Archive for the ‘Workflow’ Category

Update to FrameFlex vs. Resize

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

frameflex.jpg

It seems I fell victim to different behaviors with FrameFlex whether it be on the source side or in the timeline when I did my original test and described here.  In my test, I compared FrameFlex in the timeline to a resize using 3DWarp effect with HQ setting active. Where I went wrong, was assuming that transcoding the sequence with FrameFlex baked in was using the pixels from the higher resolution clip it was linked to and was surprised that both results looked exactly the same. The behavior is that a transcoded sequence with FrameFlex will apply parameters applied to the Source Setting as an extraction, but not the ones created with FrameFlex in the timeline regardless of active settings in the transcode dialog window. The result is that it will behave no differently than a 3DWarp or other resize effect and end up having no difference in quality defeating the purpose of using FrameFlex in the first place.

My thinking was once the editing was done, and a conform to the camera originals was completed, one could just do a transcode to the a mastering resolution and continue on from there. In order to preserve the higher quality extraction offered via FrameFlex, you need to render the FrameFlex effects in the timeline as you would any other effect as seen by these examples (courtesy of Grant Petty 4K images from the Blackmagic camera):

Click on image for 1920 x 1080 version. Here is the transcoded version of the event in the timeline:

transcoded.png

And here is the rendered version:

render.png

As you can see, the rendered image is sharper overall in comparison to the transcode as it is uses all the pixels of the FrameFlex region of interest. In transcoding, the image is first getting scaled to 1920 x 1080, then a resize is applied.  So be sure to plan accordingly when using FrameFlex in the timeline for your mastering needs. I suggest creating a clip color for the event in the timeline as it is not possible to know which clips have a timeline FrameFlex applied to it as the green dot can now mean one or all of the following; frame rate mismatch, XY resolution does not match project, or a color transform is active.

Media Composer and OS X Mission Control (spaces and desktop)

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

mission_control_add_space.jpg

I got an email from my friend Joseph Krings,  about using Mac OS Spaces and Media Composer because I had mentioned it to him as being quite useful. Well it wasn’t me, but our mutual friend Tim Squyres that had made the suggestion and now was something I just had to try. I am probably the last person to know about this function, but I started looking into it and how to set it up with Media Composer when editing on a MacBook Pro (or any single monitor configuration).

There is plenty of information on setting up multiple desktops, such as this one.  On my MacBook Pro, I press the F3 Button to access the UI for setting it up. Just move the cursor to the upper right corner and you will see a square with + sign. Click that. In my test scenario, I added three desktops in this order from left to right:

  1. Bins
  2. Script in full screen mode (ScriptSync), optional if you’re using ScriptSync. 
  3. Composer and Timeline windows

This is done by dragging the individual windows into each of the different desktop icon representations, then organizing their layout from each window. All in all, it works quite well. Double clicking a clip will load it in the source monitor as expected, and that desktop view will become active. “Find Bin”, and ScriptSync editing all work as expected. The main benefit for me is to not have to deal with having multiple bins open and trying to organize them in whatever real estate I have available on a single screen. While Tab’d bins are nice for some workflows, there are times when I want to see multiple bins in a frame view where a single glance will tell me the coverage or information needed. And bins can each take on the size needed for the best display. Once set up,  I “four-finger swipe” back and forth between desktop views closely replicating the two monitor (or three screen in this case) Media Composer experience I am accustomed to when editing with desktop systems.

The only small inconvenience is that Media Composer does not remember the desktop layout it belongs to when launched a second time. There is a way to pin an application to a desktop view, but only works for applications that have a single UI window. Media Composer has multiple windows being assigned to different desktops and therefore cannot be pinned via the OS X UI.  I am still testing workspace layouts within Media Composer to see if I can get a combination that works and will provide an update if possible.  Perhaps someone else has been successful in saving a multidesktop configuration with Media Composer? If so, let me know! Because of this,  I leave the Project window and bins on the original desktop view as they will always open there, moving the Composer and Timeline windows to another desktop view. It’s quick to set up and good for the whole session.

Have fun swiping!

Locator VFX Workflow Utility

Monday, January 6th, 2014

markers.jpg

Some of you may have seen postings by Chris Conlee on various forums describing his free utility to convert Markers (locators) used for VFX into a SubCap file allowing for the metadata to be an overlay burn-in for reference outputs. This is a great time saving utility literally saving days on shows with many VFX. Chris describes how it works in this COW posting and downloads can be found here. I suspect with a little fiddling it can be used for any comments contained with Markers that you may want to have displayed on output deliverables.

iXML AMA Plug-in Update

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Media Composer 7.0.3, the third maintenance release of Media Composer 7.0.0 brings some fixes and small refinements to the iXML AMA Plug-in that was introduced with 7.0.0. The good news is that it is out of the “danger zone” that I blogged about in its initial release here.

