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Offline to Finishing in 10 Minutes

A CreativeCOW Avid Workflow Tutorial


Offline to Finishing in 10 Minutes Tutorial

Ra-ey SalehRa-ey Saleh
Sydney, Australia

©2010 Ra-ey Saleh and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.

Article Focus:
In this tutorial, CreativeCOW Leader, Ra-ey Saleh, will reveal how to transfer your reference Vision & Audio from the Avid Offline into the Online and Pro Tools suites in under 10 minutes.

One of the most time-consuming jobs in Conforming/Up-Resing a programme has traditionally been getting the reference Vision & Audio (I'll call it the 'Offline Playout') out of the Avid Offline and into the Online and Pro Tools suites. This is done to cross-check the final hi-res material to make sure that, firstly, each shot is from the right tape; and secondly, to correct any timecode slippage that can happen because of camera power cycles during Filming and the way Avid itself detects timecode when Digitising (for a great explanation of this read Offline Timecode Drift - thanks Dylan).

Most companies I know still transfer the Offline Playout in one of two ways: playing-out to tape, or Exporting a QT from the Offline suite. Then Digitising the tape, or Importing the QT back into the Online/Pro Tools suites. The tape route is realtime, but what about QTs? In my experience, a normal QT of a 50 minute programme can take anything up to 1 hour to create depending on a few main factors: whether there's Mixed Resolutions/Formats in your sequence; your Export settings; and the age/version of your Avid. A best case scenario might only take you a fraction of this time, but this would require everything in your sequence being of the same Resolution & Format, as well as having the correct 'Fast Export/Import' settings ('Same as Source'; Colour Levels set to '601/709'). But these days who can guarantee that? If you are using any Long GOP media natively in your sequence (i.e. HDV, XDcam, EX, P2 etc...) you can't make a 'Fast Import' QT without Transcoding everything to the same Resolution/Format first. This is also true if you have Mixed Resolutions in your timeline or are using AMA. Depending on this extent, you could be adding an extra hour onto your workflow. Also, depending on the version and age of your Avid, creating QTs can be a notoriously hit & miss affair. For Pro Tools it doesn't matter how you created the QT, as it doesn't benefit from 'Fast Import', so you're looking at a slow Import no matter what.

There is a better way...


The Offline Suite

First, you need to create Audio and Video Mixdowns of your Offline cut. Make sure your sequence is rendered (this will speed up the whole process). Now create the Audio Mixdown (Special Menu > 'Audio Mixdown...'). When prompted, select 'Stereo' and which new Audio tracks you want created (I always go for A23 & A24), and check the 'Save Premix Sequence' box.

Audio Mixdown



Once made, place the sequence with the Audio Mixdown into a new bin called 'Mixdowns' (you still have the untouched 'Premix Sequence' there should anything go wrong). Also, make sure you put the Audio Mixdown clip itself into your bin.

Now, create your Video Mixdown (Special Menu > 'Video Mixdown...'). Be sure to create it in the same Video Resolution as the majority of your Offline footage (probably 15:1s MXF) and direct the clip to your 'Mixdowns' bin.

Video Settings



The reason you want to keep the Resolution the same as the Offline is simple: no Transcoding means a much faster Mixdown.

Once the Mixdown is created, cut it onto a new video track on your 'Mixdowns' sequence. Some people make Mixdowns to get around the whole Long GOP issue and then go onto create QTs/QT Refs of these. This is a whole extra step that you just don't need.

SAVE THE BIN! Sounds obvious, but this one step has tripped up most of our assistants on numerous occasions.

Now we need to find the actual .mxf files of the Mixdowns. Right-click the Video Mixdown clip and select 'Reveal File' from the context menu.

Reveal File




This automatically locates and opens the MXF folder and highlights the file for you. Copy it somewhere where you can reach it from your Online and Pro Tools Suites. Do the same for the Audio Mixdown. When the first file is highlighted a prompt asks you whether you want to 'Reveal' the next one. This is because the Mixdown is Stereo, therefore has two files.

Reveal File Prompt




Hit 'OK'. Now copy both of these files to same location as your Video Mixdown. Also, copy the 'Mixdowns' bin there as well.


