Tech Corner – Software Add-Ons

February 23, 2023

With the move to remote editing, I have managed to avoid the one scenario that wouldn’t work for me: controlling an Avid workstation remotely. Fortunately, all the media from my current production gets transferred tomy work drives overnight, so I am working locally. Most other editors I’ve talked to are remote-controlling an edit system from home, using Teradici, HP RGS or Jump Desktop. Working that way would be very difficult for me. First, I use an abundance of additional software to get my work done more efficiently … and with more fun. Remoting into a workstation would make that much more complicated, if not impossible. Second, many of these programs are macOS only, and most of the remote setups are anchored by Windows PCs.

My software add-ons include programs to connect to and communicate over the web, plugins for Media Composer (or Premiere Pro), and several standalone supporting programs. I could work without them … but not very happily. The first two programs that I use for remote editing scenarios are Evercast and its supporting program EBS.

Aren’t we all using Evercast by now? I’ve been using it for the two seasons of the NBC series La Brea. Editors are probably quite familiar with it, so there are only a few things  to remark about. It easily connects people from Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Melbourne, Sydney, etc. on the same edit session.

Most notable, the support offered by the Evercast team is almost without equal. Any request for help is answered quickly. And the support staff stays engaged until the problem is resolved. I’ve had great experiences working with them. The biggest problem with Evercast isn’t something they can solve: your local ISP, which is your connection to the internet from the home. One can purchase the highest data rates from Spectrum, but that doesn’t mean the connection is a consistent speed, without dropped information. And there aren’t always other options for high-speed internet. So, I’m stuck with Spectrum.

EBS is the software that connects your NLE and the internet. Evercast can do the same if it runs on your workstation. But Evercast can’t change the volume from your NLE to the client, a control which EBS has. Oddly, no other control on your local system can change this setting, so the volume sent to your clients is way too loud. Until that problem is solved, EBS is the way to go.

Unfortunately, this is far from a perfect system. EBS crashes frequently, for unknown reasons. And the connection outbound can drop out unexpectedly, and often, again for no apparent reason.

Plugins – These additions to your workstation add a tremendous number of creative options.

Boris Continuum Complete (reviewed last in CE 2021 1QTR): This is the visual effects workhorse I couldn’t work without. I most commonly use the different film looks (Film Styles), greenscreen keyer (Primatte Studio), blurs and light effects. Just  ‘shopping’ through all the plugins this package offers is a treat. And a rabbit hole. One of the more fun BCC plugins is Particle Illusion, which can create temp explosions, fireworks or even aflamethrower. Title Studio and Corner Pin Studio are fantastic,but much harder to learn. Actually, any of the last three aren’t a cakewalk to learn, but well worth the effort. La Brea is a visual effects heavy show, so BCC is used extensively (to aid those with little imagination).

Mocha Pro: I haven’t done a full review of the Mocha Pro standalone plugin, but I have created a demo of what it can do (https://youtu.be/64LQnKtzuMc). It is Animatte on steroids. But so much more. It can stabilize shots. It can split screen one character into a different take, while matching the image movement flawlessly. It can replace eyes, say when an actor blinks in the wrong spot. You can paint out unwanted objects from a clip. It can replace a sign within a moving shot, with people/objects moving in front of it.

It is such a valuable tool, BorisFx has added it to many of its BCC plugins. The standalone version, however, has unique and more powerful tools.

Isotope Voice De-Noise (reviewed CE 2022 4QTR): This Isotope AVX audio plugin is up to version 10, but version 6 is still free from your Avid Link account, and it still works great. Whether it is wind, movement or rustle, Isotope does a great job of limiting noise and isolating dialogue. Great for places like Australia, which seems to be about the noisiest place on earth.

The next category is software add-ons, which make an editor’s life a lot easier.

Audio Hijack: When you work on a show where the writers are constantly writing new ADR lines to explain the plot, it is very handy to have a very good mic and audio recording software. Yes, Avid has a built-in recorder, Audio Punch-in, but it traditionally is slow and not very flexible.