At least, while in a 1080p/23.976 project, timecode is correctly  interpolated and does not drift over the course of the clip by the .1% pulldown factor (1 frame every 00:00:42:16).  The Read Me also lists other bug fixes such as being warned when linking via AMA that a timecode mismatch exists between file and project type. While this is a nice addition, it is only in the console and the user is not notified of a mismatch at time of linking unless always checking the console becomes part of the process - which is clunky at best. With BWF import, the user is presented with timecode of file and can see right away what changes might occur at time of import.

My biggest issue now is that it is still a “Sophie’s Choice” when using either AMA or Import methods as they are not the same. Actually BWF import has gotten worse compared to BWF import in previous versions. Here are the differences in the same file using AMA versus import (click for larger image):

compare1.png

As you can see, the iXML contains a few more fields of metadata such as “Circled” and Wild Track” compared to BWF, but BWF import is missing Track metadata 4-8 which used to work.  iXML still does not support monophonic tracks into a single clip, pullup or pulldown workflows, nor allow for 1/4 frame resync in 35mm Film Projects, even if you link and do a transcode/consolidate. As far as BWF is concerned, import for frame rate is not prompted for some project types. For example, I get the timecode prompt when importing a BWF file into a 720p/23.976 project, but not in 1080p/25. And in the case 720p, it is using a 60 frame count which is not a SMPTE standard instead of a converted 30fps:

If AMA is the way of the future replacing “Import”, it really needs to provide all the functionality of the existing “import”. I guess as yet another workaround, one could export an ALE of the AMA linked files and merge them into the BWF imported ones to have parity. But why make users do that? What would make AMA a great tool is to allow for it to have “source settings” like other AMA linked formats. Not only for consistency purposes, but to allow the user to have control over the metadata with a refresh and update much like Wave Agent allows for with BWF and incorporate the existing BWF import functionality:

wave-agent.png

It should also be noted, that with 7.0.3, you cannot create an audio EDL from any imported or AMA linked BWF file. It will come up 00:00:00:00. I am sure this will be fixed in the point release, but the “workaround” for now is to duplicate the START timecode column into an AucTX column and use that to generate EDLs.

I have no real issues with iXML AMA Plug-in being a work in progress for a period of time, but not at the expense of existing and functioning workflows such as BWF import. I hope iXML and BWF Import functions will be addressed in the near future and not have to be a choice of the lesser evil depending on your workflow needs.

Avid DMF Considerations

Monday, December 30th, 2013

mc7031.png

One of the many new features that were part of the 7.0.0 release was Dynamic Media Folders or DMF. DMF allows for media services to be applied to folders as a set of rules and actions and processed whether the Media Composer application is running or not. The solution appears to be a localized version of Interplay Central as you can see “Interplay Central - Progress Monitor”  flash for a few seconds in the browser’s tab before changing to “Background Queue.” I think it’s great that technology and solutions get repurposed for different uses and markets once developed.

But in the case of DMF, there are some considerations to be made depending on your workflow and whether you are better served with a foreground/background transcode, or using DMF. And as usual, the answer is “it depends.” It depends on what your sources are and what you plan on doing with the media once edited;  Is it to be finished inside Media Composer or conformed elsewhere? An important one is whether you are dependent on FrameFlex or not as part of the process. As you can see from the following screenshot, not all transcodes are created equal and the user needs to be aware of which one is being used (click for original size image). The NOTES field indicates DMF, and Background Comparability ON or OFF.

dmf-considerations.png As you can see, the same original AMA linked clip will have different metadata attached to it after a DMF transcode or a foreground/background transcode process once linked in the bins. The Image Aspect Ratio and Reformat values are not the same (Stretch? Nothing’s been stretched). Some of this is based on whether you have compatibility ON or OFF in the transcode settings, and I will get to that in a future blog dedicated to FrameFlex. The issue is that even with these settings turned off in the DMF profile, the file is transcoded as though it were turned on. Click on thumbnail to see full size image of DMF Transcode settings.

dmf-transcode-settings.png

It makes sense for Color Transform to be baked in (for now), but not for raster and image size. It is either a bug or a limitation of the DMF’s external transcode engine. Anything listed as 16:9 in the Image Aspect Ratio column at a 1920×1080 resolution will not have the ability to use FrameFlex in the timeline. Which for an offline to online process FrameFlex on proxy media should be part of the basic design.

Another consideration is when using DMF, there is no project association attached to the media. The DMF clip has an empty “Project” field.  If you are using DMF for media to be associated with different projects and later use the Media Tool or third party software applications to find associated media, it will be problematic at best.

