Avid’s Hidden Gems

Avid Media Composer offers a few add-on options, but two are considered gems by the editors that rely on them. ScriptSync and PhraseFind are essential for many drama and documentary editors who wield Media Composer keyboards every day. I’ve written about these tools in the past, including how you can get similar functionality in other NLEs. New transcription services, like Simon Says, make them more viable than ever for the average editor.

Driven by the script

Avid’s script-based editing, also called script integration, builds a representation of the script supervisor’s lined script directly into the Avid Media Composer workflow and interface. While often referred to as ScriptSync, Avid’s script integration is actually not the same. Script-based editing and script bins are part of the core Media Composer system and does not cost extra.

The concept originated with the Cinedco Ediflex NLE and migrated to Avid. In the regular Media Composer system, preparing a script bin and aligning takes to that script is a manual process, often performed by assistant editors that are part of a larger editorial team. Because it is labor-intensive, most individual editors working on projects that aren’t major feature films or TV series avoid using this workflow.

Avid ScriptSync (a paid option) automates this script bin preparation process, by automatically aligning spoken words in a take to the text lines within the written script. It does this using speech recognition technology licensed from Nexidia. This technology is based on phonemes, the sounds that are combined to create spoken words. Clips can be imported (transcoded into Avid MediaFiles) or linked.

Through automatic analysis of the audio within a take, ScriptSync can correlate a line in the script to its relative position within that take or within multiple takes. Once clips have been properly aligned to the written dialogue, ScriptSync is largely out of the picture. And so, in Avid’s script-based editing, the editor can then click on a line of dialogue within the script bin and see all of the coverage for that line.

Script integration with non-scripted content

You might think, “Great, but I’m not cutting TV shows and films with a script.” If you work in documentaries or corporate videos built around lengthy interviews, then script integration may have little meaning – unless you have transcripts. Getting long interviews transcribed can be costly and/or time-consuming.  That’s where an automated transcription service like Simon Says comes in. There are certainly other, equally good services. However, Simon Says, offers export options tailored for each NLE, including Avid Media Composer.

With a transcription available on a fast turnaround, it becomes easy to import an interview transcript into a Media Composer script bin and align clips to it. ScriptSync takes care of the automatic alignment making script-based editing quick, easy, and painless – even for an individual editor without any assistants.

Finding that needle in the haystack

The second gem is PhraseFind, which builds upon the same Nexidia speech recognition technology. It’s a tool that’s even more essential for the documentary editor than script integration. PhraseFind (a paid option) is a phonetic search tool that analyzes the audio for clips within an Avid MediaFiles folder. Type in a word or phrase and PhraseFind will return a number of “hits” with varying degrees of accuracy.

The search is based on phonemes, so the results are based on words that “sound like” the search term. On one side this means that low-accuracy results may include unrelated finds that sound similar. On the other hand, you can enter a search word that is spelled differently or inaccurately, but as long as it still sounds the same, then useful results will be returned.

PhraseFind is very helpful in editing “Frankenbites.” Those are edits were sentences are ended in the middle, because a speaker went off on a tangent, or when different phrases are combined to complete a thought. Often you need to find a word that matches your edit point, but with the correct inflection, such as ending a sentence. PhraseFind is great for these types of searches, since your only alternative is scouring through multiple clips in search of a single word.

Working with the options

Script-based editing, ScriptSync, and PhraseFind are unique features that are only available in Avid Media Composer. No other NLE offers similar built-in features. Boris FX does offer Soundbite, which is a standalone equivalent to the PhraseFind technology licensed to them by Nexidia. It’s still available, but not actively promoted nor developed. Adobe had offered Story as a way to integrate script-based editing into Premiere Pro. That feature is no longer available. So today, if you want the accepted standard for script and phonetic editing features, then Media Composer is where it’s at.

