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, March 3, 2010


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.


  1. Good read Jeff! I can't tell you the amount of digital material that comes into our office with no black at the head and tail. Makes it annoying and time consuming to add that black, especially when creating DVDs. Got to make sure it doesn't hang up on screen though...Nothing looks worse!

  2. I find the easiest way to cut to black at the end is a 1fr dip to color. That will take it completely black, unlike a dissolve, and doesn't require cutting anything else in. If you need to fade out, then make it longer and center it on the cut.

  3. Good tip. I still prefer my black insert...but I appreciate learning multiple ways to "skin a cat"

  4. Hey Jeff,

    wouldn't it be possible to create your black clip either by (a) making a still frame off of Filler loaded in the viewer or (b) doing a video mixdown of some filler in your timeline? That way you don't have to think about the issue of black level / import settings...

  5. Well, you can't make a freeze frame of filler. But you can mixdown a portion of your timeline. Whatever works for you. I prefer a folder on my desktop with all sorts of handy files (blog coming soon about this) including a 16-Black file that I simply drag and drop.
    But again, whatever works for you! :)

  6. You also can cut a empty video layer and trim it to the right side until the end of your sequence. Voi-lá, you´ve got The Black.

  7. I was intrigued by your suggestion. But I confess having tried it it does not appear to do what you suggest it should. When I add another layer and try and "trim it to the right side" the trim markers do not appear because there's nothing to trim. The trim window does not allow you highlight a null area. However, I am always happy to find a better way.So...perhaps you could try it and write down the steps for me in this post.

  8. I stumbled upon your blog from the avid forums, you have some great insight here. To add black at the end with trim mode you must "Add Edit" at the end of your timeline on the top-most track, go into Trim mode and then trim right as far as you'd like. Hope this helps.

  9. Ah yes! I see it now. You're creating a null edit point and trimming it back. very good. Not exactly textbook...but truly easier than dropping in a still of black. Well done. Thank you for the suggestion.

  10. A small clip of audio with the levels turned down to zero works as well. Just slide it down away from the end of your program (I actually like the add edit tip - I think I'll start doing that). Also - setting a sequence start time of 00;59;40;00 allows your program to begin at true zero (unless the tenth hour of the day is sacred in Canada?). Great blog! I'm finding a lot of great tips - especially about project organization.

  11. Oh..in our shop we start masters at 10 hour time code. It's certainly not a national rule, that's for sure.

    Who would have thought a blog about "black" would have generated so much response?!?