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Recent Blog Posts in 2011

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November 03, 2011
  Sony takes first steps toward 8K camera
Posted By Tom Coughlin
By Tom Coughlin


HOLLYWOOD -
At the recent SMPTE Technical Conference here, Sony's Hugo Gaggioni made an interesting presentation on the new Sony F65 CineAlta camera.

The Sony F65 CineAlta camera introduced in September 2011 has a resolution of 8,000X2,000 pixels. This camera is the first commercial camera offering where one of the aspect ratio reaches 8,000 pixels and 20 M pixels total using a large format CMOS image sensor. The product can run up to 120fps and supports 16-bit RAW output on SRMemory flash memory cartridges from Sony with storage capacities of 256GB, 500GB and 1TB.

The advanced Bayer pattern sensor in the F65 boosts the number of blue and green pixels by twice what is in the normal Bayer sensor giving a much more extensive color space (especially in blue and green-most visible to the human eye) as shown in Figure 1 below.




The greater color space is one of the main reasons for the camera's high resolution along one of the imaging axes (8K) since the actual output of the camera is 4K X 2 K images. The RAW image output from the camera provides a file size smaller than uncompressed RGB data and the extra resolution in the RAW format provides many lower resolution formats for post production.

The Sony SRMemory (S55) flash memory cartridge writes data up to 5.5Gbps (sustained) and reads data up to 8Gbps (sustained 5.5Gbps) with storage capacities as high as 1TB per cartridge. Figure 2 shows recording times as a function of cartridge capacity and content resolution.Recording formats supports are 16-bit linear RAW (4K format), Uncompressed HD Components and SR-Codec (MPEG-4 Simple Studio Profile, SStP). The SRMedia is inserted into the SR-R4 recording device which is mounted on the back of the camera as shown in Figure 3.  Information on the recording characteristics for F65RAW recording are shown in the figure. Figure 2 below: Recording Times on SRMemory S55 Cartridges as a Function of Cartridge Capacity and Content Resolution.





Figure 3 below:  SR-R4 SRMemory Recorder for Cameras.





Figure 4 shows MPEG-4 Simple Studio Profile (SStP) resolution and data rates vs. MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 showing that up to 4K at 60 fps can be achieved with data rates up to 3.6 Gbps.
Figure 4 below: MPEG-4 Simple Studio Profile (SStP) vs. MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 Resolutions and Data Rate




Figure 5 shows a comparison of file sizes for Digital Negatives and Post Work Files showing that the resulting file size for these 4K images (RAW and MPEG 4-SStP) is less than other 4K images and isabout the same as 2K RGB digital negatives and significantly less than RGB digital work files.
Figure 5 below:  Comparison of File Sizes for Digital Negatives and Post Work Files for Sony F65 RAW and MPEG4-SStP vs. RGB and other Formats.




As usual Sony also provides editing and post solutions for their camera formats.  Figure 6 shows F65 RAW/MPEG-4 SStP data workflow in Post.  Note that this figure shows the varioususes and sources of content from storage devices used for capture, ingest as well as digital storage for post production collaborative work.
Figure 6 below: F65 Camera RAW/MPEG 4-SStP Data Workflow in Post Production




The Sony CineAlta video camera price runs in the neighborhood of $65K. Although expensive for some the advanced imaging features in this product point the way to the future and usher in the era of single camera 8K recording.  We expect the price of this product will drop with time and that competing products with similar features will come on the market in the next two years. Perhaps with the success of this camera true 8K X 4K content capture commercial cameras could be introduced within five years. Of course with more resolution comes more storage. As Figure 3 shows F65 RAW format images will take over 1 TB for an hour of content.  With total captured footage of 100 hours or more (even 1,000 hours is not uncommon) for a single production, approaching half a PB and even more than a PB (with true 8KX4K content) could become the norm for total captured content for a single project in just a few years.

Continue reading "Sony takes first steps toward 8K camera" »

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October 17, 2011
  CCW 2011: Lights, Cameras, Quality
Posted By Fred Ruckel

By Fred Ruckel

NEW YORK -The Javits Convention Center played host to CCW this year. Upon descending to the lower level you can see the distant booths and the feeling of where do I start sets in. I had made my list of things I wanted to see and planned to explore some of the unknown ones out there. 