I find that background transcode is the overall better solution for formats that are not 16:9 or greater than HD in resolution. Background transcode allows me to manage clips to a defined project, keep the raster size “live” for FrameFlex and downstream conforms all for the small price of keeping the Media Composer up and running. Having Media Composer not running with DMF does not offer enough advantages considering what I am giving up. It would be an entirely different matter if I could run Background Services on a separate system that did not have Media Composer installed. Perhaps that will be a future consideration as referred to in this blog

As with any project, think through all your needs from start to finish, and pick the best path for success.

Plotagon

Monday, December 30th, 2013

plotagon.gif

In the course of my “industry research” I came across a very cool little application called “Plotagon“. It is a simple integrated script and storyboard application with real time playback and voices of what is written, very similar to a gaming engine, or a SIMS type environment. It will be interesting to see where this application goes as they expand its toolset as it can be used in marketing, social media, education and to some extent, filmmaking. I was able to very quickly write a bad script and using the preset list of actions create a small scene. Once complete, it can be shared via the Plotagon site as well as YouTube if desired. You can see this masterpiece here. The script can be exported using the Fountain markup language supported in several writing applications. The entire process is very easy, and somewhat addicting. The filmmaking process would need more controls over actions, timing, angles, etc. which would make the UI more involved, but I can see them pulling this off in future versions.

This reminds me of technology I have seen in the past with PowerProduction’s software offerings for storyboarding and recently its integration as a plug-in for NLE systems.  Martini QuickShot can be used in Final Cut Pro and Media Composer as an AVX plug-in allowing editors to add missing shots as needed rather than just a title with “Missing Shot” providing better previsualizuation when working with production and producers. I have often sent printed timelines or exports in frame view to production to give the a better idea of the shot size and angle to better support the story. In 2005, Media Composer exported interactive HTML storyboards from Avid FilmScribe, but unfortunately most of the web-based templates no longer work.

Editing,  like any language, is in a constant state of change. The combination of script, game engines, editing continue to shape how stories are told and shared across different distribution channels and will be fascinating to see how tools used by storytellers will evolve over time.

My Two Favorite 7.0.3 Bug Fixes

Friday, December 27th, 2013

mc7031.png

Win Van den Broeck does an excellent job of listing all the available fixes and “new” items in Media Composer v7.0.3 in his blog. For me, my two favorites are listed as bug fixes in the 7.0.3 Read Me, that border on being new features as they start enabling new workflows, or re-enabling old ones.

The first one is 24fps timecode support in the SoundTC column for “NTSC” based project types. I’ve written about workflow issues with SoundTC in this blog, but basically the issue was that SoundTC was always hard-coded to 30fps timecode in a 23.976 or 24.000 HD project type. This was a workflow carryover from NTSC based workflows before HD was available, but never updated in the nine years since HD was a standard Avid project. This is important to workflows that sync in third party systems prior to editorial as there is only one master clip that needs to carry all the timecode information. From a conform perspective, productions were putting this timecode in any of the other five AuxTC columns making it very inconsistent from production to production. With 7.0.3 and forward, there is now a self defined timecode column for this metadata. Some things to be aware of though as the “bug fix” is just enough to allow for 24 frame counts but know that:

  • ALE has a new Global header  ”SOUNDTC_FPS” where the value 24 or 30 can be defined. Unlike the header for Video FPS, the ALE will not import if there is a 23.976 value. Only 24 or 30 can be defined. This type of ALE will only work in 7.0.3 and forward. I have not tried it in an earlier version to see what happens, but I suspect a similar error message will pop up. 
  • Any one clip can either be 24 or 30. Unfortunately you cannot track what the value is other than loading the clip and scrolling bast the :23 frame count to see what it’s doing. I recommend adding a custom column and entering a value there if it needs to be tracked. It would be nice if the global header from the ALE be used as a column once imported.
  • The user is prompted with the choice of 24 or 30 only when that field is empty and a new value is being entered by hand or by “duplicate column” feature. If there is a value there, any new entry will assume the frame rate of the existing timecode. If you need to change the timecode count type, delete values first, then enter a new value where you will prompted. An exception to this is merging an ALE where SOUNDTC_FPS is defined. All existing values will now reflect what is defined in the ALE.
  • If you create an EDL with mixed timecode values in the SoundTC, it will not be flagged with an FCM command or comment.
  • If you export an ALE from the bin, it does not contain the new Global Header
  • You can bring a bin with 24 frame timecode in the SoundTC back to MC v6.5.4.1 and it will count as 24, but you will have no ability to change it as in 7.0.3 if needed.
  • Bringing a bin forward will assume the 30fps timecode and remain as such in 7.0.3, but can be changed once value is deleted and a new one entered.
  • User will be prompted when doing a “duplicate column.”

