Tips 'n' cuts
December 2, 2009 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Digitalfilms, a blog by video/film editor Oliver Peters, serves primarily as a repository for his product reviews pertaining to nonlinear editing systems - including, but not limited to, Avid Media Composer and Apple Final Cut Pro...

He also posts useful tutorials and news from the postproduction industry.

A sampling of his more popular posts:

Ten Tips For A Better Final Cut Pro Experience
11 More Final Cut Pro Tips
12 Tips For Better Film Editing
Final Cut vs. Avid Redux
Dealing with a post facility


Reliving The Zoetrope Tradition - Walter Murch and Tetro

Saving the best for last:

The Avid Ecosystem - a list of useful links and resources pertaining to Avid technology
The Final Cut Ecosystem - another (lengthier) compilation of useful links, only this time for Final Cut Pro
posted by Neilopolis (27 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
this is pretty incredible stuff. thanks.
posted by shmegegge at 1:59 PM on December 2, 2009

Well shit, I'm a pro editor and clicked this expecting to see some entry level stuff... but it's all pretty much here.

All the Final Cut Pro stuff is totally right on.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:00 PM on December 2, 2009

Very nice FPP Neilopolis. Now if only Apple would get off their asses and bring FCP up to speed - then again, maybe they've given up on the pro market.
posted by VikingSword at 2:16 PM on December 2, 2009

eh, I don't think they have. I use it, I make it work. but maybe that's because I remember Avid back when it had a lot of the same issues. it never had the media management issues, and online editing is still miles beyond FCP, and always has been, but NLE systems always have to take years to work out the details and kinks, imho.
posted by shmegegge at 2:42 PM on December 2, 2009

The bugs in FCP's Media Manager are borderline unacceptable in a professional environment. I mean, this is your media we're talking about.

I say this as an FCP editor who loves the program and hasn't touched Avid in years... but, I mean... the thing just doesn't work consistantly and it's pretty much the one thing that you want to work flawlessly.

Once you reach the point where you're uprezing material you don't have time to be troubleshooting Media Manager, not to mention the thought of having to go back into a telecine session because Media Manager missed a clip or something. This has never happened to me but not through lack of trying... I've caught many a mistake that would have ended up costing someone $5-10K.

Not cool.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:02 PM on December 2, 2009

Well after my 5 billionth media database corruption on Avid, I've come over to the less "managed" version of media management on FCP. Look, it's not a perfect program by any means, but it does 10 times as much stuff for less than half the price, it's integrated without piling on features into the main program, and they fix bugs more regularly than once ever 20 years.

FCP is where the pro market is going. Anyone under 40 - that's what they use.
posted by fungible at 4:41 PM on December 2, 2009

Oh - and FCP isn't loaded down with useless "software authentication" crap. So no dongles and bullshit.
posted by fungible at 4:42 PM on December 2, 2009

Big thanks for this very timely post. I'm wrestling right this minute with trying to get my FCP game up to the next level.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:37 PM on December 2, 2009

Great Post.

Avid editor personally. FCP Media Management is downright embarrassing. But I do edit on FCP from time to time, but I feel bad for FCP Assists.

Also, why can't more than one user be in the same project in FCP. Thats insane.
posted by mattsweaters at 6:42 PM on December 2, 2009

Not to derail things, but it seems a few of you guys are NYC editors. What's more common, FCP or AVID. I'd assume there are a lot of smaller FCP jobs over there.

I'm moving to New York in 4 months, but I'm going to do a bi-coastal thing. I teach in LA and I'll take a show or two a year back in LA. I'm excited to try to get some roots back in the east coast where I grew up.
posted by mattsweaters at 6:46 PM on December 2, 2009

Former Avid Editor here. Onlines like a dream. Still suprised at the amount of traction FCP has had. Nice FPP... thanks!
posted by cavalier at 7:16 PM on December 2, 2009

Wow, great blog. That AJA review was fascinating. I work in broadcast-quality video (SD/HD) but know little about field production. Added to my RSS reader!
posted by intermod at 8:07 PM on December 2, 2009

What's more common, FCP or AVID.
Well they're both pretty prevalent - if you want to edit, you really should know both. Older edit houses will stay Avid almost always, indie movies and docs and love the FCP. I think it's mostly about people staying with what they know.

