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Little Frog in High Def

Musings of an NLE ronin…

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Category: AVID

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.

I will summarize to the best of my ability, what I heard and experienced at the Avid Event held at the Warner Brothers studio, Stephen J. Ross Theatre, July 13, 2011. To the best of my ability because I didn’t take notes, didn’t tweet, and had three Heinekens.

The evening started off with a video showing all the movies and TV shows that used Avid in their post. But when I saw TRUE GRIT (the new one with Jeff Bridges), I was perplexed, because I knew they used FCP on that. But then I remembered that this wasn’t just a show about Media Composer, but ProTools as well. And I have no doubt it was mixed with ProTools. They had sound bytes from many industry people, including my friend Norm Hollyn. All positive comments…very typical marketting video.

Then on stage they had two editors who had used Avid, switched to FCP, then back to Avid. Alan Bell and Jonathan Alberts.  They both started on Avid, and switched to FCP…and both for similar reasons.  Cost.  Avid systems used to cost upwards $65,000 to $100,000.  And renting them was a huge chunk of change.  Alan said that the budget for the system was more than the budget for him… so he explored other options, found that he could buy FCP and then put the full post budget for editing and the system into his pocket.  This is very true.  This is why a lot of people went to FCP…cost factor.  Jonathan had a similar experience…and was able to convince Fox Studios that FCP would be right for a feature he was cutting.  But then after a few years, they both went back to Avid MC.  Project sharing being a big factor.

A new presenter came on stage and talked about Avid’s recent history…how often updates happened.  Avid MC 3 in June 2008, then 3.5 a year later.  Then 4.0 six months after that.  Then last year in June, MC 5.0…and this year, March 2011, Avid MC 5.5.  That updates were happening faster than ever, because they knew they needed to keep up with current tech.  That they no longer needed to follow, but lead.  They talked about people demanding to work with formats natively, and Avid responded with AMA…and it works with P2, Red, XDCAM, DSLR…and won an Emmy for their efforts.  And that they know that the future of the NLE are the kids, so they have a great pricing plan for students…$295 for a fully functional Media Composer and 4 years of free updates.  DUDE…great time to be a student!

Then the presentation turned to third party support.  Before they continued they put up a legal disclaimer that they said they HAD to do…to protect themselves.  They said that anything they discuss about future possibilities and features “are not a promise.”  They may or may not happen.  They said this was for legal reasons only…that stuff is coming.  But, they needed to cover their butts.

They started off with showing the Matrox MXO2 Mini….then the AJA IO Express, and how they work with Media Composer.  But also showed off the M-Audio device (pardon me for forgetting the name/model), and said that now you can run Avid MC and ProTools on the same system without hardware conflicts.  And then the screen shifted to a new device…the AJA Kona 3 (much applause from the crowd)…and they said “yes, we are listening.”  And then they mentioned that they are not only working with AJA and Matrox…but also MOTU, BlackMagic Design and BlueFish.  And then went on to show that they are looking forward to more plugin support, from Red Giant Software (more applause…from me too.  COLORISTA 2 is what I want on Avid MC).

NEXT…the new UI.  Now, rememeber that I said that I had three Heinekens earlier? Well, I had two before the presentation, so I had to go to the bathroom really bad.  So when they started to show off the UI, I had to dash.  But I did come back in time to see some of the presentation.  Here’s a pic I borrowed from pietaricreative:

But I had seen the new UI before.  I am on one of Avid’s “Customer Advisory Boards.” They invite groups of working professionals to talk about what they are planning for the future, and want our feedback. I saw the new UI then (Oh, UI is USER INTERFACE).  Nice update, great look without changing the tools and locations of buttons we have gotten used to.  VERY sleek.  I love the look of the Audio Tool.

And not only that…64 BIT!  Meaning that it can access more processors, more RAM…and render faster.  64 Bit, and a new UI that doesn’t completely change the way you do things… That’s what we look for in an NLE.  Unless the change is for the good (Smart Tools), changing the user interface because you THINK it will be better is one thing (FCP X for example…not designed by a professional editor with professionals in mind)…but changing the look to make things better.  There were a LOT of working professionals working on this interface, and that is all the difference.  Added speed and functionality under the hood with 64 bit…a new look that is cool, but the steering wheel, gear shift, turn signal and window controls are where you are used to them being.

What else? Support for Dolby Surround 7.1 mixing…IN MEDIA COMPOSER.  More audio functions because editors demanded them.  DNxHD 4444 (more applause!)…and ProRes encoding.  Yes, ProRes ENCODING.  From Media Composer, Mac or PC based.  Because they know that a lot of deliverables are now based around that format.

Then they showed a video of the ELLEN SHOW…on how they were Avid, switched to FCP, then a year later came back to Avid.  This video was a little dated, and very much a marketing tool.  The editors involved were all definitely from Avid backgrounds, so when they said things like “something I did in Media Composer with two steps took five to six steps in FCP,” I rolled my eyes.  Because I know that people from Avid backgrounds don’t run FCP properly.  When i was on a show with 6 editors…4 FCP experts and 2 Avid converts, the only people who constantly had issues where the Avid people.  This was a case of switching to a tool and not having people who knew how to use that tool properly…so they switched back.  BUT, I will say that Avid MC in a shared workflow environment is hands down better than FCP.  No question.  MC lets you work without having to think about the technical stuff.  And with FCP, you need to pay attention to the technical stuff, or crap will happen.  That’s the big difference.  But, with creative editors, not having to think about the technical stuff is a weight off their shoulders.  Only a good thing.

Then the presentation ended, and the mingling began.  They invited us to talk to Avid representatives about our concerns, our wants and our needs.  I stayed in the theatre for a while chatting with my friend Dan Wolfmeyer (@dwolfmeyer), and with Rob Ashe (who I know from twitter as @robtheeditor and just met that evening).  We all came from Avid, and switched to FCP…and were shooting the shit when Angus McKay (Avid employee) came by and wanted to hear our thoughts.

