Well, I guess I’ve gotten vain enough to assume that I might know a thing or two about Avids and editing. So perhaps the world would be a better place if I shared my seemingly limitless knowledge (?). Occasional tips that relate to offline and online editing, Photoshop (my right hand), After Effects (my third hand) and managing media and other files. Throw in the occasional rant to let off some steam and you get the gist . Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


006- Back when Avid was just an Avid editing tool the first software version I used was 4.5. I know what you’re saying -- there is no 4.5. (not yet, anyway) Well, I’m talking about way back in 1993. I was handed my first Avid suite. It wasn’t wired up, it didn’t have any manuals and I had no tech support. Best of all I had a week to learn it and teach it to my senior editor because I was going on a honeymoon. You see we would be parted as editor and assistant for the first time in three years thus forcing him to work with one of those trendy “computer” things without my help.

Anyway…the thing about 4.5 is that it had no layers. Think about that. Avid software as an A/B roll edit suite. Yuck. You had a title tool and that’s it for your graphics ability. Still, it totally blew the doors off of tape-based editing.

Then along came 5.0. It had 24 amazing layers and 23 layers of potential deeply “nested” layers inside those layers. For some reason I understood how layers and nesting worked right away and why it was so cool. It was why I slid so well into After Effects too. Precomps acted very much the same way. The ability to wrap a bunch of media into a sub-package and then affect that wrapped item as a whole was very powerful.

Flash forward to today. Photoshop is my right arm. I constantly reach for it. I love/prefer designing my type in is PS because of the incredible flexibility and non-destructive treatments to type that you can do.

When I first started importing Photoshop layers into an Avid bin, I was blown away by how simple it was to layup a bunch of type and then for the Avid to recognize those layers independently; all while keeping the naming and file order. Awesome.

Then, as Photoshop has a tendency to do, the layers got a lot more complicated with non-destructive shadow, beveling, gradients, etc. Avid couldn’t keep up (I don’t blame the fine programmers at Avid). So I resorted to creating flattened versions of layers in the same file. I’d label them “flat” so I knew which ones to import.

Problem is if I wanted to make a small change it was a big pain in the ass to modify it and replace the flattened layer or keep track of multiple flattened versions. Files got bloated and things bogged down.

Then, like a big slap in the head I realized I should be using “Smart Objects”! Smart Objects are to Photoshop what nesting is to an Avid timeline. By creating my type layer, styling it and collapsing it into a smart object (like nesting in the Avid or precomping in After Effects) I could import that layer into the Avid and all the Media Composer would see is a flattened file with the effects intact. But (!) I could go back into the PSD file and by simply double clicking I could get all my non-destructive style parameters back, adjust something, close the smart object file, save the main file and batch import the same file name…which replaced it in the sequence – bam! It sounds slow but it is waaaayyy faster.

Okay, let’s chat next week about a few things I’d like to see in my anniversary edition of Media Composer 4.5.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


005- Two blogs ago I gave you a small list of "nevers". What about always?

When an assistant starts to work with me I like to sit down and explain how we do things here in our office

“Always replace the toilet paper when the roll is done.”

“Always put your mug in the dishwasher, not the sink.”

“Always leave my slippers at the foot of the bed when you tuck me in.”

Okay, that’s creepy…but you get the idea. Generally the always (and the nevers) are meant to keep the peace. The peace that would only be lost if they fail to do as I say. Got it?

In the Avid, here’s a few “must do” examples: Always put all the cuts into their own bin (no mixing with other file types). And while we’re at it…always put all the footage into its own bin and then sub-clip selects from those into a new bin (no mixing). Always import music into its own bin. Always import sound effects…again, you get the picture.

But hey, all that helps. Really helps. I’ve opened other editors' projects to find absolutely everything in one bin - all mixed up. OMG! How does anyone work that way?!? How can anyone tell where anything is? How does anyone delegate? It’s a sure fire recipe for disaster. And when I’m working with directors or agencies the last thing they want to see on their dime is me trying to remember what I did with a file. If I’m not here and someone needs to get into my project they should, with little effort, find what they need. In short, it gives me great peace of mind to keep organized.

