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Bin Locking and Simultaneous Access

4 minute read

Bin Locking is the basic concept that allows for collaborative editing, and it is very simple in theory, though the details can become a little bit complicated. In essence, bin locking gives a way for one editor to tell the other editors “Hey, I’m working on this section. Don’t change it until I’m done… ok, I’m done.”

When multiple editors or assistants have access to the same set of files without a locking mechanism, it can cause a lot of problems. If two people are working on the same sequence at the same time, they may overwrite each other’s changes without realizing it, causing confusion and lost work.

Depending on your workflow, it may be possible to do some basic “manual” locking of files. For instance, if you’re using Premiere Pro and have a project file called cool_film_scene_5.prproj and you want to start editing it, you could change its name to cool_film_scene_5_LOCKED_BY_SARAH.prproj. If anyone else wanted to work on that sequence, they would be able to tell by its file name that you’re working on it. Then, when you’re done, you change its name back to the original, and then someone else can lock it again with their own name and begin working.

This kind of workflow can be tedious, however, and can cause other issues if you’re not careful, so it’s usually better to use an NLE’s dedicated tools for bin locking, if available.

Bin Locking in Avid

Avid Media Composer was the first NLE to add a set of features for bin locking. Although other NLEs have started to implement some of those features, Avid’s bin locking is still the gold standard and the most simple and reliable, so we’ll go into some extra detail of Media Composer’s bin locking tools.

With Bin Locking, your team has simultaneous access to a Media Composer Project, with rules in place to define access to Bins. Bin Locking is available when using Media Composer with one of Avid’s shared storage products, or using third-party shared storage with Avid file system (AvidFS) emulation.

Core Mechanics

Defining Access Rights

Bins are opened in a Shared Project in one of two access modes, Write and Read-Only. Write access lets you work within a Bin as expected in a single-user Media Composer environment – read, write, modify, and delete Sequences or Clips. Read-Only lets you open a Bin and its contents for viewing, but you can’t modify or delete its contents.

Defining Simultaneous Access

Simultaneous access is performed by checking out or checking in Bins. Enter Bin Locking.

Checking out a Bin with Write access locks the Bin for use by you. No one else can modify or delete this Bin’s contents until you check it back in, releasing the lock.

If someone else attempts to check out a locked Bin, it opens with Read-Only access. If they try to modify or delete its contents, Media Composer will prompt them to save that Bin as another.

Media Composer also displays the current state of a locked Bin, and logs who may be responsible for the last set of changes saved to that Bin.

Collaborative Editing Possibilities

Here are some collaborative possibilities addressed by Bin Locking.

When a Lead Editor is working with Assistant Editors, the Lead may check out (again, lock) a Bin because he doesn’t want the Assistants modifying it. But what if the Assistants need that Bin for their own tasks? Although opened and locked by the Lead, the Assistants can open that Bin with Read-Only access. Then they can to create their own Bin opened with Write access, copying any Sequences or Clips needed from the locked Bin to their new one.

Conversely, if an Assistant’s gathering and logging assets for a Lead with the intent of copying those assets to a locked Bin, the Lead will have to check the Bin back into the project, releasing the lock. If the Assistant has Write access rights, they can open that Bin and continue.

What if a Producer wants to see a version of a Sequence without breaking an Editor’s train of thought? If the Editor is working on that sequence in a locked Bin, a user with rights to the Project can open that Bin in Read-Only mode, then play back the Sequence in that Bin for the Producer.

Troubleshooting

A common caveat: sometimes the lock, as represented by a .lck file in an Avid Projects folder, isn’t released or is corrupted. Troubleshooting may be a coordinated effort to locate the corrupt .lck file, delete it, then verifying if the Bin is available again.

With its familiarity and defined access structure, Bin Locking is a time-honored approach to enabling collaborative editing workflows in multi-user, Avid Media Composer-centric environments.

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