… for Random Weirdness

Tip #039: A Project Code System to Organize Media

Here’s a system I borrowed from Hollywood

Topic $TipTopic

Years ago, when I was editing behind-the-scenes documentaries for Hollywood DVD releases, I noticed a consistent project and media naming system from one of the studios. While the studio version was more complex than necessary for independent or corporate work, I modified the system to share with my students.

If you have a system to help you track your media, great! If not, use mine until you can develop your own. ANY system is better than no system when it comes to tracking media. Because the worst thing for any editor is losing a shot that you were sure you had.

Here’s a sample folder name to explain how this system works:



  • JM. A two-letter code that represents the name of the client. (For example: “Just a Moment Productions”)
  • 03. A two-number code that represents the project number for this client. (For example, this is the third project we’ve done for Just a Moment.)
  • 191022. The shoot date, in YearMonthDay format. Most often, scripts and other production notes will indicate when a particular scene was shot. This date ties the folder back to the script. Using this date format means all folders will sort in the correct date order.
  • A. The camera on a multi-camera shoot. (For example, “A” or primary camera, “B” or “C” cameras)
  • 03. The number of the camera card or hard disk shot by that camera for that day. (For example, this is the third camera card we shot that day.)

To implement this, on my media storage system, I start by creating a master folder for that client (i.e. “Just a Moment Productions”). Then, inside that Master folder, I create folders for each project for that client. Next, inside the Project folder I create a Media folder. Then, finally, inside the Media folder, I create a folder for each camera card that I shoot.

Most of the time, we can’t rename individual clips on the camera card because renamed files will break on import. So, I use this system to name the folders that I store the camera card media into rather than individual shots.

The good news is that, just by reading the folder name, you know the client, project, shoot date and camera angle of the media it contains.

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… for Visual Effects

Tip #176: 3 Better Chroma Key Tips

These tips improve how your actors look

A green-screen example.
As long as the background is evenly lit, you can light talent however you want.

Topic $TipTopic

This tip first appeared in Screencast-o-Matic.com.

It is impossible to over-state how important flat, even and well-exposed lighting is to creating a clean chroma-key. However, these three other tips also need to be considered.

  • Use separate lights for talent and background. The background needs to be bright and evenly lit top to bottom and side to side. The talent can be lit however your story requires. Never try to use the same light for both talent and background.
  • Avoid fly-away hair. Each strand catches green, which makes it flicker in the key. Bundle hair or put a hat on your talent.
  • Avoid wearing colors that match the background, unless you are looking for that “hollow body” look. Also, avoid clothing with closely arranged stripes or patterns. Herringbone and pinstripes are both no-nos.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #112: How to Update Apple’s Pro Video Codecs

These codecs benefit all Mac-based editors.

Topic $TipTopic

If you, like me, go to the Mac App Store when you get an update alert, you are missing some key updates.

When Apple updated Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor a week or so ago, they also updated the Pro Video codecs. However, these do NOT update through the Mac App Store.

These are “system-level” codecs. This means that these codecs are valuable to all editors: Avid, Premiere and Final Cut. Any Mac-based editor can benefit.

You can update to them using System Preferences > Software Update – or – this website: https://support.apple.com/kb/DL2020?locale=en_US

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #292: Cool Tip to Improve Product Shots

This is a simple, but subtle trick that improves any product.

Give your product shots a new spin!

Topic $TipTopic

Every product shot is about making the product look great. But, what do you do when the product doesn’t move.

Sure, you can zoom in and pan around. But, well, that’s pretty boring.

Here’s the tip: Put the product on a turntable. This allows you to combine multiple moves into a single shot. Now your zoom not only pulls the eye into the shot, but it also reveals new visual information, which makes the shot all that more intriguing

Adding a Lazy Susan turntable to a product shot adds energy and it’s a cheap, totally believable way to increase production value.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #303: What is MXF OP1a?

MXF is an industry-workhorse because it is so flexible.

Topic $TipTopic

MXF (Material Exchange Format) was invented by SMPTE in 2004. MXF is a container that holds digital video and audio media. OP1a (Operational Pattern 1a) defines how the media inside it is stored.

MXF has full timecode and metadata support, and is intended as a platform-agnostic stable standard for professional video and audio applications.

MXF had a checkered beginning. In 2005, there were interoperability problems between Sony and Panasonic cameras. Both recorded “MXF” – but the two formats were incompatible. Other incompatibilities, such as randomly generating the links that connect files, were resolved in a 2009 redefinition of the spec.

MXF generally stores media in separate files. For example: video, audio, timecode and metadata are all separate. This means that a single MXF container actually supports a variety of different media codecs inside it.

Another benefit to MXF OP1a is that it supports “growing files.” These are files that can be edited while they are still being recorded. (Think sports highlights.)

… for Visual Effects

Tip #101: What’s the Difference Between Color Grading and Color Correction?

Both involve color, but in different ways.

Topic $TipTopic

The short answer is that color correction fixes problems, while color grading gives images a “look.”

