First Assistant

A post-production utility for the Mac

Editor's notes

An Editor's Notes document is like a spreadsheet specifically tailored for the needs of an editor or assistant editor. It eases the management of assets and clips in a film or video project for the purposes of creating ADR or VFX lists, stock footage or music cue sheets, and notes for the online editor or colourist. Your editor's notes can be built by hand or populated from an existing Final Cut project, then exported as a text file or brought into Excel.

Choose File → New Editor’s Notes to create a new document. If your program is in a time base other than 23.98 NDF, select the appropriate time base from the Native Format: pop-up menu.

Add a new note to the document by clicking Button-AddNote (or Edit → New Note from the menu). To delete existing notes, select them and then click Button-DeleteNote (or use Edit → Delete).

The editor's notes table, in the main part of the window, displays several columns:

Pgm TC In/Out
The "in" and "out" program timecode for the item.
The item's duration (extending from its TC In to TC Out).
A keyword describing the nature of this item (e.g., "ADR", "VFX", "Stock", "Music").
Another keyword specifying this item (e.g., character name for ADR, shot name for VFX, music cue name).
Free text for the contents of this note.
An additional label to name the source material for a shot or element (e.g., stock footage tape), if applicable.
Src TC In/Out
Timecode "in" and "out" corresponding to the source material.

All fields, except for Pgm TC In/Out, are optional. Duration is calculated automatically (changing it will adjust the TC Out accordingly).

Modifying timecode

When entering timecode you do not have to type the colons. You can also quickly enter :00 by just typing a period.

When you modify an item's timecode (by changing either its TC In, TC Out or Duration), two editing modes can cause additional side effects based on your change. These modes—Preserve Duration and Ripple Forward—can be toggled by buttons immediately above the notes list (or iva Edit → Timecode → Preserve Duration and Ripple Forward).

Preserve item duration

The Preserve Duration mode is useful if an element has moved on the timeline and you'd like to update both its TC In and TC Out in one step.

For example, changing an item's TC In from 01:00:00:00 to 01:00:15:00 would also add 15 seconds to its TC Out.

Ripple TC changes forward

The Ripple Forward mode is useful if a change in the program has caused elements to shift (e.g., a shot being added or removed) and you must consequently revise the timecode of everything following.

For example, changing an item's TC In from 02:00:00:00 to 02:00:25:00 would also shift all subsequent items forward by adding 25 seconds to their TC In and TC Out.

When using Ripple Forward, it frequently also makes sense to enable Preserve Duration.

Timecode and duration style

By default First Assistant displays TC Out as the timecode for the frame following the edit (consistent with EDL format, most VTRs and Avid systems). If you would prefer to view TC Out as timecode representing the final frame of the material (the convention used by Final Cut Pro), visit the View → TC Out Frame menu and choose After (Final Cut Pro) instead of Before (EDL/VTR/Avid).

You may also choose to display the duration as a frame count, rather than in timecode format, by opening the View → Duration menu and choose Frame Count instead of hh:mm:ss:ff. You can also right-click on the duration text field and choose View As Frames).

Filtering, sorting and transcoding

To search for a particular editor's note or restrict the display to all notes of a particular kind, enter a search string in the Search field or select a Kind from the Show: pop-up menu. The notes list will be filtered accordingly.

A summary of the notes currently shown is displayed at the bottom of the window, along with their total durations (as individually summed).

Timecode conversion

First Assistant makes it easy to view your entire project's time code in a different time base with a single click. Simply choose a conversion timecode format from the View As: pop-up menu above the notes list. All items' program TC will be shown in italics (and won't be editable) to remind you that you are looking at a converted format.

The available conversions depend on the native timecode format. With 23.98 NDF source material, for example, you can convert timecode to 29.97 DF or NDF (using 2:3 pulldown), or 25.00 PAL (direct conform).

When performing time base conversions, First Assistant will assume by default that your program's material starts at 01:00:00:00-equivalent timecode. If that's not the case (e.g., your show starts at the 0- or 10-hour mark), specify the correct starting timecode in the Pgm Start: field. This will ensure that the converted timecode is in proper sync.

Exporting for use with Excel

It is easy to export your editor's notes as a tab-delimited plain-text file for use with other programs, such as Microsoft Excel, for further processing or formatting. Simply select File → Export as Text… and choose a filename.

If you will be pulling the data into Microsoft Excel, make sure that Excel-compatible text formatting is selected. (This will enclose each field in quotation marks to ensure that everything will import correctly; you can then open the text file from Excel.)

Timecode will be saved in the currently-displayed conversion format.

Importing from a Final Cut Pro 7 project

To save work in creating the initial version of your editor's notes, First Assistant can build a preliminary list based on the slugs and supers in an existing Final Cut Pro (version 5–7) timeline.

With your project open in Final Cut Pro, select the sequence in question and export it as a Final Cut Pro XML file. (Do not Include Master Clips Outside Selection.) Back in First Assistant, choose File → Import FCP 7 XML… and select the file you saved.

First Assistant will look for Text Generator clips, and create corresponding notes for each. The clip name will be assigned to "Kind" in the notes list, and its text content to "Description".

Tips and limitations

By default, text generator clips are assigned the generic name "Text" by Final Cut. By giving the clips purpose-specific clip names (e.g., "ADR", "VFX", "Stock") they can be sorted and grouped automatically upon importing into First Assistant.

Generator clips that are preceded or followed by a transition (such as a cross-fade) will be assigned timecode of 00:00:00:00. For best results, prepare your text elements without any bounding transitions.

Timecode calculator

First Assistant also provides a stand-alone timecode calculator tool that you might find useful for doing quick calculations or conversions. To reveal it, choose Window → Timecode Calculator.