All posts by Evan

Matte Maker

Matte Maker

UPDATEThis tool has moved to: https://www.shift-e.net/tools/#!/matte-generator

After reading Scott Simmons' article on inserting visual timecode (aka BITC) onto your sequence, I posted a comment about the FCP part of the article suggesting an alternate way to put TC on your sequence without having to nest it. I don't really like nesting, so my method just involves putting the Timecode Generator plugin on the matte I use to display my sequence in its proper 1.85 or 2.40 aspect ratio.
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Experimenting with Streaming on a CDN

Experimenting with Streaming on a CDN

Recently I was asked to post a copy of the film I just finished cutting online for a producer in Europe to view. This meant I would need to encode a Flash Video file (FLV) or an H.264 MP4, and I would need to find someplace secure to host it online. On this and previous projects, I’ve often uploaded Quicktimes directly to my website and sent a link and login credentials to whoever needs them. If the recipients are in the United States, my hosting plan at MediaTemple is more than adequate to serve up a Quicktime or two. For slightly longer cuts I’ll usually go the extra step of encoding a FLV and directing the recipient to an HTML page with a flash player set up to play the FLV. I have also uploaded a 90-minute cut in FLV format to my server, but a couple people I sent it to had problems playing it all the way through, and when they had to reload the page they were forced to start downloading the 1.2GB file from the beginning.

In this case, since the producer is in Germany, I wanted to be able to provide him a quick, localized download, as well as the ability to jump to any part of the film instantly. This is a feature you find on most major video sites, and if your connection gets disrupted or you need to reload the page for whatever reason, you can pick up right where you left off with minimal downtime. Unfortunately I don’t have enough control of my MediaTemple server to install the appropriate software for this kind of streaming. Also, my server is located in Los Angeles, and having lived in Europe I’m well aware of how slow it is to transfer files transcontinentally. What I needed was a RTMP server in Europe, and without doing very much research I opted to try out Amazon Cloudfront.

The video below is an example hosted from my Cloudfront account. I didn’t have much I could put online publicly, so please enjoy the credits from a short film I cut called The Happiest Man Alive.

[jwplayer file=”HMA_Credits2.mp4″ streamer=”rtmp://s20fxl9ko2l7i5.cloudfront.net/cfx/st/mp4″ provider=”rtmp”]

Amazon Cloudfront

Amazon Cloudfront is an extension to their popular S3 file hosting service. The way S3 works is that you upload whatever files your website requires to Amazon S3’s servers, and then they take care of making sure that when someone requests your website, the appropriate files are transmitted from a server closest to the requestor. So for example, a user in Japan would download images on your website from an Amazon server in Asia, while in Los Angeles you’d download the same files from a server on the west coast. You pay a few cents per gigabyte of data transferred, but your website loads much faster for everyone worldwide since they’re not waiting to load it from a server half a world away. This is what a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is designed to do, and though most CDNs are designed for big corporations like Apple and Facebook, Amazon happens to run one designed and priced for individuals as well.

What Cloudfront does is add a few more localization controls to S3, as well as a streaming capability. There are other streaming services you can pay for, but for me what gave Cloudfront the edge was the combination of a CDN and streaming service. This way, not only can the producer stream my film in the same way he would watch a clip on Youtube, but it will stream to him from an Amazon server in Frankfurt, Germany, even though I uploaded the file to an Amazon server in the US.

Caveats

As usual, a few caveats.

1) Cloudfront and S3 are not replacements for a host server. They serve up files but they don’t serve up websites. You will still need your own server or a Google Site for your viewers to point their browser at, and you’ll need to configure a Flash player with the appropriate Cloudfront RTMP URL where your file is located.

2) If you don’t want random people seeing your content, make sure to protect the folder containing your HTML page in some way (.htaccess, server-side authentication, etc.). Your hosting provider likely provides at least basic folder password-protection.

