Feature Turnover Guide

Feature Turnover Guide

I had written a whole post on turnovers, but quickly found that it went out of date. So here’s my attempt to write a more future-proof guide to getting the materials of your film turned over to all the various departments that editors and assistant editors interact with. This post primarily deals with turnovers to sound, music, and DI/online. There will be another post dealing with VFX.

For the TL;DR crowd, see my normal spec list

What Is A Turnover?

When you hear someone referencing a turnover, it simply means the handing off of all or part of the film from Editorial to another department. Since the other departments on your project (sound, music, vfx, digital intermediate/online conform, etc.) don’t generally have access to your editing system and all of the media you’re using, you have to give them the material to work from in the appropriate format for what they need to do with it.

How Do I Know What To Turn Over?

Once you do this a few times it’ll become an easy and predictable task. The first time you do it, it may be a little intimidating, and you may have lots of questions that even the people you need to turn over to can’t answer. To help, always think of what your turnover recipients are going to do with your materials once you hand them off. What’s most useful for them? What would get in the way if it was done wrong? Putting yourself in their shoes can help you answer a lot of questions on your own.

For example, sound and music departments often ask for split audio Quicktimes. For sound, this means dialogue on the left channel and sfx/music on the right. For music, however, this means they want dialogue/sfx on the left channel and music on the right. If you pause to think about why these specs are that way, it will help inform any other questions that come up. Sound departments’ primary concerns are cleaning up your dialogue and adding a great sound effects track. So it makes sense that for their offline reference they’ll want to be able to hear clean dialogue, and mute your temp sound effects and temp music if they want to. For a composer, many of them have no interest in hearing your temp music, so they want to be able to keep your dialogue and sound effects while composing a new score in place of your music track. As I mention below, though, I now tend to make stereo WAVs of dialogue, sfx, and music all separate from the Quicktime so that I don’t have to deal with panning a stereo QT and they have even finer grain control over the audio they hear.

On the picture side, an example might be the request not to letterbox your reference Quicktime when turning over to the DI. If you think about it, the DI facility is responsible for recreating your cut using your RAW footage or scanned film frames. The more information they can get about how you cut the film together, the faster they can work and the more accurate their timeline will be. EDLs go a long way, but sometimes you just have to go frame by frame and see what’s in the cut. If you matte your reference Quicktime, they might have to eye-match to your footage, which is time-consuming and error prone. By not matting your reference Quicktime, they can see the source filename and the timecode burn-in of each frame, and cross-check that with their online edit.

Components of a Turnover

These are most of the common items you’ll need to generate for a turnover. You need a set of these for each reel unless otherwise noted.

Quicktimes

First and foremost, a turnover generally requires a visual reference of your project, and this is usually a Quicktime rendered out from your editing application. For a film project, which is what I’ll focus on here since that’s my primary area of work, this usually means one Quicktime file per reel. Before you render a Quicktime out, you should check a bunch of things:

