Your Avid on the Mixing Stage

It’s rare to see an Avid on a dubbing stage. The conventional wisdom is that it’s not needed because everything has been turned over to sound and you’re (hopefully) not planning on any picture changes. The sound effects editors are going to bring an OMF copy of your cut and that’s supposed to be sufficient. In the past, it’s also been difficult to move your Avid, and that, more than anything, has ensured that we picture editors don’t come to the stage equipped with our gear.

But with the advent of MC software and big, inexpensive drives, that equation has changed. You can bring your entire project and all your media with you, and it turns out that this can have some significant advantages, namely access to your original cut, and to your track layout. So if you hear dialog that doesn’t sound right, or if a sound is missing, you can quickly figure out what went wrong.

Editors, producers and directors all fall victim to what we call “temp love” at some point. The mix you did in the Media Composer has been evolving for months and it’s inevitable that there will be some things that people will want to preserve. But recreating those things usually stops the mix cold and frustrates everybody. Being able to identify exactly what you want and where it is can be a big win for all involved.

Here are some tips:

  • You’ll create a drive with all your media on it. And it’s going to take many hours to do, even with Firewire 800. Don’t wait till the last minute.
  • Be sure to quit your Media Composer while you’re copying — otherwise the MC will see all that duplicate media, which is likely to cause problems.
  • If you’re running from Unity with many partitions, it’s probably a good idea to format your portable drive to mirror the Unity partitions. That makes it easier to confirm that you’ve got everything. It also makes it possible to let your portable drive double as a full media backup.
  • To confirm that you’ve got everything, you’ll want to use some kind of software comparator. A good and inexpensive solution is Compare Folders. You simply point the application at two folders and it tells you whether they match, and if not, what’s different. Sure beats the heck out of trying to do it by hand.
  • Unity creates individual folders for each user on every partition. But Media Composer software can’t see OMF media in those subfolders. This is a real pain and something Avid ought to deal with (MXF media works differently, which is one advantage of that format). The solution is to copy each partition with the subfolders intact, then color-code each folder and all the files within, and only then pull all the media out of the subfolders. You should also trash the indexes — the .pmr and .mdb files. Sort by “kind” to find them.
  • Once you’ve got your media copied properly, you’ll want to “flight test” it on your laptop. Be sure to allow time for this. Copy your project to the laptop, connect the drive and start up the MC. Each partition will be indexed. This can take several hours.
  • If all goes well, your entire project should be on line. To confirm it, select Clip Color > Offline in the timeline popup menu. (And turn off everything else in that submenu — different coloring options can interfere with each other. See this post for details.) Then open each sequence of your cut show. You should not see any red clips.
  • If you have two copies of your project, make sure you know which one you’re working from. If you copied your project partition to the portable drive, you’ll have one there, and probably should use it. But you also may have one on the laptop’s internal drive. Changes in one won’t be reflected in the other.

That’s way too many potholes for something that ought to be simple and routine, and Avid really needs to take another look at simplifying media copying (more at this post). But even with all the hassle, having your Avid on the stage can be a big advantage and well worth the effort.

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