Tag Archives: Avid

Add Virtual Cuts to a Clip Based on the Tracks Beneath

Ever needed to add cuts to a clip at the edit points of each shot inside that clip? Yeah, me too. I’m sure this has uses outside of the feature film world, but since features are what I know, I’ll explain this using an example from doing a DI.

Imagine that your DI house has just finished assembling a reel, and they send you a check tape. You ingest the check tape into your Avid, and cut it into your reel’s sequence on the top-most video layer. All is well and good, except that you have one, unbroken 20-minute clip on your timeline. Sure, you’ve got the video tracks beneath it with your dailies, but you’d really like to add edits to that 20-minute clip where each shot starts and ends.

Fortunately, this is pretty easy to do, but Avid has hidden it away inside of the Pan & Scan effect (as of MCA 3.1.2). Here’s how it goes:

  1. Load up the sequence that corresponds to your unbroken clip. For features, this would be loading up the Reel 2 sequence that your Reel 2 DI check tape is supposed to match, for example.
  2. Add a new video track, and cut in the clip you’d like to slice up so that it is in sync with the video tracks underneath
  3. Add a Pan & Scan effect to the clip you just cut in
  4. Make sure that all your track selectors are active
  5. Go to the settings for the Pan & Scan effect, and under the Action menu, click Subdivide. This will add virtual cuts in your clip wherever there is a cut in the active video layers beneath it.
  6. Using the segment tool, select all of the segments on your newly-sliced clip, and click the Remove Effect button. This will remove the Pan & Scan effect from that track, leaving you with one clip and a bunch of matched-frame edits at the boundaries of each shot.

N.B. I referenced this briefly in Step 5, but I’ll explain it a bit more. When you click the Subdivide button, Avid will insert edits corresponding to whichever tracks are active and have cuts beneath the track with the Pan & Scan effect. So if you want to make your virtual edits based on V1, V2, and V4, but not V3, just don’t have the V3 track selector active when you click Subdivide.

Once you’re finished you should have a timeline looking somewhat like this:

A sample timeline after using the Subdivide effect on the top-most video layer

A sample timeline after using the Subdivide effect on the top-most video layer

Importing 24fps Quicktimes Into 23.976 Projects

Here’s a neat little console command to tell Avid to ignore the frame rate of any imported Quicktime. You would need this command if, for example, you’re cutting in 23.976 but your vfx house insists on delivering 24.000 fps QTs. This would also work in the reverse, if someone delivers you 23.976fps Quicktimes and you need them to be 24.000fps.

Open the console and type in this command:

ignoreqtrate true

To turn it off, just substitute ‘false’ for ‘true’.

This works particularly well in the 24/23.976 situation since there are actually the same number of frames in both types of Quicktimes, they just play at slightly different speeds. So by telling Avid to ignore the frame rate of the Quicktime, you can prevent Avid from trying to interpolate frames to convert 23.98 to 24, since it shouldn’t be doing that anyway.

First-time Avid Setup

Whenever I’m first setting up a Mac Avid, whether it’s a rental for a show I’m working on or my own desktop or laptop, there are a bunch of things I like to do before getting down to work.

  • Connect your Avid to the Internet and/or internal network
  • Go through this list of good Avid practices. I’m not sure if there’s one for Leopard yet, but the gist is to turn off any features that could interfere with your interaction with the Avid application or slow down the performance of your system in genera. In particular make sure to turn off Software Update.
  • Install necessary software
  • Import your User Profile, as well as that of any other person who may need to use your Avid (other editors and assistant editors)

Why you should connect your Avid to the Internet

I’ve heard from many an assistant editor and rental company that Internet-connected Avids are a bad idea, but I believe that if you’re careful and professional (i.e. don’t use your Avid as a BitTorrent client), the advantages of connecting your Avid to the Internet far outweigh any disadvantages.  Connecting your Avid to the Internet has the same amount of danger to your Avid, and no more, as any other computer. I agree that general net surfing on your Avid should be avoided (especially if you’re on a PC), but otherwise no harm will likely come to your computer or to the Avid application by having it hooked up.

