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Covert Affairs and Suits with Online Editor Scott Freeman

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CreativeCOW presents Covert Affairs and Suits with Online Editor Scott Freeman -- Art of the Edit Editorial


Los Angeles California

©2013 CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.


Scott Freeman figured out how to use Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve in an innovative way to dramatically speed up media matching in the online editing process for USA Network's dramas, "Suits" and "Covert Affairs." He describes how he round-trips between the Avid Symphony and the DaVinci Resolve and why he wants every other online editor to learn his trick.



Scott Freeman
Scott Freeman
Suits, which debuted in 2011, is a USA Network series about Mike Ross, a brilliant college drop-out who, on the run from a drug deal gone bad, gets a job with Harvey Specter, one of the top NYC lawyers. Another USA Network series, Covert Affairs (2010) follows Annie Walker, a young CIA operative/trainee who is mentored by August Anderson, a blind tech operative. Scott Freeman has been the online editor of Suits since the pilot and with Covert Affairs since its second season. In his job, he's conducted over 59 successful round trips from Avid Symphony DX to DaVinci Resolve and back again to the Symphony.

Highlights of his other credits include being one of a two-person team that onlined
Primetime Emmy Winner Stardust: The Bette Davis Story; ACSR-Elite supporting digital dailies using Avid Media Station Telecine for Jurassic Park III; taught at Avid Authorized Education Centers; online digitizer for the Oscar Nominated Apocalypto; and online editor for the music video Give It To Me by Timbaland featuring Justin Timberlake & Nelly Furtado.

He is currently at work on Season 3 of
Suits and Season 4 of Covert Affairs, and just finished the Ironside pilot, which was picked up for production.


I'm the online editor for Suits since the pilot and Covert since Season 2. What makes it a fascinating position is that it's 100 percent file-based, which provided me with a fun dilemma to solve. I first heard about Blackmagic Design through their 10-bit codec, which offered uncompressed SD at a smaller file size and became a huge fan. I'm also a die-hard Avid fan. I love Avid and its metadata has always been a great treat for me.

When Blackmagic Design released Resolve, I realized how I could use it to solve my dilemma. Some people might think it's strange for an online editor to use Resolve, but it does much more than color correction so I decided to use it to pull my shots. I had been looking for this solution for a long time. What took me five days now takes me 11 minutes. I dove into using Resolve v.7 in March 2011 on Suits and Covert Affairs and haven't looked back.


NUP_149553_0122.jpg Posted: 02/15/2013 12:37 Caption: SUITS -- WAR -- Episode 216 -- Pictured: (l-r) Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter, Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson -- (Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network) Airdate: Thursdays on USA Network (10-11p.m. ET) (c) NBC Universal, Inc.
From "SUITS" Episode 216, "WAR"
Pictured: (l-r) Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter, Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson.
Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network. ©NBC Universal, Inc.
"Suits" airs on Thursdays on USA Network at 10-11p.m. ET.
A new season begins Thursday, July 16th.




Early on when I was trying to figure out a file-based online conform workflow for Suits and Covert Affairs I knew DaVinci Resolve might be the tool partly because I used to hang out in the telecine bays and watch how things worked there. I'm fascinated with tools and try out everything I can, and the DaVinci really interested me. I helped hook up an Avid Media Station Telecine to the DaVinci, allowing editorial to skip digitizing the offline source tapes and ALEs thus doing digital dailies for film. I loved everything it could do. I was endlessly fascinated.

"Suits" from the USA Network is shot with the ARRI Alexa
File linking can become an issue. For instance, you have to tell the Avid to point to new master-files instead of proxy-files. Suits shoots with the Alexa and Covert Affairs with the RED. I had to figure out how to conform all the different cameras. I pondered what I did in the past, if it had been shot with film, I could use key numbers to relink. If it were from actual tape sources, I would just have the Avid tell me what tape to pull. But, if this were a P2 file-based show, I would conform by modifying the tape heading for each P2 master-file to match the exact tape heading used in the Avid Offline Resolution clip to establish a link.

Covert Affairs is shot on RED.
In the Avid, to add an existing tape name to 600 to 1000 edits in a 42-minute show's worth of new master-file media is a laborious and risky task; you have to select one clip at a time in a bin, bring up the modify window, choose set source. The Select a Tape dialog box appears, you then select the square-icon next to the name in the Tape Name column and then click on the ok button 4 times. I decided I wanted a way to use the existing Tape Name metadata populated in the offline clips to pull the camera sources without using the modify command on the camera sources to establish a link.

The thing I love about the Avid is that the Avid bin is a metadata-rich environment. You can see the ingredients of a sequence at any time, all represented as icons, at any point I can figure out which clips need to pull which shot at what timecode. And I have some renaming tricks with offline clips and their tape sources. I use the bin menu and choose from the drop-down menu set bin display ... and put a check mark next to Sources and a check mark next to Show reference clips.

