Baby Driver

Well, I made it.

And by that I mean I survived 2 weeks of very intense Avid editing. On a very intense show. Having not touched Avid since the mid 1990s it was always going to be intense.

So without further ado here below be my experience over the last 2 weeks of intensity.

But first, let’s start where all good stories start.

Once upon a time…

A atheist boy in his late 20s in the mid 1990s discovered a knack for editing story, and he discovered that god created Avid in 7 days and it was..

A clunky, poxy, bolloxy, cumbersomely, torridly and yet brilliant, piece of shit.

I hated it from the git-go. I hated it’s architecture of master bins and sub bins and it’s bullshit attitude towards codecs and storage rules, I hated its constant need to be double clicking on everything or having to spend time rendering the simplest audio fade, no floating razor tool, the empty tracks that are not actually empty because it contains filler, the I don’t have all my tracks selected and I just blew sync on an hours timeline 20 minutes ago. It wasn’t intuitive, it wasn’t easy to understand and I hated using it. But what I loved was that it was non-linear, I could work in any order I wanted, anywhere on the timeline and just move shit around, carefully mind. It was stable, solid and reliable. Yes it was all those horrible bad things but it worked.

Anyway I stopped using Avid, it was way too fucking expensive to own your own and there were cheaper and better systems coming along that kicked it’s ass and were constantly being improved and because Avid was so expensive it started to fall out of regular use and was used sparingly by individuals and used more at the high end facility houses.

And as you probably know by now, for me it’s FCPX or nothing. (Sorta)

I have worked with a particular director in South Africa since about 2010. He was working on Zone14, a TV Show for the national broadcaster. then we moved over to Jacobs Cross for the big Pay TV station as well as channels throughout Africa. And a number of other shows here and there, one of which bagged me a SAFTA. And then he fucked off to go work in commercials but he is now back doing TV and we have started working together again. He is part of the directing team for a big budget, American, Irish, German, South African co-production 10 ep show that has attracted some decent international talent. Editors in South Africa, London and Ireland all working together on a show shot all round South Africa for worldwide distribution.

Aah the modern life.

And so begins the next part of our story…

Present Day.

The director called me up to tell me he was very unhappy with the editor that was provided to him and would I step in and cut his 2 eps. After 5 weeks of post and still not being happy he said I should probably start from scratch.

That in itself is a challenge, coming into a show 5 weeks into post, on someone else’s project file with their workflow preferences locked in place and their own filing system and naming conventions etc etc. Oh and it’s working on Avid!


But challenge accepted!

See my previous post about how I changed things so I wasn’t fucking around with keyboard shortcut differences between Avid and FCPX. I was still having to deliver an episode or 2 a week for my other client and there was no way I could let them down, so I needed to get up to speed real quick. And mapping the keyboard shortcuts really made a big difference to my headspace.

The first few days of my week, drive arrived midday Monday, was spent figuring out what the fuck in hell was gong on with the project file. As I mentioned it is all locked as they are 5 weeks in and there’s previs work done on ruff kuts and it’s shared with multiple editors around the world so folders, file structure, alladat must remain intact, so no round tripping between Avid and FCPX. And that’s really where Avid kicks every other NLE in its ass. The file sharing and collaboration is second to none. But I did have some very interesting challenges right from the start.

Not all the footage got copied to the drive and so the dreaded media offline poster frame was everywhere. But during the course of the week between Dropbox and wetransfer we finally got all but 1 scene sorted, so let’s head on to that motherfucker.

There were times when I was almost in tears at not being able to figure out the archaic bin structure. With files dropboxing in dribs an drabs because SA internet is dodgy at best, things would take an age to load and they had to be in the right bin or they wouldn’t load, and because we are working with 1080p proxies from a 4K source, all the footage is AMA format MXF and so will not import outside of its specific bin, or something, I dunno, it just frustrated the fuck out of me that I could not access the media that was clearly on the drive but the master avb file was missing. There was one particular scene that just said fuck you at every turn. The bin was there, the media was on the drive, I could see it, play it in VLC and FCPX (albeit with the warning that the footage is old architecture and will not be supported by apple in the next OS) but Avid wanted nothing to do with this red-headed step child. Not one shot from the scene would Relink, re-import, import or even link. So in the end I brought the mxf files into FCPX synced the audio per clip and exported them individually as ProRes files and imported them into Avid that way. Then in my synced timeline placed the ProRes clips on top of the Offline mxf clips and made sure that I always had the original and the copy together. At least this way, seeing as the files Relink no problemo in South Africa, at least I can see and hear the footage I am cutting. Worked a treat, although every time I open my timeline and see all that red offline color I panic but sanity prevails and I move on.

See the double layer of online and offline. Note to self, remember to delete the clone before final delivery to not fuck with the online blokeys.

