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April 26, 2011

by Pro Media Tools and Scott Simmons

Back in August of 2009, Digital Rebellion released a really useful tool for Final Cut Pro editors called FCS Maintenance Pack. That thing has probably saved quite a lot of headaches since its inception. Just in the last couple of weeks they’ve launched another suite of really handy tools, this time not just for FCP.

Pro Media Tools is a $99, 10-application package that brings together little utilities that range from a media offloader to standalone tools for detecting things like gamma shifts and illegal video to a few apps that interact only with Final Cut Pro. While Digital Rebellion is still very FCP-focused, Pro Media Tools sees them dipping their toes into the Avid Media Composer waters (with Premiere Pro support coming soon).

UPDATE: As of Monday April 25 there’s been a minor update to Pro Media Tools that adds Premiere Pro support among other things.

I did a little bit of beta-testing for this suite, and two tools I found particularly useful were Render Watcher and Quick Bins.

Render Watcher

Watches a set of directories, render files or Compressor batches and notifies you via a sound and Growl notification when renders are complete. Can be set to sleep, log out or shut down the computer when all renders are finished.

I used Render Watcher on a big Avid project that had several effects-heavy sections. I set Render Watch to use a .mac email address that was pushed to my iPhone. It worked very well as I would put on the render and head out for a walk and would get a near-instant notification when the render was done. You can set Render Watcher to text, but I had better luck with email. Plus you can tell it to play an alert sound, which is good if you’re going to hang out in the edit suite. Yes, Media Composer now has its own render email notification, but I like the added functionality of Render Watcher.

Quick Bins

Generates bins in sequence (e.g. 1-100) or sorts media into bins based on specified criteria (reel, scene, file type, etc). Very useful for quickly sorting an untidy mass of dailies. Not supported by Avid Media Composer

Quick Bins is FCP only and I found it very useful on a recent DSLR job. The DIT had nested the footage quite deep within the Finder, so Quick Bins helped me pull clips out of those nests once I had imported the folders into FCP. It was also able to sort clips and bins based on a number of specific criteria, including frame rate, which was more helpful to me.

Pro Media Tools is $99. There’s an image gallery for your viewing pleasure, which will give you an idea about what the applications look like. Here’s a description of the other tools included (from the Digital Rebellion website):

Auto Transfer

Detects when a drive is inserted containing P2, RED, AVCHD or XDCAM media and can automatically copy it to your computer. It can copy to multiple locations at once and verifies the copied data to ensure its integrity.

Batch Renamer

Renames multiple files at once with options including find and replace, frame re-numbering, frame padding and more.

Edit Detector

Scans video files to locate where edits and scene changes occur. Can output QuickTime movies, marker lists, Final Cut Pro XML files, EDLs and ALEs.

Gamma Shift Detector

Detects gamma shifts between source and destination media. It will tell you if the shift directly affects the pixels in the image or if it is just a mismatch in metadata.

Project Overview

Provides a complete overview of your Final Cut Pro project, allowing you to view and batch-edit all media, effects and markers.
Not supported by Avid Media Composer

QT Edit

Edits QuickTime movies. You can add and remove media, edit timecode information, modify chapters, change metadata and more. All changes are displayed in a real-time preview window.

Timeline Tricks

Performs common tasks on sequences, including replacing gaps with slugs, collapsing tracks, removing unused tracks, and stripping filters.
Not supported by Avid Media Composer

Video Check

Scans a video file for illegal luminance values, flash frames and audio peaks and shows the exact frame where errors are occurring. Can output results to FCP marker lists, Avid locators, CSV and text.

Useful Tools for Editors: Pro Media Tools