The Sources and each clip now appear. I can just type in a clip's source by renaming the corresponding source icon name. This source icon name is very special in the Avid product line. Avid products like EDL Manager use this source icon name in the list. The Avid Media Composer and Symphony use this source icon name when exporting an AAF too.

I decided to have a great time. I use the Avid EDL Manager to open the bin and point to the offline sequence in that bin. In EDL Manager I go to the windows menu and choose options from the drop down list. In the options window I click on the Master List tab. For Reel ID Type, I choose "Tape or File Name" from the drop down list. I can create an EDL supporting up to 32 characters using the Avid EDL template type called File-32, which also gets me past the previous 1,000 edit limit per list. An EDL is a great thing because you can edit it in any simple text editor.


COVERT AFFAIRS -- Vamos Episode 401 -- Pictured: (l-r) Christopher Gorham as Auggie Anderson, Peter Gallagher as Arthur Campbell -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/USA Network) (c)2013 USA Network Media, LLC
From "COVERT AFFAIRS" Episode 401, "VAMOS"
Pictured: (l-r) Christopher Gorham as Auggie Anderson, Peter Gallagher as Arthur Campbell
Photo by: David Giesbrecht/USA Network ©2013 USA Network Media, LLC
The new season of "COVERT AFFAIRS" begins on July 16 and airs Tuesdays at 9/8 Central.



Resolve solved the tape name issue with its rich configurations. The system is so flexible that with these configurations you can let your media matching dreams come true instantly. I set-up the DaVinci Resolve to view the camera sources with the exact Avid tape name, thus a media match. I then use the EDL Reel ID's by right clicking on a folder on a drive and choosing from the contextual menu Add Folder and Subfolders Based on EDLs into Media Pool.


Back in the day, I would conform a show and output a non-color corrected master to tape. I would supply the DaVinci colorist with an EDL and that tape; the EDL would be used to recreate the virtual edit points on that tape, which DaVinci Resolve calls a PreConform. The colorist would then output a color corrected version to tape that I would then digitize and cut back into the Avid.

Now, I use an EDL and have the DaVinci Resolve pull the shots. In this way, the colorist has endless handles and the ability to extract the shot doing a new tilt and scan if needed. I do this by getting an Avid Bin with a sequence. When there is a resize or any sort of an effect, I physically move it off that section and put it on top, as a stacked effect. Some effects do translate with an EDL, but to make a clean list, it's easier for me to move the effects. When I check my work, the media appears with all the stacked effect templates: perfection.


NUP_149553_0122.jpg Posted: 02/15/2013 12:37 Caption: SUITS -- WAR -- Episode 216 -- Pictured: (l-r) Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter, Patrick J. Adams as Mike Ross -- (Photo USA Network) Airdate: Thursdays on USA Network (10-11p.m. ET) (c) NBC Universal, Inc.
From "SUITS" Episode 206, "ALL IN"
Pictured: (l-r) Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter, Patrick J. Adams as Mike Ross
USA Network. ©NBC Universal, Inc.



Because it's all file-based, I get to have fun with the Resolve, using that to pull all of my camera sources. I then make sure the list I created for the Resolve is right, frame-by-frame. It needs to be 100 percent accurate and framed correctly. For example, you can have frames larger than High Definition, and I deal with all that in the Resolve and then check it in the Avid, again with all the FX parameters from offline. It's a beautiful online conform.

I love media management and want the simplest way to do something. This is it. One step in Resolve saves the day. Knowledge is power and I want to share this knowledge. If I had this problem, then I'm guessing other people do too. I want everyone to know how I've learned to handle it so they can still use Avid with DaVinci Resolve to make their work easier and more rewarding.






Thanks also to Debra Kaufman for coordination and additional editing on this piece.
Follow Debra on Twitter @MobilizedDebra


Click for more information about USA Network.



TITLE GRAPHIC: COVERT AFFAIRS -- "A Girl Like You" Episode 213 -- Photo by: Christos Kalohridis/USA Network

ACADEMY AWARDS® and OSCAR® are the registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.

The Emmy® name is the trademarked property of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences ("Television Academy") and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences ("National Academy")

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Resolve 10 resolved the AAF bug!
by Scott Freeman
Version 10 of Resolve has amazing AAF support. I can now feel comfortable that an AAF can be a future-proof conform. The previous AAF bug I was noticing in Resolve 9 is fixed in Resolve 10.
Re: Covert Affairs and Suits with Online Editor Scott Freeman
by Yoram Tal
Very interesting...

2 quick questions...

