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Recent Blog Posts in April 2010

April 19, 2010
  Feeds and Speeds, Baby
Posted By Tom Coughlin
Deep within the bowels of the NAB storage grotto (South lower hall at the 2010 NAB show) as well as in the North hall and in spots of the Center hall there were rumblings of radical changes in the pace of media and entertainment creation and distribution. What is driving faster media production capability is quicker networks, faster and more processors and quicker storage devices and systems. The 2010 NAB conference had a variety of products, including storage products on display to support faster workflows and content delivery.

NVIDIA’s graphical processing units (GPUs) are finding their way into a variety of media production applications since there are built for image and video processing. The powerful multiprocessor core design of GPUs makes these devices popular for rendering and special effects (Avatar probably used GPUs for 3D image rendering). At the 2010 NAB there were 40 NVIDIA partners showing products and applications using NVIDIA GPUs including Adobe Creative Suite 5, especially for 3D production workflows and real time HD effects. Faster generation of content means more storage and faster storage devices and connections.

Once high definition 3D content is made it must be stored. There were many products at the 2010 NAB to facilitate the fast access of content. For many post production steps real time content access is necessary and only the fastest network storage can be used. According to the 2010 Digital Storage for Media and Entertainment Report (Coughlin Associates, there is an increasing use of network storage vs. direct attached storage to support real time editing and other post production steps using uncompressed of slightly compressed content.

Many of the storage networks in post production houses use fibre channel networking. Atto was showing 8 Gbps fibre channel switches to support the media and entertainment market. Atto 3 and 6 Gbps serial attached SCSI (SAS) and SATA are also being used in Seachange VOD and broadcast applications for fast content delivery. As the speed of IP-based networks increases Ethernet-based storage networks are appearing in more areas of the post production environment, particularly in non-movie applications where the resolution demands may not be as great and the lower cost network enables content sharing and collaboration not possible without a storage network. Many companies at the 2010 NAB were showing iSCSI, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FoE) and other IP-storage network products.

Special hardware enhanced storage products from BlueArc and Data Direct Networks serve production, post-production and even content delivery applications that require real time content delivery. These companies as well as Isilon provide individual methods of providing scalable storage and performance that are well matched to different facets of the production and content distribution workflow.

On the distribution side, Omneon storage grids showed storage capacity to support many broadcast and content distribution applications while companies such as Seachange offered VOD and other storage distribution products. Traditional storage companies such as NetApp and EMC were present at partner booths (IBM and Aspera respectively) providing content library storage that could go behind a content delivery application. Systems integrators such as Media Distributors and Rorke Data were showing products supporting many elements of contemporary content creation and distribution.

While HDDs are and will remain for many years to come the storage devices of choice for active storage libraries (and tape and some optical discs provide much of the archive storage), solid state drives and other flash-based storage devices are assuming some interesting uses, particularly for content delivery applications. Seachange offers edge servers using flash memory SSDs. NextIO was showing the PCIe-based Fusion-IO demonstrated about 1 GBps content delivery streaming 1,000 video clips. Many other companies such as EditShare mentioned SSDs as part of their line-up for real time content viewing.

With the advent of even higher resolution stereoscopic content (Red cameras with 28k X 9k resolution and super-HD resolution demonstrations by NHK for the last few NAB shows) the demand for storage capacity and speed will only increase. We should expect continued evolution of faster storage solutions and networks to support workflows to create and distribute this content. As the success of Avatar and other 3D films has shown, richer content can yield a better return investment for the media and entertainment industry.
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April 14, 2010
  NAB 2010 - Day 2
Posted By David Cox

NAB 2010 day 2.

Here's a quaint old English phrase for you – I'm knackered!

Today was another really busy day at the show and again I didn't get very far away from the SGO stand. There are a number of reasons why NAB is so exhausting. I could mention the constant attention needed when you're on a booth, or the sheer size of the show itself. The truth is the fatigue is partly self induced because of the “necessity” to go out in the evening.

Last night, we were going to head over to the “Piano Bar” in New York New York, as it has become a bit of a British post tradition to spend the NAB Tuesday night there. However, our route from the MGM meant passing a bar called The Centrifuge in MGM. As every schoolboy knows, a centrifuge is a device that is used to create gravity of varying degrees for scientific purposes – like spinning would-be astronauts around to see if they'll puke. This bar is aptly named – it seems impossible to go past it without being sucked into it, it certainly feels like its spinning after a while and as for puking?

