499 USD.
• Pricing for Symphony 6.0 starts at $5,999 USD. Upgrade pricing starts at $499 USD.
• Nitris DX starts at $5,499 USD.
• Pricing for Media Composer Academic version 6.0 starts at $295 USMSRP for educational institutions and students.
• Final Cut Pro (excluding Final Cut Pro X) users can purchase Media Composer with free online training to help them move from Final Cut Pro to Media Composer, for $1499 USD.

First, I’d like to point out two excellent articles about FCP-X and the future of post. First, a blog post by Oliver Peters, and then a Creative Cow Article by Walter Biscardi.  Both very good and in depth.

OK, now on to me.

I finally downloaded the FCP-X trial and explored the application for a full day. Prior to this, I used it briefly for two hours. But now, while spending all day trying to make something with it, I discovered that I disliked  just about everything about it.  Every minute I spent using it made it worse because it was backwards from the way I like to work.  But I guess that is how it is designed…to be unlike any other NLE, and to do things very differently.  But is the different way better?  Not for me. Am I too tied to TRACKS?  Maybe. To tied to two monitors when working?  Maybe. Dislike that I needed the Skimmer on to view footage in my EVENT, but that meant that the Skimmer would be on in the timeline too, and every time I moved the mouse, I’d be hit with a barrage of hyper fast audio? Definitely.

I had a list of all the issues I had with FCP X, and I was going to gripe about every one, but then my blog went down for five days giving me time to think about things and I’m not going to post another rant.  I am only going to say that I will not be using FCP X in the forseeable future.  Why?  Well, it doesn’t solve any post issues that I currently need solving, and the whole reason why I moved to Final Cut Pro in the first place was that it solved a big post issue I was facing

You see, I started this blog many many years ago, April 2005 to be exact, when I made my leap from Avid Media Composer to Final Cut Pro.  I had been using FCP for a couple years before that (starting with FCP 3) on smaller side projects, like actor demo reels, a handful of short films, a couple of corporate videos.  But I didn’t think it was quite right for me to use on broadcast work…even though FCP 3 was enabled to do this with the RT Mac and Cinewave hardware cards.  It wasn’t until FCP 4.5 came out with it’s native workflow with DVCPRO HD that it caught my attention.

See, I was working at the time on a National Geographic series that was shot with the Varicam to tape at 23.98…720p 23.98.  But the Avid Meridians that we were using couldn’t deal with that format…they were SD only…so we dubbed all the footage to DV tape and offlined that way.  And then when the time came to online, we were faced with a big issue…The Avid Adrenaline that we were onlining with didn’t do 720p…only 1080.  So we needed to upconvert everything, and deal with the 29.97 to 23.98 frame rate difference, and that was complicated, and costly.  We went over budget by just over a hundred grand for 9 episodes.  Not good.

Shortly thereafter I was asked to edit a History Channel series on the Mexican American War…and the producer wanted to shoot with the Varicam.  I was hesitant, given my recent experience.  And while Avid did release an update shortly AFTER our online to allow for 720p onlines…I had just been to a LAFCPUG meeting where I saw FCP 4.5 demo’d showing how it could capture DVCPRO HD from tape natively.  No offline/online…it was online from the start.  And it was 720p…23.98.  Final Cut Pro offered a solution to a post production issue I needed solving.  So I leapt on it.  Then we were going to also try to shoot with the new Panasonic P2 cameras as b-roll…and FCP was the only NLE to actually work with that format as well…so it was a no brainer.  (If you want to see my experiences with that, dig into the archives).

So…with the release of FCP-X and how Apple seems to have changed the way it feels editors should work…it doesn’t offer any solutions to any post workflow needs I have.  In fact, it actually lacks many features I need for the type of work I do. Other than being able to string pictures together to tell a story, and make the audio sound decent and picture look OK…it is missing everything I need to master for broadcast.  You know the list…no OMF for audio mixing, no output to a broadcast monitor for color grading, no ability to export to Color or Resolve for grading, no way to export multi-channel audio that I need (oh, wait, with the update I now have ROLES…), and on and on.

So, instead of trying to make it work…or wait for it to eventually work…I will be looking at the alternatives.  Going back to Avid Media Composer…and exploring Adobe Premiere Pro…both of which are making advances yet retaining the basic editing methodology that editors rely on to edit quickly, and concentrate on the creative and not the technical. They solve the post issues that I am currently faced with.

