Picture Head

“It comes in today, it ships today.” That’s been Picture Head’s discovery since putting Avid at the heart of its post facility.

Avid DS main finishing theater

It’s no exaggeration to state that Hollywood post-production facility Picture Head relies on Avid; the operation’s audio, video, and storage workflows are heavily dependent on the critical interoperability of the Avid post-production paradigm. Specializing in marketing post production, including high-profile trailers and TV spots for theatrical films, Picture Head is firmly on the leading edge of the technological curve. "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."

Recent 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—audio, video, and graphics—for Discovery Channel’s A Place in the Sun.

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

Audio/Video Editorial, Finishing, and Shared Storage

"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, Symphony, 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 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," Crews acknowledges, "our Unity storage system allows us to have large volumes of 1:1 media online and accessible in multiple edit bays.

"We need to ensure high productivity," he stresses. "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."

Master control room

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."

Sound Editorial and Mix

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.

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."


Summing up the facility’s experience with Avid video finishing, audio edit/mixing, and file-storage systems, Crews puts his trust in Avid tools, because they get the job done. "[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."