3) Cloudfront does offer a “Private Content” option, which allows you to specify a security policy and expiration date in the link you send out to people, however I was not able to get this to work with a RTMP link in either Flowplayer or JW Player. I think once Amazon creates better controls for private content on their web front-end, this might get easier. I was trying to set it up using a 3rd-party Windows app to configure Cloudfront, and I couldn’t get it to work at all. I was also skeptical how secure this “secure URL” would be, considering that anyone with a little brains who somehow got access to that part of my website could copy the RTMP secure URL the same way they could copy an unsecured RTMP URL. You can get a little fancy in the secure URL by embedding a policy that restricts downloading the file to certain IP addresses or until a certain day, but considering that I couldn’t get even the basic template policies to work, I couldn’t explore the security of the fancier policies.

4) On Cloudfront, the first time someone in each worldwide region requests your content, there will be a slight delay as that content is transferred to a server local to that user. From then it will remain on that local server for 24 hours after the last request. So if I upload the file to the LA server and then my German producer requests it, there may be a very slight delay before it starts to stream for him. However, if he goes back to watch it again 12 hours later, it will already be cached on a local Amazon server and will start streaming immediately.

Use a Droplet to Prep Audio for FCP

Use a Droplet to Prep Audio for FCP

So I’ve had a chance to work for a while on FCP, and I have a few things in mind to post on it. First, though, a very simple trick to help with importing properly configured audio into FCP.

The Issue

FCP, like Avid, prefers uncompressed audio over MP3s, M4As, etc. It’s not that it doesn’t work when you import a MP3 into FCP, it just doesn’t work well. You’ll hear all sorts of clicks and dropouts as you play through the track, so to prevent this you need to convert your audio to WAV or AIF before you import. There is a program called Loader that will convert your audio for you, copy it to a specified folder, and then import it, but it costs $79. The other way you can do two out of those three actions (converting, copying to a specified folder) is to make a Compressor droplet. You still have to import it on your own, but to save $79 I think that’s a pretty good trade-off.

Compressor Droplets

Any compression setting in Compressor can be converted into a standalone application called a Droplet. As you might infer, you can drop things like files onto the Droplet, and it will then process that file into whatever setting the Droplet is programmed with. You can also specify a destination folder for that Droplet and tell it to run silently. Each file you drop onto it will queue up and encode immediately, with the resulting file being placed in your predetermined destination folder.

For me, I have two droplets, one for Mono and one for Stereo (both 24-bit/48k AIF)

Stereo Compression Setting

The image above is for the stereo setting, from which I then make a Droplet in the Settings window:

Make a Droplet

Once you click the Make Droplet button, a dialog will come up asking you where you want to save the Droplet itself, as well as which Destination (defined in the Destinations tab) you’d like that Droplet to send its files to:

Saving a Droplet

Once you click Save, your Droplet will appear wherever you saved it (on my Desktop in my case), and you can proceed to drop files onto it. The first time you run the Droplet a dialog will come up confirming your settings, and you should uncheck the “Show at Launch” checkbox in the lower left corner so that the Droplet runs silently in the future.

Once the compression is done (keeping Batch Manager handy is a good idea to check progress, though most audio takes a very short amount of time), you can import your new files into FCP and cut away.

Screenshot of the Hellboy 2 Avid Project Window

Organizing a Project’s Reels and Versions

This article is a little outdated (sorry!). I need to do a thorough rewrite, but in the meantime know that since 2008 I’ve decided to contradict my writing below and just use R1v## as my reel format. When I hit a milestone I make a new bin, label it as Director’s Cut or Assembly or Preview #2, throw the appropriate sequences in there, and then stash the bin in an easy to find folder in my project. It works pretty well, and I’ve found the fewer characters in your reel names, the easier it is on everyone.

 

The determination of how to organize all of the sequences you’ll create during the course of your project is extremely important, but unfortunately it is also nearly impossible to standardize. I work in features primarily, so while my organizational system is based around reels and suits me just fine, it would need a lot of modification were I to go to episodic or reality TV, commercials, etc. Individual editors also have their preferences for organization based off of how they are accustomed to working, and if you’re an assistant editor your degree of influence over the project’s organization will vary depending on how much the editor wants to delegate this type of organization to you.

With all that in mind, I wanted to set forth a description of the system that I use to keep all my reels in order on a feature. I’ve seen quite a few organizational systems used in different editing rooms, both on films I’ve worked on and ones I’ve just visited, and so far this is the best one I’ve seen. Thanks to editor Sean Albertson and 1st assistant editor Seth Clark for introducing it to me on Rocky Balboa.

