Layers In Postproduction: Feathering Your Nest

post-production, video editing

Previously, I talked about using nesting to overcome opacity issues when applying dissolves with multiple layer scenes. Nesting can also be a useful tool to simplify complex layers so you can move scenes around. But nesting brings along its own complexity, too. If you pay attention, you can prevent hassles both now and later down the road as you finish your project.

When you nest clips (usually by highlighting a group of clips over several layers and using the Nest command), you create a new clip on the timeline that replaces all the layers. That’s what nesting is by definition.

But that clip also appears in your project bin. It’s usually named after the sequence it came from. If you create many more nests, you end up with a whole host of nests in your project—all similarly named. This can make finding things in your project more difficult.

I put all my nests in a folder called “nests”. If I don’t think I’m going to use the nests somewhere else in the timeline, I leave it at that. But if I think I might use them again, I take the time to name them to make them easier to find.

post-production, video editing
Keep a copy of your layers just under the nest.

While nests are convenient, in some respects they remove some flexibility. If you want to change something inside the nest, you have to open up that nest’s “timeline” and make the change there, then go back to your original timeline and see how the change works. Or, if you want to find a shot that you used in the nest, once again, you have to open up the nest and look at the clips in that timeline.

Although not the end of the world, opening and closing timelines can be tedious and it slows down the editing process. To counteract this, I use an approach to make nesting more flexible.

Prior to creating the nest, I copy all the clips I’m going to need and paste them above the original clips on higher tracks that are empty. Then, I nest the copied clips so the nested clip is right above the originals. Assuming the nest results in a full-frame clip (without transparency), the original clips will be covered up by the nest and won’t appear during playback. By doing this I can see what’s in the nest at a glance and I can match frame to find original clips to use elsewhere. I can even drag a copy of one of the original clips above the nest to remove an effect temporarily. For me, this makes nesting much more flexible.

Next time, a little more about nesting and how it can cause real troubles down the road.

Michael Guncheon is an accomplished editor who has cut a wide range of projects, including music videos for Prince, a documentary on Genesis, and numerous commercials and corporate pieces. A partner at HDMG, a Minneapolis video production and post-production company, Guncheon has written several books on DSLRs and is the author of the Kodak Digital Photo Guide. He has presented his talk on shooting with HDSLRs at Twin Cities Public Television, WGBH in Boston, PBS in New York, the Hollywood Post Alliance and at the annual SMPTE conference in Hollywood.