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In Avid Media Composer 5 Essential Training, author Ashley Kennedy demonstrates basic and intermediate editing techniques in Media Composer, one of the most widely used nonlinear, video editing systems. This course covers how to build sequences, mix audio, color correct footage, apply effects, and troubleshoot common post-production issues in Media Composer. Exercise files accompany the course.
Working with effects allows you to add a lot of interesting elements to your sequence, but it also takes a toll on your system. Keep in mind that every time you playback an effect, Media Composer is actually trying to play something back that isn't really there, whether it's a resize or reposition or a PIP or color effect, or a combination of everything. So, if you ever notice your system is struggling, there are several things you can do to help it out, so that it can playback the maximum amount of real-time effects.
Before trying to solve performance problems, it's important you first understand exactly how Media Composer works in regards to the media on the drives. Avid retrieves media from the drives really quickly, much faster than real time. So when you hit the Play button, Media Composer loads the clip or sequence, finds the media on the drives and then quickly fills a buffer full of video frames that comprise the media. This buffer, called a Spring Buffer, is a 10-second container that holds the media ready to be played. Now if you're playing just a few streams of video, the Spring Buffer stays full the entire time.
That is Media Composer is always able to fill the buffer faster than real time and the playback of media is very smooth. If you're playing back many streams of video, the Spring Buffer can't always stay totally full. Rather it's only partially full. And while you're not dropping frames yet, Media Composer gives you a warning that you might drop frames soon. This comes in the form of yellow and blue dashed lines in the timecode track. And if you're playing back too many streams, the Spring Buffer empties faster than it can fill.
This results in dropped frames, which come as red warning bars in the timecode track. This simply means you're not achieving real-time playback. So let's take a look at this sequence. It's a sequence that has a few effects in the beginning and keeps getting more and more. So let's go ahead and start playing and see when we start getting warning bars and when we start dropping frames. Let's go ahead and play. As you see, this HD media is playing back with no problems. Let's jump ahead to this section.
Okay, and let's zoom-in. You see them right here and also right here we have yellow warning bars and blue warning bars. Yellow means that you're computer processor is being taxed, and blue means that you're drives are being taxed and then red, it means that you're dropping frames. So this is giving you an indication of exactly what portion of the timeline is having issues. As we keep going down the sequence, we'll begin dropping more and more frames. I'll hit play at this last composite.
Okay, and again we're getting yellow dashed lines here saying, "I'm about to drop frames, I'm about to drop frames, I'm dropping them and again here, dropping them and so on." So it really is trying to play it back in real time and it tells you the exact points that it's having trouble. So, there's a couple of things you can do to help Media Composer out. One is to lower the Video Quality menu. Right now, we're in Draft Quality, which means that it's one-quarter-resolution frames traveling through the system as Media Composer takes them off the drives.
If I change it to Best Performance, that's changing it to 1/16th quality and this usually lets you play back many more effects in real time. Let's go ahead and play over this section in Best Performance. It looks like it played back with no problem. No warning bars except for just a few in the beginning. Let's go to our composite here that had a bunch of trouble and press Play. Okay, we had some really good luck there as well.
Again, just a couple of warning bars right here in the middle, right before where we're about to play all of these streams back at once saying "hey, I might drop frames pretty soon," but it actually didn't. All right, it's very good. Another thing some people do is switch to a standard definition flavor of their project format. So I can just switch from my 1080p to just my 23.976p NTSC. It goes to standard def and at Best Performance, it gets really blurry.
So I'm going to switch that back to Draft Quality and let's see how we do at this composite. So, in Draft Quality in standard def, we really didn't have any issues there and let's check here. And it looks like we're able to play that out as well. Okay, so whether you change your Video Quality setting or your Project Type, you have several options on being able to playback as many real time streams as possible.
Sometimes, however, you'll need a little extra help. So, in the next movie, we'll explore how to render effects for even smoother system performance.
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