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Recent Blog Posts in October 2009

October 28, 2009
  One Wrapper To Cover Them All
Posted By Tom Coughlin
Yesterday at the 2009 SMPTE conference media and entertainment professionals discussed developments in the MXF wrapper format for content creation and delivery during the Seminar on Advanced Media Workflows and MXF.  Today a session on Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and the Media Facility brought up very interesting case studies for video production.  Interestingly metadata was a major topic in many of the talks in this session as well.

In many regards the MXF standard is almost too vast, at 700+ pages it contains many wrapper and essence definitions and practices.  To be useful a standard like this needs to be interpreted and applied to particular situations.  Implementation of MXF to particular post production environments may be require specification “shims” that are designed to allow localized use of the standard within a given facility.  However the efficacy of the standard was demonstrated effectively by 13 vendors who participated in a demonstration of operations from ingest to archiving during the seminar.  The entire demonstration was set up in one afternoon and seemed to work without a flaw.

MXF  AS02 is designed for interoperable wrapper format between multiple vendors in post-production facitilies.  The MXF AS03 standard is intended for content delivery allowing AS03 files to be played back by many different applications and users.  In order to allow this playout AS03 files much be self-contained, that is they contain defined metadata sets for content identification and verification vs. delivered traffic metadata.  At the seminar a new Interoperable Mastering Format (IMF) as another subset of the MXF standard was discussed as a camera format for making a file replacement of HD CAM SR workflows.  Standards discussion on IMF occurred in the evening.

In the SOA session Yang Chen from Sobey Digital Technology in China discussed a massive SOA-based network production system that they set up in the Beijing TV Station.  The total storage capacity for this facility included 500 TB of on-line (real time) storage and 100 PB of near-line storage shared between 500 servers and 1,200 terminals.  They have data traffic that can average 50 TB/day!  All facets of SD and HD TV production and distribution were managed with the system between May 2006 and August 2008.  To facilitate data transport between the many users and department a modified ESB communications bus was used, called a EMB (Enterprise Media Bus).

David Carroll from Sony Electronics discussed issues with implementation of an effective SOA media facility.  He gave an interesting example of the data requirements with the recent Sony 2012 movie production.  The entire shoot consists of about 30 M frames which at high resolution was 240 TB.  If the work had been done on scanned film at 4K it would have taken about 1.44 PB of storage.  This data had to be maintained and available during 6-18 months of production.  A problem with 4K content is that the size of the files traps the content on storage islands with great difficulty sharing the content.  Creating a media bus to service 4K content requires an advanced network fabric that will probably consist of infiniband or multiple 8 GbEN today and perhaps 40 GbEN before too long.

Dieter Van Fujsselbergen from Ghent University-IBBT in Belgium gave a very interesting talk showing a very advanced “PISA” Drama Production System utilizing its own version of a metadata system including a “Movie Script Markup Language (MSML).”  This talk included a demonstration of modeling software to do realistic script and production layout analysis using touch screens and advanced user interfaces in order to work out bugs ahead of read content capture and production.  He also discussed using MPEG-7 to provide access to low level metadata features of a scene.

Metadata management is the security blanket that will allow advances in production and, content delivery and asset management, including archive and preservation of content.  SMPTE is playing a leading role in creating standards to enable future generations of ever richer, higher resolution content.
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October 28, 2009
  VES Production Summit Wrap Up
Posted By Barry Goch

VES Production Summit, October 24, 2009

Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Ray, California, USA



I had the pleasure of attending the VES Production Summit last Saturday. I have to admit that I felt a little out of my league - no wonder as the room was filled with the top VFX artists, VFX companies, studio executives, and VFX producers from around the world. As each panelist was introduced, it was like, this Emmy winner, that Oscar winner…heavy duty.

The first panel was a discussion about pre-production. The main point hammered home was planning, planning, and more planning - and once you had a plan, try stick to it. An example of this was cited for the production of Good Night and Good Luck. The set was built virtually first, refined with input of the director, and then constructed to the nail from the virtual set.

Victoria Alonso, EVP VFX and post at Marvel Studios wanted to see more sharing of pre-vis materials across all the departments - build it once and share.

The next panel focused on production. Because of the high costs involved during production days, the tendency seems to push problems off to post to keep production on schedule.  "Fix it in Post" - was a common mantra. However, that approach is often more expensive because of the time and money required to "fix" things in post, which directly relates back to proper planning in pre-production. The question was raised, who makes that decision, and do they fully understand the ramifications.

One of the main topics in post panel was the look of a movie. Steve Poster, ASC, encouraged doing timing tests during pre-production to set the look of the show before production starts. He also likes to have VFX plates color timed before they go to effects houses to help the final shots drop more seamlessly into the rest of the film.

Alan Silvers, VP of Business Development Lowry Digital, emphasized the importance of a professional viewing environment on set and in post. He also raised an important point about the necessity to view the post compression look of images to insure fidelity throughout the pipeline.

Jeffrey A. Okun, Chair of the Visual Effects Society, wrapped up the morning's session urging the attendees to foster a sense of community since we're all in this together.

The featured speaker was Dr. Eric Haseltine, President and Managing Partner, Haseltine Partners LLC, and former EVP of Walt Disney Imagineering and former Director of Research at the NSA. He was the best speaker I've seen - funny, engaging, smart, and he challenged the audience to step out of their comfort zones. He did that by showing the audience some blind spots in our perception of the world.For example, he demonstrated the McGurk effect by having the audience first listening to someone speak "baaa" with our eyes closed, then he played the accompanying video which made it seem like the speaker said "maa" based on the facial movements of the speaker.

