Archive for July, 2013

Using DaVinci Resolve’s Scene Cut Detection with Avid Media Composer

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

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A long time feature request in Media Composer is the ability to use scene detection on a clip that represents an edited program. Typically, these may be brought back in for further tweaking, but need to be “notched” to know where each scene begins and ends. If you no longer have the project, or the EDL from the original edit, you can use DaVinci Resolve’s excellent scene detection functionality and export an AAF back into Avid Media Composer.

For a workflow that is trying to use an MXF file from the result of a video mixdown, that will not work as the mixdown file has no Tape or Source File when created.  In order to work with a mixdown file, the additional following steps are needed:

  1. Export as QuickTime reference. Give the file a simple name like 001, 002, rather than the lengthy name given to mixdown files.
  2. Use this QT reference for the Scene Cut Detection.
  3. Import the same QT reference back into the project. This creates a SOURCE MOB (Source File) as part of the Fast Import
  4. Follow steps in the PDF with the master clip created from the QT reference roundtrip.

davinci-resolve-scene-detection-with-avid-media-composer.pdf

Update 1/16/15: Another method it to export clip via AMA Export as MXF which is also supported in DaVinci Resolve

Blackmagic Cinema Camera Metadata Import

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Avid Media Composer has always been known to have great metadata support as well as the ability to create lists such as EDL’s, cut lists, change lists, which are very important to many workflows. And I would argue that before file-based formats it was the absolute best amongst all NLE systems. But in recent versions, source camera metadata support has been lagging just a bit, as file-based formats have brought an onslaught of new metadata compared to the tape and film-based formats of the last decade.

Cameras themselves allow for user metadata such as comments, description, scene, and take to allow logging to happen during production that will prove beneficial to postproduction streamlining some of the process. While the process described can be applied to most cameras and workflows, the following example and guide uses the Blackmagic Digital Cinema Camera.

One of the benefits of the camera is its ability to record not on a RAW DNG format, but an NLE ready codec as either Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD. These compressed codecs are wrapped in QuickTime with the metadata embedded in the file itself.

Following is an example of those metadata fields in Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve from a clip shot with this camera as DNxHD:

resolve-bmc-metadata.gif

I can open this file in FCPx and see the same metadata just by opening the file as seen here in the FCPx Inspector window:

fcpx-bmc-metadata.gif

 

Unfortunately the same is not true for Avid’s AMA QuickTime Plug-in. Linking to the file only brings in the filename and timecode.
In order to repurpose the custom metadata, some additional steps are needed, such as opening those camera files in DaVinci Resolve and exporting an ALE file to be merged as described in the PDF below.

blackmagic-cinema-camera-metadata-import.pdf

No Source On Clips

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Something that comes up a lot, and I see it on many forums, is the creation of Avid media in third party applications that end up with neither a TAPE or SOURCE FILE reference.

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To me this is a combination of errors - one of which is user error and not understanding how to properly set Source or Reel ID in the application being used. I have seen several “how to” videos online that clearly jump this very important step in the process. Not having a either of the sources defined will result in EDL not having any reference as well as every edit being flagged as a dupe. And if the user ever changed the clip name to something more useful, then you have lost all reference to the original camera sources. As an editor, I much prefer changing the name to something like “scene-Take” if working on a scripted program or a description if non-scripted. This all works quite well when the dailies are properly created. I can tell when an FCP user moves over to Media Composer as the clip names all stay as the original filenames. In the above scenario, if you cannot go back and redo dailies, the first thing to do is duplicate the NAME column into Labroll or Camroll so that it can be used in an EDL. You will still have the dupe detection problem, but better off to have a conform when stuck between a rock and a hard place.