We didn't make it to the Piano Bar. The centrifuge had us firmly in its grip, force feeding us with beer before ejecting us in the direction of Diego's Mexican restaurant. We managed to steer clear of the margaritas made with Red Bull, although the dizziness an evening in the Centrifuge left us with did cloud our judgement and so is also responsible for making us drink other margaritas and various other things at another random bar. In short, it was a real effort to get to the show this morning and its not in the least bit our fault and entirely the fault of the Centrifuge :-)

In a parallel world, another late night out in Vegas had claimed one of the other guys working on the SGO stand. He was formally missing in action until sometime around mid morning. The biggest effect of this was that he had the keys to the locked part of the stand, so a bit of breaking and entering was needed to get the first demos under way! Due to the necessity of this action, we all put to the back of our minds the thought we all had – how adept a particular staff member was at opening locked doors and where the hell he learned how to do that. He definitely knew what he was doing!

I spent the day demoing at the SGO stand and on the HP stand, where Mistika also has a presence. 3D is of course “the thing” and its interesting that there now seems to be a change of attitude towards it. When I put in a stereo suite a couple of years ago, while people enjoyed the demo the general feeling was that 3D would be a gimmick (again) and not last. On the show floor, there seems to be a general excitement, acceptance and willingness to adopt it and make it work. The most negative comment I came across still acknowledged the inevitability of a 3D broadcast world. One guy said “The 3D train is coming. I can choose to get on it or be hit by it. Either way, its still coming."

The industry needs 3D. It's something new for everyone at every level to “sell” to help us all rejuvenate our part of the business as we (hopefully) come out of recession. However, for it to gain a wide acceptance, it needs to be done properly. As another person said “The show is full of bad 3D." Just as with the advent of color, we need to learn the equivalent of art-direction skills for 3D so that the content we create is at least easy to watch but more importantly, engaging as content in its own right irrelevant as to whether it is 3D or not. In my various rambles on the subject over the last couple of years, I generally cause people to look at me as if I'm an idiot when I say that I think 3D will come of age when someone makes a period drama in 3D. There is a general view that 3D is only for the blockbuster movies. Those that have that view should come and see some of the sports footage courtesy of Sky Broadcasting or the Royal Ballet performance of Swan Lake on the SGO booth. These show how engaging “everyday 3D” is and when content creators discover subtlety in the use of stereo, as well as the new story-telling tools it provides, this is when the format will start to come of age.

I should have learned my lesson about going out in the evenings. Apparently not – we are off to “Rum Jungle” now at Mandalay Bay....

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April 14, 2010
  NAB 2010: Making legacy gear future friendly
Posted By Michael Kammes

There are several reasons to attend NAB.

See where your co-workers and clients work now – because most likely they’re with some other company, doing the exact same thing. Be a geek, and yet be able to party like a rockstar – because everyone else is also a geek and also trying to party like a rockstar, so it’s OK. See what the latest and greatest is, and what you need to mortgage your house to buy. While the first 2 will never change a small but very important portion of the “new” gear you’re here to see is aimed at making sure you DON’T have to sell your organs on the black market to afford. They make your legacy gear future friendly. Camera technology is probably the worst offender in terms of obsolescence.  Tapeless is becoming the status quo, but the cameras of yesteryear – and often only a year or so ago – lack the functionality most new shooters demand – which is the ability to interface with an editing system easily. Your camera may be tapeless, but it may shoot in a format that is difficult for your editing system to understand without jumping through hoops. Quite possibly, you may just love the glass on that old Betacam and refuse to give it up for a new run and gun solution.

Whatever your reason, there is hope.

Convergent Designs
' nanoFlash device is a camera accessory that takes your cameras SD and HD SDI or HDMI output and encodes it, on the fly, into Sony’s XDCAM HD codec. You have the ability to select bitrates for quality, as well as what file format the video is saved in – QuickTime, MXF and MPG – to ensure it will play in your NLE. Instant tapeless for your beloved boat anchor, I mean, livelihood.

