If the offline editor is the architect and the online editor is the builder we could say that the file format they share between their workstations is the blueprint.
Now, what if the architect designs a masterful blueprint and the builder has all the engineering capacity to build it but he doesn’t understand the blueprint because all the measurements are written in a strange language?
This is what typically happens when a project is moved from one type of edit system to another brand of finishing system. It is generally better to finish the project on the same type of system that was used for offline. This is not a rule etched in stone but there are plenty of issues to consider when determining how a project will be finished.
A typical edit timeline for a reality show may contain many video and audio tracks and hundreds of effects. It is difficult to retain all the effects when transferring from one platform to another. Avid does not understand the Final Cut Pro’s language and vice versa.
There are third party tools like Automatic Duck which facilitate project transfers between NLEs of different manufacturers. They can save tons of time but fall short of 100% transfer. This means that any stripped effects will have to be rebuilt by the online editor by using the offline picture reference as a guide.
In the case of our “master builder” this would mean measuring the blueprint with a small ruler and writing down the dimensions from which to build. The finished piece may look just as good as it was intended but only after many hours of tedious work.
Still there are cases where it’s perfectly acceptable to switch platforms, even desirable. In fact, switching platforms is never a big deal unless your timeline is populated with effects, titles and color corrections.
Here are some examples of types of shows that are not adversely affected by cross platform editing:
Feature films and narrative episodic shows
Film editors rarely build visual effects themselves. They may make temp effects for timing and storytelling reference. The final visual effects always come from another source as pre-rendered clips. What remains in the timeline are straight cuts, fades, wipes and off-speed effects that translate well between offline and finishing systems.
In case of DI (Digital Intermediate) there are no common brand offline-finishing counterparts so it is a given that the cut will be coming from an Avid, FCPro or any other edit system and nothing will be lost in translation.
Commercials and music videos can be effects-heavy. Regular Avids and Final Cut Pros lack the power or the ability to produce complex visuals so it makes sense to move the project to an effects-oriented finishing system like Flame or DS Nitris. Some of the original temp effects may be lost in the process but the intent is to manually rebuild and refine all of the effects anyway so that’s not much of a problem.
All documentaries styled like feature films in terms of cuts, fades and wipes are good candidates for cross platform finishing.
Any material regardless of format, length or genre will cross to a different finishing platform as long as the sequence is simple and free of platform-specific effects. If unsure you can always ask the post production facility. They are likely to have multiple finishing options at your disposal as well as an opinion on the best course of action. Just let the architect and the builder talk before the blueprint is drafted.