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In Final Cut Pro, when we import a media asset, a reference to the asset is placed in the project or bin, and is linked to the original media file wherever that file may be located. It could be on the desktop, on a network resource, on a card, or on a drive. This is a really excellent mechanism for short, turnaround projects since there is no time spent on copying or transcoding the file and it's available for immediate playback, editing, and output. The equivalent mechanism in Avid is known as AMA, Avid Media Access.
AMA allows Media Composer to instantly link to media from popular file-based cameras, as well as a subset of current popular multimedia files. When we link like this, the resolution of the media is determined by the original file, so there's no need to set a resolution. However, before starting any media operation, it's always a good idea to go ahead and check the status of your Format tab. Make sure that your project is either in 1080, 720, or SD. To use Avid Media Access, make sure you go to avid.com/ama and download the appropriate AMA plug-ins for your camera or workflow.
With linking to original media files like this, the pro is that I have instant access to my media. The con is since the media may be in a codec that's not optimized for editing, such as long GOP, performance with different file types can vary greatly, from quite snappy and easy to edit with to very heavy and leaden. Let's load up some media from two popular file-based cameras. First off, I am going to come down here to my bin. As you can see in the catalyst_5994 project and the AMA bin is open and active.
So with the bin active, I am going to go up to my File menu, and now I am going to choose Link to AMA Volume. The reason for this is that when popular file-based cameras produce their media, they produce it in a card structure and in that case, we want to use the AMA Volume command. Let's go ahead to our Media Drive, to the catalyst_CONTAINER, and to our source camera material, and then inside the 23976 folder, I have a P2 card called P2_hummingbirds_01.
Since this is a full P2 card structure here, I can select the parent folder. If there was more than one card, then I would select the folder that contains all the cards. Now I'll go ahead and choose, and we can see instantly, this yellow clip popped up in the bin. That's my AMA-linked P2 media there. Double-click and we can play back. (video playing) Let's do another example. With the bin active, let's return to the File menu.
We are going to Link to AMA Volume, because we are going to be looking at a card structure. This time what I would like to do is back up to my source camera folder, and I am going to be looking in the 5994 source folder this time. I am going to choose 7D_swingdance. Inside here, I have the full card structure for a Canon 7D. I am going to select the parent folder again and choose. The clip is loaded into my bin. It's highlighted bright yellow, and that's to distinguish AMA-linked clips from those clips which are in the Managed Media folder.
Again, we can load the clip up and play back. (video playing) (inaudible speech) Now, obviously, we are using a full copy of the entire camera card contents that's been transferred to the catalyst container on our media drive. We could do the same thing if we had the actual cards mounted on our system. Once we bring material like this into the bin--let me just go ahead and make the bin a little bit bigger here-- you can see that there is all sorts of metadata that comes in alongside that, such as the original file path, the manufacturer, the serial number of the camera, the model name of the camera, et cetera, et cetera.
Another way to quickly gain access to this information will be to right-click on the clip in the bin and say Get Info, and you can see there, we get a panel which gives us all of that information in a quick and easy manageable box. Okay, here is a different example, this time with media from a GoPro camera, which presents the contents more like regular multimedia files. In other words, there is no special card structure supporting these files. And when I say multimedia file I mean that that file could have come from a camera, as in this case, but it may also have been output from another piece of software, such as After Effects or even Final Cut Pro.
With the bin active, I am going to go up to the File menu and this time I am going to choose Link to AMA File(s). This is because it doesn't have a card structure like the volumes that we mount. Instead, we are just going to be linking to AMA files. Click there. This time I'm looking into the catalyst_SRC_5994 and inside there, we have GPR_firedance_01. Now I could select an individual file if I wanted to, or all of them. Let's choose all of them and open.
All into the bin there, and highlight one of them, load it into the Source viewer, (video playing) and there it is, ready to play back, mark up, and begin editing with. So now, we have seen AMA in action. Let's get into more specifics on the list of media types that you can link to using AMA. First, there is the MXF AMA plug-in. This provides direct access to media from a range of devices for manufacturers such as Canon, Omneon, Panasonic, and Sony.
This is a very important AMA plug-in, and it's required for accessing media from many of the popular cameras and media file types out there today. Note that there are two main forms of NXF: Op-Atom and Op1a. Media Composer can AMA to both types, but under the hood, Media Composer is using MXF Op-Atom. This is because Op-Atom allows for separate video and audio tracks, whereas Op1a requires the entire media object to be placed within a single container.
Op-Atom is therefore very useful in post-production since audio and video files often need to go to different places, and through different processes. Then there is the QuickTime AMA plug-in. This provides direct access to QuickTime media using the animation codec, the H264 codec, the Apple ProRes codec, or Avid codecs. The QuickTime AMA plug-in supports media credit by devices such as the AJA Ki Pro, Canon EOS 5D and 7D, the Flip Video HD camera, and so on.
Then we have the Canon XF AMA plug-in, providing direct access to media from Canon's XF300 and 305 file-based cameras. The GFCAM AMA plug-in provides direct access to media from Ikegami's HDS-V10 file-based camera and accessories. The P2 AMA plug-in provides direct access to media from Panasonic's P2 file-based cameras and accessories, both AVC-Intra and DVCPRO HD.
