Book Image

Avid Media Composer 6.x Cookbook

By : Benjamin Hershleder
Book Image

Avid Media Composer 6.x Cookbook

By: Benjamin Hershleder

Overview of this book

Avid Media Composer has become the tool of choice by editing professionals worldwide. Whether your project involves editing television programming, independent films, corporate industrials or commercials, this cookbook shows you exactly how to do so in a step-by-step and practical manner, and get the most out of Avid Media Composer editing. "Avid Media Composer 6.x Cookbook" is an expert, clear and logically-sequenced resource with highly effective recipes for learning Avid Media Composer essentials and beyond. It's task-based approach will help users at all experience levels gain a deeper, more thorough understanding of the software. It will help you master the essential, core editing features as well as reveal numerous tips and tricks that editors can benefit from immediately. Just some of the topics include understanding Import settings, mixing frame rates and understanding AMA (Avid Media Access), along with thorough explanations of Trim Mode, Segment Mode, and the Smart Tool. You will learn to customize your work environment with Workspaces, Bin Layouts, Timeline Views, Bin Views, Keyboard Mapping, and much more. The recipes inside are packed with practical examples, time-saving tools and methods to get you working faster and more confidently so that you can spend less time dealing with technical and operational issues and instead focusing on being creative.
Table of Contents (20 chapters)
Avid Media Composer 6.x Cookbook
About the Author
About the Reviewers

Importing stills and video files such as QuickTime

We're often given still images in formats such as .jpg, .gif, .png, or even as a layered Photoshop file, all of which can be imported into Avid Media Composer. Further, there will be instances when you'll need to import a QuickTime file rather than AMA link to it. For example, you've been given a motion graphic that contains an Alpha Channel (transparency information) that is meant to be composited on top of video. AMA linking will not recognize the Alpha Channel, so you must import it. Another example is regarding Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) files. AMA should never be used with BWF files as the Timecode will be incorrect and offers no control over Pull-up and Pull-down Sample Rates. See Avid Media Composer Help for additional information. The search term is BWF.

What does Avid Media Composer mean when it uses the term Import? In Media Composer, Import means that new media is created during the import process. The format of the media created is dictated by the settings in your Project Window's Format tab. The resolution is dictated in your Media Creation settings. For comparison, Adobe After Effects also uses the term import, except that in its case it is only pointing (linking) to the file rather than making new media as Media Composer does.


If you want to animate within a still image (often referred to as The Ken Burns Effect), you will most likely not want to import the image since that restricts the image size to that of your current format, which would mean having to scale the image up in order to pan and tilt across it. Scaling up reduces the quality of the image. If you are looking to create the Ken Burns Effect, then you'll want to check Avid Media Composer Help regarding the Avid Pan & Zoom effect. If you have the Boris Continuum Complete (BCC) effects package installed on your system, I also suggest checking out the BCC Pan & Zoom effect. You may also want to investigate other plug-ins available for this effect from the Marketplace menu.

Getting ready

Organize your files. Some suggestions are in the A strategy for Project organization at the desktop level recipe, earlier in this chapter.

How to do it...

Here are the steps to import video and still image files.

  1. Project Window | Format tab.

  2. In the Format tab set the Project Type, Aspect Ratio, Color Space, and Raster Dimensions for the media you'll create during the import.

  3. Open the Media Creation settings using any of these methods:

    • Tools menu | Media Creation

    • cmd/Ctrl + 5

    • Project Window | Settings tab, and then double-click on Media Creation

  4. In the Media Creation window select the Import tab.

  5. Set the Video Resolution for the media you'll create during the import.

  6. Set the drive where you want the media that you create to be stored.

  7. Click on OK to close the Media Creation window.

  8. Open your Import Settings by selecting the Project Window | Settings tab, and then double-clicking on Import Settings.

  9. In the Import Settings window, click on the Image tab.

  10. In the Image tab, you'll select the appropriate options for your situation. A brief explanation of these options is in the There's more… section that follows this recipe of steps.

  11. Click on the OK button to close the Import Settings window.

  12. You can now import with one of the two following methods:

    • Method 1: Drag the file(s) from their location on a drive directly into a bin. All the settings you previously set will dictate how the media will be created and on which drive the media will be stored. Once you drop the files into the bin, both the Master Clips and media will be created. Layered Photoshop files will open an additional dialog window. Those options are discussed after the There's more… section that follows this recipe.

    • Method 2: Select an open bin. Then, either right-click within the bin and select Import from the Contextual menu or go to the File menu and select Import.

  13. The following steps relate to using Method 2 for import.

  14. Be aware that when using Method 2, note that in the Select Files To Import window you will have the ability to do the following:

    • Click on the Options button to access the Import Settings

    • Set the resolution for the media you'll create during the import

    • Set the drive where you want the media you create to be stored

  15. In the Select Files To Import window, navigate to the file(s) you want to import.

  16. Select the file(s).

  17. Click on the Open button.

There's more...

The Import Settings window can be a bit confusing, so let's go over the options in the Image tab.

Image size adjustment

This selection relates to how the image will be scaled during the import:

  • Image sized for current format: This means that the file is the same frame size as the video format you are using. In other words:

    • 648 x 486 square pixels for an NTSC SD 4 x 3 project

    • 864 x 486 square pixels for an NTSC SD 16 x 9 project

    • 1920 x 1080 for a 1080 HD project

    • 1280 x 720 for a 720 HD project

  • Crop/Pad for DV scan line difference: If your SD project is the full raster of 720 x 486 and you import an image sized for DV (720 x 480), then Media Composer will add in (pad) the six missing lines. On the other hand, if your project is DV and your graphic is 720 x 486, then Media Composer will remove (crop) the extra six lines. By either padding or cropping, it means that your image will not be subtly distorted.