  • Do your reels have head and tail leader?
    • Head leader is an 8-second countdown with a one frame audio pop on the 2. Tail leader has a Finish frame and pop 2 seconds in, but can be of varying length after that. I usually go with a 10 foot (160 frame) tail leader. Get in the habit of putting your leader and audio pops on every track in your sequence, not just V1 and A1 (but do lower the volume of all the pops to a comfortable level).
  • Do your reels each start on the right hour?
    • Film reels start on the hour according to their reel number, including head leader. So Reel 1 should have a Start TC of 01:00:00:00, Reel 2 at 02:00:00:00, etc. On your head leader, the hour mark would correspond with the Picture Start frame, and your first frame of content would be at 8 seconds flat.
    • While checking Start TC you should also verify that your Footage counter is zeroed out. In Avid, if you right-click on your sequence and go to Sequence Report, you can check the starting Footage (or EC, for Edge Code) count of the sequence and reset it to 0+00 if need be.
  • Does your sequence need a matte?
    • Most departments will not want to see all the burn-in information such as filename, source timecode, audio timecode, etc., so you’ll want to keep a matte handy to cover it all up to the appropriate aspect ratio of your project.
    • Some departments will want to see this information, and you should be sure not to matte your burn-ins for them. When turning over to the DI or to anyone in Marketing (trailer editors, e.g.), don’t include a matte.
  • Does your sequence need additional burn-ins such as TC or Feet & Frame counters?
    • Most everyone will want a visible timecode counter on every turnover you make. I usually put sequence TC in the upper left and F&F in the upper right corners of the letterbox, and I make the font size pretty big so it can be read at a glance from far away.
    • There is a school of thought that you can export QTs more quickly by adding these counters with other software (Compressor, e.g.) after the initial export from your NLE. I really disagree with this approach, because the burn-ins you add directly into your sequence serve as a good double-check that everything is as it’s supposed to be. All of your other deliverables (AAFs, WAVs, EDLs, etc.) will be wrong if your sequence TC is off and you didn’t notice that because you just exported your video without a burn-in and pasted one on later.
  • Have you burned-in the name and date of your sequence somewhere in the frame?
    • You’ll send lots of turnovers over the course of a film, and you need to give your turnover recipients a way to talk with you about a particular version. If you put the sequence name and date visible on screen, that gives them multiple ways to refer to a particular version or a particular date. For example, R1_v20_SOUND_140204 might be how I’d name a Reel 1 (version 20) sequence for Sound that I delivered on 2/4/14.
    • Sometimes, as with trailer editors, you’ll receive Quicktimes back that have been cut together using multiple turnovers and asked to reconstruct that edit in the Avid. In this case, knowing exactly which turnover sequence each shot is referring to and what timecode a shot was pulled from will help you to quickly do your overcut, so having a lot of information burned-in can help you later on as well.
  • What kind of security markings do you need to add?
    • I usually keep a bin of title templates handy that add things like Property Of Production Company, the date, and the name or initials of the person receiving the file. These burn-ins go in frame, not in the letterbox, so that people can’t crop them out as easily. I put security titles on my topmost video track so it doesn’t get buried by anything. If you have subtitles in your film, make sure you’re not covering them up.
    • Some studios have a spec sheet for how they like their security markings, and others just want something but aren’t specific about what or where in the frame they want it. It’s all pretty standard, but I like to have my text be partially transparent so as to be very visible but not super annoying to watch.
  • Does your Quicktime need embedded audio?
    • I personally prefer to export audio separately and leave my Quicktimes mute. Most of the time this is ok, but sometimes you’ll need to embed audio. If you need to embed split audio (Left channel: dialogue, Right channel: music/sfx, e.g.), I usually recommend against doing this in Avid since it involves re-panning your sequence. Avid doesn’t do well with re-panning, especially if you’ve used AudioSuite effects in your timeline. In that case I export dialogue, music, and sound effects separately as mono WAVs and then add them to the exported Quicktime using Quicktime Pro, panning them there as necessary.
  • Is there a specific codec required? If not, what is the best codec?
    • Unless otherwise noted, I default to making Quicktimes using the Photo JPEG codec at medium quality. I don’t like ProRes because you have to remember to turn off Gamma Correction, and H.264 is a no-no because it takes forever to export and is not guaranteed to be frame or color accurate. DNxHD is always an option for people working in ProTools or DIs, but it makes for large files that are not easily played outside of Avid applications, so even when I’m handing off to a ProTools user I won’t bother with DNxHD unless they ask for it.

Here’s an example of what a fully prepped Quicktime could look like. I didn’t have much content I could post publicly, so instead you get to see me solving the Golf Ball Water Globe. Notice the tracks are split, too. The burn-in is maybe a little big.

Guide Tracks

This is self-explanatory, but it’s one of the main reasons to try to keep your audio tracks organized. When you get into post you’ll have to turn over a set of audio files (usually WAV or AIFF) that contain only dialogue, only effects, and only music. The only way to export these files is to keep the audio clips on separate tracks, so I usually do the work of splitting my tracks out in a duplicated sequence for the first turnover and then copy the split tracks back into the main reels so that my work is preserved even as the edit changes.

Each guide track should be exactly the same length as your Quicktime, and have a 2-pop and finish pop as described above so that the guide tracks can be lined up with the Quicktime in an audio editing application to assure the sound team that everything is in sync.