The RED plug-in provides access to media from RED file-based cameras. RED media is stored on RED flash or a RED drive or else delivered on some other more generic portable media. You can link to specific RD3 files on the volume or link to the entire volume. Then we have the XDCAM, XDCAM EX AMA plug-in, and this provides direct access to media from a range of Sony sources. First, it provides access to media from XDCAM HD cameras.
XDCAM HD is the optical version of XDCAM recording to disk. It also provides access to media from Sony's XDCAM EX cameras and JVC cameras running in the EX mode. Plus, there is also support for Sony's HDCAM SR Lite media in MXF format, both at 422 and 444 quality. So now we've seen how to use AMA and we've covered what camera formats and file types are currently compatible with AMA architecture. The next aspect of the workflow that we need to look at are the AMA settings.
Now, ideally we would have taken care of our settings before we started AMA into media, but first, we really needed to cover how to AMA to stuff and what sort of files could be AMAed to. Now let's go to the project window and to the Settings tab, and the very first setting in the list here is AMA. So let's bring up the AMA Settings. Now the first tab I would like you to go to is the Volume Mounting tab and here, this is the primary setting to AMA. If this isn't on then AMA is not enabled on your system.
Underneath that we have the option for When mounting previously mounted volumes, do not check for modifications to the drive. Now, this is really only going to affect drives that were previously mounted on your system and that you had to remount on the system while you were in the Media Composer application. If the switch is off, which is the default, then the drive will simply mount up and the previously recognized clips will be displayed. If the switch is on then the drive will be rescanned and then any files will re-link and any new file will also be added.
So it's simply an efficiency thing. If nothing has changed, leave this off and the clips will link to their source files more quickly. I should also note that every time you re-launch Media Composer, a full scan takes place anyway. So this efficiency only matters if you're mounting and un-mounting devices during your editing session. Then the final item on this tab is a link to the Avid web resource, where you can check for additional AMA plug-in files that you may need to address certain types of media on your system. AMA is designed this way because manufacturers can quickly credit new plug-in that you can download and add to the AMA library when new cameras and formats come onto the market.
After downloading and installing the plug-in file and then re-launching the software, Media Composer will be able to instantly link to new camera formats without any need to update the main Media Composer software. So before you begin a new project, it's always a good idea to check to see if you have all the latest AMA plug-ins on your system. I'll show you how to do that in just a moment. But for now, let's go to the next tab, which is Quality. This is a nice and simple way for us to determine what we want to do if there are more than one resolution of media on the disk, card, or on the drive supplied.
The common usage of this feature is that with those cameras that do shoot proxy images, then the proxy media can be ingested first by choosing the Most Compressed. And then later, once most of the editing is done, the editor can re-link to the higher-quality version of the media, thus saving a great deal of disk space and processing power during the offline process. Audio should always be set to the Highest Quality. Taking a temporary hit on picture quality during the offline saves a lot of disk space, but not so much with audio-- best to just have the full quality sound to start with.
Then finally, the Bins tab. This is describing the behavior when linking. Here at the top, we can choose the active bin, which is what we've been using so far. Or you can choose to create a new bin for the import. If we are creating a new bin then we will need to know how to name the bin by default. Do we use the standard Media Composer bin-naming convention or base the bin on the volume name or specify a bin name, and that's what these choices are about here. Then below that, do we want to display the headframe as specified by the camera or the headframe specified by Media Composer? All right then, let's go ahead and accept those settings and go back to the Bins tab in the project window.
Earlier, I talked about checking which AMA codecs are currently installed on your machine. If you are unsure which AMA codecs are currently loaded, you can find out by using a tool that we haven't used just yet. It's called the Console. From the Tools menu, let's select the Console. It's also Command+6 is the keyboard shortcut, and we get this box up here, like so. Now I'm going to type a command in the Command Entry box right here. AMA_ListPlug-ins and hit the Return key on your keyboard.
The list of AMA plug-ins installed on your system are now displayed up here, including the version number. If you want to keep the information handy then the Console Fast menu allows us to save the information out as a text file. Okay, let's close the Console, and the final thing I would like to point out is even with the correct AMA plug-ins installed, there are also manufacturer's drivers that may need to be installed too, as these allow for file formats or codecs or devices to be recognized by your Media Composer system.
For Panasonic, go to panasonic.com/business/provideo/support. For RED, go to red.com/support and for Sony, go to pro.sony.com/bbsc/ssr/micro-xdcam. Now to be clear, AMA linking is both similar and dissimilar to import in FCP. It's similar in the sense that when we link to AMA media in Media Composer, we get a media access to the file and the resolution of the file is dependent on the source material, but AMA linking in Media Composer is dissimilar to import in FCP because AMA linking works with the main file-based cameras on the market.
In FCP, that is dealt with using the login transfer functionality, not import. Of course, the other alternative in Final Cut Pro will be to take the file and run it through a compressor to create an FCP-friendly file format and then import the new friendly file. As covered in Chapter 2, the most similar operation to this in Media Composer is called Import, in that a new version of the file is created before editing can begin. So in summary, just like in Final Cut Pro, Media Composer can link directly to your media assets using the AMA plug-in architecture.
Before you begin work with AMA-linkable files, however, you'll want to check your AMA settings and ensure that you have the latest AMA plug-ins downloaded and installed on your system. Unlike Import in Final Cut Pro, AMA in Media Composer is used to address most of the main file-based camera formats on the market today.
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