Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Avid 2.6.3 on MUMMIES

The latest version of the Avid Media Composer is a nice treat. It has been stable in the four weeks I’ve been cutting on it - mostly, but not completely. And the latest features add both convenience and the ‘cool toy’ factor.

The project I’m editing is a large format film about mummies, shot in 15 perf 70mm, printed down to 35mm, telecined, and digitized at DV25 resolution. For the first time since 310 at USC Cinema, there is no sync sound shot at all (apologies for the USC insider reference). My schedule for delivering a first cut and a trailer has been extremely tight. The directors cut and trailer were screened for the producers three days after the last dailies were delivered.

All the basic editing has been, well… basic. Avid hasn’t radically changed the interface, so it mostly operates the same as version 7.2 (on the Mac 9600). Input dailies, cut picture, add tracks, dissolves, music,sfx, change audio levels, comp a temp green screen shot. All about the same as before.

In the middle of my director’s cut I had a major equipment failure. All my audio became corrupted; every piece of media was full of digital snaps and pops. This was non-timecoded material, such as narration, music, and sound effects. Fortunately there is a feature called Batch Import: you can highlight a piece of corrupted media and then point to its original source - an external drive in my case - choose Batch Import and the old Avid media is replaced, and every cut in the project is updated with the new media.

Whew! This saved me hours of re-cutting.

The best feature of all has been the audio components: Audio Suite, Audio Mixer, etc. Balancing audio has never been simple in Media Composer. You can adjust the overall loudness of a clip with mouse click-and-drags, or you can adjust levels key framed audio.

I installed an 8 channel flying fader mixer on my Avid - a JL Cooper model 3000. It communicates to the Avid Audio Mixer. Now instead of having to mouse click and move a fader, I can simply move the fader on my mixer to raise or lower the level of a clip. Or, I can activate the Audio Mix mode. Then the JL Cooper becomes a true mixer. As you change the faders, key frames are added in your timeline, and the audio is rebalanced. Don’t like the results? You can trash can that mix pass and do it again. Or you can move individual key frames. This is a cool beyond belief.

I like experimenting with all the VFX plug-ins, and Avid comes with a version of Boris Continuum. One shot of a pyramid was a time-lapse as the sun went down. When the sun was gone, so was the light. but I wanted to hold a bit to the shot. In the Effects Palette I was able to generate stars over the black background, to fade in as the picture faded out. Also available are generators for sparks, lightning, clouds, and various textures. I'm never going to replace a goodVFX artist, but this is quite fun to create and experiment with.

The SpectraMatte was a good green-screen keyer. The keying is much less ragged than earlier Avids. Again, I'm no VFX artist, but this made the project look much better than earlier versions would.

Then there is the occassional wierdness: for no apparent reason the font for a dailies bin changes to some odd, and often unreadable, font. And so far its been a font that started with the letter 's' - 'Stop' and 'Samarkan'.

Avid Adrenaline 2.6.3,
HP xw8000 PC workstation with
1 terabyte of internal storage
4 gigs of Ram


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