Then I wandered out to the vendor tables.  I spoke to the Red Giant people who assured me that they were working closely with Avid to make plugins for them…GREAT news.  Saw MOTU there, but they were demoing FCP (odd…)…Avid, Matrox, Sorenson.  I wandered outside and looked at the Euphonix Artist Series including the Artist Control and Artist Transport. Not sure how I’d integrate these into my editing workflow, but I sure would like to see what they would add.  Completely programmable..get my hand off that mouse, which I’d like to do.

I met a lot of people I knew, more that I didn’t.  Got a ribbing from Terry Curren of Alpha Dogs (who has a podcast with Phil Hodgetts) about my steadfast devotion to FCP in the past… yeah yeah.  I have always walked in both worlds, but yes, I did prefer FCP.  Now…well, we all see where FCP is going, so coming back to Avid isn’t that big of a transition.

The biggest thing they wanted us to take from this event is…”We are listening.”  Avid of yore (8 or so years ago) became this bloated, content, arrogant thing that we had to listen to.  They released products and we had to do things they wanted…and had to pay through the nose to do it.  They had a strangle hold on us and knew it.  Then when then dumped Apple as the platform…Apple released FCP and slowly FCP crept into Avid’s territory, eating up it’s market share.  That woke Avid up…because suddenly they went from top dog to being on death’s door. They were on the brink of foreclosure.  Avid realized they had to change, and change fast.  LISTEN to the demands of editors, otherwise we would switch to another application…because we could.  And they did change.  A full 180 in a few short years.  Now they heed our advice more than their own internal voices.  That is the makings of a good company.  One that listens to the users.

Oh, and they did mention at the presentation that they are used in 80% of the “professional” marketplace (I quote that because the term “professional” is the topic of much debate lately)…and that 50% of the Avid workforce were editors and people who worked professionally in post.  So they have people who worked in the trenches, who worked as editors and sound engineers…now working at Avid to make the tools better.  That instills in me confidence that they will continue to do right by us…and hopefully not let us down again like they did years ago.  Like Apple did weeks ago.

OK, I’ll end this with a final note.  One thing that I have taken from the NLE wars is this…be on your toes. Don’t be content with one system.  You do a great disservice to yourself by being proficient on only one system.  When Avid fumbled, I was familiar enough with FCP (from all the small side work I did), to be able to pick up the ball and keep running without missing a step.  Now that Apple fumbled, I can pick up the ball with Avid and again continue without stumbling about.  I am also learning Adobe Premiere Pro, just in case I need to use that in the future on some job, or in case Avid stumbles again.  Be on your toes…be knowledgeable with multiple tools.  You only make yourself more employable.

Maximum…Max.  I’m talking the Matrox MAX system…the H.264 encoding engine in their MXO2 with MAX product line, and the CompressHD card.  You might have thought that this only worked on the APPLE stuff…Compressor and FCP.  But no…it works on the Avid Media Composer side too.  Because the Matrox MXO2 Mini is designed to work as a monitoring option for MC5.

OK, here’s the situation.  You are done with your cut and you need to submit it for client/producer approval, and they want you to post a QT movie with timecode for them to watch.  It’s a 30 min piece, the time is 3:30 PM, and the client would like to see it before the end of the day.  What are you to do?  That was the situation I was in last week, and I’ll tell you what I did.  The twist to this story is that I was on my laptop.  So no power from my tower on this one.

First off I must tell you that if I did things the normal way…or one of the two normal ways…this would have taken 3:24:18…that’s three hours, 24 min, 18 seconds.  I know this because I tested it later on…just to see.  Well, that was the timing it took exporting directly from the Avid as H.264, 640×360.  And when I tested exporting a Quicktime Reference and using Sorenson Squeeze, it took 3 hours 12 minutes.  Compressor (because I have Final Cut Studio on the same system)…3 hours 18 minutes.  All of those would have put me past my deadline.  And if I was on my tower, I could have used Compressor and Q-master to utilize all my processor cores to do this.  But, I wasn’t on my tower, and if you don’t have Final Cut Studio, or a tower with multiple processors…what are your options for the fast encode from Avid Media Composer?

MATROX MXO2 Mini with MAX!

Last year Matrox and Avid got together and made the MXO2 Mini work as a monitoring solution for Avid Media Composer 5.  And I thought that the benefits stopped there.  I got the MAX version to help with encodes on the Final Cut side…I didn’t know that it could be used on the Avid side until recently. It might have been included in some press release somewhere, but I think it is the best kept secret about the MXO2 Mini with MAX that should NOT be a secret.

Here’s what I did.

STEP 1:  CHOOSE EXPORT AS… in the export setting, choose Quicktime Movie.

Click on OPTIONS…then you get this window:

Choose VIDEO and AUDIO…click on format options:

Choose the Matrox Max H.264… I kept the default settings:

…and you are done.

When I exported this time, it was just about real time. The 30 min project (OK, 29:45) exported out…with timecode window burn…in 31min 14sec. ON MY LAPTOP.  That’s fast.

I ran tests on my Tower, just to see.  And without the MAX, doing it the Avid way, I didn’t save much time.  It took 3 hours and two minutes.  But with the Mini with MAX, it was FASTER than real time.  29 min and 19 seconds.

If you want to know more about this box, and happen to be going to NAB, I will be manning a station in the Matrox booth showing off this and other capabilities.  The show is from April 11 to April 14 in Las Vegas.

FYI – This was done without rendering the timecode overlay filter before I started exporting.

Today Avid Technology issued a press release outlining the changes and new features in their latest version of the Media Composer software, Avid Media Composer 5.5.  Among the new features is one that particularly excites me…and it has been very difficult to keep quiet about this (I’m on the Avid Beta, so I’ve been playing with this for a while).  Media Composer 5.5 now works with AJA hardware, specifically, the AJA IO Express.  What is major about this announcement, other than adding another third party partner to their list (they opened up MC5 to the Matrox MXO2 Mini last year) is that this isn’t just another monitoring solution…this is a capture solution as well.

Yes, you can capture and output using the AJA IO Express.  Capture to Avid MXF media.  Have deck control so that you can capture and output with accurate timecode. That’s a big deal!  Sure, it doesn’t offer the hardware acceleration that the DX line of hardware does, but it is a great economical way to get your footage into and out of your system.

