Wish List #1 – Audio

I’m going to change the channel a bit with this post and talk not about what is already in the Media Composer, but what I wish was there. Much of the basic feature set has been with us for a decade or more. These functions typically work very well because they’ve been battle-tested over the years. But the editing world has evolved in that time, and there’s lot of capability that, it seems to me, is now missing.

I’ll start with audio and follow up with other subject areas in the future. I’m eager to hear your feedback. Please add comments.

  1. The ability to move, trim, slip and slide audio keyframes.
    How many times have you carefully mixed some music under dialog, only to learn that you need to trim that music or start it on a different phrase? What you want in that case is to trim or slip the music but leave the keyframes where they are. There’s no way to do that now. You must laboriously move every keyframe, one at a time. And since you can’t move them numerically, you have to guess at the distance. There are other times when you might want to do the reverse, namely trim the keyframes without trimming the automation. Current trim rollers trim a clip and its automation at the same time. What I’m proposing are special rollers that would trim one or the other, but not both.
  2. Better caching of waveforms.
    Avid’s waveforms are terrific. Very clear, lots of detail, and you can scale them vertically so you can always see what you need. They’re faster than they used to be, but they still take a long time to get on the screen and every time you move the timeline or resize it, you’re in danger of having the system go out to disk and resample everything, which means you’re going to wait. Worse yet, if you happen to have waveforms on and select “show entire sequence,” you’re in for a very long wait, and often, there’s nothing you can do during that period because you can’t stop the waveform draw.
  3. Redesign the audio mixer.
    We can play 16 tracks. But we can’t see them in the mixer. In fact, the thing always comes up with only four tracks showing. Moreover, the mixer insists on trying to “help” me see the tracks I want by turning faders off and on when they are activated/deactivated in the timeline. This produces an endless amount of confusion. Isn’t it time that this piece of the UI get a refresh? The mixer ought to show 16 tracks all the time, and if we ever get the ability to play more then it should show those, too.
  4. Volume automation should record fewer keyframes.
    When you’re doing realtime mixing in the MC, you generate hundreds of keyframes. That’s fine if your never plan to recut your show, but who works that way? Every picture change means moving keyframes, and since the MC can’t move multiple keyframes at once, all those keyframes is just going to create chaos. Final Cut lets you lay down what I’d call “sparse” keyframes: either just a few, or only at inflection points (the top and bottom of a curve). The MC ought to have the same capability.
  5. Track level mixing.
    How many times have you wanted to change the level of an entire scene? This might happen because the scene was recorded low, for example, or because you’re now laying music over it and need it louder so it doesn’t fight the music. Or you might want to add reverb to a dialog track only to find that the reverb starts and stops at every cut. There’s no good way to deal with these kinds of problems other than to change the level of every clip (a lot of trouble) or to make an audio mixdown (and thus lose track of your source clips). It ought to be possible to treat a track as a track and apply audio effects and level changes to the track itself, not just the clips within it.
  6. Nested stereo pairs.
    Every time I cut a piece of stereo music I wonder why I have to look at both tracks. I inevitably put the same keyframes on them at the same levels. If you’re mixing multiple pieces of music each of those stereo pairs represent another track that you have to trim when you make changes, or that can get out of sync. It ought to be possible to deal with a stereo pair as one clip.
  7. Allow for movement of stereo pairs from odd to even tracks.
    Have you ever noticed that if you grab a stereo pair in segment mode, the system won’t let you drag it vertically to the next adjacent track? Due to a feature that’s been with us since the early daays, the system insists that if a cue is in track 3 and 4, you must want it to stay in an odd/even track pair and it won’t let you drag it to 4 and 5 — you have to go to 5 and 6. I’m sure that some people want to see their tracks laid out this way, but I’m not one of them. This “feature” ought to be a preference.
  8. Drag and drop from iTunes.
    Until Avid makes it possible to play two clips “asynchronously” (that is, play the timeline, and then play the source without stopping the timeline) we’re going to need a way to audition music. iTunes is it. But to import material from iTunes we have to drag clips to the desktop first. It ought to be easier than that.
  9. Import audio at standard levels.
    Anything imported from CD, AIFF, or MP3 comes in way too loud and has to be turned down.
  10. Imported clips should come in with full clipnames.
    If I import a sound effects clip with a long, descriptive file name, the MC creates a clip with that name — but with the name truncated and typically has to be re-entered. There’s no need for this. Unlike filenames, clipnames can be as long as we need them to be.
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3 Comments on “Wish List #1 – Audio”

  1. twistedtrees Says:

    What about better integration between ProTools & Avid. They are both owned by Avid Technologies right? So, why not give Avid some of ProTools cool features. I would love to be able to take a cue of music that is 3 seconds too short, and Time-Stretch it like a motion “fit to fill,” instead of having to edit out a section of music. Also, ProTools ability to replace audio based on the sample wave would be great for when I have to have audio re-cut by the same person, but the timing comes out different. Apparently ProTools will analyse the waveforms of 2 separate audio clips & realize that they are saying the same thing, and shrink/stretch the audio based on the original soundwave. That’s apparently how they did those credit card commercials where it looked like some biker-harley voiced person was lyp-synching some old women.


  2. […] mentioned some of this stuff before (Wish List #1 – Audio and Why Are Our Mixing Tools So Bad?) so I won’t go into all the gory detail here. But I […]

  3. Roger C. Says:

    Two things:
    1) Avid needs to have a better unity lock designator on the bin. Right now, it is a small red or green lock icon in the lower left hand corner of the bin. Too often, someone will open the bin and make changes, only to notice it has been locked the whole time. Ofcourse, you can “save as”, but this takes time. I would prefer a larger lock indicator, such as a red or green horizontal bar across the top of the bin designating either locked or not. Maybe it could be flashing if it is red.

    2) This is actually a bug so I’m not sure if this is the right place for it but here it is:
    In Avid nitris 3.1.1 (MAC), we are unable to import into a bin using the menu command. We get an error massage saying “there is not enough free space on this meida drive”, even though the drive has plenty of space.
    It doesn’t matter which unity or CPU drive you try to write to, the error messege still comes up.
    We are, however, able to drag objects into the bin.


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