Working with Avid Media Composer 6.5.2
First of all thanks to all those who have been commenting and tweeting and helping me out while I’m trying to get to grips with working with Avid Media Composer. Every comment is really helpful. In this second instalment of my Avid Diary I’ve got a few learnings to post, some more questions to ask and some other great resources to share.
The feeling for this instalment of the diary is pretty much summed up by this gif:
First off a really quick answer to a question from previous post:
What Avid AMA plugins installed on my system? – Use the Console to generate a list with the command: AMA_ListPlugins
Avid Tips for FCP Switchers
One thing I have enjoyed whilst editing in Media Composer is the audio waveforms, which although you can see in FCP, I feel like I pay far more attention to them in AMC and they really help with speedy accuracy when trimming. Apparently they’ve been made more robust in 6.5.2 which is nice. Use cmd+L to make your tracks (and waveforms) larger or cmd+K to make them smaller.
Whilst I’m on the subject of audio here is a quick tip from editor Steve Cohen (author of Avid Agility which I mention in my 3 Essential Books for Avid) on setting your default audio cross fade to constant power -3 db instead the linear -6db. This should smooth things out quite a bit.
Shortcuts for Adding Cross fades/transitions
I think I got these from the Class on Demand training but I don’t 100% remember. One thing I haven’t figured out is how to add a default transition to just the audio or just the video without having to click about setting which tracks are active. (a la FCP – cmd+T, alt+cmd+T) I’ve mapped the keys below to let me fairly quickly add a cross dissolve (quick transition) to audio tracks to smooth out cuts on interviews.
Y – Enter Source mode. Shift+Y – Enter Effect mode.
\ add quick transition. Shift+\ – remove effect or quick transition.
Understanding Codecs in Avid
I was trying to understand what the different DNxHD codecs are and how they correlate to Pro Res so that I could choose roughly the correct codec/file size trade off.
DNxHD 120 is broadly comparable to Apple ProRes 422 in picture quality, and, like ProRes 422, is a little low in bit-rate for demanding online work or for broadcast.
For more on this check out this fantastically detailed post from Sound on Sound. At the same time I also found this post with an informal ‘re-compression’ test where different codecs are re-compressed 5 times to see which holds up best at the end. Interestingly Pro Res came out on top.
A H.264 Avid Workflow – Almost.
So my first attempts to get media into Avid has not been a totally smooth ride. I’ve been trying to bring in DSLR H.264 files (quite a lot of them) to serve as cutaways.
Question: How do I import FOLDERS of files in one go? (In FCP7 you can ‘Import Folder’ and select as many folders as you like and they import as ‘bins/folders’ into the browser.)
I tried following Jason Myres Avid DSLR workflow using Mpeg StreamClip to create DNxHD .mov files which will then ‘Fast Import’ into Avid. This is good in that you can do a batch convert on any computer using Mpeg Stream clip (although you should use QT change to add TC and reel names as Mpeg stream clip doesn’t add these) and then they will import more quickly into Avid and it keeps Media Composer free for editing while you wait.
This is also a pain as you essentially end up with 3 copies of your media. The original camera files, the DNxHD .movs and the MXF re-wrapped files now in Avid Media Files. Check out the comments section from Michael Kammes great post which was part of Jason’s inspiration for this workflow. Michael suggestion that while 3 copies is a storage pain it provides a more robust workflow and you can delete the DNxHD movs once you’ve Fast Imported anyway. If you want even more on this workflow here is a free webinar on Jason’s full workflow for editing DSLR based web episodics.
Question: Is there a way to batch import folders of H.264 files into Avid? When I tried it seemed to only let me import a folder’s worth (select all inside a finder folder) at a time. I assume I am doing something wrong! I would rather leave Avid chugging away over night and have 1 step rather than 2-3 if I can…?
Media Management inside and outside of Avid
I found these links whilst trying to get my head around what Avid is doing with the Avid Media Files folder because whilst importing my DNxHD transcoded H.264’s Avid crashed (see below) and then I had to try to sift out the files that had re-wrapped and were taking up space, but were not showing up in Avid itself.
1. It seems like if Avid gets flakey just delete your .MDB and .PMR files and Avid will rebuild those two databases the next time it loads. This helped find some of my ‘missing’ H.264s which I could then delete via the Media Tool. (I hope the 72 is the files and the duplicates?).
2. Understanding Avid Media Files at a Finder level. Richard Sanchez offers some great insights on understanding what Avid is doing at a Finder level to another FCP switcher in this very useful Creative Cow thread as well as offering some good tips on a similar vibe to Shane Ross’s media management tip below.
If you want to separate media, you can import or capture and immediately create a “2” folder and or any numbered folder to move media into. Keep in mind, the 1 folder will always be where the newest media will be transcoded to… every time you move media between numbered folders, you should delete the MDB and PMR files and allow Avid to rebuilt those database files. – Richard Sanchez
Tip: In the Media Tool options window don’t check the ‘media files’ tick box – You only need to check Master Clips (and Precomputes) because if you delete those Master Clips it will delete their associated media files to that clip. This makes it a little less confusing to find what you’re looking for.
3. Keeping project media separate anyway
Editor Shane Ross has a great tip, and then an even better tip suggested in the comments section, on how to get Avid to keep each projects media in a separate folder, whilst remaining inside the Avid Media Files folder and thus ‘online’. Its worth reading through the comments for some of the finer points of doing this and the CC thread above.
Avid Error Gallery
So my H.264 import workflow was going swimmingly but the I had a whole bunch of errors. What do these even mean?? Is there a difference between red and yellow signs?
Thoughts on Avid’s Mentality as Company
As I’ve been using Avid on and off over the past couple of months and paying more attention to the goings on in the community and their press, the feeling I am living with is that because Avid has been dominant in the market place for so long it has become very complacent.
I really don’t mind learning a new program – in fact I love learning new things! But where are the envelope pushing fresh ideas? Where is the zeal to update as frequently as possible to match industry changes? Where is the ‘come-as-you-are’ attitude to new users to allow for a frictionless transition? If your established, embedded user base are having to come up with work arounds (eg the media management above) wouldn’t it be smarter just to build that option into the program?
In my googling I came across this Creative Cow post from editor Tom Laughlin which describes all my thoughts in better detail than I could provide here so I thought I’d just link to that rather than repeating it here. The post itself generated a lot of debate. My question is - What would happen in Blackmagic Design bought Avid and did to Media Composer what they did for Resolve?