Organization By Milestone

One of the most frequent organizational structures I see used by others uses a simple version number attached to the name of the reel. The problem with this is that you get up to these massive version numbers (R1AB_v72, R2AB_v117, etc.), and there’s no common element to link all these versions together in a meaningful way. The system I use has two levels of versioning included in the name of the reel; one is to track a milestone like a director’s cut or a preview screening, and the other is to track the individual versions of a reel created leading up to that milestone. For example:

A sequence name I might use is: R3_DC1_v4, which breaks down like:
R3 = Reel Three
DC1 = Director’s Cut 1 (this is the milestone)
v4 = The 4th version of Reel 3 for Director’s Cut 1.

Using this system, I can not only group my bins and sequences according to the progress of the project, but I can also make sure other departments are working with all of the right reels quickly and easily. Additionally, as it’s often the case that a director/studio/editor wants to go back and look at a previous version, with this system the editor can instantly find and pull up an old version from the project window so long as he knows roughly when the version he is looking for was created.

Screenshot of the Hellboy 2 Avid Project Window

Screenshot of Hellboy 2 project organization. In the project window you can see DC1-DC6 folders. The bins on the right show DC7

Defining Reels

This is global across all organizational systems, so feel free to skip this section if you already know about delineating reels.

Once you’ve got all, or at least most, of your scenes cut, you’ll probably want to create reels out of everything. The general guidelines for creating reels are that your first reel be no longer than 1600 feet from Picture Start to Last Frame of Action (LFOA). All remaining reels should be no more than 2000 feet, though there is a little bit of slack on all of these numbers. With the exception of the beginning of R1 and the end of your credits, no reel should start or end on black. Similarly, don’t cut a reel in the middle of a piece of music. The best reel breaks are between scenes that have no picture or audio transition, so that the break is as seamless as possible. You also want to avoid cutting a reel in the middle of a scene, even if there are no picture or audio transitions, since you may find that the color of your reels varies slightly and a reel break in the middle of a scene could produce a color shift.

Defining Milestones

Ok, so assuming that you decide to use this system, it’s important to know when to create a new milestone. I usually create milestones for the Editor’s Cut (EC), the Director’s Cuts (DC1, DC2, etc.), Previews (PV1, PV2, etc.), and Locks (LOCK1, LOCk2, etc.). And if you’re wondering why I allow for multiple locked cuts, I’d like to know what director you’re working for and if he or she is hiring.

You don’t want to create too many milestones or you risk confusing all of the departments that rely on your organizational system. At the same time, don’t create too few since that will defeat the purpose of organizing your reels this way and make finding old cuts much more difficult. I find that the key to creating a new milestone is to decide whether or not you’ve reached a point in the project that you want to save, including if you’re about to make a very significant change that you want to delineate from previous versions. To rephrase the question, you can also ask yourself whether you’re going to need to create an output of this sequence anytime in the future. For those milestones I mentioned above, clearly you want to have easy access to them since by the time all is said and done you will likely have needed to make more than a few outputs for the studio/director/sound dept/etc.

A final note: If you like, you can simplify the creation of milestones by sticking to a single abbreviation like “DC”.  On Hellboy 2 my milestones went from DC1 – DC7 because everything was happening so quickly and there were constantly new hires coming in for sound, so I felt it was safer to keep the system as simple and predictable as possible. The downside of this is that it’s not as clear to anyone who looks at this project later what each DC number represents, even though I know DC3 was our first preview, and DC6 was our first lock.

Defining Versions

How you elect to version your sequences is something that needs to be figured out between the editor and assistant editor. Some editors I work with prefer to manage their own versions and just rely on me to define the milestones. Others prefer that I manage everything and create new versions nightly or weekly. In the end it doesn’t really matter how you version the sequences so long as the system works for you and, at the end of a milestone, you can pop open your reel bins and see what the final version of that reel is for that particular milestone.