This could be prevented by either the manufacture of the application, or by Avid. Most of these applications license Avid’s AMT (Avid Media Toolkit) which allows third parties to easily integrate the creation of native MXF wrapped DNxHD to their software offerings. It seems that a simple “REEL” check on either the host application, or more importantly, as part of the Avid Media Toolkit that a check be done to never allow media to be created with that field being blank. This alerts the host application there is an issue which they can then prompt the user that the field needs a value. And while we’re on the topic of AMT feature requests, I would also like to see:

  • Project Name being inserted at time of media creation
  • Ability to create either TAPE or SOURCE FILE - currently everything is always TAPE with more and more conforms being done via AMA
  • Create proper media for Film Based projects. Most notably,  the ability to enable audio to be slipped by 1/4 frame increments when in a 35mm-4 perf project.
  • Media created by third parties via AMT should be indistinguishable from media created by Media Composer for all project types.

So check your media as soon as possible for a value in either the TAPE or SOURCE FILE column upon receiving it. If both are blank, let it be known immediately.

Transcode and Relink Across Projects with Different Frame Rates

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

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Update 2/6/2015: Versions 8.x and higher now allow for a transcode to maintain original frame rate as an option.

With the introduction of Avid Media Composer v6, Avid’s Mix & Match allowed for sources of different frame rates to exist in the same timeline. In order to match back to the source for a conform via a relink, it is recommended that the source clips first be opened in their native project type, AMA link, then transcode if needed, before opening it up into the master timeline project. From there, the user can manage sources by decomposing the timeline, sorting by frame rate, and going back to the original project if a relink and transcode to a higher resolution was needed from the camera originals, or access to the higher resolution with FrameFlex, new with Media Composer v7.

But it is quite common for these steps to not be adhered to, as the user may be new, doesn’t read the manual, or just basic human error of not creating the proper project to start with and start editing right away. To me, good solution design is not only designing for when everything is perfect, but also anticipate most if not all the errors than can happen in a workflow and allow a user to continue editing. The link to the workflow guide will give users an overview on how to get around the “Because the new edit rate does not match the original clip, you cannot batch capture, batch import, relink, or link (via AMA) to these new clips.” message should one ever need to get back to the camera originals.

And seeing as it it possible to do, despite the several tedious and somewhat time consuming steps, it seems to me that the transcode feature is another candidate for completion rather than leave the user thinking it is not possible. Seems that most of this process could be done with the “modify format” command” then a relink to selected. It would be two steps. Or… a single “relink to selected” command that does just that - relinks just those events in the timeline with matching source names and timecode reducing it to just one operation.

transcode-and-relink-across-projects-with-different-frame-rates.pdf

The Avid Marketplace

Friday, July 19th, 2013

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When Avid Media Composer v6 shipped in Q2 of 2012, one of the new features of the product was the launch of the Avid Marketplace. This was achieved by integrating a web browser as part of the Media Composer toolset. I think having a web browser directly available within the editing application can provide some pretty innovative and a useful platform as part of the creative editorial process.

One of the much-touted cornerstones of the marketplace was stock footage purchase and management. The ability for the editor to search a stock library to find footage as needed, and using AMA and some clever engineering, download the proxy, edit, and conform back to the high resolution version once the purchase transaction has been completed. This is still limited to a single vendor, but one can only think this will expand in the future. The subject of stock footage management within Avid Media Composer will make for a good future blog.

Other resources offered within the Avid Marketplace browser are Avid’s own software options as well as plug-ins from other vendors. While somewhat convenient to browse such offerings within the Media Composer, it offers no added value than just using your preferred browser on the system. In many cases, clicking the link for more information actually does launch your default browser and goes to that page; defeating the purpose of the integrated marketplace and becoming just a fancy bookmark page with links.

In most, if not all cases, I can do a quick search for the plug-in on a shopping comparison site and find multiple vendors selling the same plug-in for less money. An example of this was for Magic Bullet Looks 2, where the first hit found it for US$50 less than the Avid Marketplace. And I don’t really know how that works in non-US countries with issues of VAT and other. Perhaps readers can comment on that experience that live outside the US.

