Why I still Use a Film Project with Digital Cinema Cameras

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.


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.


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.

Update August 2017: Media Composer 8.9 introduces perf and sample-based slip capabilities via source settings for all project types.  Plan your workflow carefully when using this method as there are some limitations to be part of another blog.

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