My second favorite one is the change to the ALE merge process. In all previous versions, merging an ALE into existing masterclips was not a true merge, but a “replace with” whatever was in the ALE. So if there was existing metadata in a column that was not in the ALE, it would get deleted. For example, here is a bin with metadata before the merge (click images for larger version):

703ale-merge-before.png And in previous versions, merging the following ALE:

new-ale.png

would result in the bin now looking like

pre-703_ale-merge-2.gif

Where only the fields in the ALE remain, but all the other column metadata has been deleted. In 7.0.3, the same ALE merge results in

703ale-merge-after.png

Where all the metadata remains and only what is in the ALE changes after the merge. This one has lots of the workflow benefits as external databases can now be easily repurposed in editorial at any point in the process.  The metadata update does propagate to the subclips, but I still need to test for .sync and .grp. This starts enabling color workflows as mentioned in this blog entry.

Both of these features are much needed workflow type solutions. I hope Avid is reaching out to the third parties that create dailies for post production to generate ALE with only changed columns as a feature as well as be aware of the SoundTC column, even if it is to be tracked as redundant metadata during the transition process.  ALE merging of a subset of columns is currently done by editing the ALE itself to only contain relevant fields and is how the above example was created. Some databases will export only selected fields which makes the process a whole lot smoother.

For me, these are more than bug fixes, but workflow enhancements important to the post process. I almost would have highlighted these two in the “What’s New” section of the Read Me rather than in the bug fix list, but good to know these are now available.

FrameFlex vs. Resize

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

original.png

Avid FrameFlex is a new feature in Media Composer v7 that allows for image re-framing. The FrameFlex parameters go back to the original high resolution master using more pixels to create the new frame rather than resizing an HD frame to the new size. One result involves more pixels being used and scaled down, versus the latter which takes pixels and blows them up. Scaling tends to result in a higher quality image compared to the reverse. So with this in mind, and knowing that only FrameFlex uses the original source file resolution, and any scaling operation that is not FrameFlex is restricted to the HD resolution of the project, I set out to compare the different methods of re-scaling versus extraction.

  1. FrameFlex
  2. 3D Warp Effect with HQ active
  3. Standard Resize effect 

The image above is a 4K (quad GD) R3D file. As you can see from the FrameFlex bounding box, it is a rather aggressive “punch-in” for the shot. In FrameFlex terms, it is 50%, as far as resize goes, it is 200%.  The results were really surprising. In the end, I did not see 200% of “wow” difference. For the most part, it was very difficult to see the differences between the two operations. While there is some very slight softening, it was not as much as I thought it was going to be. And just to be sure, I did the same extraction in RedCine X Pro to use as reference. In that frame there is a difference in the gray area of the shirt which could be attributed to the 12bit to 10 bit transcode. In all tests, the R3D was done as a FULL debayer to an uncompressed HD MXF file.

Here are the resulting frames exported as TIFF. Click links to download each file.

I also did a quick test with the standard Resize effect which does not have an HQ button and there is some very slight difference there, compared to the 3D Warp resize with HQ active. If you want to download the zip file with all the TIFF files, click here. In the end, it’s different tools for different jobs. The 3D Warp does give you extra image control such as rotation to level out a horizon when needed. 

Quality overall is difficult to tell from stills alone. Codec, aspect ratio (other than a multiple of 16:9) motion and other factors do come into play, but with all things relative, I was more surprised at how well the resize from HD stood up. Even the amount of detail and noise in a shot could affect the overall quality of the resize versus extraction operations. Here is a download of the same test with the XAVC 4K codec. In this case, the 3DWarp is less crips at the same 200% push, but as expected, with smaller push-in, it becomes less noticeable.  Also, there would be a distinct visible quality difference had the same re-frame was shot as Quad HD resolution to start with versus an extraction,  but that is a test for another day.

PhraseFind Tips

Friday, December 6th, 2013

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PhraseFind is one of the more innovative methods available to search lots of footage based on what is spoken, in addition to what might be logged as metadata. This phonetic indexing and search functionality is technology licensed from Nexidia which powers other similar solutions such as SoundBite from Boris. Anyone who has used it will gush over the time-savings and usefulness this brings to workflows. But I bet that many users are not benefiting from the full functionality that PhraseFind offers or how to enter terms correctly to ensure proper results. Unfortunately this information is not part of any Media Composer documentation that I could easily find.

