Archive for the ‘Avid Technical Tips’ category

Copy to Source Monitor

July 27, 2011

This won’t be new for some of you, but it’s a hidden feature and I use it so often that I thought I’d make mention of it.

Say you’re created a sound effect, or piece of music — anything you want to use again elsewhere. In other applications you’d Option-drag the clip in question, creating a copy at the destination of the drag. For some reason, Media Composer doesn’t support that standard operation. But it does offer you something that’s arguably more flexible: a quick shortcut to copy a selected clip or marked region to the source monitor. From there, you can edit it wherever you want. The shortcut, not visible in the menus, is Command-Option-C. Mark a region in the timeline and select tracks, or simply select a clip or clips. Then hit Command-Option-C. Your material instantly appears in the source monitor.

Note that if you copy selected clips they’ll appear with head and tail marks already assigned. That saves a couple of keystrokes. But if you marked a region instead, you’ll have to re-mark it in the source. Also note that if you select non-adjacent clips, MC will pad your selection with black, preserving their spatial relationship.

Here are two examples.

1. Copying clips.

Timeline before Command-Option-C:

Source Monitor after Command-Option-C:

2. Copying a region.

Timeline before Command-Option-C:

Source Monitor after Command-Option-C:

A Third Way to Make Titles

June 20, 2011

Most Avid editors know that the system offers two ways to create titles: the venerable Title Tool and Marquee. But there’s also a third way. It’s one of Avid’s best kept secrets, but also maddening because of some key omissions. It’s called the SubCap effect.

Designed for subtitling, you apply the effect to a clip of filler, open the Effect Editor and simply type in your text. Changes happen in real time — no rendering is needed. You can also create a series of titles all at once by importing a file containing text and timecode values. Best of all, you can change the characteristics of all the titles in a track or sequence simultaneously.

My initial thought was, “this would be great for a main title!” But the subcap is crippled in several ways. First, you can’t add a carriage return to text by hitting return. You have to enter an obscure escape sequence (&a;). Second, and much more damning, you can’t have different fonts or sizes within a title. You can’t make “Directed by” smaller than “John Doe,” for example. And finally, you can’t create a soft drop shadow.

Those limitations have prevented me from using this powerful tool for any real-world main title. But it’s still found a home in my cutting room. I recently used it to make a series of titles describing missing shots. As the scene changed, I quickly changed the text, without re-rendering.

You’ll find the SubCap effect in the Generator category. Drag it to a clip of filler. Open it in the Effect Editor and use the disclosure triangles to make changes. Type your text in the Caption Text area, then change the font and size by making selections in the Text Appearance category. Add an outline and/or drop shadow, and adjust the size of the text bounding box, as needed. (Click the image above to enlarge it and make the options easier to see.)

To import text from a file, create your file as is a standard text file (.txt). On the Mac, a good way to create the file is with the free (and terrific) TextWrangler. Save your file as follows:

Format the text with start and end timecodes for each title, like this:

<begin subtitles>
01:00:00:00 01:00:03:00
Directed by Roderick Jaynes

01:00:05:00 01:00:08:00
Produced by Louis B. Mayer

01:00:11:00 01:00:14:00
Edited by John Doe

<end subtitles>

Drag the effect to a segment long enough to handle the titles in your file. (Make sure it covers the master timecode values in the file.) Then click Import Caption Data and navigate to your file. The subcap effect will break the filler into title cards according to your list.

To synchronize your titles, first format one title the way you want it. Then click Edit Global Properties and synchronize all titles to match the one you formatted. You can also create stylesheets and use them to create different looks.

For additional details about the SubCap effect, check out this video on the Avid Community site. (It’s also available on Youtube, and for some reason, the audio is much cleaner.)

Source Track Names in the Timeline

June 11, 2011

With the proliferation of multi-track audio recorders, most of us are now dealing with multi-track sources when editing. In Media Composer that used to present a problem. Once you’d made a cut, it was hard to tell which track you’d used. If you wanted to go back and use the same track, you often had to figure out which was which by looking at a waveform, or by listening. Not anymore. Starting with Version 5, a simple timeline menu pick will display source tracks for all clips in the timeline, alongside the clip name. It’s a small thing, but it’s significantly simplified the way I work with multi-track audio.

If you assign the Clip Tracks menu pick to a keyboard button, you can display source data with a quick tap, and then hide it just as easily.

In Praise of Unified Search

June 6, 2011

I’ve been using MC 5.5.2 for about 2 and a half weeks now and my first impressions are very good. Working with two Unity seats and a reasonable amount of media, it’s been stable, fast and responsive.

A lot has been made of this version’s new phonetic search capability. Certainly the most gee whiz new feature, the system “listens” to your audio, building its index in the background, and then lets you find dialog with surprising accuracy.

