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iPontificateThe Good, the Bad, & the Ugly Duckling: Pro Export FCP & Avid


- June 24th, 2005

More than likely, anyone who has spent a fair amount of time editing a video project of dubious length is familiar with the amount of dedication involved on such a task. You know, the kind that you spent your own money on, called in favors from colleagues and friends to help with the initial production, essentially bleeding yourself with a cut deep enough to shed some valued blood, but not deep enough to really kill your kind of film. You got the XL1. You storyboarded and shot listed the entire project. You film it. You have a rocking wrap party. Then sit down in front of your Mac to get into the dirty business of cutting the piece.

This was the story of last summer's production of Delirium 5. One of my closest friends and occasional collaborator on Frameline articles, Andy Fisher, sat down to cut the fifth installment of a weird and unconventional experiment known as Delirium. This series was actually the first opportunity I was given in the pre-pubescent stages of my own film career. This was the last installment in the five part series we shot before Andy left for the tinsel strewn Mecca of chewed up actors and filmmaking pilgrims, commonly referred to as Hollywood.

After a good bit of cutting on his older G4 system, Andy purchased the latest G5, and updated to version 4.5 of Final Cut Pro, and sat down to continue the editing process of the short film. Problems started to pop up when Andy tried to open up the project on his new system with the updated version of FCP. Often times the application took 20 minutes to simply open the project. After speaking with Apple Tech Support and trouble shooting the problems, it was determined that his new G5 required a new logicboard.

After sending his system back to Apple, a new board was installed and the system was shipped back to Andy, who at this point was really anxious to continue editing the piece. After starting up the repaired G5, the problems were still present. Other issues that continued to pose problems included lost media and complete system freezing when working within Final Cut.

After trouble shooting for a month or so, which included complete Final Cut re-installs, the problem of the project had yet to be isolated. I mentioned to Andy the application Pro Export FCP from Automatic Duck, might help resuscitate the mangled edit that was causing him such grief. Pro Export FCP is a little utility designed for transferring a Final Cut Pro timeline into and Avid based NLE. Andy also uses Avid DV Express on his Mac for cutting other projects and at his day job at the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, where he works as an editor.

Pro Export FCP is very simple to use for transferring the project to an Avid cutter. The timeline data is exported as an OMF file, and after a few mouse clicks can be opened in the new timeline. From Final Cut Pro, a user simply selects the 'export as OMF' function to get the new project into Avid.

"Importing the OMF file created from
Final Cut Pro within Avid DV Express"
(Click the thumbnail for a (much) larger image)
After loading up Avid, open a new project or bin, and select the OMF file for importing. The new timeline will pop up, but don't be immediately alarmed, the timeline will be covered in the red indicators letting you know the media is offline. All the layers created in the Final Cut sequence are retained, but getting them re-connected will be next on a user's plate.There are several steps that need to be taken before freely editing the project. Since Final Cut uses QuickTime files for the editing on the timeline, it is necessary to re-batch all the clips attached to any project. This can be time consuming especially when the project uses a ton of media and video footage from several tapes, but is necessary in order to complete the transfer from FCP to Avid.

You must re-capture the media in Avid before you can save the project safely. Relinking the media would be a simple solution instead of batch capturing, but again, Avid and FCP use different types of media files.

There are some additional limitations involved with the transfer of a Final Cut project into an Avid application. Graphics do not move intact to the new project. If you have created motion graphics such as title crawls or overlays, anything besides media clips, must be deleted from the timeline and re-imported into Avid.

Photoshop or After Effects graphics must also be re-imported into the project. This also includes music or audio files that are separate from the batch captured clips. If there is anything "red" on the Avid timeline, it must be deleted or re-imported. You must have the timeline empty of any red markers before you can save the project effectively.

"The new sequence on the Avid timeline.
Note the vast amounts of red - Don't worry, you'll be OK.
(Click the thumbnail for a (much) larger image)

Overall, Automatic Duck's Pro Export FCP is a great little utility when it is necessary to transfer a Final Cut Pro project into an Avid based NLE. It does however take some work to get the new project up and running. The actual steps involved in the transfer of the project are quite simple, it is the additional steps needed after importing the project into Avid that take up the bulk of time using the utility.

This app would be a great addition to any edit facility running multiple systems and platforms. Offline edits can be completed on a Final Cut system with junior or assistant editors, with the final project being completed on an Avid Symphony or something similar. As long as the graphics haven't been laid down and the project is in a rough cut, or assembled stage of it's life, Pro Export FCP can really fill a gap between the competing platforms.

With five years in the entertainment industry, and three years writing for The Mac Observer, works passionately on various genres of film, including documentaries, narrative features, and shorts. He has two feature films under his belt as Director of Photography and Camera Operator, and his current role at TMO is to cover digital media and the film industry.

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