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The Avid Handbook: Advanced Techniques, Strategies, and Survival Information for Avid Editing Systems

The Avid Handbook: Advanced Techniques, Strategies, and Survival Information for Avid Editing Systems

by Greg Staten

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Brimming with workflow efficiencies for the experienced editor, The Avid Handbook teaches you the hows and whys of operating the system in order to reach streamlined, creative end solutions. The book emphasizes time-saving techniques, shortcuts, and workflow procedures- the true keys to getting a job done.

The book has also been updated to include new


Brimming with workflow efficiencies for the experienced editor, The Avid Handbook teaches you the hows and whys of operating the system in order to reach streamlined, creative end solutions. The book emphasizes time-saving techniques, shortcuts, and workflow procedures- the true keys to getting a job done.

The book has also been updated to include new information on HD formats and workflows, color-correction and grading capability enhancements, MXF media standardization, and much more.

Also new to this edition are an 8 page 4-color insert, adding depth to the color-correction lessons, as well as running sidebars throughout the book, calling out time-saving tips and techniques.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Avid Handbook has always been an useful supplement to Avid's own excellent manuals. Greg Staten's latest edition introduces readers to the inner workings, tips, tricks and hidden techniques behind Avid's newly updated Media Composer 3.0 software. Avid's manuals can teach you the right buttons to push, but Staten takes you further into the philosophy and workflow behind the software, to ultimately help you be a better editor. It's not just the what and where, but the even more important, how and why. Regardless of experience level, this is an essential text for every Avid editor."
- Oliver Peters, President and Founder, Oliver Peters Post Production Services

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Advanced Techniques, Strategies, and Survival Information for Avid Editing Systems

Focal Press

Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-092813-5

Chapter One


"Throw up in the morning. Clean up in the afternoon." —Ray Bradbury

Though there are many approaches to an edit, many years ago a friend showed me the quote above, which is perhaps the best explanation of the editorial process I've ever seen. In other words, get the elements you need into the timeline first. Once they're there you can refine and fine-tune them until you get to the final result. These two phases of the edit are where the storytelling is done and where we'll begin our exploration of Avid Media Composer®. In this chapter we'll look at the techniques and approaches you would use in the rough-assembly phase. In Chapter 2 we'll explore the fine-tuning phase.

Building the Story Framework

When it comes to adding material to a timeline, there are two different approaches you can take. The first is the classical source-to-record process where a clip is loaded into the source monitor, marks are made, a location for the edit is selected in the timeline, and then the desired material is added to the timeline. The second is by selecting a clip or clips in a bin, then dragging them to the desired location in the timeline. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. You could, if you wished, build your entire sequence using only one of these two techniques. But if you really want to master the tools that Avid provides you with, you should become comfortable with both.

Source-to-Record Editing

As this is the classic approach, long-time video editors will probably be most familiar with this method. But if you're more familiar with the drag-and-drop approach to editing, you may find some of these techniques to be a revelation. Even in the rough-assembly stage, the precision available with this source-to-record editing can be a real time-saver.

Rather than discuss the basic workflow for editing from source to record, let's take a look at some techniques you can use to help with your speed and precision. One of the points to remember about Avid is that there are always multiple approaches that can be used to tackle any problem. For that reason I've presented the techniques below, organized into categories rather than by workflow stages.

Finding the Edit Point

Once you've loaded the desired shot into the Source monitor, the most common approach to finding the edit point is to push Play and then either place a mark or stop when you reach the desired location. You could also just grab the position indicator and drag it right or left, scrubbing the clip until you find the point you want. Finally, you can also use the frame step keys (mapped by default as numeral keys 1, 2, 3, and 4 on the main keyboard) to move forward or backward by either one or ten frames. All of these approaches work, but there are some additional tools available to you that can really help you find the right place for your mark or edit.

Digital Audio Scrub

One disadvantage to finding your point by dragging the position indicator is that you can see the picture, but you can't hear the sound. Digital Audio Scrub is designed to address that limitation. When enabled, you hear individual frames of audio as the position indicator passes over them. To enable Digital Audio Scrub:

• Press the Caps Lock key to turn Digital Audio Scrub on. It remains on until you press the Caps Lock key again to turn it off.

• Hold the Shift key down while scrubbing. Using the Shift key will only activate Digital Audio Scrub while it is depressed.

