Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mobile Editing

Raise your hand if you like homework.

Yeah, I thought not.

But sometime you have to take your work home. Don't like it, but that's how it goes.

My wife was out of town for the week, leaving me to supervise our twelve year old son. Unfortunately, I was in dailies on my day job as an editor on DRIVE, a new series for Fox TV. Dailies on a new episode, and on re-shoots for an earlier episode. This is a series that shoots a first unit with two cameras, a second unit for cars on the weekend (closing down the 210 Freeway), and a 'splinter' unit. One day I got about seven hours of film for two episodes. But I couldn't stay at work late, because of my son.

I was able to go home rather early (7 PM) by taking home dailies each day on a new Apple MacBook Pro, featuring the pre-release Avid 2.7 Media Composer software. Its pretty stunning to take what used to involve a KEM, a Moviola, a film table with rewinds, and a rack of film... all contained in a shoulder bag.

The computer I used is a MacBook Pro, 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 4 megs of L2 cache, 3 GB of RAM, running OS 10.4.8. The internal hard drive is a very spacious 90 gigs (I’ve cut features with 50), which I believe was upgraded to a faster 7200 rpm. Before Avid released version 2.5, outboard hardware was always required to run Media Composer. Now a simple dongle, carrying your license information, is all that is needed. But don't (do not) lose the dongle.

In a previous test I cut three sample scenes on this system. I first went to the Settings menu to customize my work area. You need a two button mouse with the MacBook, as there is no apparent way to ‘right-click’ using the track pad, and you must disable the Mac from using the function keys so that Avid can use them. It is also helpful to dim down all the display features, as the bright screen background can become distracting.

I opened the project that was copied from my desktop (PC) Media Composer. The project opened up without a hitch. Opening a dailies bin, I was able to re-link to the media stored on the internal drive. The media between PC and Mac is completely compatible. My original sequence played all the media I had copied. And played it instantly, with no lag time, no stutter, no slowness at all.

I own an Avid 7.2 AVBV system, with dedicated CPU and hardware. It ran much lower than this laptop. This MacIntel machine in fact played faster and better than the desktop PC’s I’ve been working with.

My next test was for stress - Avid’s, not mine. I turned on every feature that would slow the system down, stress its ability to play. I turned on the waveform display in the timeline, and set the timeline to scroll while playing - things generally guaranteed to slow down an edit system. The timeline played without a problem, and the eight channels of waveforms immediately displayed correctly (they didn’t re-draw constantly and as slowly as with past systems).

Wow.

Media Composer 2.7 has some substantive changes.

- Media Composer 2.7 now runs natively on the latest Intel processor Macintosh systems. When Apple moved to the Intel chipset for its computers, every software package had to be re-coded to run without a translation (read: slower) software. Now the Media Composer can take full advantage of the Core 2 Duo processor for the Mac. Apple is coming out with a Quad Core.

- DNxHD 36: this is, I’m told, the new 14 to 1 compression, but in the HD world. It saves space at a 42:1 ratio from the highest resolution of HD. With time, more projects will be working in HD, as standard definition becomes the qualitative version of the VHS tape.

- An interesting added feature is called ScriptSync.

ScriptSync is integrated into the MC’s Script menu. You can use the script function as follows: obtain a text copy of the projects script (Final Draft has an export-for-Avid feature), open it in Avid, then drop a dailies take on the section it covers in the script. You essentially re-create the lined script from the set. If you have a lot of 'back to one' takes, where the director has the actors go back in the scene's dialogue, you can mark these during capture with function keys.

ScriptSync combines voice recognition with print recognition to mark each line of dialogue in every take on your Avid lined script. It is a jaw dropping capability.

I simply highlighted an area of my DRIVE script, dropped a set-up (4 or 5 takes, two cameras) from the scene bin on to the script, chose ScriptSync from the menu, and watched as the Avid analyzed the spoken word against the written word, and placed markers on each line of the script. I could now double click on that marker, the take would load in the source bin and park exactly on top of the line I clicked on.

The Script and ScriptSync functions aren't for everyone. It is labor intensive, requiring an assistant to match each take with each scene shot. And if the scene is performed more than once in a take, that take has to be broken up into sub-clips to accurately reflect the dailies. But I know other editors who can’t live without the Script function. And ScriptSync will make it more useful.

I sure wish I had ScriptSync on the day I got seven hours of dailies. Lots of 'back to one's. Lot's of flotsam to wade through.

Also on the way are Universal binary versions of Boris Continuum, Sorensen, and Sonic DVD - essential cutting room applications and a big bonus from Avid.

When the Media Composer became software only, it freed editors from desktop computers, double monitors, a viewing monitor, breakout-boxes full of digital conversion cards, and from the lockable editing room. MC 2.7 lets editors carry their work anywhere. It is faster, cheaper, with no apparent performance hit from the full blown Adrenaline system. It is now possible to get dailies as files, import them into a Mac laptop, cut a movie, and output it to a DVD for the director with nothing but a dongle attached.

The blessings and curses of mobile editing are upon us. Homework anyone?

- This article originated as a review for Post Magazine.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Mark Burton said...

Agreed, the new .7 Mac release is very good. Performance is right up there, as is stability.

For a for right click function on your MacBook Pro, just hold two fingers down on the track pad at the same time when you click the trackpad button. You may need to enable this feature in the 'System Prefs>Mouse'.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Morgan said...

This is Great News! We just finished a feature on 2.5.1 and it was buggy as all hell.

6:16 PM  
Blogger S2 said...

I cut a TV movie for Lifetime this summer on my Laptop running MC 2.7. It was fantastic, no crashes, worked well. Set the whole thing up in my parent's kitchen in Vancouver. I added an extra monitor, some speakers and a keyboard. Worked like a charm.

I am now happily cutting a series for Warners on a G5 tower running MC 2.7. Its awesome.

Stuart Bass, A.C.E.

10:12 AM  

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