Not long ago…last year, around NAB in April…Avid announced Media Composer 5, and I blogged about it.  One of the things that I mentioned that was HUGE was monitoring via non-Avid hardware, specifically the Matrox MXO2 mini.  That was a huge thing…now we could monitor what we were doing without the expensive Avid hardware.  Because that was a gripe of a lot of people, that yes, the Media Composer software is now inexpensive, but still they needed to shell out upwards of $8000 for a Mojo DX  just to see what they were doing on a monitor.  They didn’t need to capture, they just needed to monitor…as they shoot tapeless.

Still, this left more than a few people asking, why the MINI?  We want this to work with AJA, Black-Magic.  We want Avid to open up to the hardware we already have so that we can capture using the same card in Final Cut Pro as well as Avid.  The answer Avid had to that was…”baby steps.”  They were slowing working towards this…soon more and more hardware will be added. Sure enough, we have new hardware, and the ability to capture and output…for under $1000.  And it works on a tower and laptop (if the laptop has an Express34 slot).

What else did they announce?

PHRASE FIND.  This is much akin to GET from AV3 software.  This software will index all of the spoken words in a project, and allow you to search for something someone said.  For the times where you know that the interviewee talked about their life in Montana, but you don’t know where in the 2 hour interview they said this.  You could spend the two hours looking for it, or use Phrase Find to find the word MONTANA within seconds.

Phrase Find isn’t part of the Avid Media Composer package…it is what they call an “addon” product. But, it is one that will be well worth the money, with the amount of time it saves.

They have also added native support for HDCAM Lite, expanded support for Euphonix hardware (no surprise since they bought the company, and enhances their Smart Tool functionality…allowing us to directly manipulate transitions on the timeline with the mouse.

Avid is advancing their Media Composer software faster than I would have imagined.  It is very difficult to keep up with them now.  Every time I turn around, BAM, new Media Composer with great new features. BAM! support for more hardware.  Adding new functionality, and making changes to old functionality to make it better.  Listening to editor’s needs and addressing them at the speed of light.  Avid Media Composer is emerging as the leader in keeping up with current technologies…and losing the image of the old stagnant system that while rock solid, was very antiquated.

In the past I would find my self cursing under my breath…or rather loudly for people around me to hear…that Avid couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that….cursing that I wasn’t working on my lovely Final Cut Pro system.  But now more and more often I find myself on Final Cut Pro cursing and swearing and wanting to be using Media Composer.  Honestly, I want both systems at my beck and call.  And Avid is making it easier for me to do that.

Well, it had to happen sometime.  I can only say that I must be blessed or something to have been editing on my own system for…what, 6 years now?… and not one time did I have a drive fail on me in the middle of an edit.  I have had failures AFTER I delivered.  Or when I was loading something.  A G-Raid here, LaCie there…bare Hitachi internal one other time.  But not once DURING an edit have I had a RAID fail.

Until today.  Er…yesterday (It is 3:14 AM as I write this).

I was working on network notes from a project that I am doing for the History Channel.  I have a copy of ALL the footage at home…because the office where the production is located is in Long Beach, and I didn’t want to do the commute every day.  Luckily, I have understanding producers.  So I copied all of the footage onto a four drive SOHO RAID…set up as RAID 0.  Yeah, that’s dangerous.  I know.  But I happened to have four 1TB drives sitting on my shelf, and this project took up 3.24TB of space…so I couldn’t do the RAID 5 that I wanted to.  So I went with the risky RAID 0.  Until I could afford to get four 2TB drives in there.

OK…so I am working along when I’d get some random crash.  It wouldn’t be consistent.  Well, the ERROR would, but when it happened wasn’t.  Playing in the timeline…crash.  Opening a clip in the Preview monitor…crash.  Scrolling through the clips in the bin in SCRIPT VIEW…crash. (I am running Avid Media Composer 5 on this…BTW).

But then something else started happening.  My media was starting to vanish.  Files there were there before suddenly started coming up MEDIA OFFLINE when I hit them in the timeline.  I turned on CLIP COLOR to reflect OFFLINE MEDIA.  Boom…holes everywhere.  In all my sequences.  Footage I KNOW was there the day before.  It wasn’t 2 hours later when suddenly playback stopped.  I’d see the footage move for about 2 seconds, and then the picture would freeze…I’d get 3 more seconds of audio…then beachball.  Damn.

Well, to try to make this long story shorter…I ran Disk First Aid on the RAID that said that it was unrepairable by it.  So I ran DISK WARRIOR…and that check ran really slow…and said it was due to hardware errors.  The amount of hardware errors ticked off like seconds on a watch.  1…2…3… 56…57….58… 115…116…117.  Wow.  After about 30 min Disk Warrior stopped and said there were A LOT of issues. It gave me the option to mount a proxy directory to allow me to copy all of the footage off the raid.  Which I did.

Or rather, attempted to do.

In copying over the OMFI media folder (I had OMFI and MXF folders)…a thing that was about 3.04TB of footage…I got an estimate of 71 hours to complete this process. WOW.  Really?  That hardware failure must be bad.  I tried one of the MXF folders (I have eight), the smallest one that was 105MB.  That took 25 min to copy.  Man, at this rate I wouldn’t be done until Halloween maybe….Thanksgiving.  I had 3.24TB of footage!

I know…this isn’t that bad.  This was a BACKUP of the footage that is located at the office.  But copying that took a long time.  And made copying WHILE editing tough.  And I couldn’t let it just go over night because I had to do it in small chunks.  LARGE chunks popped up copying errors (I just mention this to head off the obvious COMMENT questions I feel I might get).

SO…I mention this situation to a friend of mine.  A REAL tech head.  And he gave me a tip.

“Open up Terminal…”

“Terminal?  That old school text interface tool?  Seriously?”

“Yeah…that’s it.”

“Dude…I hated computers back when I was forced to use MS-DOS and do all this command line stuff.  I can’t picture how this all works.  My mind doesn’t work that way.”

“Hey, this is simple.  REALLY simple.  Trust me.”

“OK…”

He proceeded to tell me to type in a command, then things into the terminal…

“Wait…DRAG and DROP into the Terminal?  You can do that?”

“Yeah…it’s pretty cool.  Now come on…follow me.”

