by Michael Phillips   

Historically Speaking

Prior to version 7.2, the Avid Cutlist tool had been an integrated part of all of Avid’s film editing products. Then, with the release of the Avid Meridien product line, it was removed and created as a standalone product called FilmScribe. Separating FilmScribe from the editing
application provided editors with two distinct advantages:

First, it allowed for a more distributed workflow where downstream processes could take advantage of list creation and generation without being tied to the actual editing
system updates.

Secondly, it allowed Avid developers to provide fixes and enhancements to the cutlists based on user needs – independent of editing application development cycles, for quicker delivery. Today, as always, Avid has an engineering resource dedicated to address the needs of the film community in both the editing application and FilmScribe.

Design Philosophy: Maintain timecode/ KeyCode relationships, use original metadata

One of the main differences between Avid FilmScribe and other cutlist generation tools is that FilmScribe does not contain the database of timecode and KeyCode relationships. That database is contained within the editing application, so the user has a direct relationship to all the elements during the editorial process. FilmScribe does not generate lists from EDLs, but from the actual sequence from the Avid bin. Avid FilmScribe extracts the metadata that already exists in the sequence and then does further processing using Templates, or control files, designed to meet users’ various needs. These templates have been updated or added by Avid as industry needs changed.

Over time we have seen the basic cutlist of an Assemble List grow into Change Lists, as well as templates to support preferences of different optical descriptions, such as Optical Block versus Columnar. Although both of these lists contain the same metadata, they are presented in a different manner – Columnar follows more of the “optical order sheet,” while the Optical Block tends to look more like the optical layout sheet created at the lab.

More recent versions of Avid FilmScribe include several templates that users may find useful in their workflow, as they go beyond the standard Optical and Columnar formats. Then, newest templates are Tabbed Lists and WebLists.

TabbedLists for TAB Delimited Formatting

Users often request that we include the ability to customize a layout for a particular workflow. Rather than use our film-dedicated engineering resource to identify and build custom templates to address the many workflows used worldwide, Avid instead created a TabbedLists template, which extends the capabilities of the older “TAB Delimited” Template. The TAB Delimited file is the most basic database import/export format that exists, as well as the most flexible [far more so than the also-popular “comma delimited” format]. The formatting for a TAB delimited file is very straightforward.

The first line in the file contains the column names for the values presented in the subsequent lines. Each line following the first includes the values associated for each event in that file. Each line represents a separate event separated by a <return> character. The following is an example of a TAB Delimited file for two values “Start” and “end:”


The TAB Delimited file can be extended by adding more and more headings and values separated by a TAB. The order of the heading and their values are assumed to be the same.

Figure 1: Tabbedlists

By using the “TabbedLists” template in FilmScribe [See figure 1], users can export any or all of the selected options as a single TAB Delimited file that can then be imported into a FileMaker Pro database, Excel spreadsheet, or any of the many applications that support the TAB Delimited file format. With this approach, users can use an application like FileMaker Pro to create custom layouts to meet their own particular needs with different views and metadata as the workflow dictates.

The TabbedLists template is already in use in many FX creation houses. The TAB Delimited file is exported for the “Optical Scene Pull List,” which adds a new column for the Optical Number for easy grouping. These files are then used to feed a film scanner and prepare the first line-up of the selects to create the FX shot. [Figure 2]

Figure 2: Optical Scene Pull List

Avid is scheduled to release a new version of FilmScribe in the fourth quarter of 2004 that will include many more new metadata-tracking columns for the FX and Digital Intermediate process. We’ll cover these enhancements in a future article.

WebLists for browsing lists on the web

The version of FilmScribe currently shipping also includes a new WebLists template, which was created to satisfy several requirements. First, it helps collaborative workflows across different operating systems that need access to the cutlist information. Second, it creates the lists in a now-universal format – HTML. By viewing lists in a web browser, such as Internet Explorer or Safari, the user gets support for fonts, layout, printing and hyperlinking. This is much more flexible than the .ctl file format used by older templates. It also means the lists can be viewed on any web system, not just those with FilmScribe, as was the case with .ctl files.

Users create these lists simply by selecting “WebLists” from the template selector. [See figure 3] FilmScribe will prompt the user for a folder to contain the results. FilmScribe will then build a set of web pages, a subfolder containing control files and, if desired, a folder containing frame images. The entire set of files can then be posted to a server for collaborative work.

Outputting cutlists to HTML gives users access to the built-in display, hyperlink and print features, and lets them use cutlists in a collaborative environment with a “publish once” advantage that makes them accessible to anyone in the workflow who needs the information.

This flexibility can be especially useful in a feature animation workflow where the animators need access to the timing information, as well as links to the actual version of the film on any operating system. By embedding the sequence as a QuickTime movie into the HTML list (done automatically by FilmScribe), animators have direct hyperlink connectivity from every event in the list.

Also, users can access individual lists directly from the list menu on the left side of the page rather than having to scroll through each list. Events are hyperlinked across lists – for example, an event listed in the Assemble List as “Optical 1” will be linked to that event in the Optical List. Reverse links are available back from each of the lists, back to the Assemble List. This approach allows for easy navigation back and forth while still viewing on the computer screen.

To facilitate printing, a “Printer Friendly” view of the lists removes the shading and creates a basic black-on-white printout already used in other list formats. There is also some flexibility to create “custom” views of the list. The Avid banner image at the top of the list can easily be replaced by any other JPEG file. It exists as “FSbanner.jpg” in the resulting HTML folder of lists, or the user can replace the same file in the HTML file supporting file folder. Just make the new JPEG (with company logo, contact information, etc.) the same size as the existing JPEG.

We advise users to put the generated HTML files into a folder, which can then be easily published to a server for all to access. Lists are then easy to update, by replacing the contents of this folder each time. HTML lists can be generated for all lists including Change Lists. HTML generated lists have been tested with the latest versions of Internet Explorer (Mac and PC) as well as Safari.

Generating Frame Images

To create frame images, FilmScribe pulls an “electronic workprint” – frames from the QuickTime movie generated. If these files are being generated from the same system where the media resides, then a QuickTime reference can be used. If the lists are going to be posted for Internet access, we recommend that users first generate a compressed QuickTime movie that is self-contained. A 320x240 movie size is a good one for this purpose. Either compress directly out of the editing system, or use a third party application, such as Sorenson Squeeze, Cleaner, ProCoder, etc. Then use the compressed QuickTime movie for the list generation.

Latest Avid FilmScribe Versions

The latest versions of Avid FilmScribe for Mac and PC are no longer dongle-protected and can be used on both Mac OSX and Windows XP systems. Users can open bins on either platform and generate different list types as needed to meet their workflow requirements.

Figure 3: Avid FilmScribe Example

Michael Phillips is the principal product designer at Avid Technology, Inc.
He can be reached by E-mail at