This now brings us to value. Why would I buy this plug-in from the Avid Marketplace? In most cases, in this economy, the lowest cost will win out. But… if the Avid Marketplace provided “value” other than monetary, I am interested. Additional value comes in the form of automated installation, exclusive videos of how the plug-in works with Media Composer, direct support, automated update notification, etc. This would all fall into the “marketing” category with some aspects of support and education. Unfortunately what I read now in the product description is either a word for word or very close marketing copy from the vendor’s own website, leaving it generic and not tailored to the Media Composer user. Offering this added value in the Avid Marketplace creates a unique tailored experience that starts before, and continues during and after the transaction process. This, I believe, is what will gain traction and more customer loyalty to the Avid Marketplace over other vendors.

The other unfortunate limitation of the integrated browser is the inability to use it like a browser. It is restricted to the 5-6 predefined locations. How useful would it be to have full browser capability as a “Media Composer Bin”? Imagine opening up PDF files containing producer or director comments, using the browser window as a better version of the ScriptSync window where more than just “flattened text files” can be viewed. Or the ability to access online database sites to get an overview of the production process? Drag and drop any object from a web page into a bin or timeline? How about streaming the timeline into a preview page of in context of the overall marketing campaign before it goes live? Even subscription-based, tailored one-on-one user support forum that would differentiate from the user forums currently available. What can be done with an integrated browser could be huge in today’s world of integrated media, mobile devices and distribution. Maybe Avid is considering this, but feature follow-up has never been one of Avid’s strong points. Maybe the thinking is that giving it too much browser functionality would allow users to search for lower cost plug-ins creating direct competition with itself.

And that is missing the forest for the trees.

An Oldie But Goodie

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

The document below was written in 2004, but is still valid today with the different project types, frame rates, and audio sample rates to ensure proper sync, lack of drift, and no sample rate conversion if possible. There are cases where a sample rate conversion is needed due to human error or equipment errors, but that will the subject of another blog on how to correct for that once audio has already been recorded. This document is for managing it correctly during production as you prepare for post.

bwf_recording_rates.pdf

Why I still Use a Film Project with Digital Cinema Cameras

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Media Composer has a long history of native 24-frame editing, and metadata handling for film acquired projects. Because of this, a “Film Project” in Avid Media Composer has certain limitations, as well as features that don’t exist in a straight up “Video Project”. Aside from all the KeyKode, Ink Number, footage and film gauge counts, it comes down to the following: hard subclips and ability to resync on less than frame boundaries. The latter is what many people want, regardless of project type as double system audio workflows continue to be used for a variety of good reasons.

A hard subclip is the inability to trim past the boundary of a subclip made from a master clip. Once you edit from a subclip into the sequence, the red “end of clip” indicator is the subclip, not the master clip. In non-film projects, users can trim past the edge of the subclip to the end of the master clip that created it. This was done to protect the metadata that can exist on a film acquired master clip such as KeyKode breaks. It was typical to transfer Labrolls and capture them as a single clip, then subclip out the Camera Rolls as needed for organization. Typically 3 camera rolls to a LabRoll. So at the very least, the master clip had 3 spans of different KeyKode. A select transfer would have a KeyKode break on every event. So in order to not let a single event in the timeline point to two different KeyKodes, the subclip process included a hard boundary to prevent that from happening while editing protecting the validity of the metadata in list management. Now with file-based cameras, the clip itself becomes its own boundaries in most cases, even if production wants to let the camera roll, it is still part of the same filename and timecode.

The other workflow this enabled is the ability to resync or slip sync on clips that have been AutoSynced from separate picture and sound sources. This results in a .sync clip, a subclip that points to two master clips; one for picture, one for sound. Depending on film type specified, the user can slip 1/4 frame or 1/3 frame. This is based on the number of perfs in the 35mm film project. This is a great feature to fix sync, even when everything is timecode jammed and proper procedures have been followed. Nothing is perfect all the time, and having the ability to quickly change sync relationship, and maintain proper pointer to sources for EDL’s is a great feature of AutoSync in a film-based project.  I always make 35mm 4-perf projects, even with digital camera assets for just this reason.

