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