Audio Hijack from Rogue Amoeba software can record from any source on your computer: either a microphone plugged into a USB slot, a program such as Spotify, or a browser window. As you can see from this window, you can choose several ways to manipulate the sound, such as EQ and Volume, record to several different formats, place it in any location and monitor the recording in different ways. A perfect program to record my temp
ADR from my Shure microphone. It is so good, I think one of my temp ADR lines slipped through to the final broadcast!

Soundminer Plus: I’ve not found a better program for searching large sound effects and music libraries, displaying the audio waveform, and reviewing the found sounds. It also can edit the sound file’s metadata. Shown in the reduced-sized window example is the music from La Brea composer James Levine. I’ve taken the final cues from Season 1 and added descriptions to each clip, as well as show and composer. Those extra fields of info get written into the file, so if I move to another computer, I can load that information into a new installation of Soundminer.

There are several ways of searching the database, over many different text fields, which is extremely helpful searching large sound effects libraries. You can limit the search to a particular library, sound category and sort by rating, etc. Also, you can see the waveform of each clip to the left of the file name. Clicking into that field plays the sound from that point. And at the bottom, is the expanded view of the stereo file. Once you’ve found the sound(s) you’re looking for, you can drag and drop them into a Media Composer bin. Or select only the portion you want from the waveform display, and only that will be imported.

The downside of this system is you cannot play .mxf files, which is the only file type Media Composer uses for picture and sound. It means I need my full sound effects and music libraries available as .wav files. I’m not sure I could make this work if my workstation was at a different location.

Shutter Encoder is my replacement for Adobe’s Media Encoder. There was a period where I kept an active Adobe Premiere subscription, but the need has waned. And Media Composer can no longer do Same-As-Source/QuickTime Reference exports, so there’s less of a need for a standalone video compression. Shutter has a very simple set of controls. Drop a file in, choose the export type, guess the size you want, then hit Start. And best of all it is free! But tip the proprietor, please.

Another category is software that works with control surfaces.

Avid Control/EU Control (reviewed in CE 2022 3QTR): Avid Control is a software add-on that uses a free Avid plugin (EUControl) to control your audio mixer from an iPad. So, you need an iPad. But it makes great use of a control surface rather than mouse clicking in Media Composer.

Touch Portal (reviewed CE 2022 1QTR): This program links your iPad to your workstation via Wi-Fi, which makes it another program I couldn’t use if my workstation was remote. It allows you to trigger keystrokes/macros on your workstation from the control surface. It could be as simple as command+S to save your work. Or it can trigger a complicated macro to, for example, turn off all tracks in your timeline, turn on only V1 and A1, and open the bin of the clip where you’re currently parked in the timeline.

Stream Deck (reviewed CE 2022 1QTR): I had moved away from this piece of hardware for a while,favoring the Wi-Fi attached Touch Portal, but have moved back to Stream Deck. Because of using Evercast over an Ethernet connection, I’m requested to turn Wi-Fi off. Which kills Touch.Portal. But Stream Deck is connected via USB. In combination with Keyboard Maestro, it can control just about everything you want to trigger in Media Composer. Some of the icons used in Stream Deck and Touch Portal I’ve created in Affinity Designer. There is also a downloadable set of icons, available for purchase at SlideshowFX.

The final category is system programs and utilities for controlling your computer.

Pro Find: a very fast and simple program for finding files/names on any attached storage. The fastest program I’ve found.

HoudahSpot: also a file search program, but can also find words within files. More complicated to operate, but it can be very helpful.

Elmedia Player: This is a very good replacement for QuickTime Player. It can play any video or audio format, including Avid’s .mxf files. It is the only
player I know that can do that.

Keyboard Maestro (first mini-reviewed in CE 2011 4QTR): This is the best program an editor can use, outside of an NLE. It is a macro program, which means it takes an input from a keyboard or attached controller, and runs a series of programmed steps. I use it with keyboard combinations, with the Stream Deck controller, with my mouse, and with an external USB attached keyboard. There is no end of things you can automate with Keyboard Maestro.

I even use more software tools than this, but these are the main ones. At the very least, I get enjoyment learning how to use them in my work. So, stay alive. Don’t be boring.

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