NLE Marker Workflow


This article is on how to establish an NLE marker workflow. It describes how to use markers, sometimes referred to as locators, in your video editing processes. An NLE marker workflow can be used in Avid Media Composer, Premiere Pro, After Effects, or any editing software that uses markers.

Markers play a crucial role in post production workflows. I use them for a variety of reasons but mostly for revisions. This article covers what markers are, how to use them in a revision workflow, and some tricks when using them.

What Are Markers?

Note: I’m going to be talking a lot about Media Composer for the fine “how-to” details of this but the NLE marker workflow and the reasoning is the same no matter what NLE you are one.

Markers are a way for you to leave comments to yourself or other editors. In Media Composer they are attached to a timecode and located on a track just like any clip in a sequence would be. They appear as small colored dots in the timeline (see below).

This is an empty timeline with markers on the top track that I renamed to my name and the date.
This is an empty timeline with markers on the top track that I renamed to my name and the date.

In Media Composer to add a marker you need to map one of the Add Marker buttons to a button on your interface or to your keyboard. Check out my tutorial on how to do this here. Once you add a new marker a box will pop up for you to leave a comment. This happens in virtually all NLEs. You can also change the name of the person leaving it (it will default to the name of the user settings) and change the color.

Add Marker pop up box in Media Composer for NLE marker workflow
This is what pops up after you hit Add Marker. Type in your comment here and click OK.
Map one of the Add Marker buttons to your interface or keyboard for a solid NLE marker workflow
Map one of the Add Marker buttons to your interface or keyboard.

You can open up the Markers Tool under the Tools menu and selecting Markers. This displays all the markers in the timeline in list form.

This is the Markers Tool.
This is the Markers Tool.

I ended up making a tutorial that also explains how to do a lot of this. Check it out here!

Using NLE Markers for Revisions in a Workflow

Revisions are going to happen. It’s best to have a workflow in place to deal with them. Here’s what I do with markers in my NLE.

I create a new top-most track. For Media Composer I use Cmd+Opt+Y (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt+Y (PC) to create a new track at a custom track number. Choose something like V20. I right-click on the track name and choose Rename Track… Then I rename the track from V20 to my name and the date. You can leave the name off in a single-editor environment.

This is the track where I place all my markers. With Media Composer you can choose the color marker you want to use. I use cyan (light blue) for everything that I still need to do. Go through with the cyan marker and add a new one each time there is a change to be made. Write exactly what needs to be done. This is so you don’t have to go back to refer to emails or sticky notes. When I make a change, I change the marker’s color to blue and write the word “done,” my initials and the date before my comment.

Example: “DONE JMS 04.08.15 – Fix Dissolve”

When I work with the two colors I can quickly scan through the sequence to see how much I’ve done and how many revisions I’ve made in total.

I use other colored markers for other things besides notes on revisions. I use the magenta (pink) markers for random things like, “Remember you didn’t use that other shot because there was a logo in the background.” If there is something that I desperately need to remember in the future I’ll use a red marker. This is usually something that is outside of my typical workflow like if it has a weird export setting or there’s something about the video that can’t be used somewhere or something like that. Whenever I open up an old project and see a red marker I jump right to it and see what it says.

When another round of revisions come in, I create another track on top of my first marker track. Then I rename it with my name and date. Then I do that round of revisions with the same NLE marker workflow.

Why do I add markers at all? Isn’t this a waste of time just to say you updated a title?

Well it could be a little wasteful at times BUT if you make it into a habit then the times that it is absolutely critical you keep good notes you’ll be a pro at it. And if you change a simple title five different times for a client, don’t you think you should know that and remember it for next time so you can charge more knowing that this project might take longer to complete?

At some point you might have to prove that a client/producer/director told you to change something, even if it to them themselves! They might say, “Oh, I never told you to change that!” But you can go back to your marker, find the date and go back and find the exact words they used in an email telling you to change it.

It also helps in a multi-editor environment. When you share a project you can leave notes for the other editor(s) about things to remember and things that need to get done.

One last thing you can do with markers is having someone review it without you there. This sounds mightily risky. You should never have someone on Media Composer unless they know what they are doing. Unless you disarm them. Duplicate your sequence. Close every bin and clip possible. Create a new User Setting and remove every button on the interface except for Play, Pause and Add Marker. Do the same on the keyboard. Then you can have a producer or whoever sit down and review a video at his or her leisure without you being there. You’ll probably want to be there the first few times to properly train them but in the end if you have an empty extra edit bay you can save yourself a bit of time.

NLE Marker Workflow Tips, Tricks and Advice!

Again, most of this is for Media Composer editors but you can probably use some of these tricks and advice if you’re editing with another NLE.

  • In the Markers Tool, select column and hit Cmd+E (Mac) or Ctrl+E (PC) to sort by it.
  • Double-click a marker in the Markers Tool to jump the Position Indicator (the blue bar in the timeline) to it.
  • When Position Indicator is parked on a marker it shows up in the Record Monitor. Click the marker icon in the monitor to open up the box where you originally typed in your comment.
  • Add Go to Previous Marker and Go to Next Marker to your keyboard (You can find that under the Move tab in the Command Palette). I have these are mapped to Shift+, (comma) and Shift+. (period).
  • Keep markers on tracks without any audio or video on them. It keeps them out of the way and easy to see.
  • I have the cyan and blue Add Markers buttons mapped to my keyboard to F8 and F9 for what it’s worth.

Summing Up

Markers are a way for you to leave comments to yourself or other editors. Use them to track revisions in your editing workflow. Use different colors and different tracks to separate what you’ve done and when. This helps you to manage your time by seeing what you have to do and what you have done. This method will save you time and help you to better price out jobs with repeat clients.

What is your NLE marker workflow for revisions? Do you use locators or markers? How so? Let me know in the comments!

Before you go, can you please do me a favor and share this with a fellow video editor?

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– Josh

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