I didn’t get it at first.  He isn’t the best guy at describing what to do.  So he made a quick screen capture of the task I needed to do.  OH…it was simple.  Just for yucks I’ll make one and put it at the end of this blog post…for those of you who are like me.  Need to see it.

What he had me do is type in “cp -r”, then press the space bar, then drag the file I wanted to copy onto the terminal…then the location folder where I wanted it to go…and press ENTER.

BAM.  Lightning fast.  Well, not FAST…but a bit faster than dragging and dropping in the Finder works…when it works properly.  Why?  Well, as he puts it: “It doesn’t copy over the finder directory.  Is just brings over the files.”  OK man…as long as it works.  And it does. VERY fast.  Now, there is no PROGRESS BAR to show you, well, the progress.  Files are just being moved and you just need to know that they are going to where they are going.  In opening the destination folder I could see the item number increase, and the GB available number decrease.  That’s how I knew it was working.

WHY do this?  Well, when the Finder gets stuck on copying a file…it STAYS on that file until it can copy it, or until it crashes.  The Terminal copy hits a bad file, shoves it aside and continues on with the rest of the files.  It puts the bad file at the end of the line.  When it gets to it again, if it can’t copy it…if the file is too damaged…it skips it.  What a GREAT way to root out bad files!

NOTE: You should use this ONLY in the case of emergency…like mine was.  Mucking about in the terminal, when you don’t know what the hell you are doing (like I don’t), can be disasterous.  So…use this only as a last resort.  Unless you are a Terminal Geek.

OK…as promised…the visual representation.

Copy files using the TERMINAL from Shane Ross on Vimeo.

A buddy of mine, Bryce Randle of Post Fifth Pictures, popped in on iChat to ask me the question:  “Do you remember how to change the size of frames in the bin?”

Boy do I. That was one of the day to day tasks I did as an assistant editor on EVEN STEVENS. One editor liked to have all of the shots laid out by camera angle and take. One bin per scene, then say Scene 1A (Sc1A_1, SC1A_2), and the various takes all lined up, then Scene 1B, 1C, and so on. So I’d have the bin set to FRAME view. But, when you first do this, all the frames, icons…windows, whathaveyou, are all really small.

Well, we can’t have that. We need them bigger so we can see what the shot is. So I would make them bigger. And here’s the answer to Bryce’s question…how do you make them bigger?

Press CMD-L (command-L). This will make it get bigger by a notch.

Keep doing this until they are the size you want.

And if you want them smaller, press CMD-K.

These are the same keys you press to make the tracks…the ACTIVE tracks (the ones highlighted via autoselect) bigger and smaller on your timeline.

OK, I am NOT going to say that Avid Media Composer 5.0 is a “game changer.” Mainly because I hate that term. And I don’t think that it is changing the editing game. But, what it is doing is adding more tools to make it a better application. Hmmm…well, I might actually have to change my thoughts on the term “game changer,” because it is actually changing the game, just not the game you all are thinking about. The game Avid is changing is the one it has been playing with it’s user base.

Initially Avid was good. They listened to the needs of the editors and incorporated many things they needed to do in early versions of Media Composer. But then they started to slip, and get lazy…or just plain neglectful. If we wanted a feature, they got around to giving it to us eventually, but they’d charge us $14,000 to “activate the new feature.” They got comfortable in their position and ignored the needs of their base.

But now the game HAS changed. Avid is not only listening to the editors and end users of their products (meaning post supervisors and facilites managers too), but they are actively seeking out our advice…and incorporate it into their latest releases. There was this great tool that we users of Final Cut Pro really rely on, and love. It is Select All Downstream, or Upstream…or between IN and OUT points. I myself use this daily. When we asked Avid to add that to Media Composer…low and behold, in Media Composer 3.0.5…there it was. And when we asked them to support the new camera formats…in less time than their usual record of a year or two, they listened to us. In fact, they are listening to us so much now, and taking our advice so much now, that they come out with a new MAJOR release of Avid Media Composer every 6-9 months or so. So fast that I personally have told them that they really need to slow down. Why? Because many large facilities and old guard post houses would be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars for new upgrades, because they’d need to upgrade 12-40 bays, including hardware to view on client monitors. And historically a fully decked out Avid MC would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

So, Avid’s old game of a) not listening to their user base, b) not implementing new features quickly enough and c) costing a lot of money has changed. And their NEW game is…well, listening to us, adding new features VERY quickly, and offering their Media Composer line as pretty inexpensive editing solution.

Enough preamble, onto the review.

Avid was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to beta test Media Composer 5.0. And in doing this I not only got to play with all the new features, but also help work out the bugs. And I got a chance to get more comfortable with how the application works. Media Composer 5.0 (MC5) has a LOT of new features, and I tried to test as many as I could, but I limited myself to the key areas that most impacted me and my editing style and workflow. If you want to see a full list of these features, you can see my NAB preview here.

What I played with:

SMART TOOL

This new feature adds “Final Cut Pro-like” timeline work habits to MC5. Before this release, you had to click on the RED select arrow (overwrite), or YELLOW select arrow (insert) before you could drag media around the timeline. While in FCP, this is the norm. I can tell you that when I go from FCP to Avid MC, I miss this ability a lot. Well, now I have it. But, it took a little getting used to. The main thing that distracts me is the OVER/UNDER behavior. If you are on the upper 50% of the clip, you get the OVERWRITE arrow, in the lower 50% you get the INSERT arrow. Well, on some of my timelines, my tracks are pretty thin, so trying to get the right select arrow becomes quite a task. So what I have done is disabled the INSERT select tool until I want it. But, I would really prefer a keyboard key to toggle between the two. Like OPTION or CONTROL. So normal behavior would be RED arrow so that I can grab chunks or clips and move them about. But when I want to swap shots I press CNTRL and the arrow becomes YELLOW temporarily. As it is now mapped, I have to press a key to activate which arrow I want. Which is a decent workaround (something Steven Cohen mentioned to me).

