… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #216: Determining “Indeterminate”

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

The unknown is not unknowable.

The Premiere Pro CC Media preference panel.
The Media preference panel sets the timebase for still images.

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“Indeterminate” sounds pretty squishy. But, when it comes to Premiere, it is a fancy word for still images, or any other file that doesn’t have a definite duration. Hence – “indeterminate.”

Go to Premiere Pro > Preferences > Media (Windows: Edit > Preferences > Media).

At the top of this panel, you can specify the timebase of all imported still images, the starting timecode for each still image clip, and whether the frame count should start at 0 or 1.

Since still images are timecode-free, my recommendations are:

  • Set the timecode to match the timecode of your sequence.
  • Set the timecode to start at 00:00:00:00
  • Set the frame count to start at 1

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… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #194: What is Audio Skimming?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Audio skimming provides a high-speed preview of clip audio.

Click this icon to enable audio skimming in FCP X.

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I have a love/hate relationship with skimming. I love using it in the Browser because it allows me to quickly review clips, but hate using it in the Timeline because it always seems to get in my way.

NOTE: You can toggle skimming on or off by typing S.

However, there’s a special form of skimming that you may not know about: audio skimming.

NOTE: The Blade, Trim and Range tools all act as skimmers when they are active.

By default, when you turn on skimming, you can quickly see the video, but not hear the audio. To turn on audio skimming, either click this icon so it turns blue, or type Shift + S.

Now, when you drag over audio, you’ll hear it. (And even if you drag quickly, FCP X compensates for the speed and pitch adjusts the audio so it sounds normal.)

EXTRA CREDIT

Taking this one step further, you can turn on clip skimming, which allows you to hear the audio from one clip, but not the entire mix. For example, to hear dialog, without also hearing audio from the B-roll above it.

To enable clip skimming, first turn on audio skimming. Then, choose View > Clip Skimming (shortcut: Option + Cmd + S). Now, when you drag across a clip, you’ll just hear that clip.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #014: Optimize Audio Levels for MP3 Compression

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

MP3 compression sounds best when audio levels are not excessive.

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The MP3 audio compression standard was invented back in the days of analog audio. Because of this, the compression standard was optimized for audio levels lower than 0 dB to prevent problems with high-energy transient audio peaks, which an analog system often didn’t catch.

Specifically, MP3 audio files sound the best if average peak levels are around -6 dB.

AAC (MPEG-4) audio files, however, being newer and taking advantage of digital technology, are optimized for audio levels that peak right at 0 dB.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #031: What Determines Storage Speed?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Storage performance is key to successful video editing.

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As you might expect, storage performance is dependent upon multiple factors – and how it connects is only a part. Storage speed, which is often called “bandwidth,” is determined by:

  • How it is connected to your computer, including the protocol used for communication
  • The number of drives or devices it contains

For example, Thunderbolt 3 is very, very fast – up to 3,000 MB/second! But, if that device only has one spinning hard disk inside, the actual speed will be closer to 150 MB/second. Here are three typical examples:

  • A single spinning hard drive transfers data about 150 MB/sec.
  • A single PCIe SSD transfers data around 400 MB/sec
  • A single NVMe SSD transfers data around 2,500 MB/sec

Think of it this way: The Thunderbolt 3 protocol is a very, very large water pipe. The devices connected to it determine how much water flows inside that pipe.

You can have a very large pipe, but if you are only filling it with a garden hose, you won’t get a whole lot of water through of it.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #078: For Best Quality, Export a Master File

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

“Highest quality” doesn’t always mean matching your camera format.

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If you are in a hurry, export what you need to post and get on with your life.

However, one lesson I’ve learned over the years is that there’s never “just one version” of any project. Copies using different codecs and compression always need to be made. My recommendation is to ALWAYS export a master file of any project and archive that, so that when copies need to be made, you don’t need to reopen a project, reconnect media, re-render effects and re-export. A master file saves all that wasted time.

But, what is a master file? In terms of editing, it means exporting a video that matches your project settings. There’s no reason to export a different format, because the highest quality you can export is that which is the same as the project settings.

For example, exporting an H.264 project as ProRes 4444 will generate a larger file, but not higher quality.

This is why I recommend transcoding highly-compressed camera master files into a higher-quality intermediate codec before starting editing. Transcoding won’t improve the quality of what you shot, but it can improve the quality of transitions, effects and color grading; and, thus, the entire project prior to export.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #191: What’s In An FCP X Library Backup?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Backups, like saving, are automatic.

FCP X automatic library backups, stored by project.

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We all know that Final Cut Pro X automatically saves anything we do in the app the instant we do it. In fact, I’ve had beta builds of FCP X crash a fraction of a second after I made an edit, yet, when I restarted the app, everything I had done was saved.

Which is very cool.

But did you know that FCP X also saves a backup copy of your Library, just in case…?

NOTE: You can see all backups, grouped by project name, in [User Directory] > Movies > Final Cut Backups. The backup location can be changed using File > Library Properties.