The thing is - sure, Avid onlines better than FCP. But who offline/onlines anymore? You can edit in HD on a laptop now. A terabyte is $100 or less.

These days, it's really more about the quality of the tools. FCP has great keyboard mapping, photoshop-style tools, Motion, Color, Soundtrack. Avid has the Marquee Title Tool and the Pan and Zoom effect. (Hurl.)

Also, why can't more than one user be in the same project in FCP. Thats insane.

I think you're making the common mistake of thinking of the "project" and the "bin" as the same thing on both Avid and FCP. The idea is not to have multiple people saving over each other. On Avid, even with a Unity, two editors can't be saving the same bin at the same time. The same with FCP "projects" - except unlike on Avid, you can have more than one project open at the same time.

Sorry, I'm geeking. Anybody want to fight about Windows/Mac or Obama/Palin?
posted by fungible at 8:29 PM on December 2, 2009

No I'm not. I'm referring to project. Lets say five of us editors are editing episode 101. We have only one episode 101 project which contains all the media. All 5 of us cannot work in the same project in fcp. If a bin is locked by another editor, you can open it at any point and see exactly their latest cut. Everyone works in their own work bin, using the same clips and media in the same project. FCP is fun for small stuff, but if you're going to do a project with 10 editors working at once, FCP can get really messy. For now at least.
posted by mattsweaters at 9:04 PM on December 2, 2009

Anyone in this thread have opinions on Sony Vegas? I know it doesn't have the pro cachet of either FCP or Avid, but I've spent a lot of time with Vegas and have been impressed with all it can do.
posted by meadowlark lime at 9:06 PM on December 2, 2009

When I was learning FCP in '06, all the ads for VFX editors on the LA Craigslist specified some level of Avid experience. All the ads for commercials and documentary work wanted FCP.

All the ads for porn houses in Chatsworth wanted Sony Vegas. QED, at least for '06.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:04 PM on December 2, 2009

mattsweaters: "Not to derail things, but it seems a few of you guys are NYC editors. What's more common, FCP or AVID."

it depends. my experience has been that the older the edit house, the more likely they run avid. fact is, everyone I know is familiar with both.

fungible: "But who offline/onlines anymore?"

anyone working with uncompressed 8 or 10 bit. you can edit hdv or p2 on a laptop, but not HDCAM, at least not for broadcast. frankly, I wouldn't even bother trying it with SD Digibeta.

fungible: "I think you're making the common mistake of thinking of the "project" and the "bin" as the same thing on both Avid and FCP."

They are the same thing, it's just that, as you said, in FCP you can have multiple projects open, which is fantastic. that's the workaround for Avid's multi user unity project style editing in FCP, but the basic functionality of Unity still doesn't exist for FCP. more's the pity.

meadowlark lime: "Anyone in this thread have opinions on Sony Vegas?"

It's flashy. our fans use it to make montages. that's about as close to it as I ever get. It does not have the power to edit what I work on.

mattsweaters: "Also, why can't more than one user be in the same project in FCP."

FCP multi user support is crazy stunted right now. their XSAN solution for media sharing is kind of a joke, and FCP has almost no multi user support, period. as in, forget multi-user projects, it doesn't even have users. You can save your keyboard layout, and your window layout, but they're seperately located and not linked and anyone can fuck with them, so... it's not great. on top of that, where Avid was a one-stop solution from software to crazy-expensive hardware, Apple's whole strategy was to cost less by focusing on commercial inputs/outputs and to not develop their own breakout boxes et al. so you've got 3rd party solutions that are alright, I guess. I'm a fan of the Aja card I have, but it's no Adrenalin box.

jesus did I just date myself? that's the last gen of Avid I've used. do they even make those any more?
posted by shmegegge at 10:18 PM on December 2, 2009

Well, you can have multiple users working on the same show in FCP, you just have to use a different workflow that what works in Avid. In Avid, it's about sharing bins. In FCP, it's about having multiple projects open, and making duplicates of project files. SANs work great, just keep your project files on a network drive, not on the SAN.