Users can use the following syntax operators to really zero in specific content with extremely high confidence in the results. So… From my modified Nexida documentation on search tips:

A key part of successfully searching audio with Nexidia’s technology is to understand a few basic rules regarding entering search terms. The syntax used here is entered directly in the text entry of the FIND window:

Characters:  A general rule of thumb is to spell out every word in the search query.  This includes:

  • Numbers:  Instead of ‘2008′, type ‘two thousand eight’.  Spell the number using the variation in which it is most likely to be spoken — for example, in an address, ‘495′ is likely to be referred to as either ‘four nine five’ or ‘four ninety five’. 
  • Acronyms:  Separate acronyms that are spoken as a series of letters with spaces.  For example, ‘FBI’ would be entered ‘F B I’ and ‘NCAA’ would most likely be entered ‘N C double A’. 
  • Symbols, Punctuation: Omit all symbols and punctuation such as $, ! and -. 
  • Abbreviations:  Spell out an abbreviation the way it is pronounced.  For example ‘Mr’ should be ‘Mister’ and ‘Dr’ would be ‘Doctor’ (or ‘Drive’).

Quotation Marks:  These are the only non-alphabetic characters that are valid to use in the search box (other than “&” for spanned ranges - see below).  Placing quotation marks around two or more words tells PhraseFind to search for those words together in the sequence they were entered.  For example, entering “President Ford” “United Nations” will launch a search for President Ford as one term and United Nations as the other term.

Spelling:  Because we’re not searching a transcript or other text, correct spelling is not required.  In fact, modifying the spelling of words can actually help improve the results.  If the correct spelling of a word is not pronounced the way in which it is typically spoken, adjust it so that the letters more closely match how it is spoken.  For example, when searching for ‘Barrack Obama’, try ‘Buh rock o bahma‘.

Expression Analysis

This method extracts discrete sequences of adjacent terms that are most likely to have been spoken together, and therefore yield good results for the user:

Multiple Searches:  Given a multi-word search – each individual term, as well as the literal string is independently searched.  An example — President Ronald Reagan – typed into the search box would produce the following search requests:

  • Search (President Ronald Reagan) 
  • Search (President) 
  • Search (Ronald) 
  • Search (Reagan) 

Quotation Marks:  If terms are enclosed in quotation marks, the terms inside the quotation marks are searched together, and the remaining words are each individually searched.  A literal search is not executed when quotation marks are included.  An example – healthcare reform  “Ronald Reagan” – typed into the search  box would produce the following search requests:

  • Search (healthcare) 
  • Search (reform) 
  • Search (Ronald Reagan) 

Span Based Searches

This is very useful when looking for content in a more contextual manner rather than specific instances as noted with the previous method. The FIND interface gives no UI indication for this type of search but is possible if the proper string is entered. For example, if I were cutting a program on the Red Sox winning season from all the broadcast material available, I may want to find footage of Papi and Home Run within a certain time span of each other. The results would indicate that the clip context is probably what I am looking for in this case, versus any time Papi, home, run or “Home Run” are uttered.

The notation is:

  • “Term1 &X Term 2″ … where X is time in seconds.
  • So for my example: “Papi &20 home run” would find those terms within 20 seconds or less of each other

This can also be used to identify 2 or more words within a certain amount of time in a clip.  For example,

  • “Term1 &5 Term2 &10 Term3″

Will locate files with term1 and term 2 within 5 seconds of one another, then within those files, determine if term3 is spoken within 10 seconds of the first 2 terms.  Note this order dependency.

Update: Version 2.0 of PhraseFind re-introduced with Media Composer v8.8 no longer supports span based searches.  

Using the Macbeth Chart

Monday, November 25th, 2013

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This blog is in response to a posting I saw on the Avid Community Forums from a user demoing the use of the Greta MacBeth color chart with Media Composer for removing color casts and such from a shoot. The forum thread and demo video can be seen here His YouTube demo video can be seen here.

I think it’s great that users participate in sharing their solutions and taking the time to make demo videos. In this case, I wanted to show how the same concept of using a chart but with much fewer steps.  This is a demo that I used to do at the Sundance Film Festival Digital Center for filmmakers over the years.

A quick and silent demo video can be seen here. It’s bad enough you have to see me, I did want to subject you to my talking as well. But the concept is pretty easy to grasp; Instead of reading numbers from the color picker and making a best guess as to which part of the luminance scale to change values, just click the target value and use the “match” feature to complete the task much faster while creating a nice curve rather than truncating shadows and highlights in trying to accomplish the same thing.  You can download the digital version of the MacBeth chart I created here. Just make sure to import as 601/709 so that the RGB values are not changed. The numbers may not be exact, but are close enough for a quick starting point in getting a better looking image quickly. Of course as with all color correction, scopes, proper monitoring, are needed.

