FCPX to AE & Avid to AE

FCPX-AE & Avid-AE

Very often in the editing process, we get to a point when we need to shift from cutting and assembling our edit, and into the stage of refining it with motion graphics, visual effects, or color grading. Most modern NLEs have the tools that can do such tasks, but depending on the complexity of these finishing techniques, you may need to turn to a program like After Effects. It’s no secret that After Effects is one of the industry standard compositing/motion graphics applications that professionals of all tiers use to complete a project. Getting timelines or footage from Premiere to After Effects is an easy task that can be accomplished in multiple ways. However, if you an editor who uses Final Cut Pro X or Avid Media Composer, getting your timelines into After Effects may be a bit of challenge. However, there are dedicated workflows and applications available for editors of those programs.

FCPX to AE (Automatic Duck XImport)

AD_Blog_Post1

This new plugin from Wes Plate brings the functionality of bringing Final Cut Pro X timelines into After Effects. The original Automatic Duck plugin allowed users to send Final Cut Pro 7 & Avid Media Composer timelines to After Effects for polishing and other effects. The process works by creating an XML in Final Cut Pro X. From there, open up After Effects and navigate to Import>Automatic Duck Ximport AE. A dialogue menu will appear and you can navigate to the location of your XML file. Select your XML file, decide whether or not to modify settings, and hit Return. The translation will produce a folder and composition based on what you named your timeline in FCPX. Open the composition and you can see what transferred and what didn’t. This plugin will read third party plugins like Boris FX, Coremelt, and others. The ones that probably won’t carry over are any FCPX Motion template based plugins, like those from MotionVFX, Ripple Training, or Pixel Film Studios.

I personally haven’t had a project to test this plugin, but when I do, I plan on trying this workflow to see if it is another solution I can have in my arsenal.

Avid Media Composer to AE

In this video tutorial, post production guru Kevin P. McAuliffe shows us how to roundtrip Media Composer sequences to After Effects and back. First, he right clicks on his sequence in the project panel and selects Export. In the Export settings, he selects Options and chooses AAF along with AAF Edit Protocol. He also selects Include Video/Data Tracks, enables the Link option, and sends the AAF file to the desktop. Inside of After Effects, he goes to File>Import> Pro Import After Effects. In the dialog menu, he navigates to the AAF file and modifies the settings to accommodate his file. This allows for After Effects to create a composition that looks identical to how his timeline was cut. From there, he breaks down how to export from After Effects using the DNxHD codec. Once he exports it out, importing it back in Media Composer is a smooth process based on the DNxHD codec he used.

I’ve cut on Media Composer in the past, and from what I see here, this is a very similar process to getting FCP timelines to After Effects. The only difference is the name of the file intermediate you use to get your timelines from one place to another. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of how Avid has compositing situations and its continual lack of blend modes boggles my mind. However, this tip is handy for anyone who deals with Media Composer on a regular basis.

From what you can see here, getting your timelines from FCPX and Media Composer to After Effects is not as hard as it looks. Knowing how to use these methods can be beneficial for those situations when you need to hand off your timeline to a visual effects artist or animator. There are probably other methods than the two I highlighted here, so feel free to find those so you have a backup plan.

Royalty Free Music

Media Composer Tips & Tricks

Avid_AppAdrenaline

Of the non linear editing systems I blog about, I rarely discuss Avid, unless I’m comparing it to other NLEs or highlighting new features in updated versions. I decided, that for this article, I want it to be Avid-centric with tips and tricks because there are a ton of them available. In fact, I can honestly say there are more tips for using Avid Media Composer than there are for other editing software. I’m going to highlight a few that stood out to me while using the program. Professionally, I’ve only used Avid about five times, and, in most situations, it was because it was a freelance job that required it. Currently, I don’t use it as much, but I have a lot of respect for those who do, considering it is used to edit major episodic television shows and Hollywood feature films. So, let’s learn some tips and tricks of using Media Composer.

