Archive for August, 2013

Modifying Audio Tracks in AMA

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

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Media Composer v7 brings some enhancements to AMA and its management of linked files. For the most part, these linked files behave like the Avid managed media within the Avid MediaFiles folder structure.  But AMA linked files don’t allow for better audio track management when linking to either audio files like BWF with iXML or for video clips that contain audio tracks. It would be great to have track selection as part of the AMA Source Settings, but in the meantime, this document will show you how to use Unlink/Modify/Relink as a workaround.

ama-audio-track-modify.pdf

[update]

It has been noted on the Avid-L by John Pale that he has run into some weirdness when attempting this workflow. He describes it as an “endless cryptic error message” (and I thought that was only for producer’s notes ;) ) If you run into this, he suggests taking the drive offline to which the clips are linked and going through the steps again and it worked fine. In my testing, on OS X, Win and Unity I have yet to run into issues, but it doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen.

Media Composer v7 brings in a whole new AMA management process which I have yet to decipher in all workflows. The links to the AMA files seem to stay around forever, even when I delete the AMA linked clips in the bin. When I move the camera originals to another drive and AMA link, they still show up as being on the original drive in the bin column. It’s nice that they appear in the Media Tool, but it would be great to now offer a clip filter function in that view (same for the FIND results window…). Perhaps a topic for another day.

Verify Your Backups

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

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Media Composer v7’s Dynamic Media Folder workflow can help streamline many of the file-based workflows when dealing directly with the camera originals from the card or drive. What it doesn’t do, is offer any kind of copy verification or MD5 report ensuring a copy was successful before putting that card back into circulation. There are several applications that do a very nice job of this with more functionality than just MD5 checks. But if you’re looking for an easy solution to just verify the copy, there is a cool free utility created by Chris Wayg called CopyVerified. In additon to the file copy verification, it also offers up to four destinations to create a backup at the same time. I’ll do a little more research and update when I find a similar (free) product for Windows.

Making B&W Source Clips in MC v7

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

There was a time that Media Composer included a feature in the tape based capture tool that allowed one to make black and white clips removing all saturation from the image. While it was not a groundbreaking feature, it was requested, and used by many before there was a lot of real time performance in the editing systems.

The ability to manage color is an exciting new function of Media Composer v7 supporting 1D LUTs, 3D LUTs, as well as support for ASC CDL values.  The two are often used together in dailies workflows, or can be used on their own depending on the production’s needs. Here is the ASC CDL whitepaper I wrote in 2007 when it was introduced describing the use and support of ASC CDL’s in Media Composer:

avid-asc-cdl.pdf

With Media Composer v7, the ASC SOP and SAT values can be applied in real time to a source clip and changed if needed without the need to create new media. Once other workflow bumps are smoothed out, this has the ability to really change the way dailies are created and how colorists can be involved throughout the editorial process.

For now I will show how the ASC SAT value can be used to create B&W clips with some simple metadata editing in the bins for all of the clips needing this treatment. The following are the ASC values for SOP and SAT for a NULL effect. Meaning nothing will change in the picture. Any values other than this will affect the look of the image.

(1.0000 1.0000 1.0000)(0.0000 0.0000 0.0000)(1.0000 1.0000 1.0000)

For the ASC SAT

1.000

This will not change the image values and the clip/image will look like (click for larger image).

before.gif

By simply changing the ASC SAT value to 0.000 and applying it via the source settings Color Transform tab, the image will now have no saturation resulting in a black and white image.

after.gif

After entering 0.000 in the ASC SAT column, go to Source Settings for that clip under the Color Transform TAB and select the CDL values from the LUT selection menu. CDL is listed at the bottom. Once selected, click the + button to add to the color management pipeline and click Apply (or Apply all if doing to it multiple selected clips at once).

asc-sat.png

Because it is only metadata, it can be changed to other values as needed, on the fly. See the Media Composer User Guide for more details on using LUTs and CDL’s.  It would be great to see ASC CDL support within Avid’s color correction tool as a tab that would update, ASC CDL values either as an offset, or as part of a “versioned” history of the image allowing the creative color choices to easily translate amongst other color correction systems.