Now, how this is DIFFERENT in the old way is that now you have an OPEN SEGMENT MODE. This means that those options are now active all the time. In previous versions you either lasso your clips, or activate the arrows, and then do your moving, and then deactivate them to continue working and to navigate the timeline. The SMART TOOLS allow you have the segment modes open all the time, so that you can move clips, and then navigate on the timeline by clicking on the timeline bar (just like you do in FCP), and then doing more changes. And the TRIM tools are also active all the time, so you can slip and slide the cut points. And if you want to deactivate the tools, you can click on the lower ruler. But this is a setting you have to adjust in the TIMELINE settings.

So now you have the best of both worlds. The great Avid trim tools and trim editing that I have gotten to love again, AND the direct timeline manipulation that I love in FCP. Now, it isn’t EXACTLY like FCP, nor should it be. As I said, it took a little getting used to, but once I got it down, I had it. And you can enable clicking on the ruler or timeline to disable these functions, just like the older versions of MC. So you can still click all over the timeline when moving the playhead, activate the Smart Tools when you want to grab something, and disable them by clicking on the timeline bar…just like the old way. But, slighly different as their location has moved from the bottom to the side. So that might get the old-school Avid people a tad getting used to. When you are so used to the way something works that it becomes second nature, when things change, you get thrown for a little loop.

COLLAPSE STEREO TRACKS TO ONE LAYER OF AUDIO

I cannot tell you how much landscape this saves. I typically have 4-8 tracks set aside for music, for when things overlap or I add stings to other scores. And then 4-8 tracks for SFX. Now, I can use 1-4 tracks for each…as you can make one track into a stereo track. And I like my SFX to be in stereo, as often the sound in them travels from L to R. So this is just a small feature that gives you more room on your timeline, meaning you don’t have to scroll UP and DOWN so much to adjust your audio. A small time saver, and any time you can save doing these small things means more time saved in the editing process. And this can all add up to more time to do the ACTUAL work.

TIMELINE AUDIO TOOLS EXPANDED

This too turned out to be a big time saver Instead of having to have the AUDIO TOOL open, and having to move bins aside looking for it, I have have a lot of the tools I use on it directly on the timeline. I use MUTE and SOLO a lot to only listen to certain mics, or to quickly solo out the music tracks (so I don’t have to turn off the 18 other audio tracks) so that I can make sure the music edits I make are smooth. And the ability to turn on the audio waveforms ONLY on certain tracks, like music, means a LOT less time sitting idle as MC loads all the waveform data for ALL the tracks.

Again, a small amount of time, but enough to slow my train of edit (as opposed to train of thought) down. And all these little things add up.

RED AMA

I haven’t worked on a RED project yet, but I got some RED footage from a friend to test out this feature. And I didn’t go TOO in depth, as I focused mainly on other things. But, I will say, that with AMA, accessing the RED footage is a breeze. It doesn’t go after the PROXY files, or the other QT files that the RED produces. I tried to AMA those and only got errors. No, what it does is access the R3D files, so you are accessing the actual 4K files.

When I initially did this, in earlier beta builds, I noted that it was very sluggish. But then I moved my footage to my Caldigit HD one, and thing played a bit smoother. But still choppy. And I had choppiness issues with other AMA files, and finally figured out it was my graphics card causing the issue. I’ll talk more about that in the next section. But, needless to say, access the RED RAW files quickly through AMA, and being able to adjust a quick “one light” look to them when you do this is pretty slick. I need to play with this more.

QUICKTIME AMA

Now onto one of the big main features that was introduced in MC5, Quicktime AMA. WIth QT AMA, Avid MC5 introduces a huge leap into working with multiple formats. Now MC5 can work with footage recorded using the KiPro, or the new Arri camera. Now MC5 can work with footage captured in FCP to ProRes. Now it can work with footage shot with Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras. QT AMA will either load the footage automatically (something I don’t like), or allow you to import an entire folder, or individual files. This is very cool!

Now, I want to tell you something. Just because you can now access these files natively, I caution against editing the files natively. Be wary about loading the files via AMA and start editing them in their native form. Can you? Well, yes, you can, if you have the right graphics card. Avid MC5 really relies on the NVidia line of graphics cards, they add more power to the system to deal with the processing power needed to deal with this footage. Initially I only had my ATI 4870 card, and things were sluggish.

One thing that I noticed is that my Canon T2i files would import fine, but when I get beyond 8 clips in the sequence, my machine would slow to an absolute crawl. I’d get the spinning beach ball for seconds before the system would react. And forget about playing in reverse. That made me crash. Editing with ProRes was better…a lot better, but still not smooth. The system was slow to react, and playing in reverse was not smooth. Red…stuttered. AVCHD…acted like my T2i footage. It was horrid. But that was because I was still using my ATI 4870 card. So note that issue when wanting to work with these files. I found out that getting an NVidia card would help, so I did. I got a lower end GT120, and replaced my ATI, and there was a significant improvement. I’m sure a beefier card would be better. But still, many formats, like H.264, is VERY processor intensive, and not really ideal for native editing. But with the card things were a lot better, albeit still sluggish as my sequence got bigger. So this hope that editing native will make your edit go faster…sorry to disappoint. A large sequence with this footage will be cumbersome to edit native, at least in my experience.

As for ProRes, it was normal. Editing with that format, after I got the NVidia, was pretty painless. Very smooth. Integrated into the DNxHD project well. And you know what else? If you install FCP on the same system, to get the codecs into QT, footage imported into FCP from P2, converted to DVCPRO HD, are also accessible, and also integrate well into the cut. So that was an added bonus. Because how many times has someone shot P2, imported into FCP, then erased the cards without backing them up?

I caution about editing with this footage, mainly the DSLR footage, in a long form sequence. Because the larger the sequence got, the more sluggish the system became. I got up to about 15 min when it became noticeable.

Your organization of these files will be very much the same way FCP organizes things. They are where you put them in the Finder, and they remain there. MC5 just makes clips that point to where the media exists. It does not move them to the MXF > 1 folder. Nope. And get this, you CANNOT CONSOLIDATE them there. Sorry, the Consolidate option is only available for Avid media file types. When I tried to consolidate, I got these errors.


And there are more reasons why you might not want to work native. It isn’t just the sluggishness of the system after a while, but many of the workflows that we need to do on the Avid are now impossible to accomplish with files edited using QT AMA.