I made a quick tutorial in response to someone asking in a forum “Are there any free plugins for Avid for flash frame or blur dissolves? I don’t have Boris…”

That tutorial can be found here.

OK, I can finally come up for air.  August was a VERY busy month for me.  On top of my regular day job, I took on two side jobs (after hours work).  One was really easy…online a 23 min reality show.  That was straightforward and I was able to do it in two four-hour nights.

But the other one…well, that was a doozie. It’s the one I blogged about last time…the one that required the DNxHD Quicktime with 12 channels of embedded audio.  That wasn’t the only tricky part. The show, that was edited at 23.98, needed to be delivered at 29.97.  This was easy, actually.  Because of MIX AND MATCH (available since Avid MC 4) I could easily convert the timeline and have it look right.  We were given the uprezzed project (they edited low res, DNxHD36 from XDCAM EX, uprezzed to DNxHD175) as 23.98.  Then I would open that project, and remove all the matte graphics…all the lower thirds and other keyable graphics they had in the project.  Because while I can convert the media to 29.97, mattes won’t.

I put the prepped sequence in a new bin.  Then created a 1080i59.94 (29.97) project, and dragged the bin into it.  I then opened the bin, and double clicked on the sequence.  I was prompted with a message stating “This sequence is of a different frame rate than the project.  Would you like to convert it to 29.97?” Why yes, I would!  So it did.  When we tried this with the mattes in the sequence, it said “whoa whoa whoa…I can’t do that.  You have matte graphics in here!”  (I’m paraphrasing)

Now, when I did this, the timecode was way off.  I mean, the original sequence was 48:00:00, but the converted sequence was over an hour long.  In looking at the sequence, stepping through frame by frame, I noted that several timecode numbers were missing.  At first every 5th number, so I was missing 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 00.  But then later, I was missing 1, 6, 12, 18, 24.  Really odd.  To correct this I loaded the sequence into the Source monitor, made a new sequence and just cut in the old sequence into the new one.  That fixed things.  We were back to picture ending at 1;48;00;00.

But what caused that? Well, it appears to be because they cut with a 23.98 Drop Frame timeline. Wait…what? 23.98 DROP FRAME timeline?  But 23.98 is a non-drop frame only format…right?  Well, yes.  On tape, and with QT files, 23.98 is non-drop only.  But apparently Avid MC 5 (not sure about earlier versions) allow you to have 23.98 drop frame sequences.  I’m guessing they do this to allow you to cut to a proper drop frame time for delivery.  Clever.  But, it does have that small hiccup of an issue.  Figured that workaround though…

OK, the frame rate conversion was done. And it was delivered in high resolution, all I need to do now is color correct it.  Yes, I could do it in Avid MC, but I don’t that much time, and I am a tad rusty with color correcting in Avid MC, and I really like the control I have with Color…so…I thought I’d go with Color. But, I cannot SEND TO Color like I can with FCP.  So, what did I do?

Simple.  I exported a Quicktime file from Avid MC 5.5…encoded as ProRes 422 (Because Color doesn’t work with DNxHD).  At first I tried exporting as DNxHD and then converting to ProRes with Compressor, but when I did that, I got the famous gamma shift.  But I found if I exported directly to ProRes (something that requires FCP be installed on the system) I didn’t get that gamma shift.  So I exported the QT file, and then I exported an EDL.  What made that easy is that all the video was on one layer.  Well, after I prepped the cut and moved things to one layer.  And then I launched Color and imported the EDL into Color. When you choose the option to use it as a “cut list,” Color then knows that there’s a media file that this references. So it asks for the path to the QT export.  So I selected the EDL, the path to the QT file, chose settings for 1920×1080 29.97, and clicked OK.

And Color imported the media, all chopped up…perfectly.  And yes, where there was a dissolve, Color added dissolves.

I color corrected and then…hmmm, now what?  Rendering.  The options I have are to render as QT…ProRes, AJA 10-bit codec, or Uncompressed, or as an Image Sequence.  I could do 10-bit, but that requires a LOT of space.  And I did still need to do a playback with the client, and have them give changes, and I wanted to do the changes in real time…so I opted to render as ProRes HQ, and playback in FCP.