Digital Audio Scrub is most useful when finding the beginning and ending of distinct sounds, such as the beginning and ending of a sound bite. It is, to be honest, fairly useless when trying to find a point in music or even dialog recorded on location in a noisy environment. Indeed, you'll probably find it to be more annoying than useful in those situations!

Despite this, give it a try. You may find it to be one of the fastest techniques available to quickly hit the beginning and end of a sound bite. But please, for the sake of those nearby and perhaps for your own safety, turn it back off after you've used it to find your mark. There are few things more annoying to others within earshot than a continual blip, blip, blip every time you move to a new position in a source or in the timeline. There is a reason why some editors refer to the Caps Lock key as the "torture key"!

I strongly recommend that you use the Shift key instead of the Caps Lock key when using Digital Audio Scrub. That way it is only on for the brief moment of time that you need it on. Believe me, everyone around you will appreciate it. But there is one "gotcha" to using the Shift key: If you want to use it along with the single-frame step keys (mapped to the 3, 4, <-, and -> keys by default), you can't have anything else mapped to the "shifted" state of that key. It is for this very reason that the left and right arrow keys on the default keyboard have the single-frame step commands mapped to each key's normal and shifted state.

J-K-L Scrub

This is quite possibly the most versatile feature in the system. If you aren't already using it then it is time to start! J-K-L Scrub is very powerful because it gives you access to all of the following capabilities in just three keys:

• Play forward or backward at sound speed (i.e., 29.97 frames per second [fps] for NTSC, and so on).

• Shuttle at high-speed forward or backward.

• Scrub at quarter-speed forward or backward.

• Scrub forward or backward by one frame while hearing audio.

Best of all, you can do all of these not only while looking through your footage or your sequence, but also while trimming it. Also, if your deck supports the full Sony command set, you can also use it while shuttling through a tape.

We call it "J-K-L" Scrub because those are the keys the Play Reverse, Pause, and Play Forward commands are mapped to by default. But you can map them to any keys. For example, on my system I have them mapped to D, F, and G on the left half of the keyboard. Regardless of where you map them, the functionality remains the same. Table 1.1 lists how to access the various play modes. (Note: If you have remapped these commands, press those keys instead.)

J-K-L shuttling is great because you can dynamically switch on-the-fly between all of the play modes listed in Table 1.1. This means you can roll forward at 2× speed, switch to 1× reverse speed when you roll past the point you want, then play forward and backward at either quarter speed or frame by frame until you find the exact frame you want. This technique is actually similar, and uses the same default keys, as a linear tape editor used on an edit controller to shuttle through a tape. But shuttling on a computer is far faster than it could ever be on tape, as decks just can't respond as quickly as a digital system.

Soon you will find yourself cooking through the material at double or triple speed while following the script. Surprisingly, you'll be able to understand what people are saying and can work consistently at the higher speed, flying faster through the material and more quickly finding what you're looking for.

One distinct difference between J-K-L Scrub and Digital Audio Scrub is that J-K-L has a more "analog" sound, especially when scrubbing at quarter speed. Long-time editors (those who have been in the business long enough to edit on open-reel decks) often refer to J-K-L as "rocking reels," as the sound really does match what you'd hear if you were manually scrubbing open-reel audiotape with your hands. As a result, J-K-L Scrub is especially useful for hearing inhales and exhales. When heard at quarter speed, a breath has that distinct "Darth Vader" sound that makes it so easy to hear when someone has finished exhaling or inhaling. Once you start using J-K-L you'll wonder how you ever managed to cut without it.

Seeking a Specific Timecode

In some cases you may be working with a producer who has screened the footage and has noted a series of "great lines" or similar points and given them to you in an email. Media Composer allows you to easily seek, or jump to, any Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) timecode that exists in the loaded source clip. Of course, that means that the timecode has to exist in that clip; if you seek a point outside the timecode range of a loaded clip (e.g., if the clip has timecode from 06:25:05:01 to 06:27:06:25 and you ask it to seek to 06:27:15:00) the system will merely beep at you. To seek to a timecode:

• Load the desired clip into the Source monitor and ensure that the Source monitor is active. (If you aren't sure, click on the Source monitor to activate it.)