For additional and related information, Art Adams helped design a better chart for video work and speaks to the limitations of the MacBeth chart here.

Addendum: I forgot to mention that the reason for picking a black point on my shirt was to find the blackest reference point in the frame.  The black square on the Macbeth chart can never be a true black due to the fact that it’s reflective. Some color charts used to have holes, or black felt and such to reduce reflection in order to get a true black. Peter Fasciano, a good friend who has taught me a lot over the years gave me a small empty tomato paste can lined with velvet, that one would point off axis to the lens. Now that was black! Thanks Peter! I just didn’t have it with me the day we shot these test scenes.

The Need for Dedicated Frame Counts

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

frame-count.jpg

 

In addition to VFX workflows using DPX, sequential TIFF or otherwise, many digital cinema cameras also acquire frame based sequential files. Two examples would be the line of Blackmagic Cinema Cameras using CinemaDNG and ARRI with ARRIRaw. GlueTools is in beta with an ARRIRaw AMA Plug-in for Avid Media Composer support and Adobe Premiere Pro CC now supports CinemaDNG natively. But frame counts are used differently depending on which files are being used where you are in the workflow; camera originals or VFX?

There is also the challenge of long file names. Versioning with VFX can get quite long, and the BNC cameras in their initial state allowed nearly unlimited file naming. Tracking these files through a post workflow involves managing both the file name, the frame count of the file, and the timecode. The advantage of frame counts is that they do not need to adhere to a frame rate - they are whatever the rate is imposed on the clip itself which is useful in high frame rate workflows. SMPTE only recognizes 24, 25, 29.97/30 (DF/NDF). But neither of these NLE’s support a dedicated frame counter that is managed according to the workflow.

Media Composer gets close with DPX, VFX and Transfer column which support up to 32 character prefix and a 7 digit count separated by a dash “-”. But those columns were added several years ago before frame-based cameras and are limited in flexibility of file naming. It also has a frame count that can be displayed above the viewers, but no way to set its preference and has no timecode to frame conversion. The MetaCheater application from many had this feature in it when creating ALE files from VFX .mov proxy files which is quite useful, but can be so easily integrated into the NLE itself.

Adobe also gets close and offers preferences for frame-based counts to start 0 or 1, as well as timecode to frame conversion. But it is an “or” tracking system and not a separate field where one can track both timecode and frame counts visually.

What is needed is a mashup of the two NLE solutions and offer a dedicated Frame Count column allowing for:

  • Start count as 0
  • Start count as 1
  • Parse frame count from file name
  • Convert timecode (from clip metadata any timecode source) to frames
  • Track folder name containing sequential files in its own field
  • Sequence side preference for 0 or 1 frame count

A minimum of 7 digits is needed to cover the full 24 hours of timecode, but there is no real need to limit the actual frame count. Once frame counting is properly managed, it can be concatenated with any column for asset management tracking, automated pulls as part of a reporting solution as simple as:

  • <start><filename><frame_count><sequence frame count>
  • <end><filename><frame_count> <sequence frame count>

By tracking frame counts and file names separately, the NLE can offer the most flexibility in metadata management of the sources as well as the sequence/compositions. Reporting can be man-readable print-outs or XML for automating pipeline processes.

Working With Prosumer Audio Recorders

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

There was a posting on several of the leading user forums (as seen here) from someone who needed to import WAV files recorded from a Roland Edirol R4. These devices are great for music type recordings, but are lacking when it comes to double system production and postproduction needs. Inspired by the question and the challenge, the following PDF describes the steps to get from this:

edirol-before.png

To this:

mc-import.png

There are other issues with these type of devices such as lack of timecode and other metadata, but at least the scene and take from the folder name can now be used.

Download the step by step guideworking-with-prosumer-audio-recorders-in-a-post-workflow.pdf

Avid Metadata Logging and Tracking

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

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Many times I get asked what the different columns do in Media Composer as far as logging metadata and how one column may be better than another for a certain workflow. A very useful document has been updated to reflect changes with Media Composer v7 and also has a quick primer on the ALE header specification for different project types.

With ALE being the only “man-readable” file format that is supported for import, knowing how and what these columns do is a useful skill to have. Many of the tips presented here on 24p deal with metadata and how to get that into Media Composer, so consider this the master cheat sheet.

Clicking the image above will take you directly to the PDF document on avid.com saving you the time of trying to find it yourself.

