tips and tricks

ScriptSyncMost of my professional editorial experience is in the reality TV world, where the footage usually dictates the story, as opposed to the other way around for fictional, script-based storytelling.  But recently I got involved with my first scripted project in several years – a web series about the lives of three twenty-something male roommates living in Los Angeles (visit to see the pilot episode, which I did not edit).  As a frequent reader of online editing blogs similar to this one, I’d heard about a feature called “ScriptSync” that a small but devoted number of Avid users raved about.  For the first episode of the web series that I was assigned to cut, I decided to try out script-based editing and see what all the fuss was about. (more…)


optionkeyMost non-linear editors know that the secret to an efficient workflow is to use keyboard shortcuts for your most frequently used editing functions, as opposed to mouse clicks.  What many intermediate Avid editors do not know, however, is that one extra keystroke gives you access to a slew of commands that you won’t see in any menus or on any buttons.  Try holding down the “Option” key (“Alt” in Windows) while you do various functions and see what happens.  You can drop the “Add Option Key” command from the command palette onto any of your composer or timeline buttons so that when clicked it will always perform the function as if you’re simultaneously pressing the option key.  I use this all the time with the “Copy” command.  Here are a few shortcuts that I’ve discovered. (more…)

Avid command palatte

Once you’ve been working on Avid for awhile, you begin to internalize the steps needed to perform a certain series of actions. Eventually, you will find yourself thinking faster than the Avid can keep up, especially when working on a slow machine. It can be frustrating to hit a button, wait several seconds, and then press the next button.

Fortunately, Avid is designed to remember a series of commands, even as it is performing another function. This allows you to press keys as fast as you can think of them while the computer does something else.

For example, when I’m tweaking an effect in Effect Mode, once I start the render, I immediately hit the “Source/Record Editing” key, click on a spot prior to the effect in my timeline, and hit “Play”. While I’m checking my e-mail, Avid will finish rendering the effect, jump back to the appropriate place in the timeline, and begin playing, which cues me to start paying attention to make sure the effect plays correctly.

Test out your own keystroke combinations, and save yourself some valuable e-mailing/texting/reading time!

One of the most talked-about features of the new Avid Media Composer 3.0 is its ability to create real-time timecode burn-ins with no rendering necessary. For those of you still dealing with outrageous render times on an ancient Meridien system, I feel your pain. One of my fellow assistants recently introduced me to a nifty way to create a real-time timecode effect that takes a little while to set up but can save you countless hours of time down the road. It is most useful for tracking the running time of a sequence (as opposed to source timecode), since it relies on re-using the same timecode each time. As my example, I will be working in a 30i NTSC project with drop-frame timecode, but the steps can be modified easily based on the needs of your project. Ready? Here we go. (more…)

This post is part 3 of a series. For part 1, click here, or for part 2, click here.

Here are some more organizational tips to improve your assistant editing workflow.

7. Color code your clips and sequences.

Select the items you want colored in your bin, and choose “Set Clip Color” from the “Edit” menu. In general, avoid red (save it for indicating offline clips), but you can assign virtually any color to your clips and sequences (there are more options available than just the primary colors by selecting “Pick…”). There’s a lot of room for creativity here. You can use different colors for source clips, acquired footage, clips that need aspect ratio formatting, sound effects, music, sequences to output, or however else you see fit. If you select “Source” under “Clip Color” in the Timeline hamburger menu, the clips will show their colors within your sequence. (more…)

This post is part 2 of a series. For part 1, click here.

Here are some more organizational tips to improve your assistant editing workflow.

4. Store all imported files in a folder on your desktop.

Usually all of the graphics and logos I’m given are on their own CD, and the stack piles up pretty quickly. When it comes time to re-import everything at full resolution for your uprez, you’ve got to hunt through all of the CD’s to find each file. If you copy all of the files to a folder on your desktop first and import them from there, not only will they all be in one convenient place; Media Composer should remember their location and automatically re-link from the Batch Import main window. How convenient! Putting everything in one folder will also help you avoid the mistake of accidentally naming two files the same thing, leading to confusion down the line. If you’re conforming the show on a different system, you can easily burn a CD or DVD of the files in your desktop folder to take with you. (more…)

Whenever non-industry people used to ask me what it meant to be an assistant editor, I would fumble to come up with a succinct answer that they could understand. Over time I boiled it down to the following description: “Anything that goes into or comes out of the Avid is my responsibility: digitizing footage; importing graphics; making tapes, DVD’s, and EDL’s; etc. I am also responsible for helping the editor locate or organize any of the material already in the Avid to make his or her job easier.”

Fundamental to all of these tasks is one underlying responsibility: organization. The better organized you are as an assistant editor, the better you will be at your job, and the more you will be appreciated by your editor(s) and bosses. If you’re like me, and you’re borderline obsessive-compulsive about how you organize things in your everyday life (the money in my wallet is always organized in order of bill size; my mp3’s are all tagged and named in the same exact manner), then this sort of thing will be almost second-nature. Everyone has his or her own organizational style, but I thought I’d share a few systems I’ve used to simplify my job and make life easier for everyone I work with. Remember, a few extra organizational steps can save you major headaches down the road.

1. Keep a binder full of tips and tricks, technical specs, and notes.

Tim\'s assistant editor binder

I have a 1.5″ 3-ring binder full of all sorts of paperwork that I’ve collected over time. I have separate tabs for the following categories:

  • Contacts – You never know when you might need to call a fellow assistant editor you worked with ages ago to ask a quick technical question.
  • Post production schedule – Always make sure you’re aware of upcoming deadlines.
  • Important e-mails regarding the current project I’m working on
  • Technical specs – Here are a few of the things I keep in this section: screen grabs of import and export settings, data bitrates and resolutions of various codecs and file formats, a list of Avid-supported HD decks, common OMF and EDL specs, and a cheat sheet on how to work the router
  • Tips – This section mostly contains various Avid tutorials that I’ve stumbled across on Avid forums and at various blogs like this one. GeniusDV has some particularly helpful how-to’s that I use a lot.
  • Notes – Jot down any important information during your work day – a to-do list, important telephone numbers, a timecode you need to remember…
  • Keyboard settings – I have a print-out of my keyboard in the transparent front cover of my binder (see above photo) – this is helpful when I’m rebuilding my settings at a new work station or if I forget where one of my rarely-used commands is located.

I occasionally weed out dated material that doesn’t seem important anymore, but you never know when you’ll be stuck with a minor problem that you have a solution for buried in your binder from months ago. I can’t tell you how many times my improvised “assistant editor Bible” has saved me in a tough spot. (more…)

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