AJA’s Ki Pro
– Like the nanoFlash, takes the SD and HD SDI output of your camera and encodes into a digital video file. The Ki Pro records into Apple’s Pro Res codec, from Pro Res Proxy up to Pro Res 422 HQ – on the fly. This unit has a more robust feature set, including removable storage that can be transported and used with your NLE, plus a web interface for management and control options. Announced at NAB is the new ability to communicate with other Ki Pros for gang recording as well as RS422 support. It even has a camera mount so it can mount between your tripod and camera.
A new device, which I am very geeked about, is the Cinedeck. Not only is it a location encoder, like Ki Pro and the nanoFlash, but it comes with a crapload of I/O. Yes, Crapload is the technical term. It sort of resembles a Garmin GPS for your car in appearance. Cinedeck's I/O includes component and composite video, SD and HD SDI and Dual Link via 3G and HDMI, as well as digital and analog audio, and with storage encodes into an edit ready 10-bit 4:2:2 or 12 bit 4:4:4 CineForm DI codec in .MOV or .AVI format. But wait, there’s more! MXF, uncompressed and DPX file formats are also included – all the way up to 2K frame sizes.

There’s also a LAN port as well as USB ports for loading LUTs and an ESATA with port multiplier and RAID support. Its touch screen allows for menu navigation and video playback.  All in the same size and weight as your 7-inch on-camera focus monitor. I’m not a shooter, but I think I want a camera, just to play with this. So save your money. Go tapeless and keep your beloved shoulder steel.
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April 14, 2010
  More 3D, Adobe CS5 highlights, and some other cool things
Posted By Heath Firestone
Day 2:

I spent most of today in the Lower South Hall again, which is where all of the post production tools are, which is what a lot of you are probably most interested in.This time I visited Adobe’s booth, to find out what they were announcing as the key features of the CS5 suite.There are a lot of details on their site, including several videos explaining the features, but here’s what I saw in a nutshell, and my take on it.CS5 is a major upgrade on all fronts, primarily, when it comes to speed and features.It has now ported its major applications like Premiere Pro and After Effects over to 64 bit OS only.The advantage on the PC side is that they can take advantage of a lot more RAM if you have it… and you’ll want it!No more only 3.5GB recognized RAM issues.The systems I saw running were utilizing 16GB of RAM.

After Effects had one of the most interesting new tools called Roto Brush, which is probably the coolest rotoscoping tool I have seen (at least on effects tools in this price range).It works by the user drawing the most basic shape within the area they want to create a roto mask for.From there, it automatically finds edges, and creates an impressively accurate mask.You can then, very easily refine the mask with general clicks, of the mouse, which define what is in the mask, that you don’t want, and what isn’t that you do.It then automatically tracks from frame to frame with only minor adjustments required to tweak it.It does such a good job, very quickly and easily, that, as an effects guy, I was amazed, and thought about how much time this could save me on future compositing work.I’m so impressed, with the speed and quality of the mask and intelligent edge tracking, that I am considering changing my current effects workflow to utilize it just for that capability.On top of that, they have a really nice Refine Matte effect, which not only does your typical matte choker, and edge softness, but also does intelligent edge tracking, and motion blurring.Add Color LUT support, and frame buffer support to enhance AVC Intra and Red R3D experiences, and you have some really great tools, which will excite a lot of people, myself included.

Premiere Pro CS5, is truly exciting!Adobe decided it was time to add realtime capabilities, with lots of layers and tons of effects using multiple formats.To do that, they tapped into NVIDIA’s CUDA capabilities.The Adobe Mercury Playback Engine utilizes the GPU on NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards to process the effects, which gives phenomenal performance without needing to render effects layers.While those of us with effects accelerator cards, like Matrox’s Axio LE’s, have embraced this kind of workflow, because of the immense amount of time saved by seeing immediate realtime playback, rather than waiting for renders… this will be new to a lot of users, who will quickly wonder how they ever lived without it.On a side note, Matrox will be supporting similar realtime effects using their effects in CS5, with their MXO2 line of products with the Max option, without a Quadro card.AxioLE’s will be similarly accelerated.As far as new or improved effects in Premiere Pro CS5, Ultra has been rebuilt as Ultra Keyer, which is now a filter in Premiere Pro instead of a stand alone application as it was in the past, which means there is a new, better keyer built into Premiere Pro.Oh yeah, those realtime effects support RED, DSLR, and 4K.Tapeless workflows also don’t require rewrapping or transcoding.