Using the keyboard's numeric keypad, type the desired timecode and press Enter to seek that timecode. (If you are working on a laptop you cannot use the number keys above the letters to enter timecode. Instead you must use the Fn key to enter the numbers using the alphanumeric keys. See your laptop's manual for more information on using the Fn numeric keyboard.)

There is a potential "gotcha" that could prevent you from seeking any timecode, even that which exists in a clip. Media Composer seeks based on the time format displayed above the Source or Record monitor. Depending on how your system is configured, you may not be displaying timecode but instead frame numbers, film key numbers, clip durations, or even clip names. If timecode is not displayed you must modify the display to show timecode. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to change the display to show timecode. (Note: If two lines of information are displayed, only the top one must be displaying timecode. The lower line can be used to display any other information desired.)

To set the source information display to timecode:

1. Click on the information display you wish to modify to show the menu. The top of the menu allows you to set the type of information you wish to use. Below that are various types of data that are valid for the type of data currently selected.

2. Move the cursor to the Source option at the top of the menu and a submenu will display listing all the tracks in the loaded source clip.

3. Move the cursor again to one of the source tracks and another submenu will display that lists the types of information available. For video projects you will see TC1 (timecode), Frm (frame count), and Clip (clip name). If you are in a film project you will see additional types of information including key number, ink number, and so on.

4. Select "TC1" from the menu to change the information display to timecode.

Making Your Marks

To make an edit you need to set marks and a point of sync. I'm not going to go into the hows and whys of three-point editing, but there are some details regarding the way Media Composer either lets you mark or responds to those marks that are worth discussing. Perhaps some of these are new to you!

Checking Your Duration

One of the handiest features in the Composer window is Center Duration. This useful feature provides you with a single location where the marked (or unmarked) duration of the active monitor is always displayed. If you are migrating from Xpress Pro® this feature will be new to you, but I'm often surprised at the number of Media Composer editors who don't know about it. How is that so? Well, the feature has always, for some reason, been disabled by default. Fortunately, that has changed with version 3.0 of both Media Composer and Symphony®. If you create a new user in these versions you'll discover that your new user has this option, among others turned on by default. You'll also find a new set of interface colors installed when you create a new user. (Yes, that is right, the purple highlight is now gone by default. You can still access it via an interface setting named "Classic" if you miss it.)

If you don't have this enabled in your user setting, you can do so via the Window tab in the Composer setting. When enabled it displays the marked (or unmarked) duration of the active monitor. Media Composer obeys the following rules regarding marks, or lack of marks, and the displayed duration:

In and Out mark: Marked duration displayed.

In or Out mark only: Duration between mark and position indicator.

No marks: Duration from position indicator to end of active clip or sequence.

Three-Point Editing

The most fundamental method of editing is, of course, the three-point edit. Remember that the In and Out marks indicating edit duration can be made in either the Source or the Record monitor. And, in the absence of the solo In mark, the Avid system will use the location of the position indicator.

Back-Timing an Edit

A three-point edit doesn't have to be two In marks and one Out mark. If you want to use the Out point as the sync reference, then use two Outs and one In!


Excerpted from THE AVID HANDBOOK by GREG STATEN STEVE BAYES Copyright © 2009 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Senior Product Designer for editors with Avid Technology, Inc., and has been editing on Media Composer since 1992. For the last several years Greg has traveled the world speaking at major conferences and seminars keeping Avid users and instructors up-to-date on areas such as advanced editing techniques, online process, color correction, and effects design. Prior to joining the product design team he was the Principal Instructor for Avid's Training Services Group, focusing on finishing and effects.
Bayes is the Product Manager for Final Cut Pro at Apple. For 8 years he was the Principal Product Designer for Media Composer, Symphony and DS Nitris at Avid Technology. Steve has specified the design of Avid products based on his years of editing, instructing and interviewing Avid users. He is the author of the book "The Avid Handbook: Basic and Intermediate Techniques for the Media Composer” which will have a 4th edition in December 2003. Steve also spent two years as Senior Instructor for Avid Educational Services, teaching Avid students and instructors in the U.S., Europe and Asia. He has also written and developed several advanced Avid classes including the Master Editor Workshop. Previously, Steve was Senior Editor at several production companies in Boston, Massachusetts and edited in the New England market for ten years.

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