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I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system

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Kevin Greutert
I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 9, 2015 at 8:47:57 pm

Hi. I’m directing and editing a low budget narrative feature, and somewhat at the last minute it has fallen on me to provide the editing system as well. While I own a current Avid license and can run Media Composer 8 on my computer, my setup is sorely lacking for the job at hand, and I will need to upgrade my hardware so my assistant (whoever that may be) can be comfortable working on it, here in my exciting garage.

The hope is to shoot Alexa, though it may be Red. Unknown how much footage. No lab will be involved, so I assume the assistant will have to manage transcoding on my system as well. Too early in the process to know for sure, but am assuming the worst.

Here’s what I already own:

Current Media Composer license

Mid 2010 Mac Pro running Yosemite 10.10.5
2 x 2.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
14 GB 1066 RAM
ATI Radeon HD 5770 1024 MB
Three USB, two FW 800, SATA port card

Apple Cinema Display, 23” (1920x1200)

An old 32” 720p TV with HDMI input

MBox Mini audio interface

Blue Sky 2.1 Speakers

So my first question is, should I even bother with such an old computer? No Thunderbolt ports, and while there are three monitor outputs, the two minis are “passive”, and it would require expensive adapters to run three monitors at once.

If this computer just isn’t going to cut it, I guess I should buy a new one, I just hate to buy something that I’m not going to use after this gig (I have a new MacBook pro, but am not considering it part of the editing system because I use it on the set, so I don’t otherwise have a need for a new computer).

I see that the Mac Mini packs a fair amount of wallop, and includes an HDMI port. They range from $500 to $1000. Seems like the computer itself would be enough for the system, but would the cheapest one be fine? I could also get the smaller iMac for $1100, and buy one less monitor.

The Apple display is old, but fine. I’m prepared to buy two more monitors if needed, and there may be some use for the TV, though it’s pretty crappy. Recommendations for video monitors?

Would I need a hardware interface? It has been a long time since I’ve had to do anything technical in the editing room, so I’m pretty unfamiliar with modern workflow. Something like the BM UltraStudio Mini Monitor? Or just use the computer monitors for all viewing?

At the end of the day, I’d prefer to spend as little as possible. The film is a labor of love, not something I’m going to make money on.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.


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Michael Phillips
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 10, 2015 at 12:12:21 am

To some extent, the bigger questions is how you plan on finishing? Especially if shooting RED, will you be finishing at HD or higher? If Alexa, RAW or ProRes. At your budget I would stay far away from ARRI RAW workflows. If you are creating DNxHD 36 dailies from your camera originals, then you might get away with a system like yours but making the dailies may prove frustratingly slow (especially RED).

What's your archive strategy? At least two backups of the those. Double system audio?

In the meantime, give this guide a read for some good info.

http://www.avid.com/static/resources/documents/whitepapers/digital_camera/d...




Michael


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Kevin Greutert
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 10, 2015 at 1:01:20 am

I was planning to edit DNX36 and finishing with the master footage at the end. Trying to find out if our DIT can create the dailies. Not sure about archiving, assistant will probably have to sync dailies on this system.

Would you recommend the Black Magic DeckLink Mini Monitor card for this setup? So that I can send video via HDMI to a larger client TV or monitor? It's not clear from what I've read if it works with Avid -- some say yes, some say no. And some say the only audio monitoring will come through this card. I'm used to monitoring through my Mbox Mini and MediaDesk speakers.


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Michael Phillips
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 10, 2015 at 3:20:50 pm

So I would focus on ensuring your system is capable of finishing at whatever higher resolution and application your are choosing to work in. If it handles that, then offline at DNxHD 36 will mostly likely be fine.

Blackmagic and AJA are supported with Media Composer. You will find a lot of forums discussing each. In the end, AJA seems to be more stable, but if you are using Resolve in your workflow then you will need to go Blackmagic. Finishing also entails proper color management and calibration - not only for the monitor, but the environment as well.

I recommend that audio syncing be done in Media Composer and not in third party dailies systems. Keep in mind if you want to sync to 1/4 frame accuracy you will need to create a with 35mm/4-perf project type and import audio directly.

If shooting ProRes, you will most likely be shooting ARRI Log-C so decide whether the LUT is baked in during dailies, or you will apply in editorial. Also, what aspect ratio will your final delivery be in?


Michael


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Kevin Greutert
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 10, 2015 at 6:53:25 pm

I'm going to assume that finishing will be done externally, assembly from master materials, color timing, etc. All I'm focused on with my system is offline editing. I've been testing it with an existing Avid project, and it's a bit sluggish, but not unusable. Definitely need to be able to stream video out, just for viewing purposes, and the Black Magic card seems to be the cheapest way to do this, though if AJA is recommended I'll look into that too. The Mac is USB 2.0 so I have to take that into account. I'll need to buy at TV or monitor to receive this, something at least 27" so suggestions regarding that are welcome.