AAF (a.k.a. OMF)

An AAF is a file that allows you to give your timeline to other applications. For example, an AAF of your audio tracks can be imported into Pro Tools where a sound editor can work with your clips exactly as you’ve cut them in your NLE. At the minimum, AAFs contain metadata about your timeline and the clips in it. You can also choose to include the media that those clips reference inside of the AAF, or you can have the AAF link to an external media directory. Either way, you would  usually export an AAF with media handles, so that the person receiving your file has a bit of extra media on either end of each clip’s in/out points.

If you’re making an AAF for ProTools, make sure you have AAF Edit Protocol set. This will allow your AAF to exceed 2GB in file size if it needs to. I also usually set the options to Render All Effects and Include Rendered Effects. Be a little careful with this, as you might run into the same problem with AudioSuite effects that I mentioned above. It’s best to make sure all of your AudioSuite effects are rendered in your timeline before starting to make any turnovers. You can render them globally using the fast menu of the AudioSuite window. If there were unrendered effects in your timeline, check that they rendered correctly before going further.

Typical AAF Export Settings

Typical AAF Export Settings

The terms AAF and OMF are mostly interchangeable, or are at least used interchangeably by many people including myself. This is because OMF is the original file format everyone used, but now the AAF file type has superseded it. This is in part since OMF files are limited to a maximum size of 2GB, which isn’t enough if you’re embedding a full reel’s worth of audio. If you’re running a newer version of Avid, you will only be able to export an AAF. FCP7 will only export OMFs natively, and AAFs with Automatic Duck. I have no idea what FCPX can do, but you probably need to buy a plug-in to get AAF functionality. In any case, the two files are almost the same thing, and a lot of people will still ask for an OMF even though they actually need an AAF.

Also, if your project is still using OMF audio media, which is different than making an OMF files, that can cause some weird problems with AAF exports, among other things. There are many reasons why you should not have any OMF audio in your project, and there is not a single reason why you should. Consciously using OMF audio in Media Composer is like willfully using Windows 95 when a new Mac is available. Don’t do it, go MXF/PCM all the way and you’ll save yourself a lot of headache.

Cut Lists, Change Lists, and/or EDLs

Cut lists and EDLs tell other people and other applications about the order and duration of clips in your timeline. For Change Lists specifically, even though every department we interact with relies heavily on our ability to make them, they are currently a nightmare to make in Avid Filmscribe. The program has been super buggy for years to the point where it’s almost unusable, and it can require you to spend a lot of time simplifying your sequence before Filmscribe will make a change list without crashing. I can’t accurately describe the loathing I have for Filmscribe. That said…

Cut Lists

Cut Lists are good for giving to DI companies when doing your conform. They can reference either source timecode for tape or file-based footage, or list keycode for material originating on film. Fewer and fewer companies are using Cut Lists, though, and instead opting for other methods involving EDLs.

Change Lists

As soon as you turn over your movie more than once, you’ll likely need to hand over a change list. As you would suspect, this tells the person receiving your turnover how the edit changed between the last time you gave it to them and now. For sound and music departments, this helps them conform their ProTools sessions so they can update and smooth over their sessions to match the new version of picture. For the DI, a change list helps them match their online sequence to your offline Quicktime reference, and then determine if there’s new material they need to get from you in order to recreate your cut.

Until Filmscribe gets a total rewrite, it’s best to thoroughly scrub your sequences clean of complexity before loading them into the app. By this I mean you should reduce your sequences to the fewest number of tracks possible, save one layer out of any collapsed clips before removing them, and then remove any additional effects. Since you need Filmscribe to tell you only what’s changed, be sure to reduce the complexity of your sequence the same way every time. For example, if you pull the V1 layer out of a collapsed clip the first time, make sure you do it the second time, too. Try to make the sequences as similar as possible, so that the change list only reflects actual changes instead of having a lot of events in the list that look like changes but aren’t.

Once you’ve got your sequences set, drag the appropriate sequences into the Old and New sections, set your settings and click Preview. I usually like to do a Columnar or Optical Block list with Master Durations and Ignore Color Effects set (though you should’ve removed all of these already). Under the Change List options I select only Name, and KN Start if applicable. Save it out as a .txt file and you’re good to go. If the app crashes instead of giving you a previewed file, you might still have an effect in your timeline that it’s too dumb to handle.