You cannot output an OMF (pardon, AAF) file for audio. Sorry, that is only available to media in the Avid media file format. This is a very standard workflow…getting your audio AAF or OMF out to an audio post house for mixing. If you can’t export an AAF/OMF for that, then you are stuck mixing yourself, on the Avid timeline. Fine for some, but crippling for those of us in broadcast TV and feature film editing. MC5 is just one step in the post production chain.

A workflow I was hoping would work, doesn’t. I was hoping to capture in FCP to ProRes, use QT AMA to access this footage and use Avid to edit it (or allow the Avid editors more comfort level using this software to edit), and then use Automatic Duck to bring the sequence with linked media back to FCP for finishing in Color. But no, sorry. You cannot export an AAF file with non-Avid media file formats. Nope, I get the following error:

I have heard of someone having success getting footage captured in FCP, and in a sequence to Avid and in a sequence that linked to the media via the EDL method. But they had to do a lot to get it to link properly.

So yes, QT AMA is great in that it allows you to access many media types rather quickly. But this doesn’t mean that now you can edit natively, because many of the crucial features of Avid MC5 won’t work on this media. In fact, the people at Avid highly suggest that you don’t work native, but that you transcode to an Avid format. Quicktime AMA is merely a tool to allow ACCESS to this footage. Once you get access, you need to transcode to an Avid media file format (DNxHD) in order for everything Avid does well to work properly. Sorry guys, no native editing if you want to edit properly.

MATROX MXO2 MINI

Avid opening up hardware to third party vendors for the MC line is big. BIG! I also was able to test this and can say that it works great. Installation was easy, and the result was amazing. I was able to view my DVCPRO HD 720p 23.98 footage onto my HD monitor. I was able to monitor the AMA’d footage…everything. And it was clear and smooth. Didn’t stutter or skip. It output the 720p 23.98 as 59.94 to my external monitor, but that’s fine. That’s how I view my 23.98 from FCP too. It still looks 23.98. And it outputs 1080p 23.98 as 29.97, adding the proper pulldown to monitor properly. And there it is, full HD quality playback on an external monitor for under $500. Matrox is working on new drivers, and the 2.0 drivers, due out later this summer, will output 23.98 at 1080 via HDMI. Until then, the pulldown it does to the footage works well.

The MXO2 Mini only works as playback in MC5, even though the unit is designed to input video. Currently that functionality isn’t available in MC5, but is in FCP and Premiere. Avid and Matrox have only enabled output on the unit at this time. It’s sole purpose at this time is for playing back footage onto an external monitor, it isn’t reliable as a means to output a show to tape. For this you still need an Avid MOJO DX, or Nitris DX. I’m sure you can try…get a Keyspan Serial adapter for deck control and see what you can do. No one stopping people from trying. Heck, you can use this to output to a DVD recorder, or if you are still in the dark ages, a VHS deck. With the realtime timecode overlays, this will be a VERY fast way to encode DVDs for client review.

There is another big reason that this is a big deal. This now makes the MC5 package more affordable to the big shops that employ Avid MCs. Because now they don’t need to buy Mojo DX boxes for all their edit stations. Many production facilities want to have edit bays that play out to client monitors, and until now they have had to shell out $8000 for the ability to do that, via the MOJO DX. And the Mojo would ONLY be used to output to a client monitor. They wouldn’t use it to go back out to tape. So now, with the MXO2 Mini, these facilities can save a TON of money. They can get their fully equipped Avid MC systems with Nitris DX or Mojo DX for capture and online/output stations. This might be just a couple of machines. And then they can equip all the rest of the systems with the Matrox MXO2 Mini and save $7500 per station. The MXO2 mini connects via a PCIe card for towers or Express34 card for laptops (your choice when you buy…to get both connection types it is an additional $99). It will not work on iMacs or MacBooks or MacBook Pros that do not have the required slots.

This might be just the incentive that many post and production houses need to get them to upgrade their systems. Many places hold back because the upgrade cost is daunting. Now Avid has made the upgrade more affordable.

Why the MXO2 Mini and NOT say the MXO2, or AJA Kona, or Decklink Extreme you ask? Well, according to Avid…baby steps. This is but their first step in the direction of third party support. They still need to sell the other hardware to remain profitable, and so if you want to capture and output, you get the Mojo DX or Nitris DX. But if you just want to view, you can get the MXO2 mini. Yeah, I was a little put out too. I only had the MXO2…the big daddy of the line. I had to get the Mini in order to interface with MC5. No saying what the future might have in store for third party capture card support. Avid keeps hinting that more is in the works. And if their record of hinting holds up, we might just see expansion of this. And giving their recent history of new releases every few months, it might not be that long before we see it.

My overall impression? I like it. I like it a lot. QT AMA brings a LOT to the table. Now, I still recommend transcoding to Avid’s codecs, because MC5 still likes to work with it’s file type for optimal performance. And if you want to be able to continue using the footage the standard production chain, it is essential. But, you can work with the files natively if you stay entirely in MC5 for everything, and the performance on these native files was better than I expected. I love the added audio features on the timeline, it sped up my editing workflow. I’m torn on the SMART TOOLS as the over/under doesn’t work for me as well as I thought, but I have a decent enough workaround (thanks to Steve Cohen) and found that mixing the Avid and FCP way of dealing with the timeline will take a little getting used to. The MXO2 Mini is a great added asset, and not only good for the smaller guys who just need to monitor their footage full quality, as they might never output to tape and might stay completely digital, but also great news to the larger post facilities that want client monitoring in all their bays.

I give this upgrade a big thumbs up.

As a post script, I felt that I needed to mention that the latest version of Media Composer will not come with ScriptSync for free. If you are a new purchaser of the software you will have to pay an extra $1000 to get this awesome software. However, those who are upgrading from MC4 will be able to get it for free, but only for this upgrade. For full details as to why, please click on this link.

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.

Earlier today Avid release Media Composer version 4.0.4.  This version adds support for MacOS 10.6, or Snow Leopard.  GREAT news for all those people who bought new Macs that only come with Snow Leopard installed.  If you have Leopard, 10.5, then you can stick with what you have (MC 4.0.4 is compatible with Leopard, version 10.5.8.).  I still see absolutely NO need to upgrade to Snow Leopard if you don’t have to.  No benefits for anything I do, and it only makes a lot of the software I use no longer useable.