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The following sceenshot from a bin shows why I do this. These clips are from a digital cinema camera and double system sound production. Everything was properly done on set and AutoSync based on common timecode gave me a great head start, but it is not perfect. As you can see from the colored clips, green is what I consider perfect, orange was questionable in the 1’ish frame boundary out of sync, but in a huge rush I would let it go, but red was more than 1 frame out of sync. As you can see, the odds of perfect sync are not great. Only 40%. But using the ¼ frame slip sync feature, it is very easy to bring that back into perfect sync and take into consideration, distance, speed of clap closing.

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It would be great if Media Composer allowed the resync functionality in non-film projects as many productions working with double system sound don’t realize this feature exists when working in a non-film project.

NLE GUI Monitors in Portrait Mode

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Not a week goes by where I don’t see a report on the increased use of video in marketing, digital signage, education, and mobile devices. As much as my work is in theatrical and broadcast, there are large opportunities in the power of video outside those traditional distribution channels. I recently helped a friend on museum presentation she is doing for her PhD in communications. It is a five-projector setup presenting the life of Edgar Allan Poe through the five important women in his life.

The women are all shot in portrait mode, as the projectors will be also to have each women “sitting” in a chair within the museum set piece. While the creative editorial aspects for this are straightforward, “previewing” it while editing was more challenging. It would be a huge timesaver, and more pleasing to edit with UI monitors in the GUI that could rotate 90 degrees either direction (per clip basis) so that I could see the full image upright. This would eliminate the resize, rotate of a 3D type effect reducing the image quality in order to do the editing with the women upright in their positions.

In an ever-changing world, an NLE adapting to the needs of the video distribution channel is key – Rotating the GUI monitors is a simple, yet powerful addition to the toolset. Export would still be horizontal, but adding the rotate display flag to the QuickTime wrapper would be a nice bonus. The “sequence” would have a defined rotate order such as CW or CWW so that the sources would properly align automatically when exported in case the cameraperson wasn’t consistent in his/her CW or CWW orientation when shooting.

Interactivity is another favorite topic of mine – a future posting will discuss creation of “smart media” and Avid’s 12 year head start with MetaSync, that unfortunately is no longer part of the program.

The Avid Cinema Whitepaper

Monday, July 8th, 2013

 

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For all of you working with Media Composer v6.5 and earlier as well as camera formats that are 2K+, Avid has a really good whitepaper to help you navigate the different offline/online workflows. Unfortunately, it is not obvious where to find it on the Avid website. It can be found here.

I am sure there will be an update for Media Composer v7 as there are new features that change the workflow options available.

Calendar As Alternate Bin View

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

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For a while now, I have always thought that a calendar UI as an overview to dailies would be quite useful for many type of productions – be it scripted, reality, news or even legal and forensic. Knowing the day an asset was created is a very useful piece of metadata.

Many NLE’s can either search on a date, or sort by that date in their existing “bin” view, but what I am speaking of, is a full on calendar type UI interaction. View by month, week, day, and time span within the day. As most, if not all productions have TOD either as the main timecode or as audio timecode, the shoot date and time are readily available.

There have been countless times when working with a director or producer and they are like; “I know we shot something last Thursday… right after lunch.  With this, you would be able to open up the calendar view, go to last Thursday afternoon, expand the afternoon hours and see all your coverage.

And as with most calendar offerings, the ability to filter based on other metadata such as A, B, C… camera, or type of clip; In Media Composer vernacular it would be master clip, subclip, sync clip, group clip, etc.