One trick? I like to number my sequences bins. But I’m not being anal retentive. I don’t have such an elephant-like memory that I can recall what is in a bin labeled 245. That, obviously, is not practical. What I do is label my Cuts bin: 001-Cuts. Why? Because then my cuts, that is to say my most important bin (or bins), shoot to the top of my list in my project window. Easy to find! It’s a little thing but it helps me a lot.

When I’m done my project I need to isolate the sequence or sequences that are used for the master files or tapes. So I create a “000-Hero cuts” bin for a copy of the versions used to master. This “000” shoots to the VERY top of my project folder. Long after the project is done, and without my assistance, anyone can instantly identify which sequence they need to use or modify when the project is restored. (Don’t forget to duplicate the sequence first!)

When I want something to shoot to the bottom, well, I use a “~” symbol (a tilde symbol). Snaps it to the bottom. I could use it to identify selects I may have grabbed like “~ farm shots” or “~interviews”. Whatever. Down they go. Yes, I could create a folder for those bins (as I frequently do) but sometimes a “~” does the trick.

Remember: ALWAYS be organized and if you get hit by a truck in the middle of a project your team won’t spit on your grave. At least, not for that.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


004- Now for something very Avid specific. Years ago I had a thought…why doesn’t the “promote to 3D button” exist in the command palette as an option to be placed in other windows? It seems like a no-brainer. You step into an effect and rather than searching for the promote button at the bottom of the effect menu you could place it in the Composer window under the image and just click it. And you’re immediately off to the races: scaling, cropping, whatever.

So I tried something. I opened the command palette and chose the “Button-Button Reassignment” option. Then I opened my effect palette, chose an effect that could be promoted (e.g. Resize) and slid the “Promote to 3D button” over to the Composer button set. Voila! – it stayed there. And no, it doesn’t take it away from the effect window. It makes a copy.

I figured that out nine years ago. I was so proud of that. When Avid sent around an email asking people for their favourite tips I was a good Avid soldier and sent that one in. They liked it and they published it. However, and I admit I’m being a juvenile here, they never gave me credit.

In actuality, what really bugs me is that Avid has yet to do the programming leg work and just put a copy of the button in the palette. “Perhaps the 3D tab”, he suggests?

Maybe it’s a good thing they haven’t made the change or Avid Tip#004 would be blank this week.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


003- We try to avoid edicts and proclamations in our office. It reeks of bureaucracy. But there are certain words that are not allowed to be even spoken aloud for fear they will invoke the wrath of the gods. Words like “easy” or “simple”. You know the context- “That looks easy” or “That will be simple”. It’s a surefire way for something to go very wrong. Never fails. I’m not superstitious except for my list of banished words. Say one out loud and there will be pain.

In my Avid (or any other files I organize) the same holds true for two terrible words: “New” and “Final”. Gives me the willies just typing them here. When I was an assistant I learned pretty quickly that naming files with clarity helped everyone --- especially me. Naming a file “new” was about as clear as naming a file “file”. I still see it done. I get files called “rough cut -new new” or “new2”, “new 3”, “new4”. “Really new”.

I even had an agency name their commercial "New". Like that hasn't caused grief ever since. "Get me a copy of the New commercial, won't you? ", "Send that New commercial over to the stations".

“Final” is the kiss of death to any file. Name it ‘Final” and I absolutely guarantee there will be another revision beyond that one. “Final 1”, “Final FINAL”, “Finally” Grrrr.

Then there’s the ever-popular adding asterisks to a file name. e.g., “rough cut***********” So now I have to COUNT the number of stars? Bravo.

So what do I do? I NUMBER THEM. The highest number is the latest file. Then if I go into the project later, or anyone needs to do so for me, it’s pretty clear which one I was working on last. If that isn’t clear enough I’ll label them any other way as long as it’s not a descriptor that implies this is the last one.

Best of all that number travels with the file wherever it ends up. So if a client says “I like what’s happening at the end of version #5” we all know which one we’re referring to.

Bonus points for never numbering anything with less than 3 digits. E.g. “001” instead of “1”. That way no matter what operating system or application they’ll sort in the correct order.

It’s just that eas__. Um, I mean… hopefully that helps.