Thank you for your responses.


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Michael Phillips
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 10, 2015 at 7:06:22 pm

USB2 is certainly questionable although I've shorter projects off my PowerBook with USB2 at DNxHD 36 and gotten away with it. Performance is an interesting notion and can be quite subtle such as even a millisecond delay can affect how you think and react to the creative thought process an be annoying throughout the day.

USB3/Thuderbolt minimum. You may consider RAID more out of protection of loss media than actual spindles for speed unless you are planning on multicamera, lots of layers and expectations of real time performance. Storage wise, DNxHD36 is quite efficient as you only need 15GB for every hour of material. So your average 2TB drive will hold ~130 hours:
https://www.avid.com/US/resources/avid-storage-calculator

If you are not planning on using Resolve (for any reason needing a client monitor), then you can choose between Blackmagic, AJA, Matrox, etc. Just note that you can't use separate I/O devices for video and audio and that audio will need to be supported via the card you purchase. So make sure it has the connections you need to get to your audio monitoring setup.


Michael


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Kevin Greutert
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 10, 2015 at 7:12:34 pm

As far as USB2 goes, if I get the DeckLink card then it skirts that issue entirely, right, because I'm playing back video out of the card, not the port? This seems to be the only workaround for HD video out with this computer. But that's a bummer if I have to use the HDMI out for audio too -- it won't let me monitor via my USB Mbox?


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Michael Phillips
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 10, 2015 at 9:59:11 pm

Correct - just make sure that it has the audio output you need to connect to your audio monitoring configuration unless you are using embedded audio to your client monitor assuming it supports audio -

Michael


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Eric Santiago
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 13, 2015 at 12:28:57 pm

Your system is almost close to my home back-up workstation that at times I lend to other Avid editors.
Only diff is I have more RAM and a Quadro 4000.
With an SAS and Decklink that old beast works with R3Ds easily.
But yes finishing is a different story.
Most editors dont finish on that one.


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Robert Ober
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 18, 2015 at 11:48:21 pm

[Eric Santiago] "Your system is almost close to my home back-up workstation that at times I lend to other Avid editors.
Only diff is I have more RAM and a Quadro 4000.
With an SAS and Decklink that old beast works with R3Ds easily."


MP and Eric give good advice. You will need to make sure you have a drive system that is fast enough. DNX36 is no problem but if you create the Dailies then you will want an SAS system or get a SATA raid card and three internal drives to stripe to RAID0. Make sure you BACKUP! RAID0 is fastest but has no redundancy.

I have a 2009 Mac Pro with SAS and a Nvidea Titan video card. It can handle DCI 4K/24p without dropping frames. At least with a single video track. Quadros are not what you want as they are comparatively low on CUDA cores which is what Resolve, etc. want. Quadros are for CAD 3D or 3D compositing. Do put in at least 24GB of RAM and stay away from OS X updates. You are too far down that road already.

Hope it goes well,
Robert

Robert A. Ober
IT Consultant, Vidcaster, & Freelancer
http://www.infohou.com
Houston, TX


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Kevin Greutert
Re: I could use some advice setting up a low budget Avid Media Composer system
on Oct 19, 2015 at 3:34:03 am

So I’ve purchased and installed the Decklink Mini Monitor card on my system, and I can’t get it to work. Whether I’m trying to export video from my Avid timeline, or Blackmagic Media Express, the monitor gives me an error message, INPUT SIGNAL OUT OF RANGE, CHANGE SETTINGS TO 1920 X 1080 - 60HZ.

I have installed the driver that came with the device; it’s 10.4.2.

My computer specs are the following:
Mid 2010 Mac Pro running Yosemite 10.10.5
2 x 2.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
14 GB 1066 RAM
ATI Radeon HD 5770 1024 MB
Three USB, two FW 800, SATA port card

Avid Media Composer 8.4.2

Apple Cinema Display, 23” (1920x1200)

The monitor into which I have plugged the HDMI cable from the Decklink device is an HP 2511x, native resolution 1920 x 1080 @ 60Hz.

The system report sees the Decklink card in the PCI slot, and acknowledges that the driver is installed.

I also have an older 720p monitor, and when I plug into the HDMI port on that one, I get a very garbled image from Avid, with the colors way off, but with sound, and at least I know it’s seeing the card and outputting something, unusable as it is. But with my newer monitor, I have yet to see any signal at all.

The Avid project is 1080p/23.976, 1920x1080, YCbCr 709 color space.


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