Picture Head Stays Ahead of the Curve with Avid

Avid DS main finishing theater

Specializing in high-profile trailers and TV spots for major theatrical films, Hollywood post-production facility Picture Head is firmly on the leading edge of the technological curve. And it’s no exaggeration to state that Picture Head relies on Avid to stay ahead of the competition—the operation’s audio, video, and storage workflows are heavily dependent on the critical interoperability of Avid post-production workflows.

Recent Picture Head projects include TV spots for Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3, a trailer for Overture Film’s Let Me In, and Lt. Dan Band—a documentary featuring actor Gary Sinise. The facility also handles top-to-bottom post production—including audio, video, and graphics—for Discovery Channel’s A Place in the Sun.

"We offer full-service supervision and a complete range of facility resources," says video editor Matt Parker. "We also have teams that specialize in long-form workflows, ranging from network and cable TV shows to feature films."

 
 

Avid is at the heart of our facility.

Chuck Crews, senior video editor, Picture Head

Ensuring high productivity with Avid

"In terms of editing and storage, Avid is at the heart of our facility," offers senior video editor Chuck Crews. "We have developed a robust infrastructure to handle new media technologies for file-based finishing and digital-content delivery. In fact, well over 90% of our video editing and finishing systems are from Avid. On the audio side, we are 100% Avid with our Pro Tools | HD digital audio workstations."

The facility’s video editing systems include Media Composer, Media Composer | Symphony Option, and Avid DS rigs. For audio, it employs a number of Pro Tools | HD based rooms with ICON and C|24 surfaces. A central Unity MediaNetwork system provides shared storage resources for each of the interlinked production areas.

Creative editorial and finishing suite

Picture Head has developed a streamlined, Avid-based workflow to ensure a seamless throughput from creative editorial to final mastering and product delivery. "To allow for greater flexibility and speed in finishing TV spots, our Unity storage system allows us to have large volumes of 1:1 media online and accessible in multiple edit bays,” Crews explains.

"Our Avid Unity systems offer two key advantages," Parker confirms. "The first is project sharing—vitally important in this fast-paced environment. And the other is the ability to handle uncompressed editing [of various video data formats]. We run what is virtually a 24-hour operation, with up to 60 editors, which means that our crews have to move around seamlessly. Without Avid Unity, we couldn’t do what we have to do every day."

Master control room

"We need to ensure high productivity. We might produce many variants of the same trailer or promo, with different durations and different tag lines—‘Starts Friday’ … ‘Now Playing’—and so on, for both international and domestic audiences. From a core of six spots, we might create maybe 100 unique trailers and promos, with different audio mixes."

"Our Avid Unity systems offer two key advantages," Parker confirms. "The first is project sharing—vitally important in this fast-paced environment. And the other is the ability to handle uncompressed editing [of various video data formats]. We run what is virtually a 24-hour operation, with up to 60 editors, which means that our crews have to move around seamlessly. Without Avid Unity, we couldn’t do what we have to do every day."

After importing an edit decision list (EDL), with handles and transitions, Picture Head’s video and sound editors can then develop multiple trailers and promos, in addition to making any changes and fixes required by clients. "We use Avid DS to remove things like blood and cigarettes, for example," Crews explains, to provide appropriate family-friendly versions. "Avid’s DS product gives us the speed we need to run our work."

One of the facility’s regular clients is Walt Disney Pictures, for which it handles a large number of editorial projects. "To commit to such a high volume of work," Parker states, "we need to depend on the reliability of Avid products. It goes without saying that we have a high expectation that we are able to accommodate those tight production schedules day after day. Avid is our key to guaranteeing on-time delivery." 

 
 Avid is our key to guaranteeing on-time delivery.
Matt Parker, video editor, Picture Head

A fully integrated audio workflow

On the audio side, Picture Head operates a quartet of 5.1-channel rooms and one 2.0 stereo room, all equipped with Pro Tools editorial and mixing systems. "For Disney, we might need to mix as many as 30 15- and 30-second editorial spots in between four and six hours," explains audio mixer Jason Chiodo. "We rely on Pro Tools being solid—it offers a fast and efficient workflow."

"We used to say that everything comes in today and it ships tomorrow," Mark Herscovitz, director of sound, confesses. "Nowadays, it is more a matter of ‘It comes in today, it ships today!’ Avid lets us forget about time."

Media Composer editorial suite

Picture Head’s mixing systems are comprised of a 32-channel ICON D-Control, a 24-channel ICON D-Command, a pair of 24-channel C|24 control surfaces, as well as a single 16-fader ProControl system.

"The ICON offers a great user layout, with dual layers and flexible scribble strips," Herscovitz explains, which aids in the audio team’s ability to meet looming deadlines with multiple versions.

 
 It comes in today, it ships today! Avid lets us forget about time.
Mark Herscovitz, director of sound, Picture Head

 

A fast, efficient, and fully integrated audio workflow is crucial within a high-capacity environment. "The ability to use standardized 5.1-channel and stereo templates for our Avid control surfaces is the key," Herscovitz states. "We use the same template in every mix room, so that our mixers know instantly where everything is located and how inputs and outputs are routed. That ability is where our speed comes from.

"Crews puts his trust in Avid tools, because they get the job done. Summing up the facility’s experience with Avid video finishing, audio edit/mixing, and file-storage systems, he says "[Regardless of whether] a project was built on an Avid or a competitive system, we are able to open it and work straight away," he says. "We also use templates in our video edit and finishing suites to deliver the consistency that underscores our efficiency. That represents a timesaver for us, and enhances overall workflow. It's win-win for us."

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