Conclusion

Hopefully this has been a clear explanation of how I like to organize my reels on a feature film. Please let me know how it goes if you decide to try this out, and if anything is unclear or needs further explanation, leave a comment below!

Avid Locators to FCS Chapter Converter

Avid Locators to FCS Chapter Converter

As a supplement to my post on how to convert an Avid locators file to chapter markers for Final Cut Studio, I decided to just make a little web app to do it for you. Paste the contents of your locators file in the top box, click Convert, and then copy/paste the contents of the bottom box into a new text file and import that into DVDSP or Compressor.

If you forgot to change the starting timecode of your sequence Hour 0, you can batch add or subtract a certain # of hours using the control below.

Enjoy!

Access iTunes From Within Avid

Access iTunes From Within Avid

At this point, my sound effects library has grown to the point where I can’t bring it with me into Avid. It’s just too unwieldy, and I’d end up bringing in a lot of sfx I’d never use. So starting with Hellboy 2, I kept my sfx in iTunes, and would use the iTunes interface to sort and preview my library. When I found an effect I liked, I’d drag it to the desktop and then import it into Avid (in OSX you can’t drag direct from iTunes to Avid, although last time I was on Windows you could).

Now, I’ve taken to using a feature of Finder (Leopard-only) that I’ve long overlooked: the ability to filter Finder by media type. In your sidebar, under “MEDIA”, you will find the Music item. Clicking on this accesses your iTunes library, including any playlists (I keep all my sfx in a smart playlist so I can quickly filter out the sfx), and even allows you to Quick Look them by hitting the spacebar. Find the track(s) you want and off you go, without ever leaving Avid.

Search iTunes from within Avid's Import dialog

Search iTunes from within Avid's Import dialog

The Caveats (as usual)

When using Quick Look you can’t change tracks as easily as in iTunes or standalone Finder, but it still works. You just have to hit spacebar twice when you want to preview a different track (once to stop, another to start a new track). Doing it this way prevents you from having to switch applications and incur the wrath of the 5-10 second catch-up process that Avid does every time you switch back to it with a large Unity project open.

Also, this method works great when you’re searching for a small number of sfx of the same type (variations of crowd, e.g.). It doesn’t work as well if you’re searching for a bunch of different types of sfx, since every time you do a new search it will forget what files you’ve already selected. You’d have to search for one type of sfx, import, rinse and repeat.

Organizing an Editorial Department Using Backpack

UPDATE: So my experiment with Backpack came to a premature end. I took another job that came up unexpectedly, so I never got to finish testing out Backpack. I would like to go back to it, though, or try out Basecamp instead. Next time!

Once the craze of Production is over and a temporary period of relative relaxation (known as the Director’s Cut) begins, it becomes time to clean up any messes leftover from Production and truly get the department in order. I’ve decided to use the cleanup period I’m currently in to test drive an organizational web app called Backpack. Made by 37Signals, Backpack is like a ready-made intranet for your office. All you need to do is get people to remember to use it.

I’ve had Backpack up and running for two weeks (out of a 1-month free trial) as of the writing of this post, and it’s been useful enough that I’ll probably start to pay for it when the month expires. For 6 users, which is convenient since there are 6 of us in Editorial right now, it’s $24/month.

Thoughts

I’ll update this as we get further along in our testing, but having an Editorial intranet has long been something I’ve wanted to try out. Since starting to work as an assistant editor, I’ve been conscious of the sheer amount of information I have to remember and then share with the rest of my Editorial team. If I’m the only assistant editor to stay on through both production and post-production, that means I’m the only one who knows all the ins, outs, and irregularities of the film, and bringing other people up to speed takes a lot of time. I’m also a big proponent of open access to information, and I like it when every person in the department can be self-sufficient to a great degree. I don’t want to micromanage a Quicktime output, for example, so I like the other assistant editors on my team to have access to all the same information, email, and contacts that I do, and I find that sharing information freely increases the efficiency with which things get done.

The only barriers stopping me from doing this before were the need to have an in-house server, and that I would be the one who’d have to set it all up and maintain it. Since my main job responsibilities kind of preclude me from having the time to setup and maintain a server, going with another company’s web app is a very appealing option. In addition to Backpack, I also considered Zoho and Google Apps For Your Domain, but in the end the simplicity of Backpack won out.