But, if you want to upgrade to Snow Leopard, Avid recommends that you do a clean install of the OS, rather than a simple upgrade.  The ReadMe states:

You cannot perform an upgrade from the Leopard to the Snow Leopard OS. You must perform a clean install of Snow Leopard in order for the editor installer to install properly. See your Apple documentation for information on performing a clean install.

The upgrade also states that it fixes a bug with Nitris and Mojo DX systems, where Fast Scrub would cause much-too-frequent waveform redraws.

NOW…I hope that people who run Avid MC edit bays will actually get out of the old Avid mindset of not upgrading the software for long periods of time.  Avid was known for slow updates and long times between bug fixes.  This has changed…for the better.  PLEASE do your editors a favor and upgrade the systems with every new dot.release. Don’t leave poor Walter Murch stuck editing on Avid MC 2.8.3 because you have an Adrenaline and think that Avid MC 4.0 no longer supports the Adrenaline.  IT DOES!  So don’t leave your editors in the dark…dealing with bugs.

Thank you.

I need a hobby.  Well, an inexpensive one.  I really want to get into cycling and get a road bike, or get one of those single gear really LIGHT ones but then I have to shell out cash for a bicycle and all the extras.  But then I’d be shape at least.

So what do I do for a hobby?  Play with plugins and workflows and see what works and what doesn’t.  I REALLY should play with MOTION so that I can learn that application.  That’s what a friend of mine does as a hobby, and he is so good, that he wrote a book on how to do really cool things with Motion.  But I get all into solving puzzles like how can I get an Avid Adrenaline that was on a PC onto the Mac I have running FCP?

The latest thing is that soon we will have a client that wants us to finish a project of theirs.  Online it and color correct it.  They shot on P2 and captured everything at full resolution, we just need to color correct it and output.  And I have gotten really handy with COLOR, so I’d like to do it there.  Only thing is…they are on an Avid Media Composer. So how on Earth do I get TAPELESS footage from Avid to FCP to then send to Color?  If it was tape, I could recapture.  But tapeless?

I know that I can use Automatic Duck to export and EDL from Avid and open that in FCP and have a nice full sequence that will need recapturing.  And I have done this before…on tape.  But tapeless?  Can I batch capture only what is needed.

Luckily I didn’t need to figure that out.  Because The Duck (the nickname for Automatic Duck) has a great new feature.  Not sure how new, but recent.  This feature allows you export an AAF with Imbedded media.  And then Automatic Duck, thru FCP will import that and create quicktime reference movies that are tied to the MXF format, or OMFI format Avid files.  Go watch the demo here…it’s pretty slick.

So I did that.  Imported some P2, did a quick little nonsense edit.  Added a couple filters.  Then exported the AAF, opened Final Cut Pro (after rebooting the computer to that partition), imported that AAF and FCP with the aid of The Duck Importer imported the cut and the media…intact.  And was is REALLY cool, it makes a bin of that footage, and you get not only the clip, but the ENTIRE clip.  So if you need to extend shots or look for more footage on that file, you can, and re-edit!

OK then…now the big test.  Can I then send this to Color (because it is DVCPRO HD QT files, it SHOULD work), color correct, then render out to FCP again.

I did the send to Color easily…all the files showed up.  I color corrected, then rendered, and got brand new QT files (as is normal with COLOR) linked to the new exported cut.  Worked like a charm.  Not bad Wes…not bad.

Now…I wonder what I need to do with MXF 145 or 220 files.  If I need to import them, then transcode to ProRes.  Hmmm…that bears testing…

avid

If you follow me on Twitter… or if you look to the right of my blog and see my Twitter feed… you may know that at the next LAFCPUG meeting I will be presenting the new Avid Mix and Match feature.  So…in order to do so, I am playing with that feature right now.  Seeing that I don’t have any paying work on an Avid, I took advantage of Avid Media Composer’s great 30-day trial version.  Great way to test things out.

And good, because I am highly skeptical about this.  STILL.  Seems too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Well, I started out by installing it on my laptop.  I’ll get to the tower later, but it is busy converting a bunch of footage for something else, and it should be done by Wednesday.  So, I have Avid Media Composer 4.0 on my MacBook Pro dual 2.4Ghz machine.  I used the Media Composer’s AMA (Avid Media Access) option to import DVCPRO HD P2, AVCIntra P2 and XDCAM EX.  Running from 720p 23.98, to 720p 59.94, 1080p 23.98 and 1080i 29.97.  I’ll be capturing some HDCAM SR at work as DNxHD 145, then again at DNxHD 220.  Then some DV as native DV…and heck, HDV as native HDV because I have the stuff available.

So far…with my initial testing (VERY initial testing) on my MBP with the G-Tech G-Drive mini connected via FW800…it isn’t so smooth.  BUT, I was expecting this.  Avid did say that it relies heavily on the computer processing power, and fast drives, to make this possible.  I just know that a lot of people only use laptops, so I included it in my test.  SO, what I will do next is transfer everything to my Caldigit VR drive and have that connected via eSATA, and that will get me a little over 200MB/s using the AJA Disk test… or more reliably around 150MB/s using the HD SPEED TEST.  I’m sure things will be better…but I am wondering how much better?

More later…

TJP_ONLINE-Bay

If you follow me on Twitter (comebackshane) you would no doubt been party to the Tweets I have been making about getting an Avid working on my FCP system…with hardware. If not, then time to start following me on Twitter! Well this is the FULL story about that process…

My boss called me into his office and asked my advice about an Avid online of an FCP offline of a cut. This was for another company that was all Final Cut Pro…they called us because they knew we did all of our finishing in house. Now, they needed to do an AVID online because part of their network deliverables required an Avid project file and DNx MXF media on a USB drive.  I said yes, this is possible, Automatic Duck and you are set.  But the other company wondered if we to do this job. We currently are an FCP shop, but there was an Avid Adrenaline somewhere in storage.  But, there were a few issues with that rig.

