Avid Editor Quicktime Work Flow For Proper Brightness Levels

There seems to be a decent amount of confusion about which settings should be selected when exporting a video as QuickTime and then importing the QuickTime movie into an Avid editor. In this article I will describe the proper settings for exporting video out of  a third party application such as Adobe After Effects using the Avid QuickTime DNxHD codec and then importing the QuickTime DNxHD movie into an editor. Four workflows are shown, one of which is invalid. This same workflow should hold true for all the Avid QuickTime codecs. It will not apply to non-Avid QuickTime codecs.


Exporting Source Material With RGB Levels

Source media with RGB levels.


If you start with source material with RGB levels (0-255), such as the image above, you should select the RGB button in the QuickTime export options shown below. This is because the option in the QuickTime dialog specifies the levels of the source material. However, it isn't a disaster if you don't select the RGB button.

Assume you export two movies. The first has RGB level source material and is exported with the RGB option selected. This is called The second movie has RGB level source material and is exported using the 709 option. This movie is called 


Select the RGB brightness option with RGB source material.


Importing Source Material With RGB Levels

When you import into the editor, select the 601/709 option to perform a quick import. Selecting the RGB button will bring the  video in at the correct levels, but it will be a slow import. It is OK to select the 601/709 button as the levels within the QuickTime movie were converted to 709 compliant levels when the RGB button was selected on export. Quick import copies the 709 compliant video data from the QuickTime movie to the editor. See the image below for the optimal setting when bringing this movie into the editor.


Select the 601/709 option for import of RGB source material.


If you look at the levels while in color correction mode, you can see that the darkest black is 16 and the brightest white is 235 as shown in the image below. The left side of the color picker represents the darkest black value and the right side of the color picker represents the brightest white value. The levels of the imported media are correct.


RGB source material imported into the editor.


When you import, you must select the RGB button in the editor import dialog as shown below. Selecting the 601/709 option will cause the video to come
in at RGB levels. 


Select the RGB button for import of RGB material exported with 709 option selected.


Exporting Source Material With 709 Levels


Source media with 709 compliant levels.

When you export source material that is already 709 level compliant, as shown above, the 709 button should be selected in the QuickTime dialog options as shown below. The RGB button should never be selected in this scenario, as this will not import into the editor with 709 compliant levels. Assume you export two movies. The first contains 709 level compliant source material and is exported using the 709 option. This movie is called The second movie contains 709 compliant source levels and is exported improperly using the RGB option. This movie is called


Select the 709 button for 709 compliant source material.


Importing Source Material With 709 Levels

Import using the 601/709 option. This is the only option that can be selected for proper import of this movie.

Now,  import No matter whether you select the RGB import option or the 601/709 option, the imported levels will be incorrect as shown below.


Media imported into the editor when 709 material is exported using the RGB option.


And That's The First Article!

I hope you found this article informative. If I receive positive feedback on this article, I would like to continue writing more articles about various Media Composer workflows.

Please feel free to email comments using the form at the top right or by emailing justin at kwancentral dot com. I can't guarantee that I will be able to respond to all questions.  

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Categories: Avid | Quicktime | Workflow
Posted by Justin on Saturday, July 12, 2008 8:08 AM
Permalink | Comments (21) | Post RSSRSS comment feed

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Mark Burton gb

Monday, August 04, 2008 1:58 PM

Mark Burton

Keep 'em coming Justin, this sort of article is priceless, especially coming from an insider.
Thanks, Mark

stephane de

Monday, August 04, 2008 3:35 PM


Importing Source Material With RGB Levels

When you import into the editor, select the 601/709 option to perform a quick import. Selecting the RGB button will bring the video in at the correct levels, but it will be a slow import. It is OK to select the 601/709 button as the levels within the Quicktime movie were converted to 709 compliant levels when the RGB button was selected on export. Quick import copies the 709 compliant video data from the Quicktime movie to the editor. See the image below for the optimal setting when bringing this movie into the editor.

