Polishing Gems

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(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Understanding Track Sensitivity

The results you get when using several functions depends on which tracks are enabled/ selected in the Timeline window and how the transitions are constructed (i.e. straight cuts or split edits/”L-Cuts”). I call this Track Sensitivity. The functions that have this programming behavior are as follows:

  • Fast Forward & Rewind

  • Mark Clip

  • Go to Previous Edit and Go to Next Edit

How to do it…

Let’s use the Fast Forward function to present the basic steps, and to point out the differences in the results, depending on what Track Selectors are enabled. In this example recipe, it’s important to understand that we have several different segments (shots) in the sequence that have been placed on tracks V1, A1, and A2, and that the transition between each shot is a split edit (in other words, the cuts between shots are not straight, but are instead staggered. This is frequently referred to as an L cut). Follow these steps:

  1. On the Record Track Selector Panel, enable only the V1 Track Selector.

  2. Place the blue Position Indicator line at the beginning of the sequence.

  3. Click on the Fast Forward function and notice that the Position Indicator jumps to the next transition (cut) on the V1 track.

  4. Click on the Fast Forward button a second time. Again, it jumps to the next transition on the V1 track.

  5. Now, along with the V1 Track Selector, also, enable the A1 and A2 Track Selectors. In other words, enable all the Track Selectors.

  6. Place the Position Indicator at the beginning of the sequence.

  7. Click on the Fast Forward function. Notice that the Position Indicator does not jump to the next transition on the video track. Instead, it has jumped farther down the sequence. Potentially, it has even jumped to the very end of the sequence.

How it works…

Whenever you use Mark Clip, Fast Forward/Rewind, or Go to Previous/Next Edit, Media Composer is always looking for edit points (transitions) to pay attention to. When you have two or more tracks enabled, Media Composer is looking for the transitions that exist at the same time on all the tracks that are enabled.

Below is a comparison of two situations, using the Mark Clip function as an example.

In the first example, you have only the Video track enabled and you park your Position Indicator (blue line) within the segment you want to mark, as shown in the following screenshot:

When you click on the Mark Clip button, you can imagine that Media Composer sends out radar (metaphorically, of course) in both directions from the Position Indicator, as shown in the following screenshot:

On the selected track, when it detects a transition to the left-hand side, it places the Mark In, and when it detects a transition to the right-hand side, it places the Mark Out. Refer to the following screenshot:

That’s easy enough. But what happens when there are multiple tracks enabled? In these cases, the metaphorical radar is looking for transitions that occur at the same time on all the tracks that are enabled.

In this second example, let’s look at the same Sequence as earlier, but let’s enable V1, A1, and A2, as shown in the following screenshot:

When you click on the Mark Clip button, Media Composer sends out its radar in both directions from the Position Indicator, as shown in the following screenshot:

When it detects a simultaneous transition on all the selected tracks to the left-hand side, it places the Mark In and when it detects a simultaneous transition on all the selected tracks to the right-hand side, it places the Mark Out as shown in the following screenshot:

Fast Forward/Rewind and Go to Next/Previous Edit pay attention to the Track Selectors and transitions in the same way as Mark Clip, except the radar is sent out in just one direction (either to the left or to the right).

There’s more…

You can tell these functions not to pay attention when multiple tracks are enabled. In other words, you can make Media Composer ignore the Track Selectors. If you do this, then the radar pays attention to every transition on every track. This can be accomplished in different ways, depending on the function, and is discussed below.

Fast Forward/Rewind

These are the two methods that allow you to alter the default behavior:

  • Method 1: Press the option/Alt key while using either Fast Forward or Rewind. Now the Position Indicator stops at every edit point (transition) on every track no matter what tracks are enabled.

  • Method 2: Make Fast Forward and Rewind always ignore the Track Selectors (and save yourself the need of pressing the option or the Alt key). Go to the Project Window | Settings tab | Composer settings | FF/REW tab, and then enable the selection that says Ignore Track Selectors.

Mark Clip and Go to Previous/Next Edit

Below are the two methods that allow you to alter the default behavior:

  • Method 1: Press the option/Alt key when using the Go To Previous/Next Edit or Mark Clip functions. Using option/Alt key along with Go to Previous/Next Edit makes the Position Indicator stop at every edit point (transition) on every track. Using option/Alt key along with Mark Clip will mark the duration based on the two closest transitions from the Position Indicator on any track. This is useful enough that I have both Mark Clip as well as option/Alt + Mark Clip (see Method 2) mapped to my keyboard.

  • Method 2: Unlike Fast Forward/Rewind, there isn’t a setting to change the way Mark Clip and Go to Previous/Next Edit behave, but all is not lost. If you’d rather not hold down the option/Alt key with these functions, you can add the option/Alt modifier right to the button, so it becomes a one button-push operation. I’ll use the Go to Previous/Next Edit function in their default locations on the A and S keys for the example of how to do this below.

Follow these steps:

  1. Open your Keyboard settings by clicking on the Project Window | Settings tab | Keyboard.

  2. Open the Command Palette by clicking on Tools menu | Command Palette.

  3. Enable the Button to Button Reassignment selection in the lower left side of the Command Palette.

  4. On the Command Palette, select the tab labeled as Other.

  5. In the first column of buttons on the Command Palette you’ll see a button labeled Add Option Key (on Mac) or Add Alt Key (on PC).