Thoughts On Recent Avid/Ovum Press Release

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

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Like many others, it was with great interest that I read the 7/23/13 Avid Press Release titled: “Broadcasters and Media Organizations Leave Revenue on the Table, According to Global Consumer Study by Avid and Ovum”.  The press release makes reference that there is more to the study, but what is mentioned has been an obvious ongoing trend for the past several years.

Yes. Consumers want to see everything, everywhere, at any time. And for free if at all possible. Business models continue to be an ongoing process trying to best monetize that content. And while the survey is more about broadcasters who own or have licensing rights to the content, the democratization of the filmmaking process for independents has been going on in earnest for the last 5-7 years. And because of that, there is even more content to “discover” via a myriad of distribution platforms.

If the recent stories regarding musician’s royalties from services like Spotify and Pandora are true – it paints a potentially grim future for filmmakers trying to make a living doing what they love. Musicians already take their show on the road selling not only tickets, but also any related content directly to their audience to increase revenue such as t-shirts, etc. These distribution platforms rely on having a lot of content since their revenue is based on the aggregate of all content sold or subscribed to – which is very different than a filmmaker relying on the revenue of their own content. Avid has a marketplace – could it extend to anything and everything including sales and distribution of content? It could. My thoughts on Avid Marketplace as it stands today.

That same strategy can exist for filmmakers; driving city to city four-walling their films ala Kevin Smith. But even in Kevin Smith’s case, there was corporate sponsorship covering the costs of a city-to-city road tour as a form of marketing for the companies themselves. Curating and presenting content is an expensive endeavor if the content is expected to make a profit for anyone. An ongoing marketing effort is the one service that none of these independent distribution platforms offer, leaving that up to the content owner or consumers getting lucky via a Google search.

Social Media is only one marketing tactic and cannot be relied upon as the only means of getting the word out. At the very least, Kickstarter and IndiGoGo  are based on a pre-sales paradigm putting your marketing efforts and costs up front while letting you know exactly whether you’ve met your stated budget’s break even point– and if that budget includes a salary for everyone contributing to the project, you’re golden. Filmmaking for the most part is still a labor of love for those who take that path.  Sadly, it’s mostly true when I hear: “there are a lot of first time filmmakers, but not a whole lot of second-time ones” when it comes to making a living at the craft. I hope that ongoing technology innovations and business models will let filmmakers find their audience as well as an audience finding their content that benefits all.

Then I get to the second part of the release where it speaks to the popularity of the “second screen experience”. I can only be reminded of the twelve-year head start Avid squandered in the MetaSync technology allowing content creators to create any type of “interactive timed” secondary experience in context of the editorial process.

In 2001, when MetaSync was first introduced, the “platform concept” allowed program producers to create interactive experiences and metadata hooks into the content regardless of distribution channel. The functionality allowed for disparate creative teams to work simultaneously. The program editors working with the creative interactive team via a simple “sequence refresh” over the Internet allowing the interactive content to be viewed and updated directly in the Media Composer timeline. The interactive content metadata tags could either display the video on a webpage, or be an overlay on the video itself all in real time while editing in Media Composer.

MetaSync allowed for any interactive link to be timed to the frame, or a span of frame as a form of very smart GPI triggers. The editor could manage the interactive elements directly on the timeline, dictating “when and for how long”, or sync the interactive elements to the source clips and forever follow that clip anywhere on the timeline. A user could even establish a “open in native application” allowing the asset it was pointing to to open in whatever application it as associated with. It could be used to directly access an original asset in a LAN/WAN database via a “right-click” operation – perfect for rights management on any frame or span of frames tracked as source or as new rights management in the timeline itself.  A user could create up to 24 tracks of interactive design with each track supporting interactivity as spans or single frame events that could overlap. Third parties had access to the XML schema to create these triggers beforehand. An XML export from the timeline converted interactive timings to all video frame rates as a form of interactive universal mastering.  With a user created interactive asset, the user could to take any sequence and reference it via any MetaSync element to start a branching storytelling authoring tool while managing all the changes that are common with video content creation.