With everyone getting immersed in stereoscopic these days, there was no shortage of 3D hardware and software to be seen. Panasonic had a very nice new camera, the AG-3DP1, P2 camera. Having two lenses and sets of electronics made for a great 3D picture. The only downside I could tell was the camera must be very front heavy and therefore would be difficult to balance in a non-studio environment. I played with the controls and it seemed to have a great range of adjustments, putting it on par with some of the other very expensive cameras. 

Shooting 3D has become commonplace these days, however viewing it on set is often cumbersome. Marshall Electronics has a great on-set monitor, the Orchid OR-70-3D. This little 7-inch screen allows for stereoscopic viewing without the use of glasses. This technology will be showing up all over as the market develops. Nothing could be better than being able to see a full stereo 3D shot live to make important decisions. The monitor also allows a viewer to see the waveform and vector information for each eye. This is crucial as it ensure the colors are balanced between both eyes, something that if done wrong, can take a lot of time in post to correct.

Autodesk was showing the newest Smoke on a Mac (smac as we call it). This program has come a long way. Originally on Unix, ported to Linux, now ported to Mac as a scaled back version of Smoke, it still boasts a deep toolset. A first-time user wouldn't know what was missing and therefore it would be a fully-featured system for them. As a long time Flame artist, all my favorite tools are the ones that are left out in the scale back. I am sure that I could make it work and learn new ways to skin the cat. Keep an eye out for this to get bigger and maybe one day become Flame on Mac - now that would be awesome.

Avid had the usual showings of the gear. One thing of note is that apparently in three weeks time a new release is coming out that is going to be a game changer. Avid had been the long time standing NLE champ, but Apple came on hard for the last 10 years with Final Cut. Adobe has come back for another round with Premiere, which has been re-written for a third time. Keep an eye on this segment of the market as things are about to change. Time will tell, Avid says 3 weeks. We shall see.

The studio lights market has been a major growth area as well. Back at NAB I had noted this segment was going to see a big leap due to lighting technology changes. This show was not short of everyone showing off studio lights using LED technology. Every light manufacturer had an LED offering. While all new to this area, they are making huge progress. Being that LEDs are programmable there is a wide range of effects that can be programmed and reproduced exactly. Its almost like lights have hit the digital age.

Thunderbolt technology is finally making its way into the production pipeline. At the Autodesk booth I saw a Thunderbolt Raid connected to a laptop making for a truly portable high-end workstation. There are a few vendors with production ready Raids available, Promise Technology was at the show with an array or arrays. For those who aren't familiar with Thunderbolt, using display port technology one can connect up to six devices in a chain and attain speeds up to 10Gbps bi-directionally. That speed is enough to sustain full resolution HD video. Until recently this kind of speed was only achievable with Fibre channel, which is very expensive. While only a few computer manufacturers have started implementing it on systems, you can bet in the next year it will all go that way. Unlike USB, a Thunderbolt cable has the same connector on both ends making plug and play a lot easier than USB as it has a different connector at both ends. If you are looking for a storage upgrade, keep a watchful eye on Thunderbolt.

The conference was also filled with lots of speaker events that really were targeted to today's pressing issues. Most often attendees skip the conference part and just look at exhibits. This was not the case at this CCW as speaker panels drew people in to learn what was going on and what was next. The past few years in the production and post production business has really evolved. So much so that many people are confused on which path to follow and what is the best choice for their business that will be future worthy. 

I sat in on one conference about the multiple acquisition formats in the workflow. The room was full and panelist each addressed different concerns with the all-data world we live in now. From Red to Alexa to ProRes, there was something for everyone to learn. The biggest thing I took away from it was that the days of the signal purist are numbered. I sat with a grin as I listened during Q&A and most people all talked about ProRes being their finishing format. One person even dared to say that ProRes and uncompressed raw are virtually identical. ProRes 444 @23.98 can only sustain a bit-rate of 264mbps, whereas HDCAM SR can sustain 880mbps. One thing is certain, what is high-end now is almost unattainable and what is midrange now is soon to be the high-end. 