Typical color correction involves:

  • Removing color casts
  • Setting proper highlight and shadow levels
  • Controlling any excessive highlights (speculars)

For example, the top image was color corrected to boost highlights and increase saturation.

Color grading, on the other hand, takes what we have done in color correction and tweaks the color and grayscale levels to match the story. For example:

  • Boosting saturation for a romantic comedy
  • Decreasing saturation for dystopian scifi
  • Removing color for a film noir

And so on.

Generally, you fix problems first, then create looks second.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #228: How Much RAM Do You Need For Editing?

More RAM helps – to a point.

This chart illustrates how RAM needs increase as frame sizes increase.
RAM requirements for 30-fps, 8-bit video at different frame sizes (MB/second).

Topic $TipTopic

The way most NLEs work is that, during an edit, the software will load (“buffer”) a portion of a clip into RAM. This allows for smoother playback and skimming, as you drag your playhead across the timeline.

When a clip is loaded into RAM, it is uncompressed, allowing each pixel to be processed individually. This means that the amount of RAM used for buffering depends upon several factors:

  • How much RAM you have
  • The frame size of the source video clip
  • The frame rate of the source video clip
  • The bit-depth of the source video clip

This graph illustrates this. It displays the MB required per second to cache 8-bit video into RAM. As you can see, RAM requirements skyrocket with frame size. These numbers increase when you have multiple clips playing at the same time.

NOTE: These numbers also increase as bit-depth increases, however the proportions remain the same.

The amount of RAM you need varies, depending upon the type of editing you are doing.

  • 8 GB RAM. You can edit with this amount of RAM, but editing performance may suffer for anything larger than 720p HD
  • 16 GB RAM. Good for most editing.
  • 32 GB RAM. My recommendation for editing 4K, 6K, multicam and HDR.
  • 64 GB RAM. Potentially good for massive frame sizes, but not required.

Anything more than 64 GB of RAM won’t hurt, but you won’t see any significant improvement in performance; especially considering the cost of more RAM.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #223: What Do Render Bar Colors Mean

Premiere is fast, but sometimes not fast enough.

Different render bar colors in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.
Render bar colors indicate what needs to be rendered before playback.

Topic $TipTopic

Most of the time, Premiere can play back your sequence in real-time displaying high-quality, full frame-rate images by harnessing the power of the Mercury Playback Engine.

However, every so often, you’ll create an effect that is so complex, it needs to render for optimum playback.

DEFINITION: Render means to calculate. But “calculate” is a very boring word. “Render” is much sexier. To render an effect means we are calculating the effect and turning it into video.

How can you tell if rendering is necessary? By the color of the render bar at the top of the Timeline.

  • No bar. Everything is playing perfectly. No rendering is necessary.
  • Yellow. An unrendered section that is complex, but may not need to be rendered in order to play back the sequence in real-time and at the full frame-rate.
  • Red. An unrendered section that needs to be rendered in order to play back the sequence in real-time and at the full frame-rate.
  • Green. A fully-rendered section of the sequence.


To render some or all of a sequence, select the clips you want to render, then choose Sequence > Render Selection. A dialog appears showing the render status.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #150: USB Bandwidth

Different versions of USB provide different amounts of bandwidth

Topic $TipTopic The speed of USB has increased significantly since its initial release. For example, USB 1.0 was released January 15, 1996, with a maximum speed of 1.5 MB/second. Compare that to USB 4.0 which was released August 29, 2019, with a maximum speed of 5 GB/second! USB4 is based on the Thunderbolt 3 protocol.

However, recently, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) renamed virtually all USB versions and made things REALLY confused. Here are the new names and speeds of the different versions of USB.

Old Name Released New Name Speed
USB 2.0 April, 2000 USB 2.0 Up to 60 MB/sec
USB 3.0 Nov. 2008 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Up to 625 MB/sec
USB 3.1 July, 2013 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Up to 1.25 GB/sec
USB 3.2 August, 2017 USB 3.1 Gen 2×2 Up to 2.5 GB/sec
USB4 August, 2019 USB 4 Up to 5 GB/sec

NOTE: Keep in mind that all versions of USB, except for USB4, are optimized for small file transfers and generally don’t provide all the bandwidth that the spec calls for. I don’t recommend any version of USB earlier than USB 3.2 for video editing.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #167: 3 Tips to Picking Stock Footage

Three things to consider when looking at stock footage.

Topic $TipTopic

Wipster recently shared these stock footage tips:

1. Go for story-driven footage

Rather than settling for searching on multiple sites for stand alone stock video shots that “kind of” look similar to one another, look for story driven footage. Story-driven shots are ones that show the same subject in action and also provide multiple shot types of similar action.

2. Use high quality, Raw or Log Footage

When searching for stock footage, look for clips that enable high resolution downloads, like Raw, Arri, Red or Phantom. You won’t have to sift through a library full of less-than-stellar quality or overused footage to find what you’re looking for.

3. Don’t pay per clip. Go unlimited

Your film’s budget can easily go through the roof if you pay per clip. This is why we recommend using footage sites that use single umbrella licensing and unlimited subscription models.