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Hi all, I'm trying to create a list of best practices for interfacing with video editors. I know very little about the video side of things and often work with editors who know very little about the audio side. Navigating the realm between the two can be tricky. What are your methods for managing this transition? Some more specific questions-

When requesting a reference video file what codecs and formats do you prefer?

Timecode obviously, do you insist on a 2 pop? At the beginning and the end?

In order to save time, how do you prefer the video editor organize tracks before sending them over via OMF?

When there's an option, do you prefer reels or one large file?

If an editor wants to really prep the tracks to cut down on audio post costs, what audio work, if any, should the video editor undertake? Splitting out dialog from production SFX?

When receiving hard drives of alternate takes and other production recordings, are there any file naming and organizational conventions you insist on or request?

Anything I'm forgetting?

Thank you all so so much in advance!

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4 Answers

I prefer to get standard def reference videos, things just tend to run smoother in tools that way. I'd suggest trying to stay away from any HD codecs. I do like them to include their "mix" when they export the reference video, because I'll pull that in as a reference within my session.

I always request pops at head and tail, this is usually best presented as making things easier for the editor. If you send back the final mix with pops, they have a fast and easy way to initially verify sync when they drop it back into the timeline. I do ask for large handles, minimum of 5 seconds (especially if the omf is coming from a Final Cut system), unless the omf they're exporting references the original files (rather than contains them). Final Cut can't reference original media from an OMF, it will only consolidate regions. So, don't forget those handles.

If the editor does any organization of the omf it does make life a little easier, but I always end up reorganizing it anyways. I open the omf, copy/duplicate all of the tracks and hide the originals from the omf. Hiding the originals saves the layout in case I royally screw something up. Working with those copies, I then move the audio files around as I'd like to have them: dialogue over several tracks, production/ambience, hard effects, music, etc. Once I have everything split out. I duplicate the playlists, save and close the session.

I'll create new sessions for each of my tasks, and import the respective tracks (copying all source audio files). So, I'll import only dialogue tracks from my omf configuration session into my dialogue edit session. Now I'm working with copies of the original files, because some of the things I do can be destructive/permanently change the waveform (like the pencil tool). I'm also working off the duplicated playlist that I created in the omf session; again, so the layout is saved on a previous playlist in case I screw something up. Redundant backups and ways to quickly correct a bad decision are goods thing. And we all need them sooner or later.

On longer form projects, I prefer reels. I say that, because they may lock a section of the picture well before the whole is done. No reason I should wait until the whole project is done before I start working on sections of it. That just seems inefficient to me. There are plenty of times though when I get brought in at the last minute; in that case, I'm usually getting one big one. This is all really up to what you work out with the director/producer. Go with whatever workflow is going to be more efficient for the project.

I don't ever ask the editor to do any work. If they choose to that's fine. I'm not going to step on any toes by telling them not to, but I don't request it. I discard all fades, crossfades, pan and volume automation the omfs contain. I have the reference audio track that I can listen to for that information if I'm confused by something.

I haven't ever worked on a project that had money for anyone other than the editor to conduct media management, and they usually only have time to organize things in a way that makes sense for them while editing. There's usually a fair bit of logic in that though, so I don't think of it as a handicap. I do request any logging data or sound reports that might be available. I'll usually ask for an EDL as well. This is a must if the omf is going to come from Final Cut, because FCP creates new metadata for the files it includes in the omf. Without and EDL, you'll have no idea where a clip came from if you need an alternate take or some other piece of audio. Those documents have covered most of my needs in the past.