Change List Options

Change List Options

Rebalanced Change Lists are made when you’ve moved a chunk of footage from one reel to another. To make one of these, first make sure your sequences have the Reel column filled out in your bin. Then in Filmscribe, drag your two old sequences and two new sequences into the appropriate spots and make your list. If you don’t do this and make only single change lists from each version, it won’t be clear from the change lists that material was moved between reels. It will just look like you deleted a bunch of stuff from one reel and added a bunch of other stuff to another.

EDLs

EDLs are a timecode-only (no keycode) list of “events” that describe, in order, the clips in your timeline. They’re a relic from the days of tape, but they’re surprisingly useful for all sorts of other things. Most editing and finishing applications take them, and they provide a simple and standard way to define a timeline and the material in it. For example, color correction software can use it to notch a timeline, so that if you give them a Quicktime to color-correct, you can also give them an EDL to tell them where each shot starts and ends. You can also use them to get a source list of the files used in your edit, or to get information out of Avid and into another form, such as a Subcap file. I also sometimes receive them, as in the case where you’re finishing a DI and the DI company sends you an EDL of all the VFX shots they’ve cut into their timeline so you can check that all the shots are there and are the right version.

Normal options for EDLs are to include the Source Clip Name, Locators, and Effects. Make sure to use the File_16 or File_32 list format if your source is an Alexa/RED/Sony/etc. so you can fit the full filename in. For digital cameras you should always have your full filename in the Tape bin column. DaVinci Resolve, which many DITs use to transcode footage for Editorial, does not have that option turned on by default, so make sure the DIT turns it on in the Timeline Conform pane in Resolve. If you get footage without proper info in the Tape column, I usually recommend duplicating the filename from the Name column into the Camroll and Labroll columns before renaming the Avid clips into Scene/Take format. The Camroll and Labroll columns are more easily changed than the Tape column, but if you’re careful it should work fine, be redundant, and either of those two columns can be used in EDL Manager in place of Tape.

Audio EDLs are useful for dialogue editors to go back and get the original audio file’s iso tracks, and most will ask for a set of EDLs on your first turnover to the Sound department to help them. In this case you would turn off all the V tracks in EDL Manager, turn on all  A tracks containing your dialogue, and use the Soundroll column as your source tape setting (if you have Soundroll and Sound TC filled in). If you don’t have Soundroll and Sound TC info, adjust these settings to match whatever metadata you do have.

One word of advice: always check the Console if EDL Manager gives you a warning message. It looks daunting but it will tell you what clips didn’t have the metadata it was expecting, and you can use that to see if you have a problem or if you can ignore it and keep going.

My Usual Specs

Unless I hear otherwise from the departments I’m working with, here are the specs I will give them for each reel:

Sound

  • Mute Quicktime – 720p, Photo JPEG, medium quality, no fast start. QT is letterboxed with sequence TC and F&F burn-ins, along with sequence name, date, and security markings
  • Stereo WAVs  – one each for dialogue, music, and sfx tracks
  • AAF with 96 frame handles, AAF Edit option checked, media embedded if necessary. Render All Effects and Include Rendered Effects options checked, but no others
  • Audio EDL of each reel’s dialogue tracks (usually for the first turnover only)
  • Change List (from the last version they received to the current one. They might not be sequential versions)

Music

  • Mute Quicktime – 720p, Photo JPEG, medium quality, no fast start. QT is letterboxed with TC and F&F burn-ins, along with sequence name, date, and security markings
  • Split Stereo WAVs  – one each for dialogue, music, and sfx tracks
  • AAF with the same options as above, if requested.
  • Change List (from the last version they received to the current one. They might not be sequential versions)

DI

  • Mute Quicktime – 1080p DNxHD36 or Photo JPEG, no fast start. QT is not letterboxed, but still has sequence TC and F&F burn-ins, along with sequence name, date, and security markings
  • EDLs of split video tracks, so that’s one EDL per camera type (35mm, RED, GoPro, etc.), one EDL with all VFX, and one EDL with any opticals (resizes, speed effects, dissolves).
  • Stereo WAV, not split out, for reference and so they have something to play during reviews
  • Avid bin containing your sequence(s), if requested
  • Change List (from the last version they received to the current one. They might not be sequential versions)
  • Pull List and Cut List (for film only)