Photoshop now has one of the coolest features I’ve ever seen in an image editing application.The new Content Aware Fill, allows you to select an area of an image and delete it.Photoshop then replaces the hole, with what it thinks was behind the object you deleted, with amazing results. Sometimes it does an almost perfect job, while other times it gets a little confused, but with a little tweaking, you can remove objects from the scene in ways you never have been able to before. You’ll have to see it, or try it to believe it, but it is definitely a powerful tool you will use often.

There’s plenty more, but that’s my quick rundown on the Adobe CS5 Production Premium Suite.

Then there’s the question of stereoscopic support in CS5… natively, there is none yet, however, Cineform has a plugin, Neo 3D ($3000), which does work with CS5, so you’re not left out in the cold if this is your editor of choice. Cineform’s Neo 3D is actually a suite of products, which include tools for converting your files to Cineform files, then muxing the two views into a single video file. Then there are color correction and transform tools, and lastly, there are tools for adjusting convergence and auto crop.

On the production side of things, SteadiCam was showing a prototype new rig, called Tango, which adds a 5’ jib to the SteadiCam. Pan and Tilt are controlled by a cable system and leveling bar. Currently it is running a small head only camera, for weight purposes, but it allows nine feet of vertical movement, and the ability to do sweeping, and arc movements with the SteadiCam, while standing still… or moving. It’s still a prototype with bugs getting worked out, which Garrett Brown is quick to point out, but even in these early stages, it looks like the coolest advancement I’ve seen in the image stabilization realm for quite some time.

Red Rock Micro is also showing off a new tool, which is a cool little wireless focus controller, which is separated from other products in the same class, by having the ability to snap in an iPhone or an iPod Touch, which gives you a visual display, but also calculates range and allows you to setup your lens specs, which it will then translate to display approximate focus distance based on the motor driven lens rotation.

I’m still gathering info on 3D rigs, and stereoscopic post production tools, which I will post when I can.
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April 13, 2010
  NAB 2010 - Day One
Posted By David Cox

End of NAB Day #1 – 8PM and just back to the hotel room with Starbucks in hand. A very busy day.

Last night, we finally decided what we were going to eat. We definitely wanted pasta – no question. We went past three perfectly good Italian restaurants but none quite floated our boat. Bizarrely, we ended up in The Nine Fine Irishmen in New York New York. This place is famous for its traditional Irish food and music. Pasta doesn't quite fit with that, but as if by some magical coincidence, the beef stroganoff we both ordered (don't think that's Irish anyway) had pasta in it!

While engaging in a traditional Irish evening (boozing, eating and foot-tapping to Irish music), I started to think about how Las Vegas is the perfect city for NAB. On a practical level, of course, it has the massive convention space and thousands of hotel rooms that make such an event a practical proposition. It also has another ingredient I think a “convention city” needs and that's an excitement that encourages delegates to get off their back-sides and attend. The European counterpart convention is held in Amsterdam, for example. But last night, I thought of another bond. We were sitting in the middle of a mega-casino, inside a building of concrete and steel, in the middle of the desert, but were totally transported to an old Irish pub with all the atmosphere and fun that this should entail. What struck me was a comparison between what had been achieved by the architects and managers of this “establishment,” with what we all try to achieve in our own part of the story telling process. That is to take someone from their practical environment and transport them to a different place, whether as part of a fictional story or to put them in someone else's shoes in the case of documentary or news. So perhaps Vegas gives us more than just a convenient and agreeable place for a convention. Or perhaps I was just too affected by the Irish “Crack” (which means a good time by the way – no drugs!)

To the show – did I mention I was going to look around the show and find all the stereo wannabes? Well maybe tomorrow – I got to one stand and got stuck! The stand in question was the SGO Mistika stand in the South Hall. This is a product that is new to the US as of this NAB, but I have used it for a few years. It has taken London by storm over the last couple of months, specifically because of its stereo 3D tools. I had vaguely agreed to help out with the odd demo – I figured I could do with the occasional sit down so I might as well do something useful while doing so. However, Mistika has created such a buzz that the stand was almost over-whelmed.