The first afternoon session was devoted to the Post-Production pipeline. Ben Grossman, VFX supervisor Café FX, pointed out some of the challenges in color management in post. He stated that different versions of a camera's software build can change the look of the imagery. Steve Scott, VP, CD/Colorist E-Film, still prefers film for its ability to render natural skin tones, but conceded that digital cameras are fast approaching this standard.

The most contentious panel was the final one, Global VFX. This is a big concern for many in the crowd as global completion in the VFX industry is viewed as perhaps the industries greatest challenge. Lee Berger, Rhythm and Hues, said that they founded a subsidiary in India in 2000. He said that 90 percent of their cost is labor and wanting to stay competitive, they had to find a way to cut costs. Chris de Faria, EVP Digital Production, Animation and Visual Effects Warner Bros. Pictures, became the defacto studio representative and was challenged by his fellow panelists, the moderator, and the crowd. He responded by asking for flexibility in dealing with VFX vendors. He said the studio is responsible for the sizeable investment to fund movies and he suggested that VFX houses could work with him to find innovative business deals to share the financial risk inherent in movie making.

I just wanted to add a big thanks to Rita Cahill of the VES Committee for hospitality and assistance.

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October 20, 2009
  Avid Packs Them In
Posted By Barry Goch
People came from all over LA, during the first rain of the season, to watch Michael Krulik of Avid wow a capacity crowd with the new features in Media Composer 4. The coolest thing is the ability to mix and match resolutions and frame rates on the timeline in realtime. A long-requested feature has also been implemented - the ability to keep transition on clips while moving them in the timeline. He also highlighted improvements in the stabilizer. I encourage everyone to go to Avid.com and download a free trial today. I did. In related news, Avid also demonstrated its advances in 3D workflows.







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October 16, 2009
  REDucation Downtown LA
Posted By Barry Goch
On my lunch break yesterday, I drove from Burbank to Downtown to check out the REDucation event. Now, for those of you who know LA, you will know that I got very lucky with the traffic in both directions.

Given my limited time at the event, I just had enough time to take some photos and do some networking. Ironically enough, I was chatting with Lucas from Assimilate while he was working on his power-point for the big announcement he made at the event. Rocket Fuel!

http://www.assimilateinc.com/ pdfs/SCRATCH_Rocket_Fuel_rls_F3.pdf

My thanks to Amanda at Metro Video for providing me with a comp ticket!



















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October 14, 2009
  Wow Wacom!
Posted By Barry Goch
Although I have not yet tried it, the new multi-touch Wacom Bamboo tablet looks great. I tried the jog knobs when they first came out, but I quickly went back to the arrow key. I'm already a big fan of using tablets for editing and I hope that this device will lead to more edit UI innovations which, in my opinion, are long overdue. 
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October 03, 2009
  The Life of a Freelancer
Posted By Barry Goch
Okay. Here's an example of the craziness of freelancing in this wacky economy.

I'm on hold this week, but they don't need me so I check in with another place that wanted to hold me for one day and they don't know if they need me and I should check with them later.

Meanwhile, I'm working at a third place that tells me I'm working Thursday, no Friday, nope actually Thursday. And a company who said that they'd call me today about working next week never did, but another place I worked before asks me in the middle of all this to work next week.

I'm tired just writing all this...
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October 03, 2009
  Post Magazine and Autodesk talk RED at ALT
Posted By Barry Goch
Post Magazine and Autodesk held a discussion on RED workflows at ALT systems in Sun Valley Thursday night. The ALT folks do know how to put on a party. I got there early and had...well let just say I was well lubricated...even before the discussion began.

The discussion focused on using Autodesk's WiretapCentral as a means to get RED footage into Autodesk's systems products. They pointed to a white paper that goes into the gory details of the workflow.

Here's the link:
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October 03, 2009
  Editors' Lounge Wrap Up - Wow!
Posted By Barry Goch
Last Friday I went to the Editors' Lounge at Alpha Dogs, a post house in Burbank, CA, owned by Terry Curren. I've been attending the Lounge for a few years now and I really enjoy the camaraderie of hanging out with my fellow editors and other post production professionals.

The topic for the night was XDCAM. They had cameras and displays, but I was manly looking at the post stuff. The presentation that Mark Raudonis of Bunim-Murray made blew me away. Bunim-Murray specializes in reality show production which means a ton of footage. Mark showed stills of his vault full of XDCAM discs. Lots of discs. One of the points he made was that tapeless is not a magic bullet that improves every aspect of the post process.

Jess Bushyhead (yes, that's his real name) showed off some of the multi-resolution workflows in the new release of Avid Media Composer 4. Pretty slick implementation if you ask me.
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October 03, 2009
  Keycode intros their new LA location with Adobe demo
Posted By Barry Goch
Keycode is making a statement. They hosted their first demo in their new digs last Thursday. They moved their headquarters from Studio City to a much larger space in the underbelly of Burbank.

The lunch and learn session was great. The demo guy from Adobe, Kevan O'Brien, wowed us with some great new features in Photoshop, like automagical scene stitching, some cool audio tricks, and more.

After the demo, I got a private tour of their new place and I look forward to their official open house in November.

On October 13th, they will have an event featuring the new version of Media Composer. You should check it out!
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