Marketing

  • Mute Quicktime – 1080p DNxHD36 or ProRes (Gamma Correction Off), no fast start. QT is not letterboxed, but still has sequence TC burn-in with sequence name in large font, plus date and other security markings. I usually make security markings for Marketing turnovers big and annoying, since these often get forwarded on to multiple companies out of your control or contact.
  • Split Stereo WAVs – one each for dialogue, music, and sfx tracks.
    • If embedded audio is required, dialogue on Left channel, sfx and temp score on Right (or sometimes full mix on Right, if requested)

ADR

  • Mute Quicktime – 720p Photo JPEG, medium quality, no fast start. QT is letterboxed with TC and F&F burnins, along with sequence name, date, and security markings. For ADR, don’t have a center security burn-in since it can get in the way of an actor’s ability to sync to their mouth onscreen. If you must have a center burn-in, make it center-ish with partially transparent letter outlines only and no fill.
    • If you’re only getting ADR in a small portion of a reel and are worried about security in the ADR studio (especially for remote sessions), trim the export sequence to only the necessary scene, but make sure that the timecode is still correct. In Avid if you make a subsequence, it will keep the timecode it came from originally, which is what you want. Make one QT for each scene that you need. Alternatively, you can export one Quicktime of the whole reel but lift out the portions of it that are not needed so there’s just black inbetween. This isn’t totally necessary, but why have more material floating around than you have to?
  • Dialogue WAV only

MPAA

  • For delivery to the MPAA, either DVD, some tape formats, or DCP (2D or 3D) is allowed. 2D Blu-ray is ok also (but risky in my opinion), and no 3D Blu-rays are allowed at all.
    • Property of Production Company burn-in only, no bigger than 10pt font, located at the very top or bottom of frame
    • No other burn-ins allowed
    • Total Running Time printed on the label

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  1. I’m gonna print this out and hand it out to all the people in my cutting room. Really great stuff, being the night turnover guy, it can be hard to communicate with the day crew effectively about the inconsistencies in their turnovers. This should help a lot. Thanks! Hope we get a chance to work together sometime!

  2. Also,

    I don’t know if you are going to cover this in part 2 but I would certainly like to find out how you organize your turnover bins both the sequences inside the bin and within the project. Currently I have a very specific order in which I do things in my turnover process and it is reflected in my bins with color coding. 1) Original sequence 2) duplicated original sequence with group clips committed colored green 3) 3 or 4 split audio sequences with v1 preserved (DX, FX, MX, SOURCE) colored pink 4) an AAF sequence of all audio tracks and v1 preserved colored blue 5) Flattened tracks for EDL and Change Notes colored yellow and 6) Old flattened sequences with which to make change notes colored white.

    I usually prep the sequence, start it mixing down or exporting on someone else’s system if I can and then continue on with my turnover so that by the time the mixdown or QT is finished, I’m done with the rest of the turnover. Is this similar to what you do? I’m currently on the Untitled Mann Project and we have loads of turnovers every night to several different departments. Trying to find the most efficient way to do everything in this environment is a constant battle, as I’m sure you can imagine.

  3. Justin,

    My system sounds a bit different from yours, but that’s part of the reason I didn’t dive into it in the article. Each show brings its own challenges and you have to organize it however is best for the show. That said, I usually have a Turnovers folder in the project, with subfolders for DI, Music, Sound, Marketing, etc. Within those folders I have bins such as 140327_Sound_R1-5 so I can at a glance see what I sent to who and when. I name it the way I do so it sorts chronologically, and I keep Sound/Music/DI in there in case the bin gets dragged somewhere else by accident.

    Within the bin I tend to append the same info to the sequence name, so something like R5v21_SOUND_140327_QTRef. That QTRef sequence is the master one, and I will use it for as much as I can. So like I’ll add a matte and burn-in to it for making a QT, and also split out the audio in that sequence so the tracks are divided properly for making my split WAVs as well as my AAF and dialogue EDLs. If I have to do anything destructive to the audio or video tracks before making an output, anything that fundamentally changes how it looks or sounds if someone were to make a QT from that sequence later, then I’ll dupe the sequence and change the QTRef suffix to _AAF or whatever is appropriate.