Yes, this is adding adding a layer or two of compression.  DNxHD175 to ProRes 422 HQ, rendered again as ProRes HQ.  And then exported out as a self contained file (when all the color notes are done), and then using AMA to bring that into Avid MC, transcode to DNxHD220 (the delivery requirement, and because we would be adding titles in MC), again, being able to avoid the gamma shift (the AMA clip and transcoded material matched exactly).  That’s three conversions (DNxHD to ProRes HQ, render to ProRes HQ, transcode to DNxHD)… but that is fine. DNxHD and ProRes are very good compressed formats and hold up well after many conversions.  And, this is not any less than I would be doing if we, say, output to tape, color corrected on a DaVinci, then output to another tape, captured that tape in Avid again for titling.  It might be one more than I’d get with Resolve (as it reads the Avid media, and renders back out Avid media)…but it did hold up VERY well.

Slightly tricky?  Yes…but it worked.  FCP was used in this case only as a means to get the footage from Color to Avid (export self contained QT file)…and as a means of playback.  Well, that’s not true.  I did do the blurring required in FCP, with Andy’s Region Blur.  Because it is far better than the blurring the client was able to do (more subtle).  But other than that, just an in-between option.  So it looks like I can get a bit more mileage out of COLOR while being able to move to Avid Media Composer.  And I was able to convert 23.98 to 29.97 inside the Avid with very good results. Something I couldn’t do inside FCP…and if I used Compressor, would end up taking quite a while rendering.

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.

OK, to most of you from FCP land, keeping media separate by project is a no-brainer.  Because FCP did that for you.  In your Capture Scratch drive you had a Capture Scratch folder, and render folders, and in there you’d have different folders for different projects:

If you wanted to manage it even more, you could make folders with project names to point FCP to as the CAPTURE SCRATCH.  So that you could just back up the entire folder, capture scratch and all the render files.  So instead of “Captures and Renders” like I have above, you’d have CAPE MAY, and then Audio Renders, Capture Scratch, Renders…and so on.  Keeping media separate was easy.  And if you wanted to manually organize the footage on the Finder level even more, you could.

But Avid Media Composer does things a little differently.

Avid MC will make one folder on your media drives and call it Avid MediaFiles. And inside that will be MXF, then numbered folders.  Inside those numbered folders are your media.

When a project gets really big, there will be more than the “1″ folder. There will be a “2″ and “3″, because there is a file limit of 5000 media files.  But the main point is that no matter what project you have going on, ALL of the media from multiple projects will be stored in that one file path.  All of the organization is done internally in the Avid MC app.  If you need to delete media, you do it in Media Composer.  Move media from one drive to another, you use CONSOLIDATE…inside Media Composer. (Avid’s “Media Manager” for all you FCP people)

But what if you want to copy all of the media used in a project…including render files and precomputes (titles)…to another drive to give to another editor?  Or what if you want to delete all of the media and render files for a certain project.  Well, if you had to do this internally in Avid MC, it could be quite a pain.  You would use the Media Tool, but it does take quite a few steps. A lot of work.  (Or you could get Media Copy by Automatic Duck…that’s pretty slick!) But I have a tip that I can show you how to keep all of your media separated by project.  It’s something you do on the Finder level (or whatever the desktop is called in PC/Windows land).

Let’s say you have only one project going at the moment, so all of the media for that one project is in the Avid MediaFiles folder.  But now you want to start another project up, and you want to keep all of the media separate.  So, all you need to do is change the name of the Avid MediaFiles folder to something else.  Because if the folder is named anything other than “Avid MediaFiles,” Media Composer will not see the media inside.  It’s like playing peekaboo with a baby.  You cover your eyes and suddenly the baby can’t see you. “Where the devil are you?!” Well, that’s what happened to Stewy on FAMILY GUY anyway.  What I do is just add the name of the project to the end of the current name.  So “Avid Media Files X Games,” for example:

Now when I make a new project and start importing media, Avid MC will make a new Avid MediaFiles folder and put the new media in there.  And when I want to switch back to the other project, I just add the project name to the current Avid MediaFiles folder, and take off the added name from the first one, and then launch Avid MC.  Then if I want to copy all of the media and renders associated with the project, I simply drag and drop the entire folder onto another drive.

EDIT: OK, for an even better way of doing this, read the first comment by Ian Johnson.  How to keep your media separate, but online at the same time.  Even better than my tip.  Thanks Ian!  And another by Paul.  Great tips below.