This article explores the round-tripping workflow from Avid Media Composer to Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve and back. It builds on the following articles:
- What is Round-tripping and how do you design a round-tripping workflow?
- How to export projects from Avid Media Composer
- The DaVinci Resolve Crash-course for Beginners
Which codecs and effects are supported?
DNxHD almost always works, so if your project is in 1080p or lower, it might be best to export a high-quality DNxHD file for color correction. From page 185 of the DaVinci manual, here are the supported codecs via AAF:
Note the omission of AVCHD and CinemaDNG via AMA. The former can be easily transcoded to DNxHD without perceptible loss. It isn’t compatible in Resolve anyway. However, moving a 2.5K CinemaDNG file is going to create problems. To know how to work with different camera codecs, read the Avid Digital Cinema Camera Workflows guide (PDF).
Many RAW formats cannot be consolidated, so you must do the media management yourself, and plan your workflow before you even record on camera. When in doubt, listen to the advice given by Blackmagic Design:
If you’re prepping a sequence that uses a mix of media formats, some of which can be consolidated, and some of which can’t, you should transcode all clips that aren’t compatible with consolidation to an Avid native codec before beginning the process of consolidating media and exporting an AAF to DaVinci Resolve.
If you’re planning to round trip a sequence that uses Fast Imported media, it’s recommended that you either transcode the Fast Imported clips to DNxHD prior to AAF export, or conform your exported AAF project to the camera original media in Resolve instead.
As far as effects are concerned, Resolve supports the following:
For an elaborate list of supported transitions and composites, read page 156 of the Resolve manual.
How to move projects from Avid Media Composer to DaVinci Resolve
The simplest way to transfer projects from Avid to Resolve is via AAF. I’ve already covered the detailed steps in the links provided above, but here’s the gist of it:
The color space of your Avid Project should be Rec 709, and not RGB. I’ve explained how to do this here.
Once your edit is locked, you have two options:
- If you’re editing proxy DNxHD or other files (offline), you’ll need to relink to the original clips.
- If you’re editing the original clips (online) then you’re good to go.
If you’re editing proxies, you’ll want to relink them to the original media prior to export. Select the clips in the bin, right-click and choose ‘Relink…‘ In the options box that shows up, check ‘Select items in ALL open bins’ and ‘Create new sequence’. A new sequence is created that is now linked to the AMA-linked camera originals. This is the sequence you must export.
Select the sequence to export and go to File > Export…:
In the Export As drop down, choose AAF:
The primary reason one exports from Avid to Resolve is to color correct and grade your sequence. You don’t want to transcode media or reduce its quality in any way unless you absolutely have to. For this reason, I recommend you select ‘Link to (Don’t Export) Media in the Export Method drop down (as shown above). However, if you’re moving from one computer to another, then it might be a good idea to select ‘Copy All Media’ or ‘Consolidate Media’ instead. This way, your clips travel with the AAF file.
For projects that have to transcode to DNxHD, check the Transcode Video To box and select the appropriate codec. You could also select Quicktime codecs. Under Media Destinations in the Video/Data drop-down, select Folder. Make sure the ‘Use same folder as AAF file’ option is checked.
Don’t bother with audio, so leave ‘Include All Audio Tracks in Sequence’ unchecked. However, if you’re planning to round-trip (with no re-edits in Resolve) and want your audio preserved, you can export it.
Blackmagic Design recommends you select AAF Edit Protocol. You’re done.
Fire up DaVinci Resolve. Go to your project settings and go to the Master Project Settings tab:
Under Conform Options, check ‘Use Timecode’, ‘Assist using reel names from the:’ and ‘Embedding in source clip file’ as shown above. If you’re working with mixed frame rate material, check the last box.
Go to the Conform view in Resolve, and select File > Import AAF, EDL, XML… and choose the saved AAF file. You’ll come to the following settings for import:
Make sure the resolution and frame rates match. Depending on your workflow, you have three options to check. From the manual:
To conform to the transcoded or AMA-linked media files you edited: Turn on the “Automatically import source clips into media pool” checkbox.