Create Quick Transitions Bin

In this quick tutorial, Genius DV master trainer Jon Lynn shows us how easy it is to create a bin for commonly used transitions. First, choose a transition of your liking and apply it to your edit point. If you want, you can customize it in the Effect Editor window. Next, navigate to the Bins tab and create a new bin called “Quick Transitions.” Make sure you type this out case sensitive or else this process won’t work. In the Effect Editor window, drag the custom transition into the Quick Transitions bin. With that in place, you can click on the Quick Transitions button, click on the drop down menu, and you’ll see you custom transition there.  I have to say that this is one feature I wish Premiere and FCPX had emulated. I know in Final Cut Pro 7 you could create favorites bin and put effects/transitions there, but to have a button able to call them up whenever you’d like would be a timesaver.

Batch Rendering Sequences on Export

render_sequences_export_setting

This is a handy tip for those projects that have multiple sequences that need to be rendered. With the work I do for a living, multiple sequences are an every project occurrence. To batch render sequences on export in Media Composer, select all your sequences in their respective bin. Open the Export Settings window and select Quicktime Reference Movie. Click on the Render All Video Effects and hit OK. Now, all your sequences will be rendered in a small Quicktime file to check if things are correct or need to be fixed. You can create a preset out of this in the Export Settings window to save time in the future.

Mapping Editing Workspaces

In this informative tutorial, editing guru and Lynda.com instructor Ashley Kennedy breaks down how to map the Media Composer workspace to your needs. She shows us how to create a custom editing workspace, as well as a workspace for audio editing. Saving a timeline view is as simple as a click at the bottom of the timeline, clicking on Untitled, and choosing Save As. From there, you are presented with a dialog window where you can name your timeline view. She goes into detail explaining how managing the Settings tab can assist in workspaces you may use at various stages of the edit. In my opinion, this is a great video to reference for the times when you step away from Media Composer and forget how to manage workspaces effectively.

Overall, this is a small collection of tips and tricks you can find out about Media Composer. With their active forums and user groups across the internet, you can easily get more acquainted with Media Composer than most NLEs out there. In my opinion, it pays to know Media Composer if you have plans to edit episodic television or major feature films. It is still the dominant editing platform when it comes to delivering those type of projects, and for good reason.

Royalty Free Music

Local TV Commercial Editing Workflow

Premiere Pro CS6

In my day job, I produce TV commercials for local car dealerships in Northwest Illinois and various cities in Indiana. On a monthly basis, I deliver over 40+ spots to cable and network providers which are shot and edited a few weeks prior to the start of the next month. If I have commercials I need to produce for the month of January, I will shoot and edit them in December so that we can have them running at the beginning of the month. Aside from the production schedule of the monthly commercials I produce, I use an editing workflow that allows me to be efficient and maintain a level of speed that can handle unforeseen circumstances. I’m going to detail my editing workflow in Premiere Pro and hopefully provide some tips and insight into delivering multiple commercials to multiple vendors.

Setting up the project & gathering assets

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 10.49.48 AM

Before I shoot a month’s worth of commercials, I use a template project that has folders and assets which I know will factor into the edit. I change the scratch disks and project save location so I can keep my original template project intact; or I use PostHaste, depending on the project. From there, I add more folders that I may need for auxiliary assets like third party motion graphics and more. I also make sure that I have logos and monthly artwork from each brand I deal with at my agency. Once I’ve set up my project for the month, I wait until the shoot day before I do anything else.

Storage & Preparing the footage

When I’m shooting commercials for clients, I alternate between the Panasonic AF-100 and Sony PXW-X70. These cameras give me best of two worlds, which are interchangeable lenses and small but powerful broadcast cameras. Both cameras record with the AVCHD codec. The X70 also has its own proprietary codec which is the XAVC codec. When it comes to bringing footage from either of these cameras, I typically transcode the clips into Apple Pro Res or Pro Res HQ. Although Premiere can take most formats natively, with the hardware I have available (and based on past experiences) I choose to play it safe using a codec meant for editing. Before I do that, I always make sure to backup the SD card in two locations in sparse disk bundles using the Create Disk Image app.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 10.50.38 AM

Once I’ve taken care of storage and encoded my footage into Pro Res, I move the footage to my network based RAID and import it into my project file so I can begin building sequences.

