007- Over six million years ago, in a land before time, I was in high school. (And yes - I did graduate). I learned then and still know now the importance of good presentation. A slick cover and clean pages meant a better grade on my papers. Good foam core backers with clean titles meant a better score on my science fair project. “Presentation is paramount” is a mantra I created I repeat to anyone who will listen. Not a guarantee of a good grade, mind you, but it doesn’t hurt.
So when it comes to screening a cut, any cut, I’m amazed how often editors ignore the fundamentals of good presentation. And that can be as simple as a black screen. A black screen is a clean slate to the eye and a definitive “period” to the end of a cut. Yet editors and assistants of all walks fail to screen their work with black at the start and at the tail of a sequence. The result is an awkward freeze frame at the start and stop which only serves to jar the viewer and ruin the emotion you carefully sewed together.
Or perhaps, one might assume, every cut of any kind should fade up and fade down at either end? WRONG, I say to thee. WRONG! Sometimes a sharp cut in and out is just what this type of edit requires emotionally. And while you might argue that black isn’t or shouldn’t be a steadfast rule I would say that it IS a commonly shared experience …like a blink (thank you Walter Murch) and therefore a familiar place in the mind.
Now the Avid isn’t very black friendly. A timeline in the Avid is a limbo-like area of nothingness until you add something to it and a Media Composer doesn’t allow filler to be that something. And after the last something the timeline ends abruptly. You won’t hear me say too many good things about Media 100 systems, but their infinite & multiple timelines are something Avid should have stolen long ago
To get black at the start of a timeline you have to choose “add filler at start” under the Clip menu. I actually have this key-mapped to F13 (with a preference setting of 10 seconds) so I can hit it multiple times.
For the end I import a black clip (black with RGB values at 16 so the black levels don’t shift) and lay that in way down the line in my timeline. Now when I hit play I can get a definitive start and definitive end to my sequence. The viewer’s brain registers this subconsciously. It just “feels” better. And it makes it easier when posting videos online as well because my timeline marks will include a bit of this black area on export.
“But wait!” I hear you cry, “Doesn’t that mess with your duration count?”. Well…yes…but I always use an automatic workaround. You see, my sequences start at 09;59;40;00 and I always have 20 seconds of black before the start so the cut begins at 10 hour mark exactly. Now my sequence time code register tells me how long I am.
Now don’t ask me about the importance of good spelling on those high school papers. That’s a lesson I keep relearning with the title tool every day.