To conform to a different set of camera-original files: Turn on both the “Automatically import source clips into media pool” checkbox, and the “Link to source camera files” checkbox, which properly accounts for the difference in file naming between transcoded and camera original raw media.
To conform to a directory of media of your choosing: Turn on both the “Automatically import source clips into media pool” checkbox, and the “Ignore file extensions when matching” checkbox.
Additionally, you want to always make sure that the “Automatically set project settings” checkbox is on.
Optionally, you can turn on the “Use Sizing Information” checkbox if you want to import position, scale, and rotate transform data from the project into Resolve.
Click Ok. This should bring your edit and media clips into Resolve. You will sometimes miss clips, but that is normal for any workflow. If you’re working with AMA-linked sequences created via the ‘proxy’ method outlined earlier, you might have to manually import the clips. Tough luck.
That’s basically it. Here’s a detailed video that explains all this and more (some portions are outdated by changes to Resolve, but it’s still a good watch):
How to move sequences or clips from DaVinci Resolve back to Avid Media Composer
There are two things that can happen in Resolve. Either you re-edit your clips or you don’t. Here’s what Blackmagic Design has to say:
If you don’t make editing changes: Then you have the option to have DaVinci Resolve use the Avid AAF file that you originally imported to generate an updated one. This preserves audio and all other unsupported effects from the original AAF file, so that they reappear when you export a new AAF back to Media Composer. If you use this option, you need to make sure the original AAF file you import remains in the same location.
If you do make editing changes: Then you need to use the “Generate New AAF” command to export an AAF of the reedited timeline from Resolve back to Media Composer. This newly generated AAF file will not include audio, nor will it include any effects that are not supported by Resolve.
Ideally, you’d want to master from Resolve, and then finish in Avid Media Composer with audio, etc. Sometimes, it is more convenient (especially with 1080p or broadcast projects – see the last link in this article) to round-trip from Resolve to Avid.
Go to the Deliver view and select the Avid AAF Round-trip preset. You will need to render your grades of course, and the choice of codecs (all MXF) are:
- DNxHD – the best option
- Uncompressed 8-bit and 10-bit
- XDCAM MPEG2
Check ‘Render each clip with unique filename’.
Your rendered MXF files can be directly imported into Avid Media Composer, and you’ll need to write/copy them to the Avid MediaFiles folder if you’re on the same system. Otherwise write them with the AAF file, but it still needs to be copied to the Avid MediaFiles folder on the Avid system.
Render your sequence. You have exported your grade, and now need to create the AAF file for export.
- If you haven’t made any changes, under the Conform view, go to Go to File > Export AAF, XML… and save an AAF file (by default Resolve is use the same AAF, if you had imported an AAF that is, with a ‘resolve’ appended to it). This exports all audio and effects using data from the original AAF file that was exported from Media Composer, regardless of whether or not they’re supported in Resolve. Make sure the location of the original AAF file is still the same, or this won’t work.
- If you have made changes, in the Timeline panel, right-click the timeline name and choose Export > Generate New AAF…. This creates a brand new AAF without audio or effects.
Click Save and the AAF is created.
In the Avid system, make sure the rendered media is imported in the Avid MediaFiles folder. Reopen the original project. This links automatically to the new media.
Go to File > Import… and import the new AAF file. You can create a new bin to better organize your clips.
A new sequence and your rendered clips will ‘arrive’ in your new bin. You’re done!
I hope this quick round-tripping guide from Avid to Resolve has given you enough information to confidently tackle it. Just understand that if it ever works perfectly, count yourself lucky. If you understand the process though, there is no snag you shouldn’t be able to solve.
Finally, let me leave you with a real world successful marriage of Avid (Symphony, but works just as well with Media Composer) and Resolve, written by Scott Freeman, editor to Suits and Covert Affairs.