    For a picture turnover, I’ll do the same with making a QTRef sequence that is an exact copy of the original reel plus matte/burn-in, etc. And then I’ll dupe that to make a _EDL sequence that I can use to split out all the different cameras onto separate tracks.

    For my change lists, I like to actually keep a library of those sequences in a different folder, usually Turnovers > DI > Change Lists, with a bin for each reel labeled R1 Change Lists, R2 Change Lists, etc.. In that bin I’ll store every Filmscribe-ready sequence I’ve created, so that when I go to make the change list in Filmscribe I only have to open one bin per reel, and it’s easy to find older versions if like the sound department skipped a couple turnovers and needs a jump list from R1v15 to R1v25.

    I don’t do a lot with coloring sequences besides trying to keep the current reel in the editor’s main reel bins colored so it’s obvious that’s the one everyone should work off of. Usually the only other time I’ll color a sequence is to mark one red if there’s a problem with it, or green if I have a bunch of sequences in a bin I need to check and I’ve only checked some of them. I do much more with clip colors, though, since those are a lifesaver if you do them from the very beginning of the show.

  4. Wow, really interesting. This is why I love working with different crews because everyone has their own way of doing things and they all work. I love learning all the different techniques people have for different things, it helps me look at what I’m doing and see if I can’t implement other people’s ideas that are better than mine. I share my info in case what I do helps someone on their project in some way and I appreciate you sharing what you do. The change list archive is a really good idea. Currently everything we do lives inside our turnover bins for each day.

    So the way our project is structured, we have a folder for turnovers and inside that folder are folders for each department to which we’ll turnover (MX, SND, DI etc.) Then inside that folder we have the current reel turnover and an archive folder of older turnover bins, not all of them though, the really old ones get pulled out into our archive project after about two weeks to attempt to keep the project size manageable. I really like the idea of having folder with flattened sequences in it to make it easy to find old flattened sequences for making jump notes and things like that.

    I have used your method of doing everything off one sequence before on other shows, but I found that not everyone pays attention to whether or not they have “use marks” and “use selected tracks” options checked off in their export settings and as a result I’ve had people make guides incorrectly. Or on one show our audio tracks were so muddled it became impossible and incredibly time consuming to separate the tracks each time, and editors were constantly cutting old subclips into the reels making it impossible to really preserve cleaned tracks. So I took to the habit of making separate sequences for audio guides and just deleting what doesn’t belong in each sequence. That way I know if I mark in to out and select all tracks all I have is DX, FX or what have you. On shows that I’ve started we’ve been able to keep the audio clean from the start but I’ve joined several projects in the middle of post when it was very difficult to make changes stick for various reasons.

    The color coding for me just makes it easy for me to identify what sequence is what when I open the bins to minimize the amount of reading I have to do when I’m being forced to rush something. On this show it happens a lot. I’m actually working with a couple of people who are mutual friends of ours. Jason Gaudio is a really good friend of mine and your name came up when I was trying to convince him to join the Uncanny Assistants group. Likewise our Post PA Sal Valone says really great things about you as a personal friend. He’s a great guy and I’ve been trying to help him get familiar with doing turnovers and stuff when he’s stuck at the office into the evening. Hopefully we get to meet sometime in person!

    I really appreciate you blog as a forum to spread these ideas, that’s why I really love the uncanny assistants group as well. I’m very passionate about the job and love nerding out about workflow technique. Thanks again for sharing!

  5. Hey Evan,
    Noticed on your quicktime demo you have your TC starting on the hour with your countdown. Wouldn’t you want it to start @ 00:59:52:00 and have 01:00:00:00 at the first frame of picture? Same goes for the edge code? I’ve had mixers ask for the feet and frames to start only once “picture” starts and not on the countdown.
    Cheers,
    Andrew

  6. In tv when you are laying off to tape yes you want to roll back the start so picture starts at hour one. In feature films you want the leader to start at hour 1 and picture comes in at 8 seconds or 12+00ft. 2 pop is at 6 seconds to be able to sync film and sound track. It goes back to the film days and is just one of the many things that are different between TV and film.

  7. Huh, that is different from what I’ve seen in some deliverable spec sheets…So, if you’re delivering the final (digital) master your TC is 01:00:08:00 at first frame of picture?
    I know for Disney’s feature deliverables specs they ask for 01:00:00:00 to be first frame of picture. This is different from your experience?

