Editing and Logging with Forscene Blackbird

What is Blackbird? How does it work? Why is it not intuitive ? Helppppppp….


Forscene Blackbird is a cloud-based edit/logging system which 
some TV production companies are using as a cheaper way to log 
and sync-pull video.


If you’re suddenly finding yourself using Blackbird and struggling with it’s interface… you are not alone.

It seems a few of us Edit Producers are finding Blackbird rather tricky to use. And the online video tutorials and user manual don’t really help (in fact I spent about several hours this week reading and watching and still could not find info about basic functions!). So this blog is aimed at offering SOME  assistance from a self -taught user.

Let’s be clear – I’m not selling Blackbird, I’m not promoting it, I’m not advocating for it’s use. I’m just offering some tips. And I’d be glad of anything else other users can add.

I first came across Blackbird when working as an Edit Producer on A Matter of Life and Debt Series Two made by Curve in their Cardiff office.  The main edit is on Avid, but (we are told) it would be very expensive for the Edit Proiducers to have aseparate Avid laptop for viewing and making sync pulls and rough cut edits. So Blackbird is apparently a cheaper option. In simple terms the rushes are loaded onto Blackbird’s server, and then you use a laptop (with very good wifi) to watch and edit rushes.

You can then send an AAF (like an EDL) to your editor, which they can import into Avid in order to see the sync pull you have made.

Simple!  Well not exactly.

So here’s some simple tips: (sorry PC’ers..this all related to working on a Mac….)


1: Running Blackbird on any Mac (from home etc)

You need a very good internet connection, so the 08.10 Cardiff GWR wifi just won’t hack it. I’ve tried.  SO, get yourself a decent Mac with a fast internet connection and : 

  • Go to https://pro2.forscene.net/forscene/
  • Log in to Blackbird (..erm sorry didn’t I say, registered users only. If your post production house is using Blackbird, then they will supply a login).
  • Click EDIT (must have Java installed on your Mac).
  • Go to system prefs on your Mac (security and privacy) and allow Java to run.
  • The interface will start up (say yes to warnings etc).

2: Error messages and fails:

You need a rock solid and fast internet connection, as you are playing video from the Blackbird servers. You cannot download the video to work on it locally… the whole point of this system is that the rushes stay on the Blackbird “cloud” and your editing/logging is done at a distance.

Sometimes functionality of Blackbird fails or produced errors, and I guess that’s because you’re working on material that’s in a cloud, so sometimes the commands don’t get though. You won’t necessarily need to restart Blackbird, but you might have to close the clip down and re-open it. 

Sometimes Blackbird time you out (while you’re making coffee for example), and it isn’t always apparent. If you go back to the browser where you first logged into Blackbird, it might ask you to log in  again. Or you might even have to close the browser and start again.


3: Editing on the Timeline

How do  you highlight a clip or mupltiple clips, and move it/them about on the timeline?

On a Mac, hold down CMD and SHIFT at the same time, then click on the clip you want, or several clips (make sure you click on the video AND the audio tracks). Those clips are now highlighted.  You can now drag them about on the timeline as one, OR hold down CMD X to cut and copy, then move the playhead to where you want to place the clip, and use CMD P to paste.

4: Sharing media with your editor

Before you start chopping down that interview, maybe it’s best if your editor or edit assistant groups up multi camer clips,  so that they are all on one timeline.  With Blackbird the editor can now send you an AAF (like an EDL but different) which will allow you to load up in Blackbird the same sequence as they have created. You can then work on it (sync pull, rough edit) and send your finished verion back to the editor as an AAF.  They cna import that into Avid – and it will have handles, multipe video tracks etc and still be fully editable and match-framable.

BUT it’s not simple and took some experimenting to get to work. Here it is step by step:

To import an AAF sequence from your editor

1- Editor groups up multi camera rushes.

2- Editor saves AAF “phil rushes.aaf” onto memory stick (CHECK : they have to save the AAF with the correct settings.. to follow). 

3- Put the memory stick into your Mac. Go to UPLOAD on Blackbird (on the left hand control panel) – this opens a new webpage.

4- Click “choose file” and navigate to “phil rushes.aaf” (on memory stick)

5- Click “upload file”. Bar will go from 0% to 100% and turn green. If you get an error and a RED bar, just go back and re try. You can ignore all the orange warnings.

5- Go back to Blackbird and open a FILES window.

6 – Look in AAF IMPORTS folder and you will see a folder named “phil rushes.aaf”.

7 – Open another FILES window and drag the whole “phil rushes.aaf” folder to your own worskspace folder. (If you hold down the COMMAND key while dragging, this will make a copy, rather than just move).

8 – Open the folder you just copied, and look for the file named “phil rushes.aaf”. It will have a big AAF lettering on the file icon.  Rename it “phil sync pull.aff” . Click on this to open in Forcene… and away you go.

9 – Remember to click the SAVE button on the play/record window now and then, or it will NOT save your changes/edits.

To send your sync pull to editor

1- Save your sequence“phil sync pull.aff”.

2- Drag sequence“phil sync pull.aff” to blue EDL box on left hand nav bar in Blackbird.

3- Click on EDL box to open it up – you will see your sequence queuing and then compressing.

4- Once it has a green bar under it, click on the sequence  “phil sync pull.aff” – it opens a web page.

5- Click “more” on left hand side.

6- Click on  “phil sync pull -linked.aaf (1 pre-linked)” in download column, and it will download it onto your computer.

7- Go to Downloads on your computer.

8- Drag the file “phil sync pull -linked.aaf” to the memory stick and give it to your editor.

9- Your editor can now import than file into Avid.

More tips to come.. please add any thoughts, suggestions and other hints and tips below in the comment section.


Thanks for watching


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