Avid Interplay #1 - getting footage TO the Editor

Latest post Fri, Oct 17 2008 7:26 PM by Pixel Monkey. 0 replies.
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  • Fri, Oct 17 2008 7:26 PM

    • Pixel Monkey
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    Avid Interplay #1 - getting footage TO the Editor

    The Avid Interplay “Environment”

    Getting Footage to the Editor - Pixel Monkey




    “Wait a minute…You’re actually using Avid Interplay for non-news, long-format postproduction workflows? What are you, nuts?” - Confucius


    Avid Interplay is a new thing. Every new thing has a growth period. But I’m finding that as long as a few hurdles are jumped, the Interplay “Environment” can be a comfortable place to work – even in non-news situations. And, as the system gets streamlined it will be demanded on more and more workflows.

    Here's post #1 in a series I'll be uploading here on Interplay usage.


    Getting footage to the editor inside the Avid Interplay environment isn’t too tricky.


    1.) Avid AirSpeed

    This is an Avid product (rack-mount thingy) similar to a TiVo. Originally designed for Master Control operators to record feeds directly from satellite to the Unity drives, it is also handy for having the night shift load all your footage for you by the time your morning coffee finishes percolating.


    This works fine as a “just get it done” tool. You play a tape, P2, XDCAM, or whatever, on a deck. (Heck you could even use VHSC if you have an A-D converter.) You route that deck into the AirSpeed. You tell the AirSpeed where to put the finished clip in the Unity, and whammo!


    Depending on your demands, it can create some problems. News? You’re golden. For post-house workflows, independent digital filmmaking and other content creation requiring offline-to-online capabilities, you’ll need to tread more carefully.

    Issue - Timecode

    AirSpeed timecode does NOT chase deck timecode as nice as you’d think it would. Yes the AirSpeed receives a deck’s VITC timecode and basically assemble-edits a clip onto the Unity. The assemble-edit begins nicely on the first frame of the record. From that point on however, the AirSpeed no longer “looks” at the deck’s timecode. It self-generates based on the timecode it saw at the first frame. So if your field tape has even one break in the timecode, the resulting footage now on your Unity has different timecode than your tape. YUCK! Conclusion: don’t use AirSpeed if you want to insure an efficient offline-to-online process. However: if you are ingesting footage and plan on using that footage as your online-quality media, then who cares what the timecode is, right?


    Issue - 22:22:22:22

    I was editing a project using footage on Unity drives and saw that many of my clips started at timecode 22:22:22:22. It turns out that there is an exact order to how an operator ingests using AirSpeed. If he/she hits play on a deck, then hits record on the AirSpeed before it has time to identify the incoming timecode, the AirSpeed will inflict its own timecode onto the clip, starting at 22:22:22:22. Conclusion: hit play on the deck, and then wait 6-10 Mississippis before hitting record on the AirSpeed.


    Issue – Audio Channels

    This is more of a caution to editors than an issue. AirSpeed is a hardware thing. When an operator is ingesting footage for you, there is no software for him/her to decide what audio channels to give you. If your engineers have it hard-wired for 2-channel audio, then it will give you just that. If they are smart, they have it configured to be HD-ready which means that EVERY clip you get has four channels of audio regardless if there is anything on them.


    Now imagine working with that in the timeline. See the issue?


    The BIG Benefit

    Someone else is digitizing. Depending on your edit workload, that alone can allow for up to twice the number of projects to be completed. How’s that for job security?


    2.) Digitizing from a different Media Composer onto Unity drives.

    Tried and true, old school digitizing is still a great way to go. Now that you’ve unpacked and installed your shiny new Interplay system, it’s time to really start using it. Got four edit systems? Got a documentary with 100 hours of footage? Doing the math? Good. Have three round-the-clock shifts start digitizing on Monday morning, and you are beginning to cut your fully-digitized 100 hour documentary at 10am the next day!


    But why stop there? Why not pay your round-the-clock guys until Wednesday and have them log, subclip and add locator notes to all the footage too? See, Assistant Editors cost half as much as an editor, so why pay editors to do all the menial work? Heck if you have a couple AirSpeeds as well, your Master Control operators can join the fun… and they’ll do it for pretzels and coffee!


