I was faced with a problem.

I finished exporting the 9 masters needed for this program…five HD masters and four 4K masters…when the network contacted us saying there was an issue with the open title, and they needed to supply me with a new one. Why was this a problem? Well, this 15 second title sequence change means that I need to re-export all of my masters, a process that took nearly two days to do, and was pretty taxing on the system (4K, with noise reduction on many archival sources as well as motion stabilized shots). Also, they needed these files FedEx’d to them ASAP, as we were very close to the air date, and they needed time to QC and create their on air masters.

Back in the days of tape, this would be no problem. Just drop the new title into the sequence, and then do an INSERT EDIT onto the tape…just the change. Something that could be done in an hour. That is the one thing that I miss from the tape mastering days, the ability to make small fixes and then just insert where needed. In the current days of tapeless, a small change means exporting the whole file again.

Or does it?

I let out my frustrations on Twitter, and got a few people who consoled me on the issue. But I also got a good half dozen responses with the solution to my woes…Cinedeck. More specifically, cineXinsert. And not only that, I had a representative from Cinedeck contact me to offer a trial so I could test out this software solution.

Cinedeck primarily offers hardware solutions…production recording and playback hardware, but they also offer software based insert-editing on a Quicktime file….that is the aforementioned cineXinsert. But wait! Why not just use Quicktime Pro to do this insert editing? It’s capable of that, right? Yes and no. While it can do a lot, it’s not as frame accurate as I need, and it doesn’t quite to the insert correctly. I can’t explain the tech reasons for this, I just know it doesn’t do it in a manner that will pass any tech evaluation.

I wasn’t able to get this software in time for my current dilemma…for that I had to resort to re-exporting everything. But I did get it in time to test it for future application. First thing I needed to do was buy a dongle, as the license for the software is tied to a dongle. For that I needed to buy an iLok2. Many people might have one already, they are used for many audio plugins for Avid and ProTools.

So a couple days later I got the iLok, got the license in place and was ready to test. And as luck would have it, just in time, as another show I delivered had two minor QC notes that needed addressing. And this show was a two hour show, so the export times were pretty lengthy. And I needed to fix four masters.

The interface might look daunting, but it’s pretty simple. Load your patch video into the Player (SOURCE), and then your master into the Recorder (TARGET) and set your in and out points. For a workflow on this, watch this video here.

This is when I ran into a snag. You cannot insert edit into VBR (Variable Bit Rate) ProRes file…only CBR (Constant Bit Rate) video. And unfortunately, all my masters were ProRes HQ, and ProRes video is VBR. If this were DNxHD, no problem, that’s CBR. But alas, mine wasn’t. But, CineInsert has a tool to convert the video files from VBR to CBR. Well, it’s not a “conversion” really. As a representative of Cinedeck told me, they call it “CBR PADDING,” and what they do, essentially, is add zeros to pad each frame so they are the same size. It’s an encoding magic (technology) that I don’t fully grasp, but I do understand that VARIABLE BIT RATE is a series of frames all saved using varying amounts of data…and CBR PADDING just wraps the file in a way that they are all equal, so that an insert can work. It’s not a re-encode, it’s just making sure all the frames have the same data rate.

Got it? If not, don’t worry, just know that it needs to be done in order for the tech to work.

So I used the RE-WRAP AND AUDIO VERSIONING tab in the application to re-wrap my files for inserting. This took a while, but not as long as exporting the whole file again. It took about half the time. But as I needed to do this to four files, I set up a batch and came back later to deal with inserting. One thing to note is that the file size of the exports will increase. What started as 143GB ended up being 168GB, which was to be expected as the frames were no longer variable in file size, but uniform. Now, when you are finished inserting you can simply deliver these files, or use them as “mezzanine” masters where you then encode to your various other needed deliverables. Higher end post facilities tend to keep these masters as CBR. Or you can wrap back to VBR. There is no need to wrap back to VBR, networks and clients who want ProRes files won’t have issues with them being CBR vs VBR…except for the few that actually require VBR files, like ABC/Disney.

Once you convert to CBR, you can now insert your patch (note, the patch also needs to be CBR, but the conversion tend to be quick). As noted in the video tutorials, if the timecode of the patch matches where it will go in the source, simple mark IN, mark OUT, and click the SEND IN POINT and SEND OUT POINT to the record and then hit INSERT…a couple seconds and you are done.

This really couldn’t be easier. And since I’ve been mastering tapeless only (no tape delivery) for over 3 years now, having an option to insert edit is a real time saver. Because when you export a full file, every now and then a glitch can occur. One thing I do when I export is watch the whole file down, to make sure there are no glitches…this is like watching an output to tape. Making sure it outputs correctly. Not needing to re-watch a fixed export is a HUGE time saver. I know the rest is OK, I just need to fix this one section, watch it, and I’m done.

And it has many other uses, like re-striping timecode, adding audio tracks or re-mapping audio…that ALSO save you from needing to re-export a new file. I recall exporting a master an I had the same audio track repeat on Ch 3 and CH 4 by mistake. CineXinsert would allow me to drop in the right track in the right place and simply save…no need to re-export.

CineXinsert works with HD, UHD and 4K files…which is great as many of us are dealing with UHD and 4K deliverables. It can insert into ProRes, DNxHD, DPX, AVC-I and XDCAM, as well inserts to Op1A MXF for both DNx and XDCAM. It is Mac and Windows compatible (which is great as I am slowly migrating towards Windows).

The one drawback for me (other than needing to convert ProRes files to CBR) is the price…$1495 for the standard version that does DNxHD and ProRes, and $1895 for XDCAM. It is a bit steep for a one-person shop that has a short list of clients, but if you are a full time shop, even a one-person shop, the amount of time it saves will be worth it. But they do offer subscription plans…so you can only pay up to $480/year for the standard option.

NOTE! The iLok2 key is no longer required for the software. You now have the option to use iLok2 or you can install the license on your computer

Final opinion? CineXinsert is a must-have tool for anyone who does finishing. It is a huge time saver.  The days  of owning, or renting, expensive decks for outputting final masters might be gone, but we still need on the many options that they provided. Insert editing of video and audio for quick fixes so your finishing machine isn’t tied up for hours outputting full shows and watching them down again.

*CineDeck provided me with a 3-month trial version of this application for the purpose of real world testing. But it is on my list of future purchases. Now to convince networks to take DNxHD over ProRes…