I did some demos of the new 3D convergence tools and that almost knocked people off their chairs. Mistika could already retrospectively change the inter-ocular distance of the cameras (distance between the two lenses) but the latest version can divide the scene into three zones and adjust the effective IO distance differently in each. Those that have experienced the difficulties that are created by a close up subject with a distant background really appreciated how the IO distance could be adjusted to get an agreeable stereo effect from the foreground, whilst then being able to “pull back” the distant background so that it was not over-diverged. I could definitely detect a few brains bordering on exploding.

Speaking of exploding brains, my Starbucks is done and now I need (and I believe I deserve) something much stronger!

More tomorrow....


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April 13, 2010
  A theme for NAB 2010: Openness
Posted By Michael Kammes
There’s been an emerging trend in the post realm over the past few years and it’s not surprising that this year at NAB continues this trend…the trend of openness.While companies and their technology proved to be much more initially lucrative when they were a closed ecosystem - the backlash from dead bolting ones product proved not only to be a revenue suck, but also caused the perception of arrogance or even ignorance. The collective grumbling from the user communities of these products seems to have finally fallen on sympathetic ears, and a whole host of cross-armed, head shaking entrenched old world practices are now replaced and subsequently embrace the notion of collaboration and not confrontation.

Many examples can be found from some of the juggernauts at this years NAB.As you probably know by now, Avid is now warmly welcoming several other players into its inner circle. With the adoption of Matrox’s MX02 Mini, editors now have an inexpensive, yet high quality output device from Media Composer – something users have been clamoring for since day one.Until now, this functionality was only available on Avid hardware at 10X the cost.Plus, the opening of Avid’s AMA to QuickTime, ensures that just about any video file that you may come across can now play natively within your timeline, thus negating the need to exclusively use Avid's MXF or OMF file structure. Yes, this does mean that its biggest competitors video du jour ProRes, can be now be played within Avid.

Next, we have Squareboxes CatDV – a fantastically robust digital asset management solution. CatDV not only organizes, catalogs and manages data, but also has the ability to utilize the video data by creating Final Cut Pro sequences from collections of clips within it’s database.It also can generate Avid compatible files and sequences.This allows for an extremely easy interop between your NLE of choice and the asset management system.As an added bonus, its database can utilize databases created from other asset management solutions.

Root6’s Content Agent – which is an intelligent node based encoding solution, announced the new ability to partner with and even utilize one of it’s competitors products- Telestream's Episode Engine.This powerful combination allows for the Windows based Content Agent to encode into Pro Res.With the Apple imposed limitation of only being able to decode ProRes on a PC, Content Agent becomes the first O/S agnostic transcoding platform.All with help from its market share rival.

These are just a handful of examples hopefully paving the way for the future of the industry: collaboration for the benefit of your user base.Hear thatApple?
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April 13, 2010
  No big surprise, stereographic 3D is here... Big time!
Posted By Heath Firestone
I realize I'm not the only person who is at NAB trying to learn as much as I can about stereographic filmmaking, but there's so much to learn, and so many new things out there, that I'll at least give you my rundown of what I've found to be interesting with respect to this topic at NAB so far.

I was surprised by the number of 3D camera set-ups I saw at the convention.I had done a fair amount of research before coming, and thought I had a pretty good idea of what was out there.There, however, were a lot of companies I had never heard of, including an abundance of beam-splitter rigs, and side by side variants.This led me to wonder what the real options there are for actually managing the footage after it was shot. I headed over to Iridas, based on the suggestion of a friend who pointed out that they have been dealing with stereoscopic issues for quite a while, and explained to me some of the tricks they have discovered for reducing eye fatigue when cutting together a stereoscopic project.

One of the major contributors to the eye strain, which often leads to nausea, is when a cut where the point of convergence (where the two lenses are pointed at the same area, making it appear flush with the screen) has the subject of interest pushed back into the screen space, and in the next frame, the subject of interest is dramatically different, being projected out into the audience space.Our eyes have to work very hard to adjust to this depth change being so abrupt.This can be jarring, and distracting.

