Media Composer Companion Applications

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Over the years, I have done many presentations on workflow and workarounds when implementing particular solutions with Avid Media Composer. Whether it be text editing of ALE files, file renaming, or using MetaCheater to extract essentual metadata from QuickTime files still not available from Avid’s QuickTime AMA plug-in. Manufacturers are moving quickly and what used to be reserved for “high-end markets”, is now everywhere. For example, Sony just announced a series of 4K camera at less than US$ 6,500 joining the Blackmagic 4K Production camera at US$ 3,995, not to mention 4K coming to a phone camera near you. Not only are there new formats and codecs, but color management via 1D and 3D LUTs and ASC CDL workflows to make full use of the sensors used.

Adding to the “essential postproduction toolkit” is Assimilate Inc’s Scratch Play.  Free to download for OS X, Windows and even works on the Surface Pro for on-set use allowing color decisions to be made as well as generating LUTs and ASC CDL to be used in downstream processes. At the very least, it is the universal resolution independent codec player sorely needed in many pipelines. While applications exist by camera manufacturers such as Sony, Canon, RED, etc. they are of course dedicated to their own formats. Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve Lite has been the essential free tool for both OS X and Windows and is way more than a viewer, but a full DI color workstation for dailies creation and color mastering. Assimilate offers a full DI workstation as well, but different tools are needed at different points in the pipeline. And while Resolve can be used to create LUTs and CDL’s, the fact that it can do so much more is what can actually get in the way for a quick look at a file and creating a LUT or ASC CDL file expressing intent to a colorist. Both solutions have their place, but the creation of a nimble subset functionality of the Scratch product is a great idea as a tool, and of course gets “Scratch” into as many hands as the free Resolve.

The bad news is that for Media Composer v7 users, none of the LUT or CDL values work. Neither of the two 3D LUT’s imported into project (3dl and LUTher) and the ASC CDL values use the XML specification. Here is an example for a single file:

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Media Composer only accepts an ALE file (TAB) for metadata import. And even if it were in ALE format, Assimilate would also need to include START and END timecodes as well as filename in a column called “Source File” as Media Composer is very strict about how its merges. Too strict even. Maybe Assimilate will add this to the product or Avid will update its import functionality to either support the LUTs or ease up on ALE merge. But adding an XML import would be even better, not only for LUT  + CDL workflows (as it could define order), but locators and spanned locators, etc. could be supported from on-set logging applications like MovieSlate.

I wonder if Avid reaches out proactively to these third parties and helps them enable the workflows with their products. “Media Composer As A Platform” will be a future blog topic. As much as Avid touts “openness”, the day to day workflows can be very quite challenging and the binary format of AAF is not the easiest to deal with for many workflows. ALE, for better or for worse, is what is available now, but the workflow could be so much better.

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