It would seem that these days less people care about the quality of the signal than the speed at which you can work with mixed media. The next few years will be very interesting to watch as the format wars heat up and what will be considered the new "high end." I just pray it isn't ProRes.

Continue reading "CCW 2011: Lights, Cameras, Quality" »

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October 04, 2011
  Desktop Post: Part 2 - Adobe Premiere CS5.5
Posted By Daniel Restuccio

Adobe Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro in Adobe CS 5 was a watershed release. The program was written from the ground up in 64-bit environment that is fully exploited on the Mac OS X and the very stable Windows 7 system. The kind of hiccups running Premiere in a 32-bit funky Windows XP operating system are mostly banished. Refinements to this aspect of the engine in CS5.5 is that the 64-bit addressing of using the CPU cores has been further optimized improving overall stability when editing projects with large files, i.e. Red One or Red Epic projects.

Adobe, with this 5.5 release seems recommitted to their flagship editing software. With Premiere 5.5 projects can be truly cross platform and the benefits of Dynamic Linking across other Adobe apps continues to enhance Premiere's profile as a serious NLE. Demand for Adobe's Production Premium CS5.5 has grown 22 percent year-over-year with 45 percent growth on the Mac. The recent announcements at IBC that Adobe Production Premium 5.5 will be used extensively at the UK broadcast network ITV and the acquisition of IRIDAS lends serious credibility to the notion that Adobe means business and that everyone should consider giving Premiere another look.

 

The Premiere Pro 5.5 upgrade sports a number of fresh features. It has an improved Mercury Playback engine; better DLSR editing, specifically the merge clip feature connects video clips to sound clips when shooting using a double system acquisition; customizable keyboard shortcuts so you can make your keyboard emulate Avid Media Composer or Final Cut Pro 7; an enhanced insert and overwrite editing features; and a new importer allows you to natively work with Red Epic footage. There are more GPU-accelerated features, including time remapping, speed change, footage interpretation options, field order processing, filmic transitions, blur effects and more.  The existing support for Red R3D is enhanced and now Epic footage can be imported. What is significantly missing is native support for Arri Alexa footage. 

What is called the Mercury Playback Engine is a collection of features that includes 64-bit addressing, enabled multithreading and the ability to access CUDA technology on specific Nvidia cards. This is specialized functionality built into Premiere Pro 5.0 that has been enhanced in PP 5.5 enabling it to do a lot more. As a 64-bit app, Premiere allows for all the RAM in a system to be addressable. This, coupled with the reasonably stable 64-bit Windows 7 operating system, makes for a mostly reliable editing environment.  

Premiere Pro 5 had really good multithreading, Premiere Pro 5.5 "does more" with the MPE. Are you going to notice it? Well maybe.  The work goes smoother and dare I say it, the system doesn't hang up as much.  (We all know that other NLEs never crash right?) 

The CUDA technology built into the Nvidia card is the really big deal. The first CUDA SDK was released in 2007 and is now at Version 4.0.  The Quadro 5000 based on the new Fermi architecture, supports more programming languages such as C++, has 352 CUDA cores, a display resolution of 2560 x 1600, two display ports, a double precision floating point performance of 360 Gigaflops, and works with the Nvidia 3D Vision Pro kit to preview 3D projects in Premiere Pro 5.5 on a display that supports 3D viewing. 

Adobe will tell you point blank you don't need an Nvidia card to take advantage of the Mercury PE features and functions, but the reality is that it does make many of the functions in Premiere Pro run more efficiently. Think of it as a render farm on a card for certain effects and processes. In PP 5.0 the list of accelerated effects included: 

Alpha Adjust, Basic 3D, Black & White, Brightness & Contrast, Color Balance (RGB), Color Pass (Windows only), Color Replace, Crop, Drop Shadow, Edge Feather, Extract, Fast Color Corrector, Gamma Correction, Garbage Matte (4, 8, 16), Gaussian Blur, Horizontal Flip, Levels, Luma Corrector, Luma Curve, Noise, Proc Amp, RGB Curves, RGB Color Corrector, Sharpen, Three-way Color Corrector, Timecode, Tint, Track Matte Key, Ultra Keyer, Video Limiter, Vertical Flip, Cross Dissolve, Dip to Black and Dip to White

In PP 5.5 there are more accelerated effects including: film dissolve, additive dissolve, invert, directional blur, and fast blur. The film dissolve uses linear color blending and mimics the way a dissolve would happen if you had done it in a optical printer with two pieces of film. So the look is more "cinematic" from that point of view. With these additional filters added to the existing list of GPU enhanced effects you can see the trend towards more filter operations are being tossed to the GPU.

