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Media Composer Keeps Editing in The ‘Community’

LOS ANGELES—Recently renewed by NBC for a fourth season, the hit comedy “Community,” has once again validated our concept of keeping editing and production largely in-house. This show is so creative and pushes the envelope in new ways almost every week. We’re extremely fortunate to have the bandwidth, talent, and tools right here to make it happen.


The latest Avid Media Composer user interface We shoot the series with multiple ARRI Alexas and record to XDCAM in the HD422 format at 50 Mbps. We then ingest content into a file-based workflow, and as we’re working with Media Composer 5.5, nothing further has to be done to the file. There’s no transcoding—it’s just unwrapped and goes right into the Media Composer environment. And as XDCAM is a “persistent media,” we don’t have to juggle SxS cards and spend time constantly backing up media.

This approach gives us several primary advantages to the traditional offline/online setup. First, as we’re pulling files directly from the XDCAM discs, we don’t need any processing of dailies by a lab—our night assistant editors can handle everything. And the process is fast; we can ingest an average of 10 hours of footage to our 32 TB Isis 5000 server in just a couple of hours, as the import speed is about two-and-a-half times faster than real time. If this were a real-time ingest, we’d barely get all of the footage ingested overnight.

Also, as we’re editing the HD master at all times, we have the flexibility to be much more creative. We don’t have to wait to see if something can be fixed online; we can immediately try it ourselves. Whether it’s small paint-outs or creative effects that we want to try, we can do it immediately without having to go out of house. Further, editing the master means that we don’t have to follow the traditional “online” process. Once a cut is locked in, we just export the master to XDCAM.

The time savings achieved with the dailies has opened up another opportunity for us in connection with Avid’s ScriptSync. In single camera comedy, performances and takes are very freeform; the camera is rolling almost continuously. ScriptSync allows us to create a roadmap to find all the performances and camera angles covering a particular line, saving tons of time in editing. Yes, it takes time to do this properly, but as the dailies are basically done in half the overnight shift, the other half can be devoted to organizing everything in ScriptSync.

Other than doing color correction and a little other work at our video facility, I don’t really have to leave our offices and stages to work on the show. This allows me to concentrate on managing the creative and technical talent. I’ve found this to be a great way to produce a show, as we have people who work for us exclusively and are truly invested in what we’re doing. I have writers and directors who’re always asking me to venture further and further out of the box. Having this Avid infrastructure in place allows me to say “yes.”

Jake Aust has been the producer of “Community” for the past three seasons. He may be contacted at

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