Have you ever gotten a hand cramp while labeling a day of footage? It’s usually a mind-numbingly repetitive process hitting the same keystrokes over and over, and it always takes faster than it should.
Luckily, there’s a better way to do it.
Today we’ll create a macro to quickly name takes in Avid Media Composer based on slate information. It’s much faster than typing out each take manually, and is particularly helpful for low-budget productions that do not have clip name metadata embedded.
Additionally, it works with both American and British slating conventions.
I don’t have time for this. Can’t I just download the macros you’ve already built? Yes! I’ll upload small macros for simple tasks, including the macros in this article, to this page.
However, if you want to unlock the full potential of macros, you’ll need to learn how to write them yourself. If you follow me along in these guides, you’ll understand how to build your own complex macros tailored for your own projects and workflows.
Basically, let me be your Bob Ross for post-production automation.
This macro performs the tedious and repetitious keystrokes for you. Each time you run it, it will open the selected clip in Source Monitor and prompt you for scene and take information.
The information from the previous clip is automatically rolled over and the Take variable is incremented by one, so you never have to worry about re-entering the same information repeatedly.
Get it? Probably not. It’s easiest to see it in action, so check out the video below. It was recorded in Premiere, but works the same way in Avid.
Building the Macro
We’ll be using Keyboard Maestro to build this macro. It can be an intimidating program, so if you’ve never used it before check out my Getting Started Post first.
All set? Let’s dive in.
Step 0: Create a Macro Trigger
There are a few options to trigger this macro. The simplest way is to use a hot key trigger, which can be assigned to any normal key on your keyboard.
However, if you’re interested in using macros more extensively, you might consider investing in the Elgato Stream Deck (affiliate link). It’s essentially an unlimited hotkey trigger pad, so you can fire off as many macros as you want without crowding your normal keyboard functions. That’s what I’m using to trigger the macro in the above video.
Step 1: Open the Clip in Source Monitor
To begin, we’ll have the macro open the highlighted clip in Avid’s Source Monitor.
Avid does this with the Enter key, so our first Keyboard Maestro action will be Type a Keystroke. Set it to Enter.
Step 2: Create a Scene/Take Dialogue Box
Next, we want the macro to create a dialogue box so we can type in our clip’s scene and take information.
Use action Prompt for User Input. Fill out the fields according to the included screenshot, or copy/paste from the text below.
- Title: Take Name?
- Prompt: Enter take name
- Variable 1: SceneNumber
- Default text 1: %Variable%SceneNumber%
- Variable 2: TakeNumber
- Default text 2: %Variable%TakeNumber%
Allow me to explain. This dialogue box will create two variables for SceneNumber and TakeNumber. Each time you run the macro you’ll enter scene and take information, which will be recorded to the respective variables. For instance, SceneNumber may be “3A,” and TakeNumber may be “01″.
In the Default Values fields, we are instructing Keyboard Maestro to remember each variables’ last-used value. This means that if you’re labeling a dozen takes from scene 3A, you only need to type 3A once; Keyboard Maestro will keep using 3A until it’s time to change to 3B.
Wait. On the right side, why does it say “%Variable%SceneNumber%” instead of just SceneNumber? Why doesn’t it match the left side?
Good question, hypothetical reader. We’re getting kind of in the weeds here, so feel free to skip this part if it’s too overwhelming.
On the left side, Keyboard Maestro is expecting a variable (as specified by the small “V” that appears when the text box is active). On the right side, Keyboard Maestro is expecting any text string (as specified by the “T”). By typing “%Variable%SceneNumber%”, you’re telling Keyboard Maestro to display the actual variable instead of the letters “S-c-e-n-e-N-u-m-b-e-r.”
For more information, see Keyboard Maestro’s official documentation for Tokens.
Step 3: Find Bin and Highlight Clip Name Text
We need Avid to focus back on the clip in the bin, and edit the clip name field.
Create another Type a Keystroke action and assign it your shortcut for Find Bin. (You may need to assign the shortcut using Command Palette.)
Add a brief Pause action, followed by a Tab keystroke.
Step 4: Paste the Variables into the Clip Name Field
Now, here comes the important part. We need to tell Keyboard Maestro to type in the variables into Avid’s name field with proper formatting.
However! Keyboard Maestro can lag when typing in individual characters one at a time. It’s better to have Keyboard Maestro copy our information to your computer’s system clipboard and paste it into the field all at once.
To do this, create a Set System Clipboard to Text action and type both variables as tokens, connected by an underscore. (If your show’s workflow uses a different character, use that instead.)
Here’s the same text in screenshot form:
Now, add another brief Pause, and a Paste action. Then, add another brief Pause, an Enter keystroke, and a Down keystroke to highlight the next clip.
Step 5: Increase Variable TakeNumber by One
Finally, we will create an action that automatically increments the TakeNumber variable by one, saving you the trouble of typing in each additional take. This way, when you’re labelling a dozen takes from scene 3A, you just have to type in 1 on the first take; Keyboard Maestro will continue counting up from there.
Use action Set Variable to Calculation. In the Variable field, enter TakeNumber, and in the Calculation field, enter TakeNumber+1.
After that, click on the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the action, and check Format Result. Type “00” into the new “Format” field, which adds a leading zero to single-digit takes.
Running the Macro
Now the macro is built, head over to Avid and highlight your first clip. Trigger the macro using your hotkey or Stream Deck, and input the first clip’s slate information. It should be a breeze from there!
Don’t mix up your Enter and Return keystrokes, because they have different effects when editing text fields. Enter is on your numpad; Return is above the Shift key. If you have a keyboard without a numpad, you can use Keyboard Maestro’s dropdown to specify which key to use.
If your computer lags at any point in the process, add more pauses to the macro. Whenever something seems wrong, adding pauses usually solves the problem. I often say: there’s no such thing as too many pauses.
Did your macro work, or did anything give you trouble? Please leave a comment with your successes and frustrations. I’ll help out however I can.
I’ll be posting more tutorials on using Keyboard Maestro to burn through post-production work, so get on my mailing list for updates.