  6. Drag-and-drop the Add Option Key function or the Add Alt Key function right onto the Go to Previous Edit button on your keyboard (if it’s still in its default location, it’s on the letter A key).

  7. After adding this, get out your magnifying glass. If you look closely, you’ll see a very small black dot has appeared just below the arrow symbol to indicate that the option/Alt modifier has been added.

  8. Repeat step 6 for the Go to Next Edit button.

Snapping actions for the Position Indicator and in Segment Mode

With just a couple of keyboard shortcuts, you can make your Position Indicator snap right to the transition you want, and in the exact position you need, exactly on the head frame (first frame) or on the tail frame (last frame).. Plus, the convenient thing is that Media Composer uses the same keyboard shortcuts for segments when you’re moving them around.

How to do it…

Let’s begin by making the Position Indicator or a segment Snap to Head. Follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold the cmd (on Mac) or Ctrl (on PC) keys.

  2. To make the Position Indicator snap, drag it forward or backward in the sequence, or click the cursor near a transition, to make the Position Indicator snap to the Head Frame (first frame) of a segment.

  3. To make a segment snap, do the following: Select a segment with either Segment Mode arrow (red or yellow). Now, when dragging segments, holding the cmd or Ctrl key makes the beginning (left-hand side, or head) of the segment snap to transitions that exist on any track.

  4. Next we’ll make the Position Indicator or a segment Snap to Tail.

  5. Press and hold the keys cmd + option/Ctrl + Alt.

  6. Drag the Position Indicator forward or backward in the sequence, or click the cursor near a transition, to make the Position Indicator snap to the Tail Frame (last frame) of a segment.

  7. Select a segment with either Segment Mode arrow. Now, when dragging segments, holding cmd + option/Ctrl + Alt makes the end (right-hand side, or tail) of the segment snap to transitions that exist on any track.

There’s more…

Below are two additional keyboard shortcuts that apply only when you’re using Segment Mode, along with some helpful details about snapping with the Position Indicator and placing Marks.

Additional Segment Mode shortcuts

Press the cmd + Shift keys (on Mac) simultaneously or Ctrl + Shift keys (on Windows) simultaneously — this is useful when you want to move segment(s) from one track to another without getting out of sync. This keyboard shortcut will lock (constrain) segments into their current place in time on the Timeline when you move them up or down to another track. It should be noted that, at the time of writing, when you use this keyboard shortcut and move a segment, you will hear an alert sound. This is actually telling you that you have either enabled or disabled what Avid refers to as Four Frame Display. Using this keyboard shortcut was how Four Frame Display was enabled and disabled in the past. Now that it has been programmed to constrain segments to moving only up or down, it has become a bit of an annoyance. I’m sure that the enable/disable programming will be removed in a future release.

Press option (on Mac) or Alt (on Windows) — this keyboard shortcut actually doesn’t control snapping, but since it has to do with moving segments, it made sense to include it here. Press the option key or Alt key while moving segments (and moving slowly) to ensure that you are moving just one frame at a time, regardless of the level of detail (how zoomed in or out you are) in the Timeline window.

Details about snapping

When you have snapped the Position Indicator line to the head of a segment, Media Composer will display a rather small, white, for lack of a better term I’ll call it a bracket symbol, in the lower left-hand side corner of the Record Monitor. When you’ve snapped to the tail, the bracket symbol will be displayed in the lower right-hand side corner of the Record Monitor. Refer to the following screenshot:

Paying attention to where you place the Position Indictor is important as you edit. Notice that when you zoom in (using More Detail or the Scale Bar) to take a very close look at the Position Indicator, you’ll see that the blue line isn’t one single line at all. This is because the Position Indicator parks on, and designates, one frame. It’s actually made of two lines. The solid line of the Position Indicator is on the left-hand side (the head) of the frame and the dotted line is on the right-hand side (the tail) of the frame. When you set a Mark In, it’s placed on the head side, and when you set a Mark Out, it’s placed on the tail side. The following screenshot shows that just one frame has been marked:

Enabling and disabling all Track Selectors from the keyboard

There will be a variety of instances when enabling or disabling all the Track Selectors will be necessary or helpful. One example is when you have many tracks and before you make an edit, you have to scroll up or down to check the status (enabled or disabled) of the hidden tracks. However, with the help of the next simple recipe, you can enable/disable all the tracks (even the ones you can’t see).

How to do it…

Follow these steps:

  1. Select the Source Window, Record Window, or the Timeline Window.

  2. Use one of these keyboard shortcuts found in the Edit Menu:

    • Press cmd and A keys (on Mac) or Ctrl + A keys (on Windows) simultaneously to select all tracks

    • Press the A key along with Shift and Cmd (on Mac), or Shift and Ctrl (on Windows) to deselect all tracks

There’s more…

Media Composer also allows you to map all 24 video Track Selectors and all 24 audio Track Selectors to the keyboard. You’ll find them in Tools menu | Command Palette | Tracks tab. However, by default, Media Composer lets you enable or disable Track Selectors from the keyboard for a small number of tracks. Here is the default Track Selector keyboard mapping: V2 on the 7 key, V1 on the 8 key, A1 on the 9 key, A2 on the 0 key, A3 on the — key, and A4 on the = key.

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