A Tale of Premiere, Avid and DaVinci Resolve

How do you edit a programme that was started in Adobe Premiere Pro, but that must be finished in Avid Media Composer?
Easy, you say, just export an AAF from Premiere and import it into Avid, but that causes all sorts of issues, so here I lay out how we solved this for a recent BBC 4 documentary.

Some background first – the programme was to be filmed in the Middle East but then, for various reasons, the Director would be unavailable for a month or so afterwards. During this time, he wanted to start assembling parts of the film himself, using Premiere Pro. The BBC mandated that the film be edited in Avid Media Composer, for compatibility with their on-line and sound workflows.

An AAF import of a sequence into Media Composer produces a bin full of all of the clips used in the timeline. In order to continue editing, it is more convenient if the timeline refers instead to existing clips in sorted bins in the project. For instance, performing a Match Frame in Media Composer should match to the sorted bins – where other, related footage resides, not to the clips created by the AAF import.

Riding to the rescue – as is so often the case – came DaVinci Resolve. This is the workflow we developed:

1) The picture and sound rushes were synchronised in Resolve. The Director and his crew were on the ball, with correct timecode on most of the clips, and a belt-and-braces clap on every clip too. Hurrah!
2) Resolve was used to output Quicktime wrapped DNxHR files. Quicktime (rather than Avid friendly MXF) was used as Premiere Pro is unable to parse the link between MXF files, and so treats the audio and video separately. As these Quicktimes would be used for online finishing, they were produced at camera resolution, with minimum compression and maximum colour fidelity.
3) Bins were created in the Premiere Pro project with clips for the exported Quicktimes.
4) Identical bins were also populated in Media Composer with AMA links to the same Quicktime files.
5) Premiere Pro was used to produce proxy files from the high-quality Quicktimes, to facilitate the use of the Director's poor old laptop. Premiere can automatically switch the timeline from proxies to full quality, and the bins are only populated with a single clip reference, so this process is more-or-less invisible to the Director.
6) Once the Director had finished his assembly, we crossed our fingers and hoped that Premiere Pro would produce a more-or-less workable AAF. Premiere chokes if you use any transitions, effects, resizing or repositioning and so on. Furthermore, it was important not to rename any clips, or transcode anything.
7) The AAF was imported into Media Composer, where it was relinked to the AMA clips by opening all the bins, selecting all the clips in each bin, and then relinking using the following settings in the Relink… dialog box:

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8) Offline media can then be created in Media Composer.

This process worked flawlessly. It was as if the edit had been started in Media Composer, with the Director's assembly transferred perfectly, frame-for-frame – though I won't say how much we kept.

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