FCPx is close with “events” and such, but the presentation is more of a sorted list by date rather than an actual calendar UI that everyone is familiar with. Interacting with events would be easy, open clip, play clip, see more details on clip, etc. But I can see such a view being easily implemented with FCPx by Apple or enterprising third party developer using XML and different style sheets etc. or using XMP with Adobe Premiere Pro. In order to have such a view in Avid Media Composer, Avid engineering would have to do the work, or perhaps a third party using API’s with Avid Interplay. The latter would put a price barrier for many of the markets this could benefit, but would be welcomed all the same by productions using ISIS and Interplay.

From there, one can imagine links or attachment to other related items such as camera and audio reports – or in the case of legal, depositions and other related documents.

I think it would be a very useful, unique and innovative feature to have as productions are shooting more and more footage, and having another view into the footage can only help the creative process.

iXML AMA Plug-in: User Beware

Friday, July 5th, 2013

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For those who know me, I am a big fan of metadata and all the useful and innovative functionality that be done when well designed and implemented. So I was quite happy to hear that Media Composer v7 was going to support iXML. For more information on iXML, see the organization’s web page at: http://www.gallery.co.uk/ixml/

iXM provides for metadata extension schema to the Broadcast Wave BEXT Chunk. Media Composer has had very good BWF support for a while, but did not support iXML to capture the additional metadata offered by the specification. Some of the metadata is redundant to what is in the BEXT Chunk such as scene, take, track comments, etc. iXML includes information such as actual timecode rate settings (rather than just samples from midnight), timecode/offset of clap, pullup/pulldown information, etc. Support for both BWF and iXML is a powerful combination for many post workflow configurations.

When I realized it was being done via the AMA plug-in architecture, I went “uh oh…” But I held out hope that a single interface would combine the current functionality of BWF import and the additional metadata of iXML.  And this is an improvement over the QuickTime AMA plug-in taking over for audio only assets losing all the metadata in the BWF file. So it is getting better. Unfortunately in this first release of the AMA plug-in for iXML, many of my workflow fears were well founded.

I am not saying that it does not have its place as is – but it is a very specific one; quick access to the audio is a nice thing to have – although importing audio assets was never a lengthy process as it is with video formats and transcoding. If you know for sure that the sample rate is correct for the project frame rate and you need the immediate access to the audio, it can work. I can also see it being used for songs and SoundFX libraries and such, but it doesn’t support metadata such as MP3 tags as that is a different specification from iXML and would most likely be a different plug-in offering.

I did a very easy and quick test with the reference BWF/iXML file that can be downloaded from the iXML web page. I imported as well as AMA link using the plug-in. What I found was that the AMA link provided only one more field’s worth of metadata and it was mapped incorrectly as a combined comment rather than a True/False column heading as it should be.  So from a metadata perspective it’s pretty much a wash. The Avid Read Me for the iXML plug-in states that “all relevant metadata is supported”, but no indication as to what that might be, and to whom. What it can’t do, which is supported in the BWF is the ability to pullup, pulldown, support combining of monophonic recordings, etc. It also does not convert correctly when timecode rates are different from the project type, and the settings for timecode and metadata behavior are somewhat obfuscated from the user and there is no warning something was done. Good workflow solution design takes into consideration, not just the perfect scenario, but also all the instances of when things go wrong; either because of human interaction or faulty equipment.

The hope was that the benefits of both BWF and iXML would be part of a single operation, but that is not the case here. I would advise staying away from the iXML plug-in for this version as it can lead to more problems than the few benefits it provides. And being an AMA plug-in, there is the hope and promise that it can be updated outside the Media Composer release cycle.

File-Based Universal Mastering

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

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“Universal Mastering” is the term given to a feature set that allows a single program master to be delivered to a variety of formats satisfying both domestic and foreign deliverable requirements. Avid provides Universal Mastering functionality as part of Symphony product, or now with v7 of Media Composer, as a Symphony option. One of the main limitations of the functionality is that it only works with with tape-based outputs using Avid hardware. The PDF document lays out the steps one can use to get a file-based equivalent of the same functionality using Media Composer without the Symphony or the Symphony option.

file-based-universal-mastering.pdf