    Issue – Whiney Editors

    Some editors like to see every frame of footage as it comes in. You know what? I totally used to be one of them. But who has time to be a Walter Murch clone anymore? Many of us are now seeing how great it is to sit down to an edit and have every clip laid out for us. Really, it’s like when your butler lays out your suit for you in the morning. (Man that would be nice.)


    The BIG Benefit

    Do producers love Interplay-based digitizing? You kidding? Every time I see one experiencing it for the first time, they’re doing a David Lee Roth around the room! If you also have an Avid Assist station hooked into your Interplay, they can monitor everything while it’s happening. Tape number 38 is the big important interview, so while it is being digitized, Mister Big Potatoes is at the Assist station logging all his best sound bytes from it.


    Assistants can also flag footage for the producer to review without them ever setting foot in the edit bay. “Hey Mister Big Potatoes…Tape 63 loses audio at 3;22;06;11. Is that intentional?”



    3.) Old school digitizing.

    Open your Digitize tool. Whoops sorry, showing my age there… your “Capture” tool. See the drives you can “Capture” to? That’s right, both local and Unity are available.


    Issue –

    Though they finally convinced Big Tobacco that cigarettes cause lung cancer, they haven’t nailed down whether or not mixing local and Unity-based media is a good idea. Some say yes, others say no. Are you an early adopter? Then go right ahead. Just don’t be surprised when the media indexing that happens in the background corrupts your project so that your list of tape names is gone and your sequence audio drifts three seconds at 11 minutes into the digital cut. (No, I’m not making that up.) Conclusion: Stay all Unity or all local. With the low cost of storage, who really cares?


    The BIG Benefit

    Control freak editors, rejoice! You get to see every frame and label every shot that gives you a brainfart… I mean an interesting artistic idea.


    4.) Sharing subclips and mixdowns over Interplay and FTP

    Aah, welcome to the fully interactive age. “In a world,” where an entire tape is digitized by an assistant three months before your edit, he sits down with the producer, Mister Big Potatoes, and makes subclips of all the necessary footage. No worrying about handles because all the media is right there on the Unity.


    The workflow for this is simple – the media is ingested into one folder and the subclips are placed into another. Heck, you can make all the subfolders you want. Want a folder just for all the shots with the big red barn in it, go ahead. I don’t care, just make sure all the nicely labeled clips are there just waiting for my evil scissors to cut them up.


    Perhaps you’re like me and do contract editing for independent film directors who aren’t even in the same city. They have their Assistant Editors sitting at their Avid laptops creating small “pre-rough-cut” sequences. How do they get it to me? Consolidated media via FTP. Cool! It’s pretty efficient, too.


    Other than consolidating, another way to send whole clips is to match frame, find bin, reveal file, and then drag the file to the FTP. I drag it to my desktop, drag it into the bin and whammo – it creates a master clip. A cleaner way of doing this is of course to have the Assistant go into the project and drag the clip’s bin onto the FTP as well. Then I just open his bin, which is linked to the media. Whole sequences can be done that way in fact, although consolidation does work better for a lot of folks.


    5.) The dub house

    You can always have your friendly neighborhood dub house do all your ingesting onto an external hard drive. Just make sure it is done in the desired Avid MXF resolution. Then simply have your editor drag/drop it onto the system.



    Thanks for reading. Here’s my standard disclaimer:

    I’m neither an Avid employee nor an engineer. If you’re looking for exact technical processes or workflows specific to your software versions, call the good folks at Avid Broadcast Tech Support: (800) 639-7364. They rock!


    I edit documentaries for PBS, not segments for news… yet I’m using relatively the same tools as a news station. Obviously this means I’ll have a goofy workflow compared to many of you. I go into detail about my trial & error experiences hoping that you’ll chime-in with yours. I’m very interested in hearing as many other workflows and tricks as possible. If you have different experiences or more efficient ideas, please list them now! This is a “virtual users group”, not a lecture circuit. Let’s keep it as interactive as possible.


    And always remember, when you want to piss off your DP:

    “Pictures say 1000 words. Editors give them meaning.” -Pixel Monkey

    Editors are superheroes, cutting life together in a world that cuts itself apart.


    Chris Bove' (Pixel Monkey)

    Twitter: @heybove   Blog for Craft Editors

    WWLD (What Would Larry Do?)   WWND (What Would Norman Do?)   #AllisWell

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