Resolve ALE Merge for AMA Linked Files

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

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It is possible to log clips with Resolve and use ASC CDL values as part of Media Composer’s new LUT/ASC CDL support, when using AMA to link to original camera files. The trick is a little ALE editing of two column headings. It first starts with making sure Resolve REEL is correctly set using “source clip filename” as seen in the above screenshot. This is found in setting, conform options in the “assist using reel names from the” subsection. The clips will look like this in the Media Pool:

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Do whatever color correction work for ASC CDL as per Resolve guidelines, and then export the timeline as “ALE and CDL…”:

export.gif

The ALE then needs to have to two column headings edited and is easily done in a text editor. The columns heading and example values will look like the following before editing:

ale-before.gif

Change “Name” to “Source File” and change “Tape” to “Name”. The original value in Name is exactly what AMA will produce in the “Source File” column when linking and now allows for a Merge to happen. The ALE will now look like:

ale-after.gifOnce edited and file saved, proceed per usual merge function in the import shot log settings. All metadata will be applied to the linked AMA clips including ASC CDL values as part of a color management workflow during the editorial process as well as any other values logged in Resolve.

This process will work for any ALE file as long as the filename + extension is somewhere in the ALE file - just edit its column header to “Source File”.

Producer/Director Notes

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

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Reporting is still very much needed in collaborative workflows. Producers and directors like to have something they can look at to show coverage and other notes from production. This is required for dailies solutions. In post, I create PDF’s from the “Script” view of the bin that allows for a representative frame, a few columns of source metadata (depending on length of data) and a large empty area for anyone to enter notes. I print these up for those who need it directly from a bin.

It does take a little fiddling to get the right set up, but that is quickly done and once set can be saved as a form of a template.  From there, you can add other bins via the Tab’d bin view to quickly print them up when needed. On Mac OS X, PDF creation is native to the operating system and I use the PDF Preview to make sure it is set right. On Windows, there are Printer add-ons to create PDF. Having this printout view as a preset template would be a nice feature to have done automatically. But after one or two tweaks, you can create a PDF that exports as the example here:

scenes_31-32.pdf

I also subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud as Photoshop, After Effects and Illustrator are commonly needed in most workflows. But with that, I have been playing with all the other Adobe solutions available to me (Adobe Acrobat), and in the PDF example provided, I also embedded a URL link on the image frame to the clip stored on a cloud streaming service. In this case, I used AFrame, but it could be any of the many available streaming services. Clicking the thumbnail for 30A/1, will take you that clip on the AFrame site ready to play. Having this be part of the reporting output would be a great way to tie editorial, execs, and creatives together. In doing so, the document ranges from a simple printout to a more interactive dailies review solution. I can choose the different solutions at the price point needed, when I need it and keep the document small enough to send via email.

When MetaSync was supported, Media Composer supported Hyperlinks within bin columns . “Option/Control-clicking” the link would take you wherever that link went. One could imagine if that still existed, it could be added to the printout automating these types of workflows.

I have been playing with Adobe Prelude to better learn its place in the production to postproduction pipeline. It does allow for hyperlinks to be associated on a Marker or the span of a clip, very much like MetaSync’s AEO (Avid Enhanced Objects) allowed the creation of “smart media”.  Not only do features like that enable these simple review solutions, but become the basis for two-screen viewer participation in the broadcast environment where “value” is tagged from the very beginning of the process and extracted via the XMP when needed. 

Assimilate Play Workflow

Monday, October 21st, 2013

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In a previous blog I was discussing Assimilate’s Scratch Play as an exciting companion application for Media Composer and v7’s support for color managed sources. At the time, I only concentrated on 3D LUTs and ASC CDL workflows which unfortunately still do not work with Media Composer. But… Upon further testing I discovered that the 1D LUT (*. lut) imported fine and I was able to apply it to a source clip. So for workflows where a 1D LUT is sufficient, this starts to bring postproduction using Media Composer and production a little closer allowing for more real time interaction with a DP, DIT and colorist. Stay tuned for another “small changes/big impact” refinement that has been addressed that I will blog about when ready. 

Syncing Audio and Source Settings

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

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Color management on source clips has been a long time request, and Media Composer v7 introduced a lot of new functionality in that area that allows for LUTs or ASC CDL color metadata to be applied to sources. I hope this area continues to be developed moving forward removing some of the missing workflow pieces mentioned in this blog. The ability to keep color metadata active throughout the editorial process can streamline a lot of different workflows, but adding FrameFlex and color management on source clips affects several workflows when it comes to double system production and syncing in Media Composer for clips that do not have common timecode.

Many users like to create sync map relationships in the timeline by aligning picture will all related sound elements in tracks, then slipping and sliding to establish sync. But rather than having to edit from sequences as a source, the next step is to “subclip” each event as its own sequence, highlighting one or several sequences and selecting AutoSync from the “Bin” menu. This results in a true subclip that can be used like any other subclip showing sync breaks in the timeline while editing. But when any of these source settings are active on a master clip, it’s considered an “Effect”, losing the ability to sync as subclips using the timeline method. And more importantly for many productions, this means that tools like PluralEyes will no longer work as it depends on AAF sequence roundtripping as part of its process.