The advantages of hooking your Avid up to your network are as follows, and they basically fall under the two categories of internal and external file transfers.

  • Internal File Transfers
    • Everyone, at some point, usually multiple times a day, needs to get a file from your laptop to your Avid or from your Avid to another Avid. If you’re on a Unity, you can use the Unity workspaces as shared storage space for exchanging files. You can use a flash drive or hard drive if you must, but this is quicker and equally safe. If you’re not on a Unity, or if you need to do a transfer from your laptop to your Avid, you can use AFP. In your System Preferences on one of the two computers, enable Personal File Sharing:
      • Then, on the other computer, select Connect to Server from the menu in Finder, and type in the AFP URL you see in the Sharing pane (mine is afp:// Type in any password you may have, and you’re on your way. AFP, by the way, is significantly faster than SMB / Windows Sharing. personal_file_sharing
  • External File Transfers
    • I like to use my Avid for uploads not only because it’s faster than my laptop and has access to the Unity, but also because I usually don’t have the free hard drive space on my laptop to accommodate the size and quantity of files that I normally transfer. I could copy those files to an external drive, connect that to my laptop, and then start the upload, but that seems like a big waste of time when I can just upload from the Avid.
    • Overnight Uploads
      • On HB2 I was frequently in a position where I needed to upload gigabytes of data overnight from London to LA. I could’ve left my laptop in the office uploading all night, but who wants to do that? Instead, use your Avid, especially if you don’t have it doing some other all-night task like exporting reels to QT.
      • For Signiant, I also set up a Mac Mini on HB2 to do a lot of the overnight file transfers back to Universal. If you do this, then you can use your Avid to transfer the DVD image or whatever you’re uploading from a Unity workspace to the Mac Mini, and then use the Mini to upload to the studio.

Recommended Software for your Avid

This is just a list of the software that I install on any Mac that I’m working on, Avids included.

  • Alfred: easy keyboard-based application and macro access. I used to use Quicksilver but development on it stalled
  • Growl: provides nice, discreet notifications for software running in the background (email checkers, FTP clients, my Automator backup script)
  • jEdit: full-featured free text editor, since TextEdit is a joke. jEdit also supports regular expression search/replace, which has saved me countless hours over the years. bbEdit, TextMate, or similar are also good options.
  • Chrome : I like Chrome for my browser, but FYI Avid’s manual doesn’t work in it, so sometimes I have to open Safari.
  • Quicktime Pro : Probably being phased out, but still useful if you have the choice.
  • DVD Studio Pro: Easy and full-featured DVD creation, but not available for purchase any longer. Hope you bought Final Cut Studio before FCPX came out.
  • Name Mangler, or similar file renaming software. This lets you rename a batch of files according to regular expressions, numeric sequences, and other conditions.
  • Dropbox : Great for putting your Avid project into if you’re a one-man show. On bigger shows with multiple Editorial locations I use it to pass individual bins back and forth between myself and other assistant editors

Pros and Cons of Cutting in HD

Hellboy 2 was a first for me in terms of cutting in HD. All of the other projects I’ve cut or worked on have edited in either NTSC or PAL, and so this was my first run through the process of organizing an editorial and post-production process involving HD. Overall, it worked very well. The editor enjoyed working with much higher-quality footage, the sound department loved mixing to higher-quality reels, and having that extra definition gave us assistant editors more flexibility across the board for how and at what quality we would turn materials over to the people who needed them.

That said, after a year of working in HD, there are some big limitations that got in the way, many of them from Day 1. I will go into them in detail, but I think I can sum them up by saying that the HD workflow was obviously not intended to be used for cutting film, and I hope that we soon move back to cutting with 4:3 material, hopefully in 1k or even 2k.