Software To Enhance Your Bag Of Tricks

Many of today’s editors have to deal with a lot more than simple story editing. We have to learn to be artists, compositors, colorists, compressionists and much more. Although a lot of this work can be done right inside of your favorite NLE, it frequently requires having access to and knowledge of quite a few other applications. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the software with which you might want to become more familiar.


Word Processing


Other than typing scripts or writing memos, applications like Microsoft Word can be quite useful in daily editing. For instance, let’s say a client wants a three-minute-long, movie-style credit roll. Do you really want to type that from scratch in Avid’s Title Tool? Not me! Instead, why not ask the client for a Word file of the credits. Someone has had to already type the names – right? You can open the document in Word and then copy and past the names into Title Tool. Now you can concentrate on using Title Tool to correctly format the fonts and columns to get the right finished look, rather than worry about whether you misspelled the lead actor’s name.


You don’t necessarily need Microsoft Word, but mainly an application that can read either a Word file (.doc) or a Rich Text Format (.rtf) file. Apple’s Text Edit and Microsoft’s WordPad (which are included with most new computers) can read various document file formats. I also use Word to format EDL printouts so that they are easier to read. CMX 3600-formatted EDLs are actually text documents, which can be opened from the file menu in any word processing application, though Sony 9100 EDLs are not.


Image Manipulation


If there’s one thing we do a lot of besides edit – it’s dealing with graphics. Photoshop has become invaluable for this and any editor who isn’t comfortable with Photoshop is really behind the curve. I use Photoshop for all sorts of things; especially for titles, when I need a style or design more advanced that the NLE’s built-in titler will give me. It also allows me to create elements at home, which I can bring to any edit session and which can be imported into virtually any sort of SD or even HD nonlinear edit system.


There are also other photo/image software applications that are worth considering. Adobe makes “lite” versions of Photoshop if cost is a factor. In addition to Photoshop, I’ve also made extensive use of GraphicConverter ( and Paint Shop Pro ( Both give you strong image tools, but I like the fact that they can read and convert more diverse file formats than with Photoshop and that they both have advanced batch processing functions. This becomes invaluable if you need to resize 1,000 images in short order. GraphicConverter has been included with new G4s for a while, but I’m not sure if that’s still true with the new introduction of OS 10.3 (“Panther”) or the G5s. In any case, it’s a free download, with a small fee for the full version.




Adobe After Effects is the ubiquitous compositor that’s nearly everyone’s NLE sidekick, but there are quite a few other favorites, including discreet Combustion, Boris Red, Pinnacle Commotion, Eyeon Digital Fusion and Apple Shake. You should really know After Effects first, but any of the others are great additional applications (and maybe your primary choice). Boris Red ( is pretty unique in that it can function as both a standalone compositing application as well as a plug-in within most of the popular NLEs. Boris Red and FX (an NLE plug-in only) ship with Keyframer. This is a small application which can be installed on any computer and used to build moves and effect settings off-line. You can only use proxy media, but it gives you a chance to do some of your own creative R&D in “play time”.




Ever had to deal with MP3s for audio import? Some NLEs will handle these and others won’t. Not all NLEs can rip tracks directly from audio CDs. You frequently have to use a different application to get the tracks into a form your NLE will recognize. Mac OS comes with iTunes and Windows with Media Player, both of which have become rather powerful; but they often don’t do exactly what production professionals need to have done.


An application I like for simple CD ripping is Audiograbber ( It not only imports and converts CD tracks, but also offers limited processing, like level normalization on import. For more advanced audio functions, like two-track editing/processing and loop-based mixing, look at Peak ( and Apple Soundtrack for the Mac or the Sony Screenblast (formerly Sonic Foundry) products ( for the PC.


Media Conversion Cleaner XL (PC) or Cleaner 6 (Mac) and Sorenson Squeeze ( In addition to extensive file conversion capabilities, both offer sophisticated batch functions so that you can convert one or several files into a variety of target formats as part of the tasks of a single project.




The web is a vast resource of free and/or inexpensive software utilities to do all types of things that augment your workflow. Some work better than others and not all are safe for your computer, so check around before you jump in with both feet.


A number of experienced users have taken on the task of coding their own custom software to fill in gaps that they see in large commercial software packages. One such site is Switzerland’s Belle Nuit (, created by editor/programmer Matthias Buercher. Buercher has written quite a few utilities to help with editing chores – especially for Avid systems.


If you need to move layered timeline sequences from Avid or Final Cut Pro into After Effects or between Final Cut Pro and Avid, then you’ll want to thank Wes Plate (an experienced Avid editor and After Effects user) and his father. They founded Automatic Duck ( and their Automatic Composition Import is a “must have” application for many editors who use After Effects for their composited shots. 


Learning your way around these various applications will make you a better editor and one who can offer the client an extensive “bag of tricks”. After all – it’s not just about editing anymore!


© 2003 Oliver Peters