First off, this place hadn’t used it for about 14 months, and it was pretty much been broken up for “parts.”  The Adrenaline box was still in the rack, and we had the dongle, but the HP Pavillion it used to reside in was in the server room, quite dusty and missing the side panel and the system drive.  But I heard that they were having issues with that machine anyway and the didn’t want to rely on it. Since they were making the switch to Final Cut Pro, the system got pushed aside. No problem, this place is full of Macs, and Adrenaline works on a Mac (I found this out by looking it up and posting a question on Creative Cow).

But in doing further research I hit upon a problem…the Mac Pros we have are all the Jan 2008 model, the ones that came with Leopard installed.  The ones with new PCIe boards and the drivers for them were only on Leopard.  And Avid Adrenaline says that version 3.0 system requirements on the Mac are OSX TIGER…10.4.11. I found THIS out after buying my 2008 MacPro and trying to use it alongside the may 2007 models that were running Tiger (and they didn’t want to install Leopard) and when I tried to install Tiger, Kernal Panic city.  So…another wall.

So now I am back to my original idea that I mentioned in the Creative Cow…I was considering installing Windows XP Professional Edition (SP2) on the Mac Pro I have, booting to that OS, and running Adrenaline.  Using a Mac…to boot Windows…to run Avid Adrenaline.  Is this Avid certified? HELL NO. But worth a shot. So I found the WinXP install disks and used Boot camp to partition a drive and then start the install process. When it booted into windows…the screens remained black. The OS apparently didn’t recognize the graphics card. It was an old Service Pack 1 installer…no doubt the drivers weren’t there. So I decided to drop that idea. I didn’t want to work with Windows anyway.

Back to my idea about trying this on the Mac. Further research and further question asking of several friends and colleagues turned up the fact that I could most definitely use Avid Media Composer 3.0 with the Adrenaline box using Leopard. And since I had 3.0.5 on my home system, I just cloned that drive and brought it to the work machine. OS 10.5.4 and QT 7.4.5. Avid is picky about the OS. But when I booted to 10.5.4…only one monitor worked. Again, the OS didn’t recognize the graphics card, an ATI Radeon 3870. And looking on the web page for a driver turned up the line “MacOS has all the drivers installed in their system, so no driver is needed.” Riiiiight. Further advice said that 3.0 and Adrenaline worked fine under 10.5.6…so since this was a cloned drive I installed it and restarted. THERE was my second monitor.
OK, so I booted to 10.5.6…had the Adrenaline connected via Firewire, bought a Keyspan serial adapter for deck control, and connected the system to the SRW-5800 HDCAM SR deck we have in house…to see how things worked. Well, I could see the image from the deck, but I couldn’t get deck control. SO CLOSE! I could capture to DNxHD 145 and 220…but I had to have deck control off to do so. Hmmm…can’t have that. Have to figure out deck control.

I tried replacing the RS-422 cable…that didn’t work. I tried updating the drivers for the Keyspan…that didn’t work. I got an adapter so that I could try it on the RS-422 cable that I used with FCP (I didn’t before because the connection type wasn’t right…female/male connector issue) and it STILL didn’t work.

God dammit all! So close.

So I posted the question on the Creative Cow and on the Avid_L yahoo list (via a friend) and on FCP_L. There were lots of suggestions, but then one that seemed odd. Terry Curren suggested that I just use the Kona serial, as this is what someone else does (Greg Huson) and it works fine. Greg happens to have FCP and Avid on the same boot drive, and figured out that Avid recognizes the Kona serial port. So I installed the Kona drivers and sure enough, there was that option in the Deck Configuration list. So I chose it, and launched the Capture interface, and…

I had deck control!

There we go…finally. Avid Adrenaline fully functioning. I captured HDCAM SR with timecode, I could output to a monitor, output back to the deck. Everything. Now I just need to test the online workflow. Take one of our finished locked shows, use Automatic Duck Pro Export 4.0 to convert the FCP EDL to AAF or something Avid can read, then recapture the tapes from HDV. Then re-acquaint myself with the color correction tools.

So now I have a bay that can online FCP or Avid. One computer, two separate boot disks (actually, four…one with FCP 6.0.5 (Final Cut Studio 2), one with FCP 7 (Studio 3), one with ProTools (to check our online sessions on occasion), and one Avid 3.0.5. One machine, two editing platforms with hardware.

I have many people to thank for this. I couldn’t have done this without the Creative Cow and the many people there, like Terry Curren and Mark Block…Greg Huson for figuring out the Kona Serial thing…people on the Avid_L and FCP_L on Yahoo…and friends Pat Sheffield, Paul Kavadias and John Malm. This is the reason I post on and visit all the forums I do. People helping people…best tech support you will EVER get.

Man…what is UP with Avid lately? Three major releases of the software in just one year? And all with major feature enhancements. OH…and all with a very low upgrade cost…$350. It wasn’t 5 years ago that upgrades were 1-2 years apart, and cost thousands of dollars.

With the release of Avid Media Composer 4.0 (and Symphony 4.0, and Newscutter 8.0), Avid brings to the table something huge. Not only mixed FORMATS…but now mixed FRAME RATES on a single timeline. 59.94, 29.97, 23.98…DVCPRO HD 720p, XDCAM 1080i, DV, 1:1… all playing at once at “full quality” with no transcoding. What an UPDATE! Now with AMA (Avid Media Access) that just opens a bin and populates it with media when you add a tapeless medium, and mixed format timelines, a timecode reader that requires zero rendering…this is some MIGHTY powerful software.

– Eliminating timely transcode processes with the capability to mix and match different frame rates and resolutions in an open timeline within the same project.

– Expanding native support for file-based media with the addition of industry-leading formats such as Panasonic AVC-I and Ikegami GFCAM. GFCAM support is a result of Avid Media Access (AMA).

I wonder how it does this mixing of frame rates. Does it do it RIGHT? Adding the proper pulldown to 23.98 when in a 29.97 timeline, unlike FCPs 2:2:2:4 pulldown nonsense. And what does “full quality” mean when mixing XDCAM 1080i, DVCPRO HD 720p and DV? Does it play each format at IT’S full quality? Or does it convert it when you play back to the sequence settings, with no transcoding required? Guess that is for us to see and find out.