1. Why use EDL at all? wouldn't AAF take care of linking all the related media files in Resolve?

2. How do you bring the CC media back to Avid?

Tal
If Avid "Source" icon has a suffix in the name, that metadata exported in an AAF can link to essence
by Scott Freeman
A quick note about the Avid Symphony master clip metadata "Source" icons having a suffix or not having a suffix in the name and the result of exporting an AAF (metadata only) that was not linked to essence at the time the AAF was created.

In the Avid if the "Source" icon name contains a suffix (to see the "Source" icon name in the Avid go to the Bin menu "Set Bin Display..." and activate "Sources"), this avoids an issue I have seen with Resolve 9 timeline metadata not pointing to essence (the Resolve 9 Media Pool).

What I have noticed is if you have "Source" Icon names that are missing the suffix and the master clip metadata is not linking to essence (media) at the time of exporting the AAF. The result is orphan metadata containers on a Resolve 9 timeline that will not link to essence.


To avoid this issue, either have all master clip metadata pointing to essence at the time the AAF is created or have all master clip metadata contain a suffix in the name for all "Source" icons.

I hope this is helpful!!!

- scott freeman
Re: Covert Affairs and Suits with Online Editor Scott Freeman
by Jamie Franklin
Great stuff Scott. Watch those subclips! ;)

I've found Avid to be one of the more challenging workflows moving projects to Davinci. It's always great to see peoples methods and to reference when needed in case we missed something, especially on those crazy days...

J
I love AAF too!!!
by Scott Freeman
Advanced Authoring Format is one of my favorites metadata containers. AAF even supports mixed frame rates.

Avid Exported AAF and importing into Black Magic Design DaVinci Resolve 9:

1) AAF creates a timeline in the “CONFORM” Suite. I can’t import another AAF to stack on top of the current AAF timeline. In Resolve 9 go to the “CONFOM” suite. In the upper right area, the “Timelines”. Right Click on the timeline and choose “Import>EDL To New Track…”
2) AAF’s exported from an Avid support the Image>Resize effect found in the “Tools>Effect Palette” can be used on the camera 4K-5K masters. If using .r3D camera masters, click on the “GEAR” suite. This brings up the “Project Settings”. Click on “Camera Raw” Panel. In the upper right choose “Red” from the drop-down menu. Under “Master Settings” “Decode Quality: choose “Full Res. Premium”. I use AAF’s for exactly this reason.
3) And Avid created AAF using the "Export Method:" "Link to (Don't Export) media". In Resolve 9 I need to first populate the "Media Pool" to avoid an error. I automate pulling the camera masters into the “Media Pool”. Go to the “MEDIA” Suite. The Library is located in the upper left area. Twirl down the Disclosure triangle to reveal the contents of a drive. Right click on a folder and choose from the contextual menu “Add Folder and SubFolders Based on EDLs into Media Pool”
4) To export an AAF from the Avid that contains sources that are AMA linked to a sequence. In the “Export Settings” activate” AAF Edit Protocol” before exporting.
5) Resolve 9 and Avid 5.5 – 6.5 I noticed an issue that is unique to the offline/online scenereo. I receive a sequence that lives in a bin minus the proxy editorial media from offline. If the Avid does not have metadata clips linked up to essence .mxf / AMA before exporting an Avid AAF metadata only composition with the intent to link to new essence / camera masters (.R3D, Phantom, GoPro, D5, D7, etc.) then on the Resolve 9 timeline there will be 600-1000 orphan container clips that are not editable.

Here are the steps I use for creating an AAF that links to 4K-5K camera masters:
1) Select the Avid sequence in the Avid bin
2) Use the Avid's "File" menu and choose "Export..."
The "Export As.." dialog box appears.
3) Towards the bottom right of the "Export As.." dialog box click on the "Options.." button
The "Export Settings..." dialog box appears.
4) In the upper right of the dialog box there is the word "Export As", click and choose "AAF" from The drop down menu.
5) Put a checkmark next to "Include All Video / Data Tracks In Sequence"
6) Under "Video/Data Details" choose "Export Method:""Link to (Don't Export) media"
7) Click the "Save" button
8) In Resolve 9 click on the "CONFORM" Suite
9) In the upper left is the "Timelines" area. right click and a contextual menu appears.
10) Choose "Import > AAF"
The "Choose a file to import" dialog box appears
11) Choose the Avid exported AAF and click open.
The "Load AAF..." dialog box appears
12) Deselect " Automatically import source clips into media pool"
13) Put a check mark next to "Use sizing information"


- Scott Freeman
Re: Covert Affairs and Suits with Online Editor Scott Freeman
by Paweł Gładys
Try the same thing with AAF. It supports effects, like resize.


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