  8. The one show I did at Disney our reels were set for picture start to be at ##:00:08:00 or 12+00. I think if the intended output is a Tape you roll back and if you’re filming out or making DCP nowadays you start the leader at hour one. Nobody is using film anymore, and there’s no technical reason to preserve that methodology I just think it’s one of those conventions that hasn’t gone away. Really, all it has to be is whatever your vendors and studio/network are expecting, I just haven’t encountered the roll back in feature films before.

  9. Hmm, go figure. Yeah, the outputs we were doing were DPX.
    In your experience, do you usually add a slate before the countdown? Bars & tone? If so, what timecode do you place those at?

  10. Almost never, if I’m making a tape for a preview or for a screening of some kind than yes, sometimes. Most of the time we just need to put a framing chart and some tone to test audio channel patching at the theater. For general turnovers I’ve never had to do that.

  11. The other thing to consider is that in TV, the most important measurement is the length of content that will actually air, so it’s easier to measure with the first frame of content being on the hour exactly. In film, exact runtimes aren’t as important, but when you’re making LFOA counts you have to include the head leader, so it makes more sense then to zero everything out at Picture Start for both TC and F&F and start the counter there. For me, from an organizational perspective it also makes more sense to have each reel’s content be contained entirely within the same hour, so where the actual content starts doesn’t matter quite so much as just being consisten in the fact that Reel 2 begins at 02:00:00:00 and so on, regardless of the fact that each reel starts with head leader.

  12. Also, this article isn’t really dealing with final deliverables. Those come from your finishing house of course, so it’s entirely possible that when the DI facility makes a final deliverable tape for the studio, there would be bars & tone at 59:30:00 and the countdown would start at 59:52:00 and the film would begin at 01:00:00:00. And I know I’ve run preview screenings off of tape where that was the case, but in general final deliverables aren’t really my area of expertise since they usually happen after I’m off the show.

  13. Yeah that’s how I’ve always done it. Whatever the reel number is the hour number of TC at picture start.

  14. Yeah, deliverables are handled by the DI facility and the distrubtor once the DI is done. In TV the online department is in charge of layback and delivering the final set of tapes that go to air. I’ve had to make final delivery tapes before and the networks will always specify exactly how and where they want everything placed on the tape. It’ll fail network QC if anything is off from their specs.

  15. still looking forward to part 2!

  16. Thanks! I just need to make the time to do it. I promise I haven’t forgotten!

  17. Evan, many thanks for this priceless spec sheet. Also, looking forward to part 2!

  18. This is all great info, I have a few new editors in my circle that are learning this stuff so I’ll be sending them here!

    Luckily the two features I’ve cut this far didn’t require change lists. When we locked it was LOCKED. I’m definitely going to play with change lists this week to make sure I understand how they work. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  19. Really great article, Evan. The paragraph about not using OMF Audio made me laugh as my clients regularly send me projects with OMF audio. It’s good to hear other people voicing those same issues. Have you had many dealings with Turning over to and working with VFX Vendors? I doubt the TO guide will differ much from what you already do but would be great to see how you deal with VFX Vendors.

  20. I actually have requests for handing over OMF audio to mix/sound design, seems ProTools can handle those better. My current workflow is to change the audio format to Omf and rebatch all audio referenced in the turnover sequence. Is there a better way to recreate OMF audio?

    greetings from Berlin, Germany.

  21. Unless they’re using an ancient version of ProTools, like one from 10 years ago, then they are wrong. Don’t bother converting your audio format, just give them your mxf media as is, MXF is the native format for both ProTools and Media Composer. OMF is just a legacy format now. They’re probably stuck in old ways without really understanding technically what they actually need.

  22. Great post. I’d add regarding export formats that it’s possible to use h264 for turnovers with success if they’re created outside Media Composer. On my most recent project I routinely created outputs in the following manner:

    • In Media Composer, made a video mixdown (DnxHD36) and overcut it on the sequence.
    • Exported the mixdown same-as-source
    • Ran a shell script that used ffmpeg to crunch that export into h264, adding watermark and TC burn.