Iridas has some great tools and techniques for dealing with this by allowing you to adjust the point of convergence on a slider, which can be keyframed, which allows you to do the equivalent of a cross fade, but with depth adjustments, where the background image might move forward, ending flush as the other shot cuts in, beginning at the same position, and shifting forward to the position is was shot in.These are the kinds of unusual nuances which 3D editors are having to learn to make their projects not only watchable, but enjoyable. Despite being around in one form or another, for quite some time, it is a new frontier.

Another area, which I have found to be a great source of debate, is with regard to depth of field in stereographic composition.Having seen use of narrow depth of field in some scenes of Avatar, and noticing that if I tried to focus on these elements, I felt eye strain, it made me wonder if this is an artistic choice, in order to direct the viewer's attention to the key elements in the scene. The question I had, was: Is the immersive environment that 3D offers inviting enough that the audience is too busy looking around at things, and distracted from key visual plot elements, or, is this just a carry over from the film look days?

Since some of the scenes I am referring to in Avatar, were completely computer generated, any depth of field effects would have been added as an effect since virtual cameras don't have the same physical limitations as physical cameras.Overwhelmingly, experienced stereographers suggested that their preference was for crisp, clear images, allowing the viewer to look around a little and drive their own attention.But then, another friend suggested that the blurring of these shots on foreground images may have been done more out of necessity, in order to combat the negative effect which results from objects which are in the audience space, that extend out beyond the borders of the frame, since that causes additional distractions and edge issues.Blurring these borders and foreground elements can significantly decrease this problem.

There is much more to explain, and learn, but allow this to whet your appetite for more Stereoscopic 3D.
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April 11, 2010
  NAB 2010 - Day Zero
Posted By David Cox
April's here, so it must be time to escape the endless English winter and head west to Las Vegas for some sun, excessive food and alcohol and - errrrm - oh yes, NAB. I knew there was a tax deductible reason for it :-)

Our flight here was relatively uneventful until, a couple of hours before landing, every passenger on the plane was placed in “seat arrest” - that being confined to our seats with our seatbelts on, nothing allowed on our laps, rest-rooms locked and even the little digital map thing (which is so addictive on long flights) switched off. As the pilot explained, there had been a “security incident” on another flight and all flights over the US were ordered into this locked down state. We later learned it was all down to some junior diplomat from Qatar lighting a pipe or cigarette in the wash-room of his flight and sparking a full-scale “scramble the fighters” alert.

The aspect that interested me was that the pilot felt the need to tell us all there was a security risk, thus spreading fear and anxiety, rather than just telling us there was some turbulence or something. We would have been none the wiser and happier for it. At the risk of over analysing it (there wasn't much else to think about after they took the little plane-map away), our flight represented a microcosm of the role the media plays in “terrorism” and the dilemma it faces. Informing us about such events does in fact spread the terror but not informing could be seen as censorship. I guess what has changed in recent years is the immediacy of the news. In years gone by, we would have just read about such events in past tense, knowing that a disaster was either averted or never on the cards because we are being informed in retrospect with a complete story. Continual live-updates just allow us to consider the worst possible outcome from the conjecture that is being presented at that moment.

Fortunately, I just make pictures pretty so don't have to worry about it just so long as I have a little picture of a plane animating its way across a digital map.

Anyway – to NAB. It's Sunday as I write so the show starts for real tomorrow. I expect that the buzzword will be stereoscopic 3D. Certainly most of my work recently has been in 3D effects and finishing and I have been involved with 3D post for over 2 years now. I fear that every manufacturer will be making claim to 3D, however dubious, in the same way that many did to HD in its early years. I recall that one major post manufacturer with hardware-based products came to NAB back then with an HD to SD down-converter for input to their existing SD product, and a matching SD to HD up-converter for its output. With this set, they claimed their HD credentials for having an HD-ready post pipeline! My deep suspicious is that there will be a plethora of products, that by fair means or foul, will play two streams of images and thus claim to provide stereoscopic post. As I know from experience, stereo post requires much more than this. The theory that a perfect stereo image is created by two matching cameras, through matched lenses on a purpose designed rig is the stuff of fairly tales (or at least a healthy dose of wishful thinking). The truth is that images from two digital cameras are rarely the same colour, that their alignment either due to lens or rig is rarely perfect, and in any case many shots that on the face of it are perfect for “the 3D effect” are actually unpleasant to watch back without some form of post intervention.

