Archive for the ‘Laptop Editing’ category

Taking Work on the Road

November 9, 2008

Many of us have been sorely frustrated by how difficult it is to pack up media for work on the road. In a typical situation you want to take a scene or a couple of scenes home and work on them on a laptop. You don’t want all the media for your show, just a small subset. You need to identify all the media for a specific bin and copy it to a portable drive.

The old and slow way to do this is to reveal file on each of your master clips and then copy those files in the Finder. It’s a laborious process and easy to screw up.

But it turns out that there’s a much easier way. It’s hidden, but when you know how to set it up it does what you want with a lot less work. It’s under the Export menu.

Open the bin you’re interested in. Select all your source clips — master clips, subclips or groups. No need to find the source master clips.

Then select Export from the File menu.


Start by selecting an export setting. The easiest place to begin is with “Export to Pro Tools.” Then click the options box.

Here’s where things get counter-intuitive. For “Export As:” select AAF (or OMF). You have to make an AAF for every clip. You won’t need these files, but the MC insists on creating them. To keep them organized, ceate a folder on your export drive for them.

Then select “Include All Video Tracks in Sequence” and “Include All Audio Tracks in Sequence.” This is true even though you aren’t exporting a sequence at all.

In the audio and video tabs, select “Export Method: Copy All Media.” This is the crucial step. You’re not consolidating — just copying. If you don’t, you’ll create a bunch of “.new” clips. Leave all other options unchecked. Select a destination drive (a “media drive” not a “folder”) for both video and audio.

Here’s the video tab:


And the relevant part of the audio tab:


When you’ve got your options set up correctly, hit Save and then select Save again in the Export dialog.

A new MediaFiles folder will be created on your target drive and the MC will copy all relevant media to it. The folder you made to hold the AAFs will get an AAF file for every source clip. You won’t need those files and, for reasons that will be clear in a moment, you probably want to delete them.

You’ll have to copy the bin (or bins) you need to your laptop manually, but that should be easy. It will automatically link to the new media — no relinking needed. (I’m told that on PC-based systems you may have to delete your media databases on the portable drive.)

One nice additional feature is that in the future, if you add a material to a bin and need to export the media again, the MC will intelligently decide which files already exist on your external drive and will copy only those that aren’t already there. And that’s why it’s handy to delete your AAFs/OMFs. If you leave them alone, the MC will ask to overwrite them, one laborious file at a time, and you’ll have to confirm a separate dialog box for each clip. It’s much easier to have the MC recreate them all.

This process isn’t exactly intuitive, but it’s easy to do once you know a few tricks. It should make it a whole lot easier for editors to take work on the road.

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Avid Training

January 22, 2008

First, a plug — Avid now has a podcast, consisting mainly of interviews with editors and created by Senior Product Specialist Matt Feury. Matt is an incisive and engaging host for these things (who knew he was so multi-talented?) and many have been quite interesting. Check them out on Avid’s podcast page, or via their iTunes page.

Avid should be doing a lot more of this. Norm Hollyn quotes one of his USC students talking about how expensive Avid’s online ALEX courses are. These things were clearly designed to make money — and there’s the rub. I don’t know of anybody who’s ever paid for one. I’ve run through a couple of the free episodes and they’ve been pretty helpful, but I sure didn’t have any use for all that nonsense that ALEX introduces, breaking up the flow with silly chapter breaks and reviews. Just give me the video, thank you very much. I can press the pause key any time I want.

Apple has done a much better job with its recent video demos. These things look deceptively easy, but it takes plenty of work to make something so substantive seem effortless and off-the-cuff.

And, just as I write this, a friend has called to say that Apple is offering free training for Hollywood editors. He received a fancy printed invitation, via his agent, offering a three-day class in Final Cut Studio, with a copy of the software given away to every participant on the last day. With the writers’ strike, the timing is perfect — lots of people are out of work and looking for something to do.

Apple is working a very good playbook here — written by Avid in the early ’90s. They’re actively seeking out opinion leaders and offering them free training. And in the world of software-only systems, they’ve got an advantage that wasn’t available a decade ago — you can now easily host a big class where everybody has their own machine.

Avid has to take the initiative with training. Far too many young people see the Media Composer as quirky and hard to learn. I got an earful of this over the weekend from a young friend. I don’t completely understand it — the MC seems plenty intuitive to me. It’s fast, and the way I use it, very refined. But it doesn’t feel like a desktop publishing application. That makes it a much better editing program, but it today’s world, I guess it makes it harder to learn.

I don’t think that’s the whole story, though. Some of the difference isn’t really substantive — both systems are intuitive once learned. Marketing, branding and pricing also play a key role. Apple has created a sense of excitement and accessibility around their products while Avid has plodded along, stuck in a didactic, schoolroom style that is anathema to a young person today.

Bottom line — ALEX needs a total overhaul. It needs to be colloquial, fun and, yes, free. And Avid needs to expand its podcast offerings with technical information and tips, in addition to interviews.

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Leopard Envy

January 3, 2008

I played with two machines running Leopard over the holiday (machines owned by distinctly non-technical friends, by the way) and I have to admit that I want it bad. But I can’t have it, and you probably know why — because I’ve got Media Composer installed. Yes, I could run two machines, or I could partition a drive, but I don’t want to do that. I want and expect to use my laptop for editing and I want to do it transparently and without a restart.

