Round-Tripping to Avid Media Composer

Hi everyone, Grant Kay here for the Smoke Learning Channel. In this video, we’ll examine the workflow of round-tripping a sequence to Avid Media Composer. We will look at the process of preparing a sequence in Smoke, publishing an AAF and re-conforming in Avid Media Composer. Now for a few previous versions, Smoke has had the ability to conform sequences from Avid Media Composter using AAFs. You could perform additional editorial or effects operations and the entire production could be completed in Smoke. Using Smoke 2016, you can now send AAFs back to Avid Media Composer. So if you wanted to do additional work such as cut-downs and versioning but the Smoke is not available, than it is now possible to send the sequence to Avid Media Composer. This could be in your facility or even another facility that doesn’t utilize Smoke. In either case, the structure of the sequence will be preserved as much as possible. But please note that this does not carry across the Smoke VFX settings, as they cannot be translated into the AAF. Any VFX settings will be baked into the published media. So let’s go through the workflow of exporting an AAF to re-conform in Avid Media Composer. Now there are a lot of options available to address different scenarios. Please take care to read the documentation for detailed explanations as well as the limitations with each publishing option. So here is a sequence that was conformed and finished in Smoke. As I scrub through the sequence, I want to point out that some of the shots use time warps but all the segments have various other TimelineFX. At the end of the sequence, there is a multi-layered ConnectFX segment as a well as a composited title on the top track. As a small suggestion, please rename any ConnectFX segments to ensure that they publish with a unique filename. So I’ll switch to the MediaHub to send this sequence with all its effects back to Avid Media Composer. Now I’ll go to a folder where I want to publish the AAF and the media. Now to perform the export, you can either right-click on the sequence clip and choose to export. Or simply drag the clip into the file window on the MediaHub. The Media Export window appears. If you wanted a flattened movie file, just choose to export a movie and choose whatever codec settings you need. However to output the sequence as an AAF, choose to perform a sequence publish. If you open the format presets, there are three AAF options to publish to Avid Media Composer. All these options will export the AAF containing the sequence but the media settings will vary. The first two presets are set to publish various flavours of DNxHD to accompany the AAF. Please note that you can edit them and make your own custom presets. But your choice of media should be based on the recipient application. Now the third and final preset is to export an AAF with no media. This means the AAF will be referencing the original media that was imported into Smoke 2016. But I want to round-trip a sequence that contains all the work already done in Smoke. In order to do this, Smoke needs to generate its own media that will be tied into the AAF. Now when it comes to third party applications, Avid Media Composer typically favours DNxHD and Final Cut Pro favours ProRes. So for this example, I’ll choose to export an AAF with DNxHD media. Now notice that the codec is DNxHD but the wrapper will be a MOV file. When this is imported, Avid Media Composer will recognize the media and transcode it to the required formatting. So I’ll use this preset as my main starting point. Now let’s look at the Advanced Options to understand what will happen during the sequence publish. The AAF is set to include all video tracks and audio tracks. Beneath the naming settings, you will find all the options to control the media. Firstly, if Export Video and Export Audio were disabled, only an AAF will be exported. In this workflow, the AAF will only refer to the original media outside of Smoke. Any internally generated media such as colour frames, hard commits or even ConnectFX will not be exported as media. And since that media doesn’t exist, you will get Media Offline messages for those segments in Avid Media Composer. So if you just want to push editorial metadata between applications using the original source media than just export the AAF. This is this the third option in the preset list. If you want to take into account the media that Smoke is generating as well as transcode the media into a common format, than choose to export Video and Audio. All the media will be exported as movie files rather than image sequences, as that is easier to import into Avid Media Composer. Now in terms of the exported media, you have two options. The settings in this preset are set to “USE MEDIA WITH FX”. We’ll come back to this setting in a minute but I’d like to quickly discuss the other setting called “USE ORIGINAL MEDIA”. This means that copies of the original media will be generated and all effects will be stripped out. The two exceptions are Time Warps and ConnectFX segments. They are purposely committed in order to keep the sequence timings. So you can think of this as a form of consolidation and there are 10 frame handles for the original media as a default. The other option that I intend to use is “USE MEDIA WITH FX”. Now all the finishing was done in Smoke. I want to keep everything that I have done as well as the structure of the sequence. In this case, frame handles will possibly be ignored since they are not rendered as part of the effects on each segment. Keep all tracks means that we keep the structure of the sequence. Now you could go to the Movie options and toggle between different movie file formats. But in terms of the codec and compression, you can set whatever DNxHD flavor you want. So that takes care of the advanced options you need to know about. Finally, I like to enable USE TOP VIDEO TRACK to ensure everything is included in the sequence publish. And the option is there to either use background or foreground exporting. I’ll choose foreground and press the export button. Whether the media is rendered or not, Smoke will process any effects in the sequence to ensure a proper export of all the necessary media. Once that is complete, Smoke will begin to export each segment and associate it with the newly generated AAF. This will take time depending on the length of the sequence. So let’s jump ahead to the completed publish. So in the destination folder, a new folder has been created based on the sequence clip name. When you enter into that folder, you will find the AAF as well as another folder containing all the new media files for the conform. Now let’s jump into Avid Media Composer and see how it conforms as a sequence. So the first step is to import the AAF. Right-Click in the Bin and choose to import from the pop-up menu. In the import window, you can navigate to the folder containing the AAF file. Select it and open the file into the bin. The sequence is added to the bin but you also get the accompanying source clips. If I double-click on the sequence, a message pops up to update the sequence. This sometimes happens depending on what was added to the sequence in Smoke. Click OK and a new sequence will be generated. When you scrub through the sequence, you are notified that all the media is offline. So importing the AAF brings in all the metadata for the edit. But since the media is not native to the Avid file system, it needs to be imported and relinked as a separate process. Select all the entries in the bin. Right-click and choose BATCH IMPORT from the pop-up menu. In the pop-up window, choose to import clips with offline media only. The Batch Import window appears and it indicates that no clips are found. If you were using Smoke and Avid Media Composer on the same system, the file paths would probably be the same. However on a different system, you may need to change the file path. Select all the entries in the list. Click SET FILE LOCATION. Now navigate to the MEDIA folder that was created with the AAF. Go inside the folder and choose any file. When you click open, you go back to the import window and the File Location updates to the current path for the published media. Now select all the entries again and press IMPORT. Media Composer starts to import and transcode the media into the correct format for its file system. Once this is complete, the sequence is updated and the media is relinked. When you play the sequence, you will see all the edit and effects work that was carried out in Smoke 2016. Just so that you see the difference, here is the sequence that was published with USE ORIGINAL MEDIA. Notice how the TimelineFX and ConnectFX were baked in but the rest of the sequence shows the original exported material. And finally, here is the results of the AAF only publish from Smoke. Notice that the edit links back to the original media. But as I mentioned earlier, effects such as Timewarps and ConnectFX do not link because no media was exported when you only export the AAF. And this is the timeline we did earlier including the media with FX. Please ensure that you read the Smoke documentation to understand what is supported as well as the limitation with the Avid Media Composer AAF publish. Comments, feedback and suggestions are always welcome and appreciated. Thank you for watching and please subscribe to
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