Building a selects sequence

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.04.07 AM

I place all of my footage into a sequence so that I can sort out the best takes, as well determine which clip goes with what dealership. I use timeline markers to group my clips together so that I can use the Markers panel and search for dealerships quickly. Once the selects sequence is built, I proceed to use the pancake timeline technique to build my main commercial sequences.

Structuring main commercial sequences & adjusting for time

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.04.56 AM

Using the pancake timeline technique, I put my selected sequences on top of my main commercial sequences, and drag clips into their appropriate places according to what is written in the script. From there, I add voice-overs, branding graphic assets, running footage, and more to time out each commercial to 30 seconds. If my footage, voice-overs, or other assets don’t meet that length, then I trim until everything does. Once I have my main commercials assembled and timed out, I add motion graphics and finishing touches like color correction/grading.

Motion graphics & finishing

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.06.36 AM

For motion graphics, I tend to use After Effects… unless I’m not looking for intricate animations. Lately, I’ve been using it for text animations as well as graphic overlays, especially since the update to Premiere Pro CC 2014.1 introduced the feature of Render & Replace. With that function implemented, I can now use dynamic linked After Effects comps and render/unrender them inside Premiere when I want to. In terms of finishing, I level the audio to broadcast specs and fix color balance and/or apply a simple color treatment, along with a Sharpen filter.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.07.05 AM

Once I have motion graphics and finishing locked, I begin exporting my main commercial sequences to Media Encoder to get them to my broadcast vendors.

Exporting from Media Encoder and Delivery

Inside of Media Encoder, I set up my commercial sequences to be exported in a variety of codecs. Most of my broadcast vendors take either H.264 or Pro Res HQ. With Media Encoder, I use presets I created prior to encode one sequence to multiple Quicktime movies.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.15.00 AM

Once I have exported my commercials into various Quicktime movies, I run one of them through Sorenson Squeeze to encode to WMV for brand compliance. With my Quicktime movies ready for broadcast delivery and my WMVs ready for brand compliance, I deliver each of them to their appropriate vendors and brands. In regards to compliance, if they approve it, then my broadcast deliver is cleared. If it is disapproved, I fix whatever mistake I have and re-export it for compliance and broadcast until it is correct.

As you can see, it pays to have a workflow that allows me the space to be creative, but at the same time meet pressing deadlines. After each month, I examine what worked best, what can be improved on, and if other tools can be added to allow for both efficiency and higher production value. In 2015, I plan on looking for tools and techniques that will allow me to be even more efficient and creative. Below is one of my finished promos for this month.

Royalty Free Music

5 Tips/Tricks for Premiere Pro CC

Premiere Pro CS6

Over the last few years, Premiere Pro has really stepped up its game as being a dependable NLE for professionals across the world. Its ability to make almost any codec native editable allows it to be more than a viable choice for editors to use. I’ve professionally relied on it to get many projects done over the years, and with each iteration that has been released, Premiere has shown that it can compete with the best of the NLEs. With the release of the Creative Cloud, we have been introduced to features that make the life of an editor much easier. I want to share a few tips/tricks that can help you in using this versatile NLE.

Using Drop Down Menus

The source, program, and title monitor each have a drop down menu above them indicating what item is currently in view. Every time you enter a new item into these monitors, it changes to that item. The cool thing about the source and title monitor is you can load multiple items into them and cycle through each individually by using the drop down menu. For example, if I want to look at multiple video clips and not have to load them into the Source monitor one by one, all you have to do is select a group of clips in the project browser and drag them into the source monitor. By using the drop down menu, you can go through multiple clips one by one. Aside from using the drop down menu in CC, you can map shortcuts to these commands below to cycle through clips using the keyboard. Personally, I’ve found this to be a timesaver for high volume footage edits.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.01.42 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.10.29 PM

You can also load multiple titles in the Title Tool and cycle through different titles. You can also edit them one by one without having to double click them individually.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.14.04 PM