So in short, I am on the lookout for those manufacturers who get the idea and have or are creating the tool-sets we need to make engaging stereoscopic content – and those who have slapped on a second playback stream to their existing whatever so that they can be dragged along by the stereoscopic bandwagon.

Off to find some food for the evening. There is too much choice in this town – we'll spend all night thinking about where to go!

David Cox
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April 08, 2010
  It’s 3D Time
Posted By Ed Heede
Well, it's NAB again where Las Vegas plays host to maybe the most obsessive media fest on the globe. I had thoughts of doing a quick NAB "check list" and there are obvious booths and companies to look out for at the show. Examples: although ARRI with its fine Alexa cam is not known primarily for post tools, there will be other exceptional participants at the ARRI booth I can't go into (under NDA). Black Magic with its recent acquisition of Da Vinci surely qualifies (NDA) as do others along the lines of HP, NVIDIA, Autodesk, et al. More to come as the show kicks open.

Aside from specific hardware, IO formats and such, for now I thought I'd touch on the obvious keynote for the show and its upshot.

It's practically a cliché to say that content and client needs drive cinema and post production. Under that flag, a range of development fronts impact the NAB tribe every season. Thanks to consumer appetite it's no secret 3D cinema has made the biggest splash for entertainment delivery since talkies and color TV. And if NAB is abuzz with the term, people throughout the production chain will be asking how and where 3d will affect their pipeline to the bottom line. As with any cultural sea change - confusion and opportunity will abound.

Of course, some are already suggesting 3D is only a mandate for epic projects a la Jim Cameron's "Avatar" - the seminal 3D coming-of-age event for the medium. That may be true for the short term. But I suspect even those that promote the 3D-for-epics argument don't believe it will hold water for long. (Some may call that denial). How long can it be before the audience wants 3D for smaller and more intimate indie projects? That window may be shorter than skeptics believe. After all, 3D is how human beings perceive and experience life. And once standards are nailed down for 3D home delivery, content not prepped for the look may be at a marked disadvantage.

Practical 3D for a wider filmmaking sector and its audience is another issue. And it's hardly an easy one. Experienced studio filmmakers down to indies don't necessarily like working in 3D (as an example, Alice in Wonderland was not shot in 3D but retrofitted in post to emulate it). Lack of standards and clumsy learning curves are just a few of the issues. There are cost outlays in time and technology with IO workflows under the added tax of a second HD or 2K (or 4K) stream for every project. Then there are older more familiar questions about how straightforward any of these tools will be for UI overhead, setup, etc.

Whatever the mix is at NAB, it's a safe bet providers that give clients and filmmakers the most transparent, easy and cost effective path to 3D IO will make the most of their market. Cost efficient tools to retrofit 2D into 3D will no doubt be critical and instant hits.

The long and the short of 3D?

The content audience wants the Full Monty and that says 3D is here to stay. It's more or less as simple and thorny as that.
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April 05, 2010
  My NAB Hit List
Posted By Michael Kammes
Once a year, us posties flock to our mecca, and plant ourselves within the bowels of Sin City to suckle from the geek teet, and bask in all its acronym run glory. We spend too much on cheap food. We spend way more on alcohol, and desperately try and find which one of the vendors will have the best after party. Walking each hall and floor tenderizes our feet as if Rocky Balboa was in training. We hoard swag in the several free branded bags slung over both shoulders. We shout over the tens of thousands of other people asking the same questions, and demand specifications about balsawood products that won't ship until next year. We play business card roulette and find out who is where. We reminisce about older, bulkier and more expensive technological solutions, the same way we'll chuckle over this year's offerings in 10 years.

Aren't you psyched? I've been packed since Thanksgiving.

I'm lucky enough to be a part of many of the vendor meetings (yes, I still feel lucky) to hear some behind the scenes and roadmap information. With this impending information overload, I've made a short list of the biggies I need to be sure to check out.

