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  • Wed, Mar 16 2011 1:20 AM

    • bcastle
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    • Atlanta, GA
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    Unlocking New Functions with "the Magic Modifier" - Speed up your edit sessions with powerful shortcuts

    Training Level:  Intermediate



    "Arrggghh!  Why can't I just _____________ ?" a frustrated student will ask me in class. 

    Fill in the blank with any number of questions, and many times my response often is,  "Sure, just use your Magic Modifier."


    The "Magic Modifier," as I call it in my classes, is the Alt key on Windows, Option key on Mac.  It will do more for you to unlock hidden features and functionality in Media Composer than any other modifier.  In this blog, I'll show you a few shortcuts using Option that I use all the time that can really help speed up your edit sessions.


    (To keep it easy, I'll just refer to "Option" for the rest of this article.  Everything works the same using Alt on Windows.)


    1. Extract to Source

    Whether you're cutting drama or documentary, you often reach a point in the edit when you're rearranging elements -- be them scenes, a series of b-roll shots or individual segments.  If you're just swapping a couple shots that are right next to each other, it's easy to use the Smart Tool to move them around.  But when you're talking entire scenes, or moving items a significant distance within the program, it can be a lot easier to just extract it from one location and edit it into another. 


    Use the Magic Modifier... Option + Extract


    When you add Alt to Extract, Media Composer extracts the material you marked, but also loads it into the Source window for you to immediately edit back in somewhere else.  The same is true when you add Alt to Lift or Copy, the material gets loaded into source for immediate editing -- say, copying a series of shots into a new sequence.  This can be a huge time saver! 


    Let's do it step by step.  For my example, I'll move a scene from one area of the timeline to another.


    1.     Mark the area you want to move with In and Out marks. 



    2.     Press Option + Extract.


    That section of the timeline -- complete with audio, effects, transitions -- is removed from the timeline and placed into the Source monitor.




    3.     (Optional) Toggle the timeline to show Source material.

    Set marks and activate tracks to use a selected portion of this material, or all of it.



    4.     Navigate to the destination point in the timeline.

    5.     Mark In where you want to cut in the scene.

    6.     Now, with all tracks still enabled, splice in. The scene will sit in it's new location.

    2. Make trimming multiple tracks easier

    When trimming in a complicated sequence, managing sync relationships can be challenging.  Let's say you need to tighten up an edit on V1, but further down the timeline you have material on multiple tracks of audio and video. 



    The easiest way to handle this is to add edits to all your tracks, including filler layers, and use these to trim.  This works great, but the problem is that you have to be careful to change the track selection when adding the edits, or when setting up the trim rollers.  Otherwise, you might end up cutting though a clip and trimming out frames that create a jump cut.


    Use the Magic Modifier... Option + Add Edit


    When you add Alt to the Add Edit command, Media Composer will automatically add edits to all tracks of filler, regardless of track selection. This saves you the time and hassle of fussing with track selectors when adding the edits.


    When you enter trim, Media Composer will highlight the filler tracks.



    Now select all tracks (Command+A) and select the A-side of the trim (P-key), and you're ready to trim -- confident that everything will stay in sync on all tracks.




    3. Shortcut to find alternate shots

    Last one.  Find Bin is a useful command that most editors use all the time.  From the Record window, it will find the bin containing the sequence (and highlight it).  From the Source monitor, it will find and open the bin containing the master clip currently displayed.

    We've all been there.  You've completed the first cut of a scene, and when reviewing it with the director (or producer, or client), they want to see an alternative shot.  Assuming that you've organized your project, those alternative shots are probably in the same bin.

    To find it "quickly", many editors will Match Frame to bring up the master clip in Source, then use Find Bin from the Source window to get back to the bin with the other shots.  There's a quicker way to do this.


    Use the Magic Modifier... Option + Find Bin


    When you add Option to Find Bin command, Media Composer will find the bin for the clip that your playhead is parked on in the timeline.  Voila!  The bin is open, the clip is highlighted and you can start browsing for alternative shots.


    To be clear, Alt+Find Bind will find the bin for the clip on the upper-most active track.  If you have multiple layers of video and you're looking for an alternative to the clip on V1, just deselect all tracks [Ctrl+Shift+A (Win) / Cmd+Shift+A (Mac)] and enable V1 (by pressing the 8 key).


    These are just a few of the many shortcuts enabled by adding Alt / Option to a standard command.  Here's a couple more to try on your own.




    Option + drag

    Reorder tracks in the timeline
    Resize an individual track in the timeline

    Move an audio or effect keyframe earlier or later in a shot

    Command + Option + K / L

    Enlarge or reduce the size of audio waveforms within the track

    Option + J-K-L

    Rachet playback speed up and back down

    Option + Mark Clip

    Sets marks at the nearest edit points, regardless of track selection



    Learn More!

    If you liked this article, you can learn more by taking the course MC201 - Editing Tools and Techniques from an Avid Authorized Training Partner. 


    Find your nearest AATP here:


    MacBook Pro 2.66GHz i7, 6GB ram MacOS 10.9.2 / Windows 7 (VMWare Fusion). HP Z820, 16gb ram, Windows 8. Running latest Media Composer software on both... [view my complete system specs]

    Bryan Castle
    ACI Program Manager, Worldwide 


  • Wed, Mar 16 2011 1:31 AM In reply to

    Re: Unlocking New Functions with "the Magic Modifier"

    And here is a very comprehensive list of Media Composer Keyboard Shortcuts.

    Newscutter Nitris DX * Media Composer (At Home on PC running XP Pro) * Symphony (At home on MacBook Pro3,1 running 10.7.2) * Interplay... [view my complete system specs]

    Larry Rubin

    Senior Editor

    The Pentagon Channel

  • Wed, Mar 16 2011 2:00 AM In reply to

    • Hershleder
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on Thu, Oct 13 2005
    • Los Angeles, California, USA
    • Posts 150
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    • Avid Certified Instructors - Video

    Re: Unlocking New Functions with "the Magic Modifier"

    Well, since Bryan is sharing what I call "one of the golden tricks" I will add my 2¢ too (BTW Bryan, I call it "The Magic Option Key" as well).

    I suggest that rather than opt/alt + extract to instead try opt/alt + lift.

    The reason? In a long timeline it makes a giant gap that is impossible to lose or to forget about once you have completed moving a large section of the timeline and completing the requisite editing to the area the material was relocated.

    Try 'em both and see which works best for you . . .

    And there are a ton of great tips and tricks in Avid courses at AATPs all over the world. So check 'em out. And if you'd prefer private training in the Los Angeles area (or anywhere in the world for that matter) give me a shout!

    MacBook Pro 2.5 GHz, i7 – OS 10.10.5 – 16 GB RAM – MC version 8.6.x - Adobe CC. [view my complete system specs]

    Use your Avid super-powers for good, not evil:
    "The Avid Media Composer Cookbook"



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