Meanwhile, Final Cut Pro has been Leopard-compatible since mid-November. That’s not so long ago, of course, and I’m sure that Avid isn’t given first dibs on info about Leopard and for that reason it will always be at a disadvantage with respect to OS X compatibility. So I’m willing to wait a while. But I sure hope Avid is working hard on this issue. So far, all I’ve heard is “Mac OSX Leopard and Microsoft Vista support is planned for a future release.” I sure hope that means “very soon.”

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Totally Portable – Not!

December 9, 2007

I’m about to start a mix and I thought that it would be nice to have my whole show available on a laptop while we worked. This can be helpful in a pinch, and I figured it would be easy to arrange. Four hours of frustration later, I’m not so sure.

We have about 7,000 OMF media files taking up about 200 gigs of space and living on six Unity partitions. Each partition has a separate media folder, and each one contains two “msm” files, which constitute an index of what’s on the drive. The MC needs those files, and if they’re not there, it will create them.

My task was to move all that of our media into a single folder on a firewire drive and open that up with the laptop system. The folder would be re-indexed and all would be well.

Trouble is, MC-software won’t index that media folder. Roughly half way through the initial scan it consistently crashes. That seemed awfully strange to me, so I tried using our main Adrenaline machine to create the index (taking Unity offline, connecting the firewire drive and starting up the MC). That worked fine. So I figured I had a good index and could now open the firewire drive on the laptop. Nope — even with a good index, the laptop wants to scan the drive — and crashes halfway through.

There are differences between the desktop and laptop systems: one is a quad-G5 tower with four gigs of RAM, the other, and core duo Mac Pro with 2 gigs. I’ve never known one to be allergic to drives indexed with the other, but you never know.

So I created a much smaller media files folder with just a couple of hundred clips — the laptop was able to index that just fine. And I was able to add media files to that folder successfully — but only until I got to around 3,000 files, at which point the laptop would crash halfway through the scan — leaving behind a corrupted index.

After four hours trying all of the above and everything else I and our rental house could think of, I gave up.

Maybe a system with 2 gigs of RAM can’t read a big index. Maybe an Intel system can’t read a big index. Maybe an Intel system can’t read an index created on a G5. But one way or the other, I can’t take my show on the road.

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Pack and Go

November 3, 2007

Anybody try to grab a scene from your desktop Avid, put it on a laptop, and cut it somewhere else? It ain’t all that easy.

Consolidate helps — you find the source bin, select your master clips and consolidate them without relinking. But even though you are moving media to an external drive, consolidate insists on creating new clips that will link to the new media, clips which are placed into your source bin, and which you’re going to immediately delete. What you want is a copy of the media that will link to the original clips. There’s no way to do that except via the Finder. (And despite 20 years of confusion, media filenames still don’t contain clipnames, so that’s going to take some hunting, as well.)

Even if consolidate didn’t create those extra master clips, the task would still be too complicated because there are many non-master clips in a typical scene bin, namely groups and resynched subclips. For these, you have to find the relevant master clips and consolidate them individually.

Then you copy the relevant bins and put them into the project on the laptop. And finally, because the old clips aren’t linked to the new media, you’ve got to relink — which means setting options and often relinking more than once. (Why does every relink produce error messages even when the relink works?)

In general, this is not a task for the faint of heart. Too many steps, too many gotchas. All I want is to select a bunch of clips and sequences, and copy all the source media involved to a drive, along with the bin involved. It would be even easier to select a bin from the project window and have all relevant sources for everything in it copied.

Simplifying the process would make it a lot easier to take work on the road — and it’d also help sell Media Composer software. If this were easy enough and MC-software was reasonably priced, every editor and assistant would have a copy.

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Installation the Old Fashioned Way

October 31, 2007

Why is Media Composer installation so antiquated? The whole thing feels so 1995 to me that I have to wonder what newbies, who are comparing MC with FCP, will think.

In the old days, MC was installed by a priesthood — technicians whose job it was to get our systems working. Today, MC will increasingly be used and maintained by editors — people who don’t want to read a manual just to get the thing running. If Avid wants to compete in this new world it has to win the hearts and minds of editors at the first exposure, and that’s during installation.

Here are some of the problems:

  • No automatic software update. MC is the only piece of software I use that doesn’t go out on the net and check for new versions. You have to go to the Avid site yourself and hunt around till you find it.
  • Uninstall before installing. Want an update? You’ll have to uninstall the old version first. And worse, you have to find and use a separate application to do it. The least Avid could do is let the installer take care of this.
  • Need to register. Seems like dongle copy protection ought to be enough, but if you want an upgrade you have to register, as well.
  • Lots of extra installers. In addition to Media Composer, the disk includes way too many additional installers. What are they for? Some should be included as options in the main installer, others are just trial versions. How does the newbie sort this out?
  • And then there’s the readme. Sixty four endless pages long. Clearly designed for the priesthood, with 20 pages of known bugs. Yes, I appreciate Avid’s candor, but for a newbie, it’s got to be pretty intimidating.

I could go on, but you get the point. If Avid wants average editors to buy and maintain their own software, they’ve got to start looking at the system through their eyes. And that means simplifying and modernizing the installation process. It should be one-button simple — for the initial installation and for upgrades, too.

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