The only thing so far that has irked me a little is that in its strive for simplicity I’ve found the documentation a little too sparse. For instance, including a Google Map inside a Page turned out to be a piece of cake, but to do that you have to add a Note inside your Page, and nowhere does it say how much HTML/CSS/Javascript you can include. Regardless, here are a few of the highlights of using Backpack.

Journal

The Journal seems to be the least touted feature on the Backpack product page, but it’s where I find all of us spending most of our time. The Journal is akin to a Facebook News Feed. It consists of two boxes, one to list a status update of what you’re currently doing, and another to describe what you have completed. The status update is temporary, and keeps no log of your actions. When you add a completed action, though, that gets appended to the timeline so you can see what people have finished.

As you can see below, it’s useful to for staying informed on what everyone is working on, what tasks they’ve completed, and where to go for lunch.  It’s a pretty simple feature, but it gives us great at-a-glance information on what tasks have been completed and how the day is being spent.

Backpack Journal

Backpack's Journal page (somewhat Photoshopped)

Calendar

On Hellboy 2 our Post Supervisor entered our post schedule into iCal and then shared it through mac.com. That made it easy for all of us (since we were all on Macs) to subscribe to his iCal calendar and stay up to date the instant he made changes to the schedule. I didn’t need to keep track of multiple versions of a calendar that was emailed to me as a PDF, and at the moment I needed to know what was happening I could just open iCal and see the most current schedule reflected right there. For the film I’m on now, I wasn’t willing to shell out the cash for mac.com (now MobileMe), but I still wanted an online calendar that everyone else in the office could subscribe to. For this you can use something like Google Calendar, which I was already using before trying out Backpack, or you can use Backpack’s built-in Calendar.

There are two ways you can use the Backpack Calendar. One is to have Backpack sync its internal calendar with your externally-hosted one (Google Calendar, MobileMe, etc.). The other is to use Backpack as your calendaring software. Since I already had our post schedule on Google Calendar, I just created a Backpack calendar that subscribes to my Google Calendar feed. With this setup, Backpack will sync itself every hour or so to your GCal feed. There is no way to manually sync Backpack, or to change the interval with which it syncs to GCal. Here at the office, I have everyone subscribe their iCal software to my Google feed as well, so that they can refresh iCal at any time, which makes Backpack’s calendar a well-positioned reference, but not the actual source of our online schedule.

Any calendar on Backpack has an iCal address also, so you can subscribe to your Backpack calendar if that’s where you’ve entered all your events and stay up to date in iCal that way. You can also subscribe in iCal to a Backpack calendar that is in turn subscribing to a Google Calendar, but then your iCal is at Backpack’s mercy as to when it updates to reflect new changes.

Backpack's Calendar

Backpack's Calendar

Pages

Last of the features I’ll go over are Pages. This can be like your own little wikipedia. When you create a page, you can set it so that anyone can edit it, and through this they become useful as ever-updating reference for commonly-accessed information like FTP logins and crew contact info.  You can add checkboxes, HTML, images, and attachments to a page. To date, I’ve created a page for:

  • Server logins: Here, everyone has access to all of the FTP, Digidelivery, iDisk, and web site credentials necessary to transfer material to/from Editorial. When we get information on a new server we have to access, anyone can update the server logins page so that it’s easily accessible to others in the future.
  • Delivery specifications: This is where I put all of the Quicktime/tape specs for any department we deliver material to. Right now we only have the music information filled in, but when sound, vfx, and mixing stages start up, we’ll add all their info so that if I ask another assistant editor to make a Quicktime for sound, they can reference what that Quicktime spec is.
  • Basic info: I created a simple page with the address and contact information for everyone in Editorial. When an editor is on the phone and wants to know what our fax number is, they can look here (or shout at me across the hall). I also store our full contact sheet here for quick reference, as well as a condensed version that can be emailed out to new vendors.

Backpack Pages

Backpack Pages (map location altered for privacy reasons)

The Rest

The remaining features of Backpack are Reminders, Writeboards, and Messaging. Reminders are what you’d think: you set a To-Do item and it reminds you by email or SMS when that To-Do item is due.