Normally, when you're combining media of various types, sizes, frame rates, pixel aspect ratios, and so on into a sequence, the CPU is cranking overtime to make that work. Premiere Pro CS5.5 throws more of that under the hood labor to the GPUs on the Nvidia card. Deinterlacing, blending modes, color space conversions are also dealt with here. The goal is that you just want to be able to drop footage into the timeline, toss as many effects as possible with minimal rendering, and edit in as near to realtime as possible. The card definitely helps with all of this. 

DSLR

Canon's sales figures of DSLRs appear to be a carefully-guarded secret. However, an informal straw poll of Los Angeles rental houses identified the DSLRs Canon 5D and 7D as popular shooting gear along with the Arri Alexa, Sony F3 and Red One. At this year's Sundance Film Festival, Like Crazy, shot entirely with a Canon 7D DSLR, was sold to Paramount for $4 million. Ed Burns made his new movie Newlyweds on the Canon 5D Mark II. Bandito Bros recently sold Act of Valor for $15 million, also shot almost entirely with the Canon 5D. With these examples DSLRs are exerting a strong influence on production and post production. 

DSLR footage may look great but to many it's a post-production headache. The Canon DSLRs shoot an H.264 4:2:0 8-bit color at a variable bit rate that ranges from 38- to 45Mb per sec. Many editors transcode the DSLR footage into ProRes 4x4 or DNxHD 120 to edit on FCP or Avid. Premiere Pro has been able to import DSLR footage natively since 5.0 and with 5.5 has expanded the range of DSLR footage to include Canon and Nikon DSLR camera formats.

The H.264 files that DSLRs shoot are not ideal for color correcting.

Premiere Pro 5.5 can edit DSLR footage in its native format and plays back a lot smoother than 5.0.  It is essentially rendering the codec on the fly thanks to the MPE and CUDA technology. Premiere Pro CS5.0 was unable to use more than 4GB of RAM on the GPU (VRAM). Premiere Pro CS5.5 can use more than 4GB of VRAM.  If you do decide to transcode anyway when you go to export DSLR footage with the CUDA tech it can squeeze all the quality that is there with minimal additional artifacting. 

Export DPX

One of the most kick-ass features of Premiere Pro 5.5/Media Encoder is the ability to export out DPX files. These are the foundation assets of visual effects work and as of this writing you can't do this with Final Cut Pro 7 without buying Gluetools and you can't do this at all with FCPX. After Effects has been able to do this forever but with the GPU enhanced technology those plates will be vastly improved coming out of Premiere and the Media Encoder.

The reason for this is that without GPU acceleration Premiere Pro and After Effects use the basic set of scaling algorithms to do previews and render footage. With the CUDA technology Premiere can take advantage of much better scaling algorithms that normally would take way too long to be practically useful in a production environment. In simple terms, your DPX files will look a lot better and bake out faster using the card than without it. So if you are doing high-end effects work it is to your advantage to make DPX plates using the CUDA enhanced technology. 

Continue reading "Desktop Post: Part 2 - Adobe Premiere CS5.5" »

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September 21, 2011
  IBC 2011: Highlights and Wrap-Up
Posted By Sam Johnson

So IBC 2011 has come and gone, but what were my show highlights?

Super Hi-Vision

3D broadcast took a little bit of a back-seat this year. Is the fad over? Who knows! In its place however, 2K, 4K and even 8K developments took precedence. NHK and BBC's R&D departments have developed 8K broadcast and display technologies that this year granted them the IBC 2011 Conference Award. For those who got to experience it, they were treated to an amazing 20-foot, 8K demo, supported by a 22.2 channel surround system.

