Avid has posted a little tutorial on how to export and import quicktimes “correctly.” After reading it several times, I noticed that the author doesn’t cover what I think is the most important use-case: I would like to export video and not touch the levels at all. And then I would like to import it, and not touch the levels at all. Leave my levels alone! Don’t clip them, don’t make them colorsafe. My job as the online editor is to make the show broadcast-safe, and I don’t need the “help”. When Avid screws with my levels, it makes it impossible to roundtrip between Avid and Shake so I can do vfx work.

Thanks to this article, however, I think I finally understand what the Color Levels options in Avid mean:

  • “RGB”: This material I am importing or exporting is EVIL RGB, and needs to be fixed to proper broadcast safety. Please Avid, I am incapable of using a color corrector, won’t you squish (RGB option) or clip (RGB source) my levels for me?
  • “601/709”: LEAVE MY LEVELS ALOOOOONNNEEE. I’ll do my own correction, thanks!

If you select 601/709 everywhere you can, Avid won’t touch your levels and will preserve the full range of the image. I have confirmed this by exporting a dozen files with all sorts of settings. I was able to make the process work two ways:

  • Avid codecs using Format Settings / Video Settings / Options / Color Input: 601/709, and Color Levels: 601/709, then importing 601/709
  • Animation codec with Color Levels: 601/709 and importing 601/709

With the Avid codecs, selecting Color Input: RGB clips data off the top and bottom, and selecting Color Levels: RGB squishes the levels to broadcast safe without clipping.

I have been exporting and importing files incorrectly for years. Along with alpha channels, importing and exporting in Avid is insanely complex. Having backwards alpha channels doesn’t help. This needs to be fixed. Here is how these options should read:

  • Color Levels: Maintain color levels
  • Color Levels: Import as broadcast-safe


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

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