Writeboards are similar to pages, except with version control. Every time you save a Writeboard, it makes a new version and archives the previous one. You can revert or compare versions at any time, and again, you can set it so that everyone can edit them. I’m trying this feature out for edit notes that need to be addressed, but the way the interface is organized makes the Writeboards a bit buried, especially if you want to include one in a Page. The other thing is that unless you need version control, just working on a Page might be a bit more user-friendly.

Messaging is basically just an internal forum. You can initiate a message to everyone (or certain people), and they can log on and reply. I haven’t found a need for this feature yet in terms of something specific to Editorial, but as a way to get everyone’s Starbucks orders it’s turned out to be pretty handy!

Converting Avid Locators to DVD Studio Pro Chapter Markers

Converting Avid Locators to DVD Studio Pro Chapter Markers

I have two methods for making DVDs for directors, depending on how quickly the DVD is needed and what quality level or features are required. For faster but lower-quality DVDs, I just play out to a standalone DVD Recorder. For higher-quality DVDs I usually export a Quicktime, run it through Compressor, and ultimately bring it into DVD Studio Pro. When I go the DVD Studio Pro route, I also like to take the opportunity to appropriately chapter my DVDs. It’s a pretty quick and easy thing to do, and provides a more meaningful set of chapter points than the automated ones you get on a standalone recorder. My favorite method for quickly chaptering a Quicktime uses Avid locators to provide Compressor and DVD Studio Pro with my chapter points. Below is the process I use, or for the shortcut just use the online tool I created.

TOOL: Locator to Chapter Marker Converter

Converting Avid Locators to Compressor/DVDSP Chapter Markers

In order to convert Avid locators to chapter markers, a little knowledge of regular expressions is required. You also need an advanced text editor that can handle regular expressions (I use the free and multi-platform jEdit). You do not need to add locators to your sequence before you export it. Exporting your sequence and making locators suitable for chaptering can be done in either order. You do need to have exported and processed your locator file before you go into Compressor, though.

Adding Locators to Your Sequence

To prepare your sequence, change the sequence Start time to 00:00:00:00. I normally clear out all the other locators in my sequence as well, and since I always copy a sequence to a new bin before I export it, removing the locators isn’t an issue for me. If you’d like to keep your existing locators, then just add a new video track and put all of your chapter locators there.

Once your pre-existing locators are cleared and/or you’ve got yourself a new video track to work with, go ahead and add a locator at every point you’d like to make into a new chapter on your DVD. Once all your locators are added, go to the Locators window and export them to a text file. If you’ve chosen to add your locators to a new track while keeping existing locators on other tracks, then sort the Locators window by track, select all the locators you just added, and export only those Selected locators to a text file.

Exporting Avid Locators

Exporting Avid Locators

Converting the Locators Text File to a Chapter Marker File

Once you’ve got the text file with your exported locators, it’s time to open it in your advanced text editor. An exported locator file initially looks like this:

Evan Schiff    00:02:18:09    V4    white    Chapter1
Evan Schiff    00:03:11:11    V4    white    Chapter2
Evan Schiff    00:04:57:18    V4    white    Chapter3
Evan Schiff    00:06:41:16    V4    white    Chapter4
Evan Schiff    00:07:37:06    V4    white    Chapter5
Evan Schiff    00:08:29:05    V4    white    Chapter6
Evan Schiff    00:12:33:04    V4    white    Chapter7
Evan Schiff    00:13:33:23    V4    white    Chapter8
Evan Schiff    00:15:19:11    V4    white    Chapter9
Evan Schiff    00:16:14:15    V4    white    Chapter10
Evan Schiff    00:17:44:20    V4    white    Chapter11

Using a regular expression search/replace, you can instantly reformat your locator file to conform to Compressor and DVDSP’s required marker file format, which looks like the text below:

00:02:18:09 Chapter1
00:03:11:11 Chapter2
00:04:57:18 Chapter3
00:06:41:16 Chapter4
00:07:37:06 Chapter5
00:08:29:05 Chapter6
00:12:33:04 Chapter7
00:13:33:23 Chapter8
00:15:19:11 Chapter9
00:16:14:15 Chapter10
00:17:44:20 Chapter11

If you don’t label your locators, all you’ll see in the marker file is timecode. This is fine, the only required data is the timecode, and DVDSP will automatically add chapter labels if you don’t supply them.