There are two workarounds to this problem, each involving a tradeoff that may or not be suitable depending on workflow needs:

  1. Transcode all your clips with source settings “baked in” which is done by checking “compatibility mode” in the transcode settings dialog box. This of course eliminates any of the “live” metadata workflow enhancements offered through LUT updating and FrameFlex (ASC CDL will still work).
  2. Sync clips from the bin by Marking an IN or OUT on each picture and sound clip, select both clips, select AytoSync. Resulting clips will retain the live source setting metadata but this can be more tedious in some situations, and as mentioned, not as fast as PluralEyes for difficult sync situations when no clapboard was used.
  3. Use sequences as source - loading into source is a drag and drop only and there will be no out of sync indicators in timeline if sync slips.

I hope this will be addressed in a future release so that productions can continue benefiting from all the features and solutions available with each new release.

AMA Transcode - heads-up!

Friday, October 4th, 2013

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MC v7 introduced a lot of workflow enhancements around AMA that will benefit many productions. Two big efficiency features are “Background Transcode” and “Dynamic Media Folders” (DMF). There are some differences that impact workflow between those two that will be addressed in a future blog when it comes to non-16:9/2K+ resolution media that users should be aware of, and should consider before embarking on many days worth of dailies.

This particular “heads-up” relates to AMA background transcode or DMF when working in “Film” projects. The reason I like working in Film projects was discussed in this blog. But users should be aware that using AMA for picture in addition to sound sources will prevent the 1/4 frame resyncing feature to work.

The workaround for double system sound workflows, is to import the BWF files rather than link with the BWF/iXML AMA Plug-in which currently has its own set of issues, but have been told that these will be addressed very soon. But you need both picture and sound to work in order to sync to the 1/4 frame and the only workaround for picture is to create the MXF/DNxHD media with a third party solution or with Media Composer v6.5.x and earlier. There has been no indication as to when this issue would be resolved.

Mix & Match Continued…

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

I’ve gotten into looking at what happens with the different settings when using test frames such as the ones in the images. Following is the different Field Motion settings for a 25p to 24p frame rate conversion. What has caught my attention is the background gray scale and the Blue/Red combination of the square over the 1 second cycle. Although the letters show a distinct two frame blend, the background has all different gray scale values from the start to the end of the cycle. It clearly shows the difference between the interlace setting versus the progressive setting. I took the RGB values and mapped then into a spreadsheet and plotted out the P and the I against each other for a 1 second cycle. A further calculation would show the percentage of the blend over time of the pulldown cycle for each frame blending operation. That chart looks like:

FM_P = Progressive (Blue)

FM_I - Interlace (Red)

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Here is what the 1 second cycle looks like on a per frame basis when set to Interlace. Note the distinct Black and White Backgrounds for the first 12 frames, then the blending starts with frame 13 :

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And the progressive set of frames start the frame blending right from frame 2 over the course of the 1 second cycle:

25-24-fm_p.gif

Field Motion and Mix & Match

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Ever wonder how different settings might affect Mix & Match? What do the resulting frames look like? The following is an example of worse case scenario of a 29.97p source that is brought into a 23.976p project type. Progressive to progressive is a challenging frame rate and format to deal with in Mix & Match. The idea is that you may want to play with the values in the “Field Motion” column one added to your bin view.

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In this pop-up menu, changing progressive to interlace, interlace to progressive will result in a different Mix & Match algorithm being used for the real time frame rate adjustment when playing. Depending on footage type, and target display, one may be better than the other. If dealing with footage that already has a 2:3 cadence in it, then set it to that.This blog entry will show 29.97p to 23.976p. Each graphic displays the one second’s worth of frames for the original format.

Here are the original 30 frames from the 29.97p project (click for original size):

original.png

This next graphic is that clip opened and transcoded in a 23.976 frame for the same 1 second duration (now 24 frames). This example shows the result of the Field Motion value set to “progressive”. Every 3 out of 4 frames are blended. This would most likely be a better choice for interlace display viewing (click for original size):

progressive.png

The following example is the same clip but with the Field Motion set to interlace. Here, 1 out of 4 frames is a blended frame. This would be better choice for progressive display viewing (click for original size):

interlace.png So play around with both the Field Motion Settings as well as the different type of motion effects in the motion effect editor to get the best looking frame rate conversion based on your primary delivery format. In the future, I will look at other frame rate Mix & Match results “under the microscope” to see what is happening to the frames.