The Killer Feature No NLE Has


As I’ve moved from an Assistant Editor into the world of online/finishing there’s a feature no major NLE has that I think would be incredible to behold.

“Creative” editors are known for terrible timelines.[1] Sometimes I truly feel bad for the computer when I see all the mess it has to sort through everytime someone hits spacebar.[2] Working as an AE in music videos I have received locked timelines from editors with anywhere from 20–50 video tracks. Often half the clips are disabled as they were just used for auditioning or kept in just in case. That’s fine, I understand how it’s not important to worry about a clean timeline when you’re in the thick of creative editing.

But someone has to clean that mess up to get it out to color. After many hours of playing Timeline Tetris[3] carefully collapsing multicam groups, deleting unused clips, and bringing all the video layers down to as few as possible it doesn’t take long for a thought to enter your head:

Why can’t the computer do this?

Auto Flatten Timeline

Yes, I know some of the media is offline. I just opened this timeline as an example.

Yes, I know some of the media is offline. I just opened this timeline as an example.

I want this feature more than I want Avid to lose one of its two title tools. It seems incredibly possible that the editing software could move forward frame by frame through the sequence and determine which clips are visible or affecting the image and which it can lose. If you’ve ever dabbled in computer programming you can even start to think out an algorithm in your head. It’s easy because it’s what your brain is already doing! There is no creativity in this task, and there’s also very little ambiguity. Perfect candidate for automation.[4]

I envision this feature working a bit like the Scene Detect in DaVinci Resolve. It can get through a 30-minute piece in a few minutes. I wouldn’t even mind if it took longer as I have spent more than an hour flattening and then checking complex 3–5 minute timelines before. The system could even drop markers in places it feels like it isn’t sure what’s going on and leave all the clips there as is for a person to check over. It should also do this in a new sequence, leaving the original intact.

While I want this so I can clean up timelines I receive for finishing, it could even be useful for editors as they move through a project and want to clean up to see what they’re doing. It could also be great if your system is getting sluggish and the reason is there’s too much going on in the timeline.

Ask For It!

If this sounds at all useful to you, go ask the people who make your software to implement it!

  1. This timeline was one of the worst I’ve worked on.  ↩

  2. Somewhere in this episode John talks about Machine Empathy and I totally know what he means:  ↩

  3. There are no winners. Only survivors.  ↩

  4. Humans Need Not Apply  ↩

  5. I looked around and couldn’t find a feature request form for Avid. So, I guess you post it in the forums? Or the Avid Customer Association :(  ↩

  6. lol.  ↩