Useful Tips

In my travels, I’ve had to do a fair number of Automatic Duck project conversions. While I was learning this process, I found that there wasn’t much good information containing tips and tricks about making this process smooth. Especially now with the exodus from Apple because of FCPX, streamlining this process is more essential now than ever. I don’t propose to know all the answers, but I thought it was high time somebody started putting down their experiences so that we can start working towards some kind of a “Best Practices” document. I’m humble about my experience here, but I will say that I’ve done it a fair amount and I think my tips are good. I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave a note in the Comments section and tell me what I got right or wrong.

Quick note: What I’ll talk about here is transferring between Avid and Final Cut Pro, because that’s what I have experience doing. However, since Adobe After Effects workflows are prevalent nowadays as well, I’d love to hear about your experiences there. Please, leave comments.


Automatic Duck is shorthand for a number of programs developed by Wes Plate as a way to move editor sequences between Avid/Apple/Adobe products. Now that Wes has joined Adobe, his programs are now thankfully free to download. The apps are basically plugins for Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe After Effects, so you’ll need one of these apps (as well as Avid Media Composer, if that’s part of your workflow) in order to transfer your footage.

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Okay, just a quick tip I worked out yesterday while I was trying to organize dailies for a documentary I am working on.  The producer/directors had organized everything I needed to build out the Avid project on a hard drive: hours and hours of Quicktimes, all sorted out by subject or location.  I was going to import them in one fell swoop, but I needed some way to organize the media once it came into the Avid.  As it was, all the media arrived in one big bin.  This is where the UNC File Path comes in.

For those who don’t know, the UNC File Path is short for Universal Naming Convention and is basically a piece of metadata that tracks the folder directory location of every imported piece of media into Avid.  This is how, when you go to batch import, the Avid remembers where your imported Quicktime came from.  It records it in the UNC File Path.

So back to where I was.  Now that I have all my Quicktimes imported, I needed a way to display the UNC File Paths so that I could organize the media into separate bins.  The hard thing about this situation is the the metadata will not display in every type of Avid project.  Currently, I’m working in an SD 29.97 project since most of my media is HDV and DV.  When I go to my Bin Headings…

…and I try to select UNC File Path, it’s not an option for me.

Ahhhh! Why, Avid, why?  Why do you torment me by knowing this information and not displaying it?!?!?

Never fear, though.  When it comes to the task at hand, the Avid will give me everything I need.  Currently, the UNC File Path will only display in a 24p Avid Project.  “But Rob, my project isn’t a 24p project?”  No sweat!  In current versions of Avid Media Composer, you can still open and view video media of any project frame rate in any other project frame rate.  That means that you can still take a copy of your bin and move it into a 24p Project, view everything, organize it into any order you want, and move it back into your native project when you’re done.

Do like I do: create a 24p project with the Film radio box checked.  I called mine UNC File Path, so that I can keep it forever.

Now, make a copy of your bin that has the media you want to see the UNC File Path for, and copy it into your new 24p project.

Do the same thing as above: go to select your Bin Columns, and then, like magic, it appears.  Yay!  Go to town!

Now a quick caveat to this tip.  Thus far, I have not been able to make the Avid display this bin column in every type of project.  My tip is limited to bin and clip organization.  If for some reason you need to create any media, do NOT do it in your 24p project.  Sort the master clips into new bins and bring it back into your native resolution project.  Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than what I was doing before I figured this out.  Happy Editing!

PS – Oh yeah…hey Avid!  Can you fix this please?  I shouldn’t need a work around.  Lovingly, Rob.

Okay folks.  A quick tip here about ways to organize your media when you’re working on different projects on the same hard drive.  It requires a little maintenance, but it will work just as well as your current system and provide for an easy ability to manage media at the Finder level.  Let’s review by establishing the common Avid MediaFiles folder structure:

Hard Drive/Avid MediaFiles/MXF/1

On every hard drive where you’re currently carrying Avid media, your media lives in this folder labelled “1”. But did you know that you could rename this “1” folder to something more project-specific?  Apparently, as long as the folder is within the Avid MediaFiles/MXF folder structure and there are Avid Database files in there (those two MSM files in the folder with all your media), you can name your folder whatever you want.

But when would this come in handy?  If you’re managing multiple projects, or multiple phases of a project, such as offline and online on the same drive, this will be truly helpful.  That way, if you ever need to consolidate, manage media, or do anything when you only want to affect one project’s media and don’t want to manage it in the Avid Media Tool, you have set yourself up to do this very easily.

As a example, I was recently editing a music video on my laptop.  The media was stored locally on my internal hard drive.  Another project came up and I wanted to be able to keep the other media on my hard drive too.  So I took my current “1” folder, which I knew was only media from my music video, and I renamed it “Music Video”.  Then I imported the media from my other project.  When there isn’t a “1” folder in the Avid folder structure, Avid will automatically create one for you when creating new media, so when the media was done importing, I simply renamed the newly created “1” folder to the name of my other project.  And bang, two folders, two projects.  This came in handy when I wanted to take the music video to online on another system.  Without needing to consolidate or manage media at all, I just grabbed my “Music Video” Avid MediaFiles folder and copied it to a new hard drive.  No Media Tool necessary.

Here is an example of how I have my current work set up:

PS – Just a note: this only works to my knowledge on versions of Avid that use the MXF folder structure.  I have not investigated this on old (but still perfectly useable) OMF-based systems.