You can also use the drop down menu for the Program monitor when you have multiple sequences open. I rarely use the drop down menus when cycling between sequences, but it’s always good to know multiple ways to move around your interface.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.14.31 PM

Opening Multiple Sequences

Having to double click to open sequences in Premiere can be a pain in the ass, especially if I have to do it to multiple sequences. Luckily, there is a shortcut in Premiere Pro CC that allows you to open multiple sequences at once. If you map a keyboard shortcut for the command Open in Timeline, this will definitely be handy for opening multiple timelines. Select your group of timelines in the Project browser, hit your custom keyboard shortcut for Open in Timeline, and all of your sequences will open at the same time. I discovered this trick while working on commercial spots recently, and it has been a real timesaver. I strongly recommend you try it out yourself.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.17.27 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.17.47 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.18.08 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.18.24 PM

Creating Custom Dimensions for Layers

Not too many people know this, but you can actually determine the dimensions of a Color Matte, Black Video, Adjustment Layer, or Transparent Video Layer before you commit to it. When you go to create one of these layers by selecting the create new item button, a dialog box shows up with dimensions of your current sequence. Let’s say, for example, that you wanted a red square and you didn’t want to go to the title tool to create it. If I create a Color Matte with dimensions of 500×500, I will get a red square Color Matte.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.35.20 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.35.47 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.35.57 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.36.17 PM

Knowing this tip can reduce the time you may spend creating shapes in the Title Tool, or farming out to Photoshop if you are so inclined.

Change Duration of Multiple Transitions

One of the things I enjoy about the Creative Cloud version of Premiere, is that I can select multiple transitions and change their duration at the same time.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.37.53 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.38.07 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.38.24 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.38.32 PM

As cool of a trick as this is, I hope future iterations will have the ability to map a shortcut to change transition duration as opposed to using the mouse all the time.

Importing Favorites Bins/Custom Presets onto other machines

This was a tip I learned recently from the Adobe forums. If you create custom presets and bins for favorites, it is saved in a file known as Effect Presets and Custom Items. This file updates each time you import a preset or custom bin into Premiere Pro. The best things about this file is that you can copy and import it into other systems with Premiere Pro installed. The instructions I’m giving are on a Mac, but you can find instructions for this file on PCs if you search the help pages. First, copy the file from the User>Documents>Adobe>Premiere Pro>version #>profile folder. With the file on a flash drive, open Premiere Pro CC (2013 or 2014 works) and go to the effects browser. Right click on the Effects tab and select import presets. Select the file on the flash drive and you will get the custom presets you created, as well as the favorites bins you created on your other machines.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.39.53 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.40.26 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.40.54 PM

This trick is also useful when Premiere is being sluggish and you need to trash preferences. You won’t need to recreate everything all over again. These are just a few tips/tricks that Premiere Pro has to offer. There are many more available when you really get to know the program. In fact, the updates coming for the next release of Premiere Pro CC 2014 look more promising than any release I’ve seen in years. Try these tricks out yourself and discover ways to move faster in Premiere to get your work done.

Sound Effects

Tips for Cutting Event Highlights

A Team NLE

Starting out as an editor, there are variety of projects you’ll be asked to cut that can help establish your editing style and workflow. These projects can range anywhere from weddings, testimonials, music videos, commercials, and much more. One particular type of video that you may come across in your career is the event highlight. For the sake of this article, we will focus on events such as conventions, parties and fashion shows. There are multiple ways to go about cutting an event highlight, but I will provide you with some tips that can help you on your next project. I found this interesting article by Vashi Nedomansky about cutting event highlights. He includes tips for cutting behind the scenes footage for music videos, which I found to ring true with how I would approach an edit of an event highlight. In this post, I will borrow some of his concepts, but place my own spin on it.