The Online Suite

With the Avid application closed, open up one of your Avid MediaFiles MXF folders. Look to see whichever unused number comes next, i.e. if there's only a '1' folder, it would be '2'; if there's already a '1' & '2', it would be '3'. Rename the '1' folder this number. Now create a new folder and call it '1'. Copy the three Mixdown files into it. Now launch the Avid. The reason you don't simply add the files to an existing folder is one of speed. The Avid will take less than a second to create the Media Databases for this new folder, whereas re-creating ones from an existing folder could take a while depending on how much media is in it.

Create your Online Project as normal, then copy the 'Mixdowns' bin into it (on Explorer/Finder level).

Now with any luck once you load the 'Mixdowns' sequence into your timeline you will be able to see those Mixdown clips online. If not, do a Relink. Using a 50 minute test sequence, this process took me under 10 minutes! And the Long GOP media in my sequence wasn't an issue.

It gets even better...


The Pro Tools HD Suite

If you are Finishing your Audio in Pro Tools HD (v.6.9 or higher, but not Pro Tools LE) you can also use a copy of the same .mxf Mixdown files to import into your Pro Tools session as your guide Vision & Audio. No Avid sequence or other files are necessary as all the information the Pro Tools needs is embedded in the Metadata of the .mxf files. The best part is, as the Video is probably only 15:1s MXF in Resolution, the file size is pretty small (normally around the 1GB mark for a 50 minute programme, as opposed to the 11GB mark when played in off tape), so the session won't get bogged down. You will probably have a specific Video Workspace for your video (as putting video on the Audio drive will cause bandwidth issues, and putting it on the System drive is always a big no-no). Simply copy the Video .mxf file here.

In your Pro Tools session, point to the .mxf file (File Menu > Import > 'Video'). Pro Tools is a "pointer system" so doesn't actually 'import' anything but just 'links', unlike the Avid. This will automatically create a video track and instantaneously bring in the file, unlike with QTs. You can also do a similar process for the Audio Mixdown .mxf files (File Menu > Import > 'Audio'); or simply drag'n'drop the .mxf files directly into an empty audio track (drag'n'drop doesn't work for Video).

Make sure that your session is set to the same Format and Reference Sync as the .mxf files before you begin (just as you would if you were Digitising the show off tape). If you're lucky, the quality will be good enough for Audio to use until the final Online is complete; if not, it will at least give them the chance to get started straight away without holding the Online up.

This workflow is obviously useful to everyone, but it can be a complete lifesaver for News and Current Affairs programmes, or any show with a fast turnaround, where changes are made in the Online after Audio have begun work. Audio don't have time to start again from scratch, and there's no time for Online to play-out the new cut to tape (or make a QT) so that Audio are working with the same vision. The important thing to remember in this situation is to make sure the Audio & Video Mixdowns are still cut into your sequence before you make any revisions. If you've added any new material in the Online, quickly make mini-Mixdowns of the new material and cut them onto the same tracks as the earlier ones. If you're working in a HD project and need to access SD Resolutions (i.e. 15:1s MXF) you'll need to briefly switch the format to SD so these options appear.

Format Options

Format Options 15 to 1





Now re-make your full Audio & Video Mixdowns, making sure that you only have those Mixdown tracks selected, and again, ensuring you create the Video Mixdown in the same Video Resolution as the original. My test took 10 seconds (that's right, seconds!) to re-create my Video Mixdown.

Then send them to Audio.

One final note: if you are making changes to the cut in the Online and need to be able to quickly communicate these revisions to Audio, make sure that before you make any revisions you also create a dummy clip with the same timecode as your Master sequence and cut it into your sequence. You can make this in the Capture Tool in Log Mode (only Video is necessary).

Capture Tool in Log Mode





Once all your alterations are made, create an EDL (CMX 3600) of the dummy clip track and send it to Audio. If there are only a handful of changes, they can be done manually; for more extensive revisions, a program like Virtual Katy is useful.


I would like to thank Travis Handley and Nathan Brand for their Audio expertise in the writing of this tutorial.

Ra-ey Saleh

Comments

Good Catch
by Ra-ey Saleh
Good catch Mark, and thanks for adding the comment. We have so many Mojos knocking around I think i took it for granted.
Thanks.
keep in mind, Pro Tools can
by Mark Spano
keep in mind, Pro Tools can only use MXF media for video if they have Avid video hardware. Otherwise, you'll need to make a DV quicktime.


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