To reformat the file, you would use the following regular expression:

^[\w\s]*(\d{2}\:\d{2}\:\d{2}\:\d{2})\tV\d\t\w+\t(.*)$

Your text editor’s dialog box would look something like the image below. I usually do a couple Replace & Find clicks just to make sure the pattern is working before I hit Replace All and save the file.

Regular Expression Search/Replace

N.B. In the Replace dialog box, your text editor may use either $1 or \1 to make back-references.

Importing Markers into Compressor

After you’ve saved your new marker file, open up Compressor and load your Quicktime into it. Make sure the Quicktime is selected in the main window and displaying in the Preview window. To the right of the Preview window’s timeline, you’ll see the marker button, under which you can Import Chapter List. Select your file, and if everything’s been done correctly, you should see markers pop up in the appropriate places in your movie.

Compressor Menu to Import Markers

Compressor Menu to Import Markers

Successfully Imported Markers

Successfully Imported Markers

Once your markers and DVD export settings are ready to go, Submit the job. Once the render finishes, you can import it into your DVDSP template file, and as soon as you lay it down onto a track you’ll see that the markers/chapter points appear automatically.

Why can’t I just add chapter points directly in DVD Studio Pro?

You can, but there are several limitations you’ll be imposing upon yourself. First and foremost, if you make your m2v without adding the markers first, you will not always be able to add a chapter point at the exact frame you want to. To get technical for a minute, when you encode an m2v file the frames of your source Quicktime are compressed into three types of mpeg frames. These are I-frames, P-frames, and B-frames (read your Compressor or DVDSP User Guide for more detail). You can only place a chapter marker on an I-frame, and if you don’t tell the encoder where you want an I-frame to be, it will put them wherever it sees fit, and this may or may not be on the frame that you want to make into a chapter point.

Second, the Compressor and DVDSP timelines are not nearly as precise as Avid’s, and don’t give you the visual identification of where clips start and end. I find it much faster to put accurate chapter points on the Avid timeline than in either Compressor or DVDSP.

You can put your chapter points wherever you like in DVDSP if you import the Quicktime directly and let DVDSP make your m2v file, but then you lose all the advantages of using Compressor, not to mention still having to deal with DVDSP’s clumsy timeline.

Print a Hierarchical List of Disk Contents

VFX companies often include paper printouts of a hard drive’s contents when they send material to/from Production, the DI, and other vendors. Occasionally, it’s useful for Editorial departments to do the same. Having a printout attached to a hard drive you’re sending out lets your vendor see exactly what’s on the drive without having to plug it in, and can be used to log a drive in or catalog it while it’s offline.

Strangely, there’s a lack of software available to do such a simple task as printing a directory listing. Searching through Google, I found a few applications for OSX that offered this functionality, but either the application wasn’t exaclty what I was looking for, or it added too many flourishes like icons and such.

So, I turned to the Terminal. Using a pattern I found in a forum on Unix.com, I modified the arguments and incorporated it into an Automator workflow (attached). This workflow displays a recursive list of directories (if you want only files or both files and directories see the bottom of this post), and is broken into the following steps:

  1. Asks for the root folder you’d like to make a listing from. This would usually be the root of your external hard drive.
  2. Asks how many levels of recursion you’d like.
    • Example: In one instance I was backing up P2 cards. I only needed to list the folder name of each P2 card I was including, and not the CONTENTS, VIDEO, VOICE, PROXY, ICON, and AUDIO folders that exist as subfolders of a P2 card’s root directory. So using this function with a recursion level of 2, my printout stopped processing directories after 2 levels of hierarchy.
  3. Runs the shell command:
find "$2" -type d -maxdepth $1 ! -name '.*' -print 2>/dev/null|awk '!/\.$/ {for (i=1;i<2  && i != 1 )d=5;printf("%"d"s","|")}print "---"$NF}'  FS='/'
  1. Saves a text file with the listing in the same directory you chose in Step 1, and then opens that file so you can browse and print it.