Another challenge was that, I am just so fucking slow in Avid. You have to double click on everything to open it so you can work with it. If you need to look for something and you can’t remember bin names like B4_20190722_AUD301_B4Day005_Master then you have to be double clicking till the fucking cows have gone back out into the fields the next fucking day.

Oh and the fucking trimming with scrubbing is like if a car crash had a baby with a bullet train derailment while on holiday in the Himalayas and fell from the top of the world and what was left on the floor of all that glacial destruction is scrubbing in Avid.

The things I had the most difficulty with is remembering to switch on all my tracks if I want to ripple delete something, otherwise sync becomes a problem. I also found that with the smart tool I was constantly rippling (yellow arrow/trim filmy thingy) instead of overwriting (red arrow/trim filmy thingy) so spent a lot of time undoing that. Also making selections would pick up filler in the empty tracks. They are fucking empty why would anything be selected if they are fucking empty, so if you select and filler extends to the left and you drag your selection to the left, the filler overwrites your fucking clips. Oh my fuck!

The series is very heavily loaded with new tech, which doesn’t exist and must be done in VFX so I spend a lot of time dicking about with zooming clips back onto TV screens or phones etc. this was the slowest part of the job, because I couldn’t just grab the corners and position them where I wanted them, I had to use the stupid graph thingy, or, as I subsequently discovered I could use the wheels. But then the wheels in the different effects do not work at the same speed, so when you spin the wheel in the x-position of the 3DWarp, corner pin it moves pixels 5 times faster than the crop tool, which turns at a fucking snails pace and the snail is on a go-slow strike while on holiday, looking at the new born scrubbing baby in the Himalayas.

And don’t get me started on the Timewarp tool. OMF!. Then there are effects that affect every layer underneath. I am still not able to apply a matte and a resize on the same clip without it affecting all the layers below. Even double clicking the clip to make sure it’s not attached to the alpha channel, no fucking luck, so now my welding sparks that need to appear at the bottom of a malfunctioning drone has a black background, but at least they are in the right fucking place.

Now I understand that I am essentially still new (!) to Avid and there may be shortcuts to avoid a lot of the nonsense but I needed to hit the ground running. For the most part I made extensive use of online tutorials, for instance I didn’t know how to break apart groups, I hate groups, and multi cam editing, I’m old school and like to work with the individual files. Or wasn’t sure how to go about using key frames etc.

And for me that is another problem, in that you have to be working in a particular mode to be able to do things. Like you have to have the volume switched on in the audio tool to add key frames or adjust levels etc Everything is buried under something else. And then there is so little real-time functionality it is frightening, want to save, pause, want to adjust the level of a clip in the clip gain, click on the button, fine, drag the level, pause, then have to click somewhere else on the screen to get rid of the fucking thing. It’s incredible that the real-time capabilities of a piece of software in this day and age is so backwards. All the audio effects have to be rendered before you can here them in context, so you set a reverb in preview it’s fine, render, oh it’s too soft against the background, adjust re-render. Needs to be louder here, adjust re-render. Ouch. It’s audio for fucks sake not the fucking Taj Mahal.

As time went by I got used to working in Avid again and I was definitely quicker by Friday week, apart form the zoomy woomys and corner pinning bollox.

It was a challenge and for the most part being able to work on a project like this was fucking amazing. I loved it. We move into the next phase now of director changes and me making more tweaks before the Execs have their say and I’m very happy. I can see myself using Avid more as there are still a lot of places in Europe and America that require Avid experience but to be honest if I can avoid it, I will.

Here’s where I have been ‘spoiled’ by FCPX..

I miss keywords, skimming and the razor tool and not having to worry about tracks, or never losing sync. Not worrying about moving stuff out of the way to add stuff, or delete stuff. I miss the free will over file storage and not conforming to a particular codec or frame rate. I miss the ability to grab stuff and it’s only the stuff I grabbed not all that arseholing filler that does not seem to serve a purpose at all, uh oh he’s off again. I miss the ability to see all my footage in one place or in a million places.

Actually the razor tool is a big deal for me. Having to have your cursor placed exactly where you want the cut is time consuming, so, yeah having the ability to cut wherever I like in the timeline is massive.

The biggest thing I miss is the comfortableness of FCPX. It feels like home, it’s quick, responsive and very stable. Sometimes I felt so overwhelmed by Avid and why it would just do what I wanted it to do, which is essentially behave like FCPX😁. I guess ‘cos it is still new (!) to me and I haven’t reached that comfort level yet, but I can’t see it happening any time soon. For me the trackless magnetic timeline is astonishing and Randy deserves a medal for his work on X.

But as my time on this epic adventure is not yet over I shall endeavour to hold my head up high and say…

You can’t scare me I worked on Avid.

Oh Ancient, wise old man of the Non-Linear Editing Universe, I salute you and thank you for your service, but I am leaving you for a much younger floozy who pushes all my buttons and I don’t have to worry about any of theirs.

With much love, and much hate, not quite farewell yet, my Avid, my……..


Peace Love and Vomit