Sorry, i'm now more confused then before. Maybe you can explain a little more what avid does exactly - espacially when it comes to speed differences (quciker import/slower import). I always thought in the import setting i would sort of "telling" avid at what levels my file is. If i got a RGB File - why mark it as "709"?! And why is that quicker? Does the application rely on the saved "RGB Option" and kind of override my manual choice?

Other question: does the application ALWAYS convert the Levels to 601/701? and therefore this import dialog (and the Option setting on Export) just termines if the app needs to convert the file or can straight import it whithout limiting?

Is there a way (and the need?) to have unlimited RGB Levels in my Timeline? (for Webvideo or Colourcorrection it would be better staying RGB before final output ?)

Wouldn't it be better to expand the import checkboxes like:

i _want_ my timeline RGB/701 - yes/no
the selectet file is (as far as i know) - RGB/701/601

- indicator:
Mediacomposer detected 601/701 Levels in this File (indicates the saved Option whithin the file or make a guess when codec is 3rdparty - helpful when the levels are unknown)

(sure, this would require to select the file to import at first and then making the adjustments afterwards.)

and then, for last Smile , a kind of quick preview/scope/messurement (still frame) where good to lower wrong imports

a bit too dreamy, i know

anyway, Thanks for the article

skip90291 us

Wednesday, August 06, 2008 7:03 AM


Avid engineers should be drawn and quartered for continuing to make this absurdly complicated. Intelligent, trained, educated people should not need to go through this to determine what the correct RGB vs. broadcast safe levels need to be when importing into Avid. It's a topic that has made me angry for years now, as the mythology continues to grow and very little absolute advice is released by Avid. You get a lot of "try this" or "try that." Uh, it's RGB or 601/709. There should be some absolute answers for chrissakes. Thanks you Justin for publishing this. But it doesn't change the fact that Avid's options should be much clearer for the user.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008 4:09 PM


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agustin goya ar

Thursday, August 07, 2008 1:39 PM

agustin goya

Great Article Justin!
It's great to have access to this kind of information.
Keep 'em coming!

Thursday, August 07, 2008 8:11 PM


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Owen Williams us

Monday, August 11, 2008 12:21 PM

Owen Williams

If you, like me, want avid to LEAVE YOUR LEVELS ALOOOOOONNNEEE and not try to "fix" them for you, you must select "601/709" everywhere you can, on export and on import. I've posted more detail on my own blog:


Monday, August 11, 2008 1:20 PM


Thank you skip90291 + Thank you Owen, you both hit my nerve. I really think this is not about Avid lacks a funktionality here but in fact a LACK OF COMMUNICATION.

@Owen: interesting discovery. I always thought i knew the hassles, but now, if you're right (and i'm willing to believe you) its clear that even i thougt wrong.

User Interface Design, User Interaction, no simple thing.


Monday, August 11, 2008 2:18 PM


Its Offtopic to Justins Article but the following may also be very interesting for those of you dealing with lots of importing/exporting and cross platform with Quicktime: Quicktime has a hidden gamma marker, i did not know that ---

KevinD ca

Sunday, August 24, 2008 5:29 PM


Mr. Kwan, I applaud your efforts to do what the company seems unable to include in their manual or clarify on their website. Still, I do not entirely agree with the methodology though.

Even though RGB out of Avid clips the signal as Owen above mentioned, exporting YUV causes problems in apps like Adobe AE, FCP, etc. that use the more modern digital-file colourspace with 0 blacks and 100 whites. The clips upon import will be screwed up since both apps assume the QT is RGB colour-space on default. In AE one has to be aware of assigning colour spaces and FCP there is no real solution.

Watch the fun as people try layering the AVID files with lower thirds and image files and it is all screwed up, wondering why the correctly exported YUV QT imported into their graphic app looks all washed out. Don't expect most graphic designers to be aware of this caveat due to the confusion surrounding this issue.

I always legalize levels in AVID, export RGB, do the graphic requirements, render that in RGB and then YUV import the changed file to match up correctly with the original footage in the AVID. Even though this is fundamentally wrong, it is far less headache-inducing when working with multiple assets from various groups.