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Good idea on the EDL! I'll remember that one. –  Roger Middenway Mar 4 '11 at 21:19
    
Thanks for the thorough answer Shaun. I didn't use to make copies of the originals but I definitely do now and you can guess why. I also like the EDL tip. I'll keep that in mind. Interesting that you do all the different stages in separate sessions. Do you do this even for smaller projects? –  Brendan Mar 4 '11 at 21:36
    
@Brendan - yeah. most projects that i work on, i'm typically beginning and end of audio post. i like to split out different elements (dialogue, effects, ambience/bg, music, etc.) into the different sessions, because it makes premix easier. when i'm done editing, i get the levels set/balanced with respect to each element within that category. then when i start final mix, i'm usually using vca's and aux's to make global adjustments to the groups. it's rare that i need to go back and adjust within the group. makes the final mix a lot faster for me. –  Shaun Farley Mar 4 '11 at 22:42
    
@Brendan - for the real simple stuff (like commercial spots or what have you), i'll keep everything in one session; it's just overcomplification to do otherwise. –  Shaun Farley Mar 4 '11 at 22:45
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check the stuff in this thread for a wide ref:

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/post-production-forum/550303-open-letter-video-editors-things-sound-mixers-wish-you-would-do.html

Here's what I posted there:

requirements for AAF:

* head and tail sync pops
* handles (min 3 seconds, pref 5 seconds)
* original sync audio even if alts have been selected
* no audio has been destructively processed in any way

requirements for quicktime:

* small timecode burn in
* quicktime framerate that matches tc burn

don't expect things to come back in sync and sounding right if you don't deliver all of the audio elements in sync and as high res as possible.

above and beyond:

* volume rides showing intent
* written notes
* organized tracks
* realistic deadlines

going above and beyond isn't incredibly difficult, but it is outside of the minimum requirements you'll need to get your project done well. Going above and beyond will get your project done more efficiently and with fewer human errors, however.

I'll add that getting all soundrolls and logs well in advance can help with prep and give the post facility something to get started with even before picture comes in.

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Thanks for the link Rene. I hadn't seen that. –  Brendan Mar 4 '11 at 21:37
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Shaun and Rene gave great answers, so i'll just add things that they haven't mentioned:

  • At AFTRS, where i studied, the editors are taught to lay out (assuming they're working with 2 audio tracks per clip - this would be different if they're using 4) tracks 1-4 as location sound, 5-6 as sound FX, and 7-10 as music. I can't remember exactly, but this was pretty much it, and it worked well.

  • I prefer DV streams if they're delivering in person. DV is a little big for ftp, so i ask for motion jpeg A if they're delivering online. However, this is an old (legacy) codec, which a lot of editors won't know how to access, so if it's not a huge project i'll accept an mpeg. With burnt in timecode in the top right corner (or somewhere that won't obscure stuff you'll need to foley).

  • Another practice the editors are taught at AFTRS is to deliver, in the guide track included in the video file, sync and FX on the left channel and temp music on the right. This isn't so much for us as for the composers, but it's a great idea.

  • Rene already posted this, but the editor also needs to undo any processing they've done on the audio. I've received audio that's been hammered by FCP/Soundtrack Pro noise reduction. It was horrible.

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I've gotten so frustrated in recent times with editors who think they're the "dogs bollocks" and cannot work out how to properly export an OMF or send me a video file that I want. I've had mpegs, avi's, omfs with tracks missing, unorganised audio etc.

http://michaelkammes.com/tag/pro-tools/

This page is quite helpful, although I'm sure there's others and possibly better ones out there for video editors to get a guide from.

One thing I do ask for is to deliver tracks in 1 mono channel per video track and not the typical FCP L+R channels and to label them clearly (if that's possible). It's their work and there can be times where they may have over lapped another clip onto another and you delete a channel you might accidentally delete another thing etc etc.

I also ask them to consolidate their tracks as much as possible.

hardcoded TC at the correct fps, starting at 10:00 and 2 pops to bring it in.

Out of the last 5 films I've done post for, I've had all of this once... the one time I didn't ask for it... brought a smile to my face :)

Another point is, the sound recordist should really organise the sound files as well and clearly label and place them in folders... ambiance, foley, dialogue, wildtrack etc before delivering to vid editor, hopefully the vid editor picks up on this and starts dropping room tones, ambiances etc in and even lays out better dialogue options as ideas.

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That Michael Kammes doc is great. Not being an FC guy, it's been very handy to just forward that along to newbie editors. Has anyone ever had problems similar to this? youtube.com/watch?v=s5VLHDLiIHw Once again, I don't know FC but editors have complained about sync issues and I send them this clip and it all works out. ? –  Brendan Mar 7 '11 at 19:33
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