But for a scripted show, it’s the new unified Find feature that wins for me. I was recently looking to to fill a scene that was just too quiet. Nothing in my sound effects library felt like part of the scene and I quickly wanted to listen to all of the room tone that had been recorded. We’ve got dozens of bins and only a few pieces of RT. The prospect of opening all those bins seemed like a lot of effort that might be wasted, but then I realized I could look through them all at once. Fifteen seconds later I had found what I was looking for.

Being able to search for any data in any bin isn’t new in the history of non-linear editing, and it isn’t flashy. But in terms of bread and butter functionality, it’s going to change the way we Media Composer users work every day.

Media Copy

February 26, 2011

With cutting rooms more and more portable, many of us like to take a portion of a project’s media home and work on it from there. In Media Composer this can be a real pain because it’s so hard to identify the media files that go with a large group of clips. There’s a way to do it that I described in a previous post, but it’s complicated, and Avid should have simplified it long ago. Now Wes Plate and his company, Automatic Duck, seem to have done what Avid couldn’t with their program Media Copy. With Version 3, just released, you can identify a bin or bins and ask the program to collect all media files associated with all the clips in those bins and copy them to another drive. That seems simple enough, but we’ve been waiting for it so long now, it seems damn near miraculous.

Fair warning — I haven’t used the program, so I can’t speak for its reliability. But Automatic Duck has made some supremely usable utilities over the years and I suspect this one is no different. Thanks to Oliver Peters for drawing my attention to it and to Wes for getting it done.

MC Chapter Markers to DVD Studio Pro

February 3, 2011

Converting Media Composer sequences to DVDs without a realtime burner isn’t difficult. But creating a proper DVD with a chapter menu on a Mac still isn’t for the faint of heart. To make the DVD, you’ll export a QT reference movie and burn it with the DVD application of your choice. But adding chapter markers and making a chapter menu takes some alchemy.

The trick is to create locators in the MC timeline, export them, do a bit of editing on the resulting text file, and import it into DVD Studio Pro. For a full chapter menu, it’s easiest to import into Compressor first.

Start by creating locators where you want chapter breaks. Put them all in the same track and color them the same way. That’ll make it easier to distinguish them from locators you’ve used for other purposes. Add the chapter name to each locator as locator text. Then open the Locators window (Tools > Locators), select the locators you’re interested in by Command-clicking and choose Export Locators from the Fast Menu at the bottom of the window.

In the dialog box that follows, export selected locators only. The result is a simple, tab-delimited text file containing only the locators you selected. Open the file in a text editor and remove header information and all columns except timecode and locator text. In Apple’s TextEdit or Microsoft Word you can select and delete entire columns by Option-dragging over them — you shouldn’t have to get into regular expression searches. Your resulting file should have just two columns, like this:

You must reference the same starting timecode as DVDSP does or the markers won’t line up properly. DVDSP defaults to hour 0. Avid sequences default to hour 1. In this example I simply changed all the values to start with hour 0.

Once you’ve got this cleaned-up text file, export your sequence from MC as a QT reference movie with “same as source” settings. MC renders all effects and generates a new audio track, and links the QT reference to your Avid media.

Then create a new project in DVDSP, select the menu tab, drag the movie in, and when you see the drop palette, select Create Button and Track. DVDSP picks up your QT movie and a button is created for it. You can customize the button or the DVD any way you like. Then open the Track Editor (Cmd-9). Right-click the marker track and select Import Markers. Navigate to your text file and select it. All your locators appear in the DSP timeline, named with your locator text.

Test the DVD by clicking Simulate. You should be able to jump from marker to marker. (The markers won’t be exactly where you put them — they’ll be shifted slightly to fall on MPEG I-frames.)

The last step is to create a chapter menu — a list that appears when you first load the DVD. DVDSP will do this automatically with exports from FCP, but, as far as I can tell, not from an imported marker list. You have to create each chapter menu individually. To do it automatically, you’ll need a different workflow, importing into Compressor and then DVDSP.

Start by opening Compressor, dragging in your Quicktime reference and applying a DVD setting. With the video selected in the Job window, click the marker menu in the Preview window and select Import Chapter List. Navigate to your text file. The markers will appear under video in the preview window. (Compressor reads the source timecode correctly, so you shouldn’t have to change the timecode hour in your text file.)

Compress the file and then drag it into DVDSP, and select Create Chapter Index from the drop palette. The video is imported and the chapter menu is created and linked automatically. Simulate and burn the DVD.

This is fairly straightforward, but it’s not exactly trivial, and you have to have a decent understanding of all four programs involved to make it work. Avid could make it a lot simpler if MC would convert locators to chapter markers in exported Quicktimes. Then you could bring them into the program of your choice with a lot less hassle.

For more tips like this, check out my new book, Avid Agility. It’s available from Amazon.