Why AVID continues in the analogue space rather than digital space like most other apps is beyond me. Mr. Kwan, perhaps some light could be shed on the Uncompressed/Compressed alpha option too and why Avid still cannot recognize pre-multiplied alpha imports, producing white halos in your next blog update? I love Avid's editing tools but the graphic workflow needs serious updating in the app.

DaveMiller gb

Saturday, August 30, 2008 5:37 PM


I've been looking at a lot of posts about 601/709 VS RGB as I was hoping to shed some light on something I came across the other day.
I had been asked to export a cut as a full res QT from Avid which was then going to be taken in to FCP to have some graphics added and laid off.
I exported as ful res with 601/709 colour levels. When I imported the QT back in to avid, at 601/709 to compare against the cut in avid from which I exported, everything seemed to match perfectly except where the editor had placed a vignette on the cut; the imported QT didn't hold the blacks and the vignette looked washed out and grey.
Can you offer an explanation as to why the colour levels seemed to match perfectly throughout the cut except on the vignette? Is it because this a rendered effect that would have RGB colour levels?

might switch to FCP because of this us

Saturday, January 31, 2009 1:43 PM

might switch to FCP because of this

Thanks, this is somewhat useful and very comprehensive - but it still stands that Avid needs to resolve this so it is a total non-issue.

I've tried on numerous occasions and it seems whether I choose 601 or RGB, what comes out of Avid doesn't seem to be right - either the blacks are too crushed and whites too high, or the image and blacks are washed out. Older versions back in the Meridien days didn't seem to suffer from this problem, so it must have something to do with Avid or something to do with Quicktime. Either way, Avid has to properly address it more than just a descriptive menu (which still is cryptic).

It should be just as simple as what you export is the same as what comes in. FCP works that way and so does Premiere...


Saturday, February 21, 2009 10:49 AM


Great information.

But I need help to understand a couple of things in this article.

Justin, when importing the into avid by selecting the RGB option (in avid import settings dialog box), you mention that: "Selecting the RGB button will bring the video in at the correct levels, but it will be a slow import". I am a bit confused here.

If Avid converts the levels from RGB to 601/709 (when the RGB option is checked on exporting RGB source material from another app), then your should already contain the "converted to 601/709" material, right? And if you import this very movie in avid using RGB option in import dialog box, wouldn't avid try to again convert this movie to 601/709 on import because by checking the RGB option in the import dialog box, you are essentially telling avid that this movie contains RGB material, therefore please convert it to 601/709, correct? Wouldn't choosing the RGB option on import make the blacks and whites go more towards grey? Then how come avid is able to bring in your at the correct levels, as you mentioned in your article, by checking the RGB box on import.

Could you please clarify, thanks.

Now the export RGB vs 601/709 option in avid' export dialog box:

Recently, I ran into a similar problem where I exported an NTSC SD reference QT from avid using 601/709 option on export for DVD encoding. After everything said and done a DVD in hand, the blacks are greyer and washed out. I corrected this by exporting from avid again but with the RGB option selected and the end result DVD is perfect. I have fixed the problem but I am just bothered because technically I should export from avid as 601/709 as thats the space i am working in avid and the DVD spec. I am not doing anything unusual afaik in the encoder (squeeze) or the burner (avid DVD). This is a simple plug and play DVD without any menus. Output from avid on a calibrated CRT looks perfect as well (mojo SDI).

I guess what I would like to understand is what exactly avid is doing when we select the 601/709 or RGB option on export dialog box in avid.

Mouse Cursors au

Saturday, March 14, 2009 4:16 PM

Mouse Cursors

I totaally agree with mark and agustin. Too often bloggers take the time to write quality detailed posts like this and people fly back, absorb, and move on.

I want to thank you for sharing this in depth knowledge with us. Hope you can keep up your blog and not fall into the 80% who eventually abandon their blog .

Friday, July 03, 2009 10:24 PM


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