To access a backup copy, for example, to go back in time to an earlier edit, open Final Cut, then choose File > Open Library > From Backup. Next, select the date and time of the version you want to open from the menu.

NOTE: Opening a backup will not affect the currently open Library. Instead, FCP X makes a copy of the backup, stores it in the Movies folder and attempts to link it with the original media.

EXTRA CREDIT

As you can see from the file sizes in this screen shot, you need to know that these backups are ONLY of the library database. Any media stored in the library is not backed up. For this reason, while Library backups will preserve your edits, you are still responsible for backing up all your media separately; even media stored in a Library.


… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #193: When Can Audio Levels Exceed 0 dB?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Audio levels must NEVER exceed 0 dB, except…

Increasing clip audio levels to +12 dB in FCP X.

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When can audio levels exceed 0 dB? Smile… this is a trick question. Why? Because there are two types of audio levels: Relative and Absolute.

When we adjust the levels of a clip, we are adjusting the audio levels of the clip relative to the level at which it was recorded. Most dialog is recorded at lower levels to prevent distorting the audio during the original performance. Music, which is highly processed, is mastered within a few tenths of a dB of 0. So, we generally boost levels for dialog and reduce levels for music.

Unlike clips, the levels displayed by the audio meters are the absolute audio level of your project.

So, the answer to this question is that when we adjust audio levels on a clip, we often go far above 0 dB. However, during export, audio levels displayed on the audio meters must never exceed 0 dB, or the audio on the master file will distort.


… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #143: What Do These Audio Track Header Icons Do?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Track Headers provide more control when editing a sequence

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(See Tip #134 for an explanation of the video track headers.)

Looking at the audio track headers (located on the extreme left side of the timeline), here’s what each of these icons mean:

  • Blue A1 (far left). This icon indicates the “active track.” When you edit a clip into the timeline using a keyboard shortcut, the audio goes into the track at the position of the playhead with the blue highlight. (Adobe calls this “Source Patching.”)
  • Lock. This locks a track so you can’t make changes. However, be careful with this because if you lock the audio, but don’t lock the video (or vice-versa) you can easily move the unlocked track out of sync.
  • Blue V1 (middle). When you copy a clip, the clip will paste into the LOWEST NUMBERED track with a blue highlight. Drag the blue to change track location, click it to turn it on or off. (Adobe calls this “Track Targeting.”)
  • Sync lock. Normally, when doing an insert edit, you want everything to shift down with the inserted media. This is the default setting. However, turning sync locks off means that when you insert a clip, any clips on tracks where sync lock is turned off will not move. This can be a powerful feature when you want to insert a video clip, but not break the audio tracks.
  • Mute. When clicked it makes all audio clips on this track inaudible.
  • Solo. When clicked, it makes all audio clips on all non-soloed tracks inaudible.
  • Microphone (far right). This instantly enables a track for voice over recording and begins recording according to the current voice over settings. (See Tip #136).

BONUS

Watch what happens when you click one of these controls while pressing Shift, Option or Cmd. These modifier keys allow you to control groups of these switches.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #088: Where Should You Store Media

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Internal or external storage. Which is best?

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When it comes to storage and media, there are two essential questions: How much capacity and how much speed do you need?

Most current computers – and all Macs – use high-speed SSDs for their internal boot drives. These provide blazing speed but very limited storage.

So, as you are thinking about where to store media, consider this:

  • If you have a small project, using the internal SSD is fine.
  • If you have a large project, or need to move it between computers or editors, external storage is better.
  • For best results, store cache files (and Libraries in FCP X) on the internal boot drive or your fastest external storage.
  • SSDs are about four times faster than spinning media (traditional hard disks), but spinning media holds more and is much cheaper.
  • A single spinning hard disk is fine for HD, but not fast enough for 4K or HDR
  • RAIDs are preferred for massive projects, like one-hour shows or features, large frame sizes, HDR, or faster frame rates. They hold more and transfer data faster than a single drive.
  • Don’t store media on any gear connected via USB 1, 2, or 3 Gen 1. It won’t be fast enough. Howver, you can use these devices for backups and longer-term storage.
  • Servers are fine for storing and accessing media, but they won’t be as fast as locally-attached storage.
  • In general, if you are getting dropped frame errors, it means your storage is too slow to support the media you are editing. Invest in faster storage.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #107: Speed Test: Apple Compressor vs. Adobe Media Encoder

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

You need to get work done. Which is faster?

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In a recent series of tests between Apple Compressor (v.4.4.5) and Adobe Media Encoder 2019 (AME), I discovered that, in almost all cases, Adobe Media Encoder is faster at compressing a file into either H.264 or HEVC. (Both these formats are commonly used for social media.)

In fact, the speed differences averaged 38% faster for AME compressing files into H.264; as you can see in this chart.

The results were even more dramatic when compressing different codecs into HEVC. Compressor was 45% faster, on average, when compressing into 8-bit HEVC, but AME was 75% faster when compressing into 10-bit HEVC. In fact, Compressor was unable to successfully compress a ProRes 4444 file into 10-bit HEVC; consistently failing during multiple tests.

If speed is your goal, AME is generally the better choice.