Be organized, ready to adapt, and know your footage and assets all around

This goes without saying, but you should always be organized no matter what project you are cutting. However, the way you would organize for an edit of an event highlight may be different than how you would edit for something like a music video or a wedding. Organization will be key because the last thing you want taking up your time is poor organization. It pays to have a strong bin structure, sequence structure, and project labeling scheme that will ensure success. Always be ready to adapt. In other words, you want to be ready to handle changes such as more footage, assets, or complete change in direction of how you are cutting the event highlight. Sometimes, you will encounter outside forces that can derail what your vision for the final edit was and you have to be prepared to adapt if you want to get finished in a timely manner. If you are organized and ready to adapt to changing circumstances, you will survive the project.

On top of being organized, you need to know your footage backwards and forwards. You will spend the most time with it and the last thing you want to run into is a client asking you for a particular shot and not being able to find it right away. Take time to screen your footage and develop a mental storyboard of what clips and assets will help best highlight the event. Depending on what NLE you are using, it helps to have a metadata/tagging system that will allow you to call up particular shots at a moment’s notice to quickly insert them in a segment. One technique that I have used when working with track based NLEs is the Pancake timeline method. I have my main sequence at the bottom, and a sequence of my best shots in the sequence above. I can drag or copy/paste shots from the top sequence to the bottom sequence to test out what works best. Overall, have a competent system of being able to call up shots at the drop of a hat.

Build the story with your dialogue first

In most event highlight videos, you will have interviews/soundbites involved in the piece. The last thing you want to do is randomly insert them and not have them amount to much. One of the things I do is watch, trim, and sequence my interviews based on importance and relevance. For example, if I have a event highlight at a car show, I would want to hear from the host/MC of the event first, rather than last, as they will help inform the viewer what is to be expected. Not only does determining the order of your interviews help you with the edit, it also helps establish the structure of the video. Things that are said or seen in an interview will help you determine what shots need to make it in, versus what shots are expendable. Cutting your interviews first will help establish a direction and the 3 act structure you need to tell a great story.

Craft the edit in a 3 act structure

This is said repeatedly amongst all editors, but it needs to be said again. Anything you cut has to tell a story. You can have a lot of great b-roll and soundbites, but you’ve already lost if they don’t build towards anything. Just like you would cut a wedding highlight by highlighting the preparation, the ceremony, and the reception, you have to approach your event highlight with a 3 act structure. You should have a strong intro, followed by a cohesive and informative middle, followed by an ending that leaves the viewer wanting more. The way I approach this 3 act structure is starting with strong visuals that contain a few soundbites underneath to help bring the viewer in. Next, I will show more strong visuals in the middle with relevant soundbites that capture the event as a whole. I try to end by using strong moments that will leave the viewer wanting more. In the midst of building this 3 act structure, I try to make sure that I have strong creative direction and pacing to bring it altogether.

Determine the creative direction/pacing and stick to it

It’s real easy in the midst of structuring your highlight to want to try a variety of transitions and effects. For this reason, after I have gone through my footage and chosen my best shots, I try to determine a creative direction that is suitable for the event at hand. This involves the use of music, transitions, and effects. Using the wrong song allows your viewer to interpret your highlight differently. Using too many over the top transitions or effects may show that you didn’t believe the footage could speak for itself. Overall, the creative direction you choose should be consistent and focused. It’s meant to enhance your video, not distract from it. By not having a consistent creative direction, it can effect the pacing of the finished product and possibly lead to more revisions.

It’s meant to be a highlight, not a showing of the entire event

This is something you will run into… not only while editing, but also when dealing with clients. The point of an event highlight video is to showcase the best parts of the event, not to show the entire thing. It is your job as the editor to make sure that this is communicated constantly. If you were a viewer watching this video, would you be willing to sit through a video showing the entire event? Not likely. The event highlight is meant to give the viewer a taste of what the event was about, as well as to serve as an enticement to attend. That’s why Sportscenter has highlights of games because the viewers want to see the best and relevant parts of any sport. Very rarely will someone want to sit through an entire game and see every action that was made. Above all else, it’s very important that you remember this tip.

Here’s an example of a Macy’s fashion show highlight video I cut for a society/entertainment show:

These tips are meant to help guide you through the editing process, and make you aware of some of the things you may encounter. Not all event highlight videos are cut the same way, but if you remember some of these tips, they can help you in the long run.

I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

Royalty Free Music