This is the definitive article outlining how to share media for shows across multiple editors in FCP. It outlines Bunim-Murray's workflow, and they share a LOT of media across a LOT of editors for the reality shows they do. The key to understanding how you share projects is understanding that you really only need to share timelines. Make a new project file with just one timeline in it and hand it off to the other editor. Use the OS itself to browse for media.

Here, I'll quote the article for you:
Projects vs. Timelines

Avid is a project-centric system, organizing all media, edit decisions, and elements into a single project. With FCP, it is the timeline that counts and the project is much less important. The media, music, graphics, etc. can come from anywhere or any project. In fact, we essentially ignore the project concept and organize media using the basic Mac file and folder structure. This is the essence of FCP’s strength: media can live happily outside a project. Therefore, in Avid terms, your entire SAN becomes the Project.

Media File Structure in the Finder

Think about this. You now have instant access to any media that exists on the entire SAN. (Tip: Try using Leopard’s Cover Flow feature to browse media, it will forever change how you search for shots!) We typically have 4-6 shows destined for different networks in progress simultaneously with multiple episodes per show in editing and up to four editors working per show. At peak times, that is almost a hundred people accessing two separate Xsan systems. Trust me when I say if this workflow didn’t work, we couldn’t possibly handle this volume of work.

. . .

But Where’s My Metadata?

Markers. Comments. Subclips. These are time honored tools that many editors simply can’t live without. Unfortunately, these metadata items can ONLY be created within an FCP project and are not attached to the basic QuickTime files. The key to sharing this info amongst a team of editors is FCP’s ability to open multiple projects simultaneously. For example, an assistant will create a project called ‘B-Roll’, ‘Music’ or ‘Interviews’. This project is saved to a common area on the SAN accessible to the entire team.

An editor starting work on an episode will first find on the SAN the latest project containing shared items and copy that to his local system. He will then create another project specifically for his episode and copy across the relevant clips. It is within this ‘personal project’ that all of the metadata is created and retained. If another editor wants the same folder and file structure, they can easily use a copy of that project and go to work. Typically, any editor will have 3-6 projects open simultaneously, some common, some unique.

Sharing Timelines: Work Locally, Share Globally

My mantra is to back up everything three ways: locally, globally, and ‘mobilely’. Locally means to your local internal drive. Globally means to the SAN, and ‘Mobilely’ means to a USB drive. When editors do this, their work is instantly accessible to anyone else on the SAN. Depending on whatever show an editor is working on, there is a logical folder structure in place to save their work.

Practically speaking, this means that you do not need to pass huge projects back and forth, only economical, slim projects containing little more than a single timeline. Think about this. Even with Avid, only one editor can work on a timeline at a time. Otherwise, you’d be chasing each other’s tail, overwriting each other’s changes. The same is true with FCP, but the management is manual, not automatic.

. . .

So what’s the difference?

I acknowledge that FCP requires a more manual approach to media organization and versioning. However, I would argue that the same attention to filenames and structure is required for any Avid project of similar size and complexity. The only difference is that with FCP, that organization takes place at the Finder level and not within an FCP project. The ultimate outcome is the same: Multiple editors are easily able to share the same media and work on the same episode simultaneously.
posted by MythMaker at 11:30 PM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

What mattsweaters said about multiple users X1000. I thought I was real clever with my plan to use a portable drive to carry my project from office to home office and work on it at both places. Not only could I not do that, but when I got a new iMac a couple months ago, the project locked me out as read-only. Hey, it's me! I made you. Finally, I was able to get all the permissions untangled.
posted by planetkyoto at 11:41 PM on December 2, 2009

thanks mythmaker, I heard that Bunim-Murray went FCP. Definitely seems workable, maybe I'm an old avid cynic but it sounds unnecessarily complex! haha

Also when working with fibrejet you still have to restart the entire computer just to load new drives right?

