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 17, 2010


009- What I was taught at a very, very young age still gets me compliments today. If I was a guest at someone’s home for dinner, say going over to my friend Goran’s house, when I was finished my meal I was taught to always take my dishes to the sink or dishwasher. Result? Goran’s mom thought I was a “good boy” and smiled a smile that made Goran want to retch. Thus I made sure to do it all the time. But I didn’t mind and quite frankly, it gets a gravy-smeared plate out of my face. So it helps everyone.

That brings me to how I handle my OMF and AAF files. If you don’t know what they are, they are…well…brilliant. An OMF allows you to send along audio or video files in a multiple layered format that matches your timeline. And each clip in your timeline within this export will have handles.

Why is this so important? Well, for audio it means that the audio mixer doesn’t have to spend time capturing each track separately and trying to figure out where clips begin & end. It saves having to do timeline charts that graphically show them where clips will appear. These two things mean it will save a lot of supervision on my part. Plus if the mixer needs just a bit more of a sound because I cut it too tight, they have those handles there that give them immense flexibility.

For video you can hand over well-organized uncompressed files for an online/conform or, in our case here at our shop, for colour correction. Each clip within the OMF/AAF is automatically broken into separate layers and our colourist doesn’t have to find edit points to notch her shots.

If you’re used to this always being there well you haven’t lived through the era of multiple edited rolls of 35mm audio magnetic stock painstakingly laid up in giant fully locked playback machine rooms that flowed through a mixing console. It also means you avoided having to do carefully charted and colour-coded timelines on long reams of paper. You are lucky indeed.

When Avid demoed OMFs at a 1994 Avid conference in Florida I attended I knew immediately that this was big. And as the years passed I was thrilled to see so many manufacturers adopt the standard. Saves so much time.

That’s assuming you do it right. You see, as the Media Composer got more and more complicated the OMF/AAF exports got more & more complicated. But in a lot of cases the hardware or software these files got shuttled to didn’t know how to handle these embellished files. Any dissolve effects in the audio? It would create separate dissolve files on lower tracks. Add an EQ or Audio suite plug in to a track? It is a guarantee the file gets all messed up. Use Fluidmotion to slow picture down or apply a Boris filter effect? That OMF/AAF file practically melts on the hard drive. The result is confusion for the application trying to import it and frustration for the professionals needing to use it. Best case scenario - errors on import. Worst case - complete failure to import.

So when I prep my files I create separate unique timelines for the exports. If it is for an audio mixer, for example, I only hand them a timeline with audio in it. Sounds obvious? Amazing how many editors export OMF/AAF files with both picture and audio to go to mix houses. Audio professionals scratch their heads and wonder why a 30second commercial has 5 gigs of audio attached!

But that’s not all. Any cross dissolves I do with an effect - I clean them off the timeline. In fact any effects at all are cleaned off. In video exports I take the time to mix down motion effects more complicated than an “interpolated” render. I make sure the export is only relevant picture- no titles or imported graphics, etc. {But I have found I can leave most resizing effects.} I always ensure my dialogue tracks are separate from sound effects and they, in turn, are separate from music. No jumbling them together. I replicate cross fades by using rubber-banding on multiple tracks.

Most importantly I consolidate the media being exported so the handles aren’t unnecessarily miles long with drive-choking file sizes.

Then I write a short note to the receiver about what they can expect and where to expect it. Plus I include any other notes that could help them like file type, frequency, how big the handles are, etc. and I note any strangeness like deliberate holes in the timeline that may make someone scratch their head.

I’ll do anything I can to make sure their process goes very smoothly so I don’t get dozens of emails and phone calls. But more than avoiding phone calls it is just plain polite, courteous & respectful. The result is that I have people tell me all the time how easy it was to use my files and that they never had an easy time with anyone else’s files. It always makes me feel good.

Okay, so now that I cleaned my plate…when’s dessert?


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  2. what a great post. i worked many years as a machine room operator and editor/mix assist cracking omf's from many different editors and would be shocked at how much crap would get stuffed inside the omf.

    if you send stuff to an audio house, all u need are the audio files and handles...no effects or extras!

    Thanks Jeffrey for the great analogy!