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EDL, a tutorial from Dennis Kutchera

EDL, a tutorial from Dennis Kutchera
A CreativeCow.net EDL Tutorial


EDL, a tutorial from Dennis Kutchera


Ron Lindeboom

by Dennis Kutchera
Dennis Kutchera Post Production Inc., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

©2004 Dennis Kutchera and CreativeCOW.net. All Rights Reserved.


Article Focus:
There are more modern ways of exchanging edit information such as OMF and AAF, but not everyone is going to have this. Media 100 now has OMF export as an extra option in version 8 and Final Cut Pro is supported through an OMF export plug in from Automatic Duck. But the old EDL text file is still with us. If you must use an EDL, you are going to be in for some frustration if you do not follow these procedures that Dennis Kutchera shares with us.



It’s Monday, 8 am. You’re half asleep but you know it’s going to be an easy day because you’re doing an online job on your good old Avid Symphony. You are comforted by the fact that anything done in the offline will open up perfectly and this will be a batch digitize, colour correct and CG job you can do in your sleep. The double shot expresso is just kicking in when your client arrives and hands you a cd with their edit decisions. To your horror, you discover the disk does not contain an Avid project or even an Avid sequence – just an EDL. It turns out they got a last minute deal on a Media 100 and used that for their offline instead of the old Avid they told you months ago that they were going to cut the show on.

Now what? There are more modern ways of exchanging edit information such as OMF and AAF, but not everyone is going to have this. Media 100 now has OMF export as an extra option in version 8 and Final Cut Pro is supported through an OMF export plug in from Automatic Duck. But the old EDL text file is still with us.

If you must use an EDL, you are going to be in for some frustration if you do not follow these procedures. The first step is that your client is going to have to return to their non-linear offline system and make a few changes by breaking the EDL down because if you import an single EDL with video and 4 tracks of audio into the Avid EDL manager, you are going to have a very bad day.

There are very few guardians of EDL standards left anymore because the companies that created this system in the linear days are long gone. Thank goodness for the guys at Editware who keep the Grass Valley format alive.

Grass Valley 7 is my favourite EDL format because it gives me the least trouble. With most EDL standards not really set in stone, the result is that Media 100 or Final Cut Pro or whatever is being used for offline has one interpretation of how an EDL should work and Avid has another. The result is a collision that yields an Avid sequence that does not match the offline. In the linear days we used to have list cleaning programs like 409 or Turbotrace to sort out EDLs and make them more compatible and it appears we could still use them today. My Turbotrace dongle died about 6 years ago and the company is gone. Ha! Dongle protected abandonware!

Here’s the offline editor checklist for getting the show into an Avid for online:

1. On the offline machine, all video should be on one track, no keys, no nesting, no mix downs.

2 On the offline machine, all audio must be maintained in even to even and odd to odd tracks (ie, ch 1 to 1, 3, 5, 7 and 2 to 2, 4, 6, 8) if you want to digitize the correct audio

3. There are two EDL formats that tend to work. First is CMX 3600 and then my preferred format Grass Valley 7. Grass Valley 7 is your only choice coming out of a Media 100 because with mixed drop and non-drop time code, Media 100 seems to make CMX EDLs with 1 frame black holes at every minute. Bad Bad Bad.

3 . On the offline machine, no tape name may exceed 6 characters with no spaces. Failure to follow this EDL spec can result in all tape names being the same at worse or messed up at best making digitizing a manual affair.

4. On the offline machine, export an EDL for video only, followed by an EDL for each pair of audio channels with channels about 3 & 4 remapped to 1 & 2. Export the EDL as Grass Valley 7 with no frills of any kind. Clip names do not import, so don't even bother with that. You need a plain jane EDL. The reason you are doing all this is because Avid EDL manager will absolutely screw up split edits if you import video and audio paired. If your nonlinear system makes a mess of an audio only EDL around a split edit (as Media 100 does), you may have to remove a bogus event that used to refer to video with a text editor before opening with the EDL manager. Don’t use a word processor for this as that will add all kinds of hidden goodies (baddies?) that will prevent the EDL from loading) If you import an EDL into the EDL Manager and it warns you that there were no channels on event blah, blah, then that is the one to modify.

It’s a good idea to ask for two versions of the video EDL. – one with dissolves and one without. If you find that the final Avid sequence has dissolve icons in the middle of clips, you will have to use a cuts only EDL into the Avid and then print out the EDL with dissolves and replace them manually on the final Avid sequence. This happens sometimes with EDLs from Media 100 for reasons I have not yet figured out.

5. If your Avid Media Composer software is running while you are using the EDL Manager, then go under the file menu and select “Create Composer Sequence”. Once selected, Media Composer will open on top and ask you to select a bin for your sequence. If Media Composer isn’t running, you can select “Save as OMFI” and import these files into your project later.

6, On Avid you can now merge all your split up sequences into one sequence. If necessary, replace dissolves now before you digitize and your sequence it will be as flawless as the offline EDL is or is not.

7. You are not done yet. Note all the 24 hour clips in your import bin. You need to rename them to associate them with the project BEFORE you digitize. Once you do this, you can trash them or ignore them. Look at the project column and you will see no project associated with these clips and once you digitize, none of the media clips will be linked into the project either. Modify all the 24 hour clips to their own name and you will see a project link appear. I know this is dumb and it should have been fixed six years ago, but if you don't do this, you will pay for it later when media management does not work for you.

Now you can decompose or digitize

I do all of this regularly from Media 100 off-lines. One more step I take is to digitize the offline (hopefully they do it with time code burn) at 20:1 and I overlay it on a track above the video and drop a super-impose on it. Then I highlight V1 and fast forward from one first frame to the next to ensure I have the right shots and frames. I can even do this before digitizing and compare the burn in time code with what the Avid says the time code of the clip actually is. If they do not agree, then trim the clip until the numbers match up. There is a very high probability of time code in the EDL not matching the burn in from the offline because unlike Avid, most non-linear editors cannot detect time code breaks and will digitize over them. From that point on the time code is wrong. It could be out anywhere from a frame to hours. If you trim the “media offline clips by the numbers before you batch digitize, you have 24 hour virtual clips to work with so you can trim any offset in that you want.

It sounds daunting, but this process works flawlessly. One important caveat – motion fx If you have a lot of motion fx in the offline, you must import a cuts only EDL or the EDL Manager will toast the list. It will be full of holes and useless. But in cuts only, all motion fx will be spot on with the exception of reverse motion. Reverse motion clips always have to be put in manually by eying the burn in from the offline. I used to find the same issue taking a GVG linear offline and moving into an Axial online. They have never worked.

Happy 'EDL'ing!

© 2004 Dennis Kutchera All Rights Reserved

---Dennis Kutchera



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