Avid has it own set of issues, but I was an assist for such a long time that I can usually work around anything pretty quick.

shmegegge - the last show I did all the editors just used the new Media Composer thats software based and had a mojo just for the client monitor. We had 6 of those and then a couple adrenaline for digitizing and outputs. Worked really well. The new avid releases have been really stepping it up.
posted by mattsweaters at 12:24 AM on December 3, 2009

I feel the lizard/dinosaur scales growing on my skin, but I for the most part am an Avid purist. The little part is the recognition that I have been out of the "biz" for several years and I'm sure there's some merit to FCP otherwise why would all the indies be flocking to it...

(Cue some montage of finding out my old school was dumping their modest Avid Xpress systems to buy FCPs.. "What!! The kids will never find work at that rate, what are you doing111111")

I hit NAB like two years ago and had to wrap my brain around the idea that Avid MC could be a stand alone software product (dongles aside, natch). Like, I'm standing there staring at a laptop with MC loaded and I'm like wuh.. dur... where's my PowerMac G3 with the 4 boards on it..what.. I can just, woooaaah..

Now I'm itching to get on some decks to see what FCP has done to Avid. It always felt like Avid = industry and FCP = indie.
posted by cavalier at 3:54 AM on December 3, 2009

Hey, I've worked on Avid for almost 20 years. Struggled through the OS9 years. Had to tangle with businesses too cheap to get anything better than Avid Xpress on Tiger. (Still do!) Just cut a movie on a brand new Avid MC, and had to deal with one incompatibility after another when changing machines... (that's one thing this blogger gets wrong I think - updating FCP/QT/Mac OS patches is a button press, Avid is soooo complicated sometimes what with the dongles and authentications and "this one only works with Leopard on PPC" etc.)

But this is the future, baby. I remember when Avid first came out with 9gig drives for like $5000. Now laptop HD is possible for dirt cheap over firewire - either with DNxHD, pro-res, XDCAM, etc. Okay, maybe not uncompressed or HDCAM but come on. You've gotta admit, that's some sweet technology. Tape? What's a tape?

I used to like Avid as a company but now they seem more interested in their 3D and ProTools software than that old lame editing stuff. They miss the days when they could sell thousands of gigantic turnkey systems for $100K each. Now they've gotta sell the software for a mere couple thousand, and I think it hurts their brains.
posted by fungible at 6:12 AM on December 3, 2009

sell the software for a mere couple thousand, and I think it hurts their brains.

Man! Sure as hell would hurt mine. I'm starting to appreciate more, now, their feeding frenzy or picking up ProTools et all years ago...
posted by cavalier at 8:14 AM on December 3, 2009

fungible: "Struggled through the OS9 years."

oh hey, fungible! your assistant just called. something about deleting your msmMMOB and msmFMID files.
posted by shmegegge at 8:32 AM on December 3, 2009

most esoteric. joke. ever.
posted by shmegegge at 8:33 AM on December 3, 2009

Glad you enjoyed this post, everyone!
posted by Neilopolis at 7:09 PM on December 3, 2009

If you are using a SAN over fibrechannel, you're not really unplugging that drive. It's usually an enormous RAID being shared across multiple systems, and is not normally ever powered down.

The trick to multiple users in FCP is realizing that what is called a "bin" in Avid is more like a "project" in FCP. Since you can have multiple timelines open and multiple projects open, the whole system works more flexibly. Plus, since you don't have to transcode media, you can just drag and drop media very quickly from the OS into a project. The fact that the OS and the software are made by the same company really makes a big difference. I find that I'm working in the OS when looking for media. For instance, if I'm looking for sound effects, I'll just do a search in the OS, quickview in the OS to listen to them, and then drag and drop the ones I want (without transcoding) right into the project.
posted by MythMaker at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2009

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