Post Production

Avid’s ScriptSync – An Overview

If you have a script, you can import it into Media Composer. With the script imported, it is then possible to link specific shots and takes to exact portions of the script. This is similar in appearance to a traditionally marked-up script from a script supervisor. Actually, you or an assistant editor can use those marked-up scripts from the script supervisor to match the shots in another bin to the script pages.

ScriptSync can be used in Avid without a license if you are willing to hand-sync each line of script with the matching audio. The licensed version allows you to automatically match the audio in the files with the phonetic sounds in the words of each line.

The basic process is to export a script as a .txt file from a program like FinalDraft. Then, in Avid, import the script. With the script open in Avid, listen to the various takes in a scene and then select the lines in the script covered by the take. With the lines selected, drag the clip onto the selected lines in the script. This links that take to the selected section of the script. You’ll see a line, similar to the way a script supervisor marks up a script (see below), running down along those lines of script with a thumbnail of the take at the top. Continue to do this for each take. Eventually, you’ll be able to see which takes cover which lines of the script (see below). When this is done, select the clips and choose ScriptSync. This uses phonetics in the audio file to match the exact words in the script to the exact moments in the clips that those words are spoken. With this done, you can click on any line of the script and audition the exact moment of that line in every take done of that line.

This is a lined script, prepped by a script supervisor. This image is used by permission of producer Stephen Marinaccio and is from a fi lm called Trade of Innocents , written by director Christopher Bessette.

When editing scripted content, it is very useful to be able to see the options for coverage on specific lines. Making informed and efficient choices using this method frees up your time and creative talents for the more demanding decisions of editing.

Todd Morris’s workflow for Big Bang Theory moves from digitizing and logging to ScriptSync.

“Now that I have a multi-group for every scene, I use the Avid Script Integration program [ScriptSync]. I import a text file from the writers. I’ll go through and I’ll mark scenes and pages within it and put in a multi-group and mark each line on the fly, drag the multigroup to where in the script it relates. Put a mark in, hit record and mark each line on the fly. So I do every take in real time on the fly. You can do double time, which I can do, but I’ve found all of this to be faster than trying to get ScriptSync (the phonetic matching function) to work for me. I don’t do ScriptSync’s phonetic matching because when we do a rewrite, which we do a lot, ScriptSync can’t find it. So what I do for Pete is color the take as a gray line. If they do a rewrite, I don’t type in the rewrite, but what I do is mark the line blue. If they rewrite it again, I’ll do it another color. If he sees a color, he knows that there’s a rewrite. If we do wild lines I mark them in red. So he can look at the script and it’s all color coded and he knows where to find things.”

All of this prep work takes a full day per episode, but to make the most efficient use of their time, Morris gets the first half of the show prepped between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. so that Chakos can start editing while Morris finishes prepping the second half of the script.

This is a ScriptSync page from my thrilling blockbuster fi lm, Avid Uncut . This project is available on the companion website ( ). By default, each of the lines on the page would be connected to a thumbnail of the clip, but the thumbnail can be turned off to better see the underlying text.

The other big user of ScriptSync is David Helfand, who edits The Mindy Project. Helfand rarely worries about the organization of the bins because he recalls takes exclusively from ScriptSync, saying, “I find myself resistant to using bins.”

Helfand’s assistant, Richard Rossi, preps ScriptSync with a procedure that they’ve tailored to the unique needs of the show, mainly to accommodate the large quantity of ad libbing but also to deal with the change in production technique between film—when every take would stop before a reset to save costs—and digital, which tends to roll right through from one take to the next without resetting or stopping.

“In one take, there’ll be three restarts,” explains Rossi, “so I have to find the restarts. I give each restart its own line (“take” in ScriptSync). It also gets complicated when they ad lib. So for adlibs you have to retype the adlibs and cut and paste.”

ScriptSync does not allow for retyping words or lines once the script has been imported into Avid, but Rossi reveals a special technique for dealing with these revisions. “David taught me that you can use TextEdit, which is a really simple text program, if you copy and paste it into TextEdit and you can retype the scene in TextEdit using the same margins and this way, when you copy and paste back into the script, it will cheat it.” Rossi continues, “So you copy the section of the original script, which keeps the formatting, then paste it into TextEdit, where you do the revisions or add the ad libs, then copy that and paste it directly into the script that’s already imported into Avid. As long as you’ve kept the same formatting it will recognize it.”

The rest of their workflow involves Rossi adding a lot of markers for restarts or notes. But even with the tendency of the production to roll through from one take to another, Rossi and Helfand don’t use subclipping to break up the takes. Instead they simply mark the specific takes with an in and an out and create a new line (take) in ScriptSync. Rossi also color codes these takes, indicating ad libs in blue and restarts in green, and if an actor skips lines for some reason, those missing lines are marked in red.

To allow Helfand to begin editing as soon as possible, the script is broken apart into as many as eight sections so that Rossi can deliver small chunks of the script to Helfand.

Helfand elaborates: “Actually ScriptSync is tough on this show because of the schedule. [On The Mindy Project] they use this technique of throwing stuff at the actors that’s off-script and because of that, there’s a lot of transcribing and modification of the script and it would be helpful if you could modify it or notate ScriptSync. We get all this footage and it’s digitized by the lab and the lab will sync up the Alexa footage with sound and give us Avid dailies in DNxHD 36, which is what we edit in, then the assistants will sync up the script with the dailies, so there’s hours of preparation of the script, and we break up the script into separate acts so I can start working before they’re done prepping, and they’ll type up the ad libs if they have time.”

Helfand was an early proponent of ScriptSync and convinced many of his editorial colleagues and producers on his shows of the value of it.

For much more information on Avid’s ScriptSync, see Steve’s just published book Avid Uncut: Workflows, Tips, and Techniques from Hollywood Pros.

Excerpt from Avid Uncut: Workflows, Tips, and Techniques from Hollywood Pros by Steve Hullfish © 2014 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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