The output looks like this:

|      |---Warrior Back Up
|      |              |---Dailies by Tape
|      |              |              |---CT001
|      |              |              |---HI-8
|      |              |              |---VT001
|      |              |              |---VT002
|      |              |              |---VT003
|      |              |              |---VT004
|      |              |              |---VT005
|      |              |              |---VT006
|      |              |              |---VT007
|      |              |              |---VT008
|      |              |              |---VT009
|      |              |---P2 Backup
|      |              |        |---MISC
|      |              |        |---PRODUCTION
|      |              |        |---REHEARSAL FIGHTS
|      |              |        |---TESTS

Future Refinements

Suggestions welcome, but things I'm already thinking to add to this workflow later on are:

  1. An option to show files as well as folders. You can change this in the workflow yourself by changing "-type d" to "-type f" for a files-only listing, or remove "-type d" completely for both files and folders.
  2. A dialogue to ask if you want to print the listing automatically

Upres a Sequence Multiple Times

This explanation comes by way of Ian Differ, and is useful if you’re cutting on Avid in HD and need to upres an updated version of a sequence you’ve already upres-ed once. For example, if you are working in DNxHD 36 and want to preview a feature film in DNxHD 115, make changes to it and then preview it again, here’s a deceptively simple way to do that.

Note: If you’re on a Unity, I’ve found it helpful to unmount all of my workspaces except for a dedicated one or two that I create specifically to hold higher-res media. This helps you verify that all of the clips in your sequence are linked to the higher-res media and aren’t still pointing at lower-res material.

Doing Your First Upres

Decompose settings

First up-res Decompose settings

  1. Decompose: The first time you want to prepare a sequence for upresing, start by copying the sequence into another bin, selecting it and then choosing Decompose from the Clip menu. (NB: I usually strip off all the Audio tracks before I do this.) Since this is the first time you’re doing this upres, you should have some handles set so that you can change your sequence later and be able to use most of the higher-resolution media you’re about to capture (reusing media being the point of this article!). I’ve selected ‘Captured clips only’ in the screen shot to the right, since Quicktimes are so easily re-imported in their entirety that I probably wouldn’t bother with decomposing them at all.
  2. Capture: Once you’ve got your decomposed sequence, open the Capture tool, select your intended higher resolution (DNxHD 115 or higher), and Batch Capture all of the decomposed clips in your new resolution.
  3. Put it all back together: Once your batch capture is complete, all of the clips in your sequence that originated from tape should be back online. If you’re on a Unity, you can now remount your other volumes, and watch as your Quicktime-based clips come back online as well. If you stripped out audio prior to decomposing, take your original sequence, splice your audio tracks into your decomposed sequence, and you should be good to go.

Doing Your Second Upres

Second up-res Decompose settings

Second up-res Decompose settings

Okay, so now you’re at the point where you’ve probably screened your first preview with high-res media, made some changes as a result, and are preparing to do a second preview screening. You know that you have all this high-res media online, and you’d prefer to reuse as much of it as possible, so now it’s time to go through the process again. If you’re on a Unity, unmount every workspace except the ones containing your higher-resolution media. Then,

  1. Decompose with 0 frame handles: Since you already have your high-res decomposed media online, this time when you decompose you want to make sure to reuse as much of it as possible. You do this by Decomposing with 0 frame handles. If you were to decompose with 48 frame handles again, you would find that even clips that had only been slid by one frame would not relink, since Avid needs to relink the whole clip including handles, even if the range of the clip that exists in the cut is still within the handles of the originally-decomposed media. So by specifying 0 frame handles on your decompose, minor edits will still relink.
  2. Capture remaining clips: New shots, extensively trimmed clips, or basically whatever does not relink will need to be re-captured, but this should be a far smaller task than it was the first time around. When finished, bring your other workspaces online again, splice in your audio, and you should be good to go.

N.B.: In your Timeline’s Fast Menu, you can set your Clip Text to include Clip Resolutions. This is a good way to double-check that your media is at 115 or whatever your higher resolution setting is supposed to be.