These are separate add-on options. You can pick one or the other or both (or neither) depending on your needs and style of work. They are activated through Avid Link. If you own multiple seats of Media Composer, then you can purchase one license of ScriptSync and/or PhraseFind and float them between Media Composers via Avid Link activation. While these tools aren’t for everyone, they do offer a new component to how you work as an editor. Many who’ve adopted them have never looked back.

©2020, 2021 Oliver Peters

Stocking Stuffers 2020

The end of the year is often  a good time to enhance your edit system with goodies. There are many cyber deals, plus the workload briefly slows enough to evaluate any changes that you need to make with your system. While not necessarily holiday specials, here are a few tools that caught my eye – or that I use regularly – and are worth checking out.

Boris FX Particle Illusion. This has been a component of the Continuum suite, but last summer Boris FX made Particle Illusion available as a free, standalone application for Mac and Windows systems. It’s a real-time, GPU-based, particle generator that comes with an emitter library of thousands of presets. These include a wide range of styles, including sci-fi effects, lightning, fireworks, sparkles, data streams, HUDs, and a ton more. Particle Illusion comes with its own layer-based composition window and timeline. Preset effects can be combined and modified to create unique effects, which may be exported as key-able elements. For example, I recently used it to create snowfall and snowflake animations in a virtual holiday performance video.

Yanobox Storm. Need some really cool animated backgrounds? Yanobox to the rescue with its new Storm generator. It’s available through the FxFactory platform for Final Cut Pro, Motion, Premiere Pro, and After Effects on Intel Macs. Like Particle Illusion, Storm features over 200 animated 3D presets and templates, including fire, organic fluid effects, fractals, and much more. Parameters are easily adjusted and performance is good even on older Macs. Storm is built around a self-contained rendering engine with beautiful shading, geometry, reflections, fractions, etc.

Color Finale LUTs. You’ve bought a bunch of LUTs, because you like the cool looks they offer. But it’s hard to deal with them across various LUT libraries and NLEs. The folks at Color Trix (makers of the Color Finale 2 grading solution for Final Cut Pro), have introduced Color Final LUTs. This is a standalone LUT management tool for the Mac. You can add and browse LUT collections within a single solution. The look of that LUT can be previewed using a default image or any reference images that’s you’ve added to the application. These can be manually added or via access to your Photos library. Color Finale LUTs integrates with Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, and DaVinci Resolve. Simply select the LUTs, designate the target NLE, and Color Finale LUTs will handle copying those LUTs into the proper folders.

BounceColor.  Speaking of LUTs, here’s a collection I recently became aware of. BounceColor offers a collection of creative and technical LUTs for a range of host applications in many looks and styles. Aside from the standard types of LUTs, BounceColor also offers cross-conversion LUTs. These include the usual camera log format to Rec 709, but also Blackmagic to ARRI Log-C. Finally, the BounceColor collections also include display LUTs, which are useful on location.

iZotope Holiday Bundle. Let’s not forget audio! All of the various audio filter plug-in developers offer cyber deals. Some, like Waves, seem to have perennial discounts on selected items. I’m a fan of iZotope’s products and have written about their tools, like Ozone and RX, in the past. Right now they are offering a Holiday Bundle, which is a collection of the Elements (“lite”) versions of four of their major bundles (Ozone, Nectar, Neutron, RX), plus some extras. Some of this won’t be useful for a video editor. The extras fall into what I would call “flash and trash” effects. Nectar can be useful for voice-overs, but Neutron is mainly geared around music instruments, not full mixes. However, editors will find that the RX effects (audio repair and clean-up), along with Ozone (mastering), may quickly because go-to items. Ozone Elements only includes three modules (EQ, imager, and maximizer), which is largely what you need on your master bus for some final mastering sweetness. Even though you might only use a few of the items in the bundle, the current price is still less than two of these products on their own, even at a discount. If the bundle is to your liking, I recommend going through an audio dealer, like Sweetwater, for a better online purchasing experience.


©2020 Oliver Peters