Taming The Avid

The neural super-maze in our heads gets very comfy when using the same UI and logic for years, аnd I'd been Adobe-indoctrinated since the late 2000s. Cut to 2022 when I decided to turn my eager attention to long form, and thus to the grown-ups' NLE: The AVID. It took some time, but I found it fascinating to learn an entire new system, with its interface, logic, workflows and quirks. There was a lot to know, and I'd like to share some of the great resources I found along my journey of taming the primordial beast that is Avid Media Composer. 

Before I delve into the Avid itself, I owe an honorary mention to this expansive (and evolving) resource compiled by Frame.io's Insider blog. Over time I'd gathered lots of functional know-how on the more computational aspects of working with digital assets, but I suspected there were holes in my knowledge, especially where larger scale production workflows were concerned. 

In this comprehensive guide industry pros lure you off the bench and into a deep rabbit hole, jam-packed with systematised information on everything from how data is stored in 1s and 0s to ACES colour workflows, a ton of best practices spanning from capture to delivery. The resource is broken into 9 chapters, and each offers both high-level information, as well as deep dive drop-downs where you can really get into how things function on the most granular level. The bit about different types of RAID configurations was invaluable. 

I really recommend reading it, even just as a refresher and a sense-check for your own knowledge and methods. All 100,000 words (and charts) come for free in exchange for your email (no verification). 

These foundation courses by Maxim Jago provided a great foray into working with Media Composer. The first one covered all main organisational and editing features of the software, and introduced beginner workflows. The second part went deeper into functionalities, ingesting and editing workflows, audio and visual effects, specific tools and best practices.  Each course is just under 10 hours long, and comes with FilmSupply footage to practise with.

I had now gotten a peak into what Media Composer offers, and was in equal measures awed and intimidated. I wanted to know everything there was to know. 
Avid Agility: Working Faster and More Intuitively with Avid Media Composer (2nd Ed) by Steven Cohen

I found this book on a list of recommendations somewhere, and it was the most comprehensive resource for Avid I'd found to date. A couple of things had changed irreversibly since publication, but it allowed me to explore the tools and functionalities in a lot more depth than the courses. It's aimed at a more advanced user, and has a more precise/direct way of phrasing things. I vibed greatly with this book.

It was starting to become more obvious to me why Media Composer is preferred by long form productions. The bins settings, timeline tools and audio tools in particular are extensive and customisable, and allow for ways of working not available in Premiere. I could see how once mastered, these could allow great speed and efficiency in the edit. I also found out that the application of visual effects is clumsy, the Titler+ tool is mildly put awful, and colour correction is rudimentary. 

All very well, but my questions started cascading like bouncy balls down a San Francisco street. What is the best way to sync and group if reliable TC isn't available? How do you ensure a smooth conform? How do you use ScriptSync? Which media files should be imported and which linked to? Metadata? Mixed framerates? How do you name source folders with only numbers?  T'was time for a bit of YouTube and Facebook group research.
YouTube Resources

YouTube is awash with content on using Premiere, but not as much on Avid. Still, I found some channels which helped to illuminate me on real-life editing / assisting scenarios: 

Assistant Editing for Reality Television Part 1 & 2 2019 (10 hours) — the Assist Bootcamp people have very kindly filmed their whole 2-day bootcamp. It covers in great depth Importing, Transcoding, Organising, Stacking, Syncing and Grouping (+ troubleshooting when it goes wrong). If anyone needs to be robust in these, I imagine it's reality TV productions. The channel also has some detailed material on IO/Drive Speed, Ingesting etc.

Avid Media Composer — somewhat obvious, but Avid's own channel has a wealth of content from starting out, to update reviews, storage advice, remote workflows, and interviews with renowned editors. 

Avid Beer — this guy likes beer and is very entertaining. He shares all his nifty tips and tricks on how to edit quicker and better, so you can finish on time, and go drink beer. He's quick paced, somewhat irreverent to "established" practices, and hates trim mode. He also tells you which specific beer he's tasting that day.

Hans The Editor —  Another super friendly guy sharing his know-how as an Avid editor. The channel has a mixture of content but videos tend to be shorter and more focused on a single feature / tool / process.
Jack Brown, The Avid Assistant

Jack Brown a.k.a. the Avid Assistant deserves his own section. I don't know Jack personally, but the guy is a total legend! I'd like everyone to be more like Jack. He has tons of experience and detailed knowledge, and is not set on hoarding it. Instead, he records comprehensive tutorials on assisting grouped by skill level or topic, reviews new features updates, and has loads of extra content on his Patreon. 

He is also very active on the Avid Editors of Facebook group, and I think is also a moderator on the Avid forums. He replies to every comment under his videos, provides direct chat to patrons, and just seems like a lovely person to be around. I've watched each and every of his videos, and made notes, and if I get stuck with something, this is where I'd go first. 
Other resources

Richard’s Audio Prep Guidelines for Editors — a full guide to turning over audio to mixing by audio editor and mixer Richard Fairbanks. Slightly old resource but best practices don't change all that much. 

Avid Editors of Facebook — the RAC for Avid troubles and discussions. There are some extremely knowledgeable people in this group, ready with advice and experience.

Freddy's Big List of Relevant Avid Links — This is a giant repository for Avid related tutorials and links, put together by Fredrik Liljeblad (Technical Support Specialist, Avid EMEA). Probably contains all of the above resources plus a lot more.

Master the Workflow — pricey but pro courses on assistant editing, the Hollywood way. It's led by Lawrence Jordan, ACE (Jack Frost, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Fallen, Are We There Yet?, NYPD Blue, CSI Miami, Naked) and Richard Sanchez (The Good Place, Suicide Squad, She-Hulk), so it's knowledge from the kitchen.

View From The Cutting Room Floor — this particular link is on making bulletproof Multigroups, but Tim Leavitt's blog covers freelancing advice, Avid tips and tricks, workflow suggestions and general ruminations on film & television.

To group or to multigroup? That is the question. — GroupItForMe's own musings on the subject. 

Always Editing — A helpful OS compatibility matrix for all MC versions and more by Chris Bové (Online Community Manager: Avid Technologies, Inc) 

Eleanor Adler — Another wonderful person who has put energy into making a list of resources for others. I particularly enjoyed the ScriptSync, Film Editing and History sections.

To Pastures New..

So, after consuming much knowledge, and spending many hours making notes and trying things out, have I tamed the Avid? 

I would say the beast isn't quite domesticated yet, but I can come very close and feed it sand plankton (in this confused metaphor the Avid is the Shai Hulud, and I am Paul Atreides having just defeated Jamis). I've learned a lot but haven't had enough Sandworm rides yet, and the Fremen are still suspicious. 

Until TV & Film production picks up enough to allow me to throw a hook or two, I will continue to study this powerful creature and its curious ways. 
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