    I keep meaning to post these shell scripts to my blog and will get to it eventually. I used different scripts for super-fast 1-pass 720p exports, slower high-quality 2-pass 1080p exports, and to create all-I-frame h264 quicktimes for sound and music (Protools and other sound/music apps don’t work responsively with standard long-GOP h264, which is why those departments often ask for photo-jpeg or even DV – all-i-frame mp4 is functionally equivalent to photo-jpeg but is supported by more applications and devices). Thankfully no department on this project wanted a feet+frames burn, so I didn’t have to spend time trying to code that up for ffmpeg.

    H264 exports from within Media Composer are incredibly slow – I think they use an ancient 32-bit non-threaded QuickTime engine, I usually see one core bump up a bit but not even be fully utilized when doing such an export. But Media Composer’s video mixdowns use Avid’s internal engine rather than an old Apple SDK and are very efficient, and same-as-source exports are as fast as a file copy. So that whole process outlined above is dramatically faster than doing a straight-from-Media-Composer h264 quicktime export. And one can then re-use the same-as-source export to rapidly make multiple differently-watermarked h264 QTs by running it through ffmpeg scripts repeatedly with different options.

    The resulting h264 files are frame accurate and do not exhibit gamma or color shifts when displayed in any modern application (verified by AMA-linking the resulting h264 back into Media Composer, flipping between it and the original output, and monitoring on an external scope).

    –a digression about export comparisons–
    It should be noted that QuickTime 7 Pro is a useful tool for modifying QuickTime files but it (and likely every other old non-AVFoundation-based application) is terrible for viewing accuracy and will make every comparison look wrong — it shifts both DnxHD and h264 in opposite directions. QT7 Pro has an ‘Enable Final Cut Studio color compatibility’ checkbox that can maybe bring Prores back into line, but other codecs don’t fare well with it. It’s amusingly difficult to do an onscreen comparison of a dnx same-as-source output and an h264 because:

    • Media Composer’s source and record windows do not display color/gamma accurately (or at least the black levels are off — longstanding issue – here’s an old forum post about it: http://community.avid.com/forums/p/67309/376951.aspx). But MC’s output through Nitris or other true video output hardware is correct.
    • Quicktime Player X displays its supported formats (including h264) properly, but doesn’t support Avid DNx-encoded video.
    • Quicktime 7 Pro has been deprecated for so long it seems to have forgotten how to display anything right. Or maybe it’s always been this far off and I never noticed.
    • VLC player may be more trustworthy than all official proprietary applications in the way it displays both of these codecs on-screen – it fared best when I was trying to test. At the time I was saddled with using a computer that lacked the hardware to run Davinci Resolve and I was on a project whose media could not be taken off that computer, so though I suspect Resolve would do fine I didn’t get a chance to try.

  23. I’m still planning to write this up in more detail, but it seemed silly to mention the use of ffmpeg scripts without providing one. So in case anyone wants to try it out, here’s one of ’em that’ll do a 720p h264 with TC burn based on the embedded timecode of the source file, and will add a simple “property of” text watermark. There’s enough in it to make it a starting point for more experimentation.

    http://zachfine.com/blog/wp-content/images/VFX_720p_2-pass_fast_timecode23.98_atRight_v2.sh

    To use it, you’ll likely need to:
    • save it to a file (some browsers may display it inline rather than automatically downloading content of type “text/x-sh” [looking at you, Chrome]).
    • download and install fonts and/or change the references to font locations at the top of the file
    • chmod +x the file (info on chmod: http://catcode.com/teachmod/chmod_cmd.html)
    • install ffmpeg if you haven’t already done so. The long ‘brew install’ command in the middle of this blog post should do the trick for mac users: http://zachfine.com/blog/2016/03/25/converting-mkv-mpeg-2-anything-from-disc-to-dnxhd-or-prores-using-ffmpeg/

    For a really fun time, remove the first invocation of ffmpeg, remove the ‘-pass 2’ part of the remaining ffmpeg command, and change the preset from ‘slower’ to ‘ultrafast’. That’ll make it fly (at the expense of visual quality at low bitrates). You can also add an “-an” flag and remove “-c:a libfdk_aac -b:a 256k” in the command to force it to create MOS output regardless whether the input file has sound channels. And depending on your source file, you might or might not want the TC burn to remain hardcoded at 23.98 (note the “r=23.98” part of the command).

    Have fun.