  • Do not resize smaller images: Images smaller than your video format will not be resized and will appear in the center of the frame. Images with an Alpha channel will have a transparent area surrounding them while those without will have black surrounding them.

  • Resize image to fit format raster: Whether larger or smaller, the image will be scaled to fit within your video format's size. If your image is longer horizontally, then it will be scaled until it reaches the left and right edges of the frame. If your image is longer vertically, then it will be scaled until it reaches the top and bottom edges of the frame. Any remaining areas will be filled with black. Note that if your release of Media Composer is not allowing this to work within a 16 x 9 SD project, the workaround is to switch to an HD format, import, and then switch back.

File Pixel to Video Mapping

This section relates to how the luminance (brightness) and the chrominance will be interpreted during the import:

  • Computer RGB (0 - 255): Choose this if your file came from a computer graphics application such as Photoshop, After Effects, or Apple Motion. Selecting this option tells Media Composer to adjust the image during the import so it fits properly into the broadcast levels. Specifically, the darkest value in the graphic is mapped to the level of video black for your video format and the brightest value is mapped to the level of video white. All other values are adjusted proportionately.

  • Computer RGB, dither image colors: This is used in the same situation as Computer RGB, except it performs one extra operation on the graphics file. If the file has fine gradients and you notice there is banding in the final imported image, try this. The extra operation it performs adds some noise (dithering) that may help to reduce or hide the banding.

  • 601 SD or 709 HD (16 - 235): Choose this only if your file is already at the proper broadcast levels for your video format. For files created in other applications, such as Photoshop or After Effects, this will be infrequent. However, good examples of files that are already at broadcast levels include the SMPTE Color Bars file that Avid provides inside the Test_Patterns folder, and video files such as P2 that can be imported.

Additional selections

The following are the additional selections within the Import dialog window:

  • Frame Import Duration: When you import a still image, you can tell Media Composer how long you'd like the duration of the Master Clip to be. Media Composer will only create a frame or two (which Avid calls a Slide) of actual media, so you can set any duration you like without worrying that the media will take up a lot of drive space. This simply instructs Media Composer to refer to the "slide" over and over again for the duration that you specify.

  • Autodetect Sequentially-Numbered Files: Choose this option if you are given a folder containing many files where each represents one frame (for example, of an animation). They'll be numbered in order (sequentially). During import you would select only the first file in the folder (not all the files). Media Composer will then automatically look for file number two, then file number three, and so on (autodetection). When the import is completed, Media Composer will have assembled all the files (frames) into one single Master Clip.


    Be sure to leave this option deselected if you are not importing sequentially-numbered files for the purpose of assembling them into a single Master Clip upon import.

  • Field Ordering in File: This is not to be confused with Field Dominance; these options only apply to interlaced video formats. If your video format is progressive, these options will not be displayed. Before you can know what to select here, it's pretty helpful to know what the native field order is for different video formats:

    • NTSC is Even (Lower Field First)

    • HD is Odd (Upper Field First)

    • PAL is Odd (Upper Field First)

    • PAL DV is Even (Lower Field First)

    With that knowledge, the details on the Field Order import selections, which follow, will be more useful:

    • Ordered for current format: Use this for still images without fields, and for importing still images and video files with fields that match the field order of your video format. For example, the video file is NTSC and your project format is NTSC, or your video file is HD and the project is HD.

    • Odd (Upper Field First): Choose this option if there is a mismatch between the graphic file's field order and the video format of your project. Specifically, the file is a format with Odd field order and the project's video format has Even field order.

    • Even (Lower Field First): Choose this option if there is a mismatch between the graphic file's field order and the video format of your project. Specifically, the file is a format with Even field order and the project's video format has Odd field order.

  • Alpha Channel: The Alpha Channel is grayscale and is used to define the opaque and transparent areas.

    • Invert on Import (white = opaque): This is the most common setting choice you'll make and is used when you get a graphic from a designer who has used After Effects, Photoshop, or similar applications to create it. This takes the grayscale Alpha Channel information in the file and inverts it to conform to how Avid Media Composer likes it (black is opaque).

    • Do not invert (black = opaque): You'll rarely use this. However, if a designer's application happens to create the graphic file with the Alpha Channel the way that Media Composer likes it (black = opaque), then this is the choice you'd make.

    • Ignore: The Alpha Channel information is discarded during import, and the file that is created will be opaque rather than a Real Time Matte Key.

Layered Photoshop files

When you import a Photoshop file with two or more layers, Media Composer will give you an additional dialog window with the following options:

  • Sequence of Layers: Media Composer brings in each individual layer as a separate Master Clip. It also assembles each Master Clip (layer) into a completed sequence just as in the Photoshop file.


    Media Composer will not recognize Layer Styles (for example, Drop Shadow, Bevel, and so on). If you have applied Layer Styles, you'll want to first duplicate your Photoshop file (as a backup version). Then, within that duplicate, you will need to merge all the layer effects into the layers themselves before importing into Media Composer.

  • Flattened Image: All the layers in the graphic file are married together into one single Master Clip.

  • Select Layers: This feature allows you to choose just the layers you want from the file. Each layer will become a separate Master Clip. Naming the layers in your graphic file will be very helpful if you plan to use this option.

See also

  • If your file also contains audio, then the Adjusting audio levels before editing, Adjusting audio pan settings before editing and Setting stereo-audio tracks recipes may be helpful