Avid Quick Tip: Top and Tail

With Avid Media Composer there’s a thousand ways to accomplish anything. Removing unnecessary footage from a bunch of shots is one of these. Top and Tail are two very underutilized editing tools, that I've found are a great fit when laying in my shots as I first put a sequence together.

Top and Tail

Top and Tail remove the portion of a clip before or after the time indicator (the blue bar in the Timeline). In my mind they are named backwards but think about it this way – using Top keeps everything after the time indicator and using Tail keeps everything before the time indicator.

Top and Tail

You remove the beginning of the clip with Top and the end with Tail. You can always look at the icons if you get confused (which I usually do). The lighter portion of the icon represents the part that is getting extracted. Since there isn't a default keyboard shortcut for Top or Tail, I've mapped the functions to F11 and F12 on my keyboard.

As I mentioned in the introduction, there’s a thousand ways to do anything in Avid Media Composer. To accomplish what Top or Tail do, you can set In and Out Points by using Mark IN (E or I) and Mark OUT (R or O) and then using Extract (X). That’s three keystrokes. Or you can do an Add Edit, Mark Clip (T) then Extract but it’s still three keystrokes. With Top or Tail you only use one keystroke to accomplish the same thing.

I generally use Top and Tail during the first cut of a sequence. I’ll add all the footage from the shoots into my sequence. Then I play through the sequence at 2x or 3x the speed (hit K two or three times to achieve this), pausing then chopping the heads and tails off of the clips. If the clip has multiple shots that I need, I’ll create Add Edits and then use Top and Tail to cut out the extraneous footage.

After I've finished, I’m left with all the usable footage. This process gives me a good understanding of what I have, and what I still need. Everything available is fresh in my mind and I can start slapping together a rough cut.

Do you use Top and Tail? Do you chop footage up differently? Share in the comments section below!