AJA: PCIe cards with 3G. That would be friggin' sweet. Imagine your Kona 3 having two 3G outputs. This kind of bandwidth would allow for for Dual Link 4:4:4 and perhaps even full frame Left and Right Eye 3D - at resolutions at or above 2K. Michael likey. I'm also hoping to see a more enhanced KiPro; perhaps a more robust Web interface for metadata, extra storage, and *maybe* other codecs.

Avid: Of course. With Apple (still) not having a booth, that leaves Avid as the sole NLE juggernaut on the floor. Due to NDA, I have to dance around the new Media Composer offerings, but I am excited about what will be shown. Several game changers, in terms of media usage, management, and viewing. Avid is really making a push, across the board, to be a bit more open. Kudos. I'd love to see Metafuze become (easily) cluster-able, and be a bit more efficient - if that is, indeed, how Avid will continue to utilize 3D. The smell of a Unity revamp is in the air, and I can only imagine an ISIS / Unity / Cuisinart hybrid.

Blackmagic: DaVinci. Lots of rumors about what the product is being morphed into since the purchase. What will Resolve become?

NewTekTriCaster: TriCaster, natch. The Standard Definition units and now the XD300 are some of the few products in the past few years that have really knocked my nerd socks off. We lost 3 baseband inputs when the jump was made to HD - but I completely understand the limits of technology. To do all TriCaster does - in realtime - hey, ya gotta make some sacrifices. A guy can hope that a unit with more inputs will be available. I'd also love to see an easier way to make 3D sets; much like the old Virtual Set Constructor NewTek had. However, perhaps an app that allowed for HD virtual set construction with user defined areas for super imposition / PIP, as well as reflections - like their pre-baked sets have. Creating these without LightWave would be a huge benefit.

Cineform: I am totally in love with Neo3D for stereoscopic monitoring in Final Cut Pro. I'm hoping for a more reliable way to reconform, rather than just pulling timecode from the "paired" file. I'd also love to see distributed encoding into the Cineform codec, so we can flip files faster. Perhaps the ability to have different views between the Canvas and the video hardware I/O output. Maybe more editing ability - like the 3D 3D Stereo Tool box plug-in has.

Root6: I've been jonesin' for the ability to have Web-based interaction with Content Agent. I'm also hoping to see some abilities to utilize more P2 based file formats that we use here in the States, but hasn't taken off in the UK. I'd also like to see the incorporation of Digital Rapids 3.x software into the fold. Stream 3.0 introduced a host of features, and Content Agent is still utilizing Stream 2.5.x.

CatDV: Another piece of enabling software that is part DAM/MAM and part friggin' awesome. I don't expect anything more than further [censored] kicking.

Automatic Duck: Wes has always been finding new and creative ways for project and media interchange. I can only hope that he's been a bloodhound on the Media Composer scent and will be ready to rock and roll. (If not - Wes, call me Monday at 9.01am. I have some ideas. We'll make MILLION$).

Telestream: Can't say much. Just go to the booth. Game changer(s).

Apple: Yes, I know you don't have a booth, but you WILL be some suite. A shiny one, I bet. Lurking. Taunting. iPadding. I'd love to nibble on the cheese in the mousetrap of Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Server. Who am I kidding? It won't happen. But I can hope that maybe after the 5th or 6th round of Apple martinis, something will slip. And if that fails, there's always roofies and knifepoint.

AutodeskSMAC - Smoke 2010 for Mac OS X: SMAC - Smoke 2010 for Mac OS X - is generating a ton of buzz. I'm hoping more modules will be written, and enhanced codec support.

Facilis: File Level locking is here! Hooray! But not for everyone. Mac 64-bit, and a few other choice configs - not so much. What say you, Facilis?

Assimilate: Lucas Wilson is the MAN. When he and Tony get together, stars align. Plus, their boss is named Taco. How can that trifecta be ignored? I'm gonna be looking for additional hardware options and configs for Scratch, and perhaps a wee bit more editorial options and project interchange. How about more efficient use of the Red Rocket card and stability on a Mac?

Other Hot Topics I'll be sniffing out:

Easier and less expensive Blu-ray authoring for Mac and PC.

Larger Stereoscopic monitors at lower price points, both in Active and Passive varieties.

Anyone who wants to buy me a drink.
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