Was it everything to everyone? No, but it was the first pass at Media Composer being an agnostic interactive platform for what could be the future of storytelling. Imagine where that feature set would be today with continued development over the past twelve years. It would be perfectly poised for the two screen plans of the broadcasters, not to mention the single screen-viewing environment as more and more of video consumers are using web based video devices.

But it’s one thing to not develop a solution over a number of years, but even sadder to be quietly pulled from the code in Media Composer v6 at the time “second screen” was gaining steam in the industry.  Media Composer v7 offers “spanned markers” but is so restrictive in its implementation that its overall value is pretty limiting and pales in comparison to what an expanded MetaSync solution could have been.

Perhaps there is a bigger plan in play, something better and much more streamlined. We can only hope there is such a vision to what will be Storytelling 2.0. But seeing as one can still sign up to be a development partner could mean Avid is still in the game, or they have not cleaned up the website of all MetaSync references.  This also brings up the topic of Media Composer as a platform in general, and that will be subject of a future blog entry.

While I am most familiar with Avid Media Composer workflows, others companies could be doing more as well in this area. Adobe has all the components that could tie video content creation and marketing with online authoring tools, distribution, and reporting back to content owners. That remains to be seen in future versions of Premiere Pro CC integrating such solutions. But for now it seems that Premiere Pro is trying to be Media Composer, and Media Composer is trying to be Premiere Pro. Apple could do well by taking their DVD authoring code and adding it to iBook Author to further extend interactive authoring, publishing and delivery of converging video, sound, graphics and www links in their mobile entertainment devices for the future of media publishing.

Meanwhile, startups like FlixMaster (soon to be renamed Rapt Media) are creating tools for interactive and branching media for web distribution and being well funded in the process. Perhaps there is something to all of this?

Extracting Metadata from QuickTime .mov Files

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

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One of the annoying limitations of Avid Media Composer’s QuickTime AMA support is lack of metadata support other than an embedded timecode track and the filename itself. This limitation often rears its ugly head when using Arri Alexa generated Apple ProRes files and the dailies process has used the embedded 8 character REEL ID rather than the file name itself. The 8 character version allows it to work in existing CMX EDL workflows.

Performing AMA conform with camera originals when the offline clips only have the 8 characters can be challenging at best. Until Avid supports additional metadata extraction, or dedicated QuickTime AMA plug-ins,  users will need to look to third party tools to get that information. As seen in previous blog posts, DaVinci Resolve can be one of those tools. But sometimes, just a quick and easy application dedicated only to metadata and ALE creation is needed. There are tool such as QTChange from VideoToolshed that will embed timecode and Reel ID into a QuickTime which can be very handy when dealing with sources that have no metadata.

In the Arri Alexa scenario, we only need to extract the metadata, create an ALE file so that the metadata can be used. It should be noted that the Arri Alexa will generate an ALE file in camera with this information, but in the case where it is lost or you no longer have access to it, then a solution like MetaCheater will come to the rescue. Create an ALE from the QuickTimes and follow the ALE merge directions as described in the other workflows on this site, or read the Media Composer User Guide for Shot Log Import Settings.

MetaCheater was created by my friend Jabez Olssen, who is currently editing the second of the Hobbit movies for Peter Jackson. MetaCheater was developed as a need to get this metadata in some of the workflows that Jabez was dealing with at the time, and eventually became the solution for Red Camera support with Media Composer before there was a native R3D AMA plug-in. But I find, that 5 years later, I still use it to save my a** in many situations. So, to make it easier for other to have this application as part of their toolkit, Jabez has given me permission to host it here for download. This is a “donationware” application, and from what I understand, he has gotten four donation out of the 11,000 downloads so far. So, please donate if you find it useful. While I am guilty of not actually donating, I believe I covered it with some beers at the time.

I did write up an online entry at the time for StudioDaily on its use.

Download MetaCheater