4K and 8K technologies will be in our homes sooner than we think, and next year those in London will get a sneak preview, as BBC and NHK intend to record and project the 2012 Olympic games to the public.

Foundry's Hiero

Last year, The Foundry's Storm (DIT Tool) was released. 12 months on, and due to poor sales, the product has been canned. From the ashes rises Hiero.

Hiero is a DIT/Conform tool for Nuke that also has a timeline. It helps Nuke users conform and manage their media and roundtrips back and forth with ease. Hmmm... a suggestion of a new NLE to challenge the likes of FCP, Avid and Adobe? Perhaps, but more interestingly with its functionality with Nuke, we may also see a Foundry production package in the not-too-distant future. Watch this space.

Automated QC/VidChecker

Baton and Cerify have dominated this space for a little while, and with tapeless delivery becoming almost industry standard worldwide, automated QC is having a boom.

The problem I've had with automated QC software is that they overly complicate it for what the majority of us need to do. Thankfully I stumbled upon VidChecker. The Bristol-based team have created a user friendly GUI that makes life so much easier. You are still given tons of customizable features - from QC watch folders to gamut correction to encoding, it has it all, but is much easier to navigate. QC systems are great, in particular VidChecker, however at present, it will never replace the eagle eyes of a keen VT/MCR op.

So those were my highlights of IBC 2011. For those who wish to do some homework, I do also have to make some honorable mentions:

- Sony OLED broadcast monitors

- Baselight for FCP

- Adobe Flash 11/Server 4.5

- Cinema4D R13

Until next year Amsterdam!

Sam

Continue reading "IBC 2011: Highlights and Wrap-Up" »

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September 19, 2011
  Desktop Post: Part 1 - HP's Z800
Posted By Daniel Restuccio


Hardware & Software:

Digital production and post-production has always been demanding on hardware and software. A stable standard definition workflow existed for a blink before it jumped to high definition. Now we need systems that will hack through 2K, 4K, 5K and higher resolutions for both 2D and 3D deliverables. 

Each of these systems has become simpler and more complex over the years. Tape has given way to tapeless but is still seeking standardization amid a dizzying array of formats. We are hovering very close to QuickTime Pro Res 4:4:4:4 and Avid DNxHD 45 becoming the inheritors of Sony SR tape deliverables. Ironically, as a tapeless production and post workflow is embraced, archiving projects has gone back to LTO tape technology. GPU technology is taking over visualization tasks from CPUs. The kind of fluid workflow that only expensive machines could do two years ago is now possible for less cost. That benefit has been offset by shorter post production schedules and more competition for work. The net result is that as the products get more amazing it gets ever more challenging to make a profit in this environment.

Blog Series

This blog series covers a few aspects of this new reality. It's a snapshot of some gear and software sitting on my desk. Specifically the Adobe CS5.5 Premiere Pro and After Effects upgrade, the Hewett Packard Z800 computer, the Nvidia Quadro 5000 and Nvidia 3D Vision Pro kit, along with some incredibly cool footage from the Red Epic in 3D and HDR from Red and Local Hero Post.

HPZ800- Part 1: Some Benchmarks

Released in 2009 the HP Z800 line of workstations is well documented as cutting edge workstations. My top-of-the-line model, housed in a 17.5 x 8.0 x 20.7-inch box, contains two "Westmere" 3.33GHz Intel Xeon (X5680) CPUs with six cores each containing 12MB L3 cache. Each chip uses 32nm high-k metal gate technology, and has a 133MHz base clock. My workstation has 24GBs of memory but has the capacity of taking 12 x 16GB DIMMs DDR3-1333 for a mind boggling 192GB of RAM. Bandwidth per memory controller is 1333MHz * 8Bytes * 3 Channels = (approximately) 32GB/s for each memory controller. You can set the chips in the BIOS for simultaneous "hyper-threading" which takes each processor and logically divides it into two cores theoretically allowing you to run more apps without losing processor speed. So this 12 actual core machine is transformed into a beast, with 24 working virtual cores. 

This unit also has 500GB Seagate Barracuda 7,200-rpm SATA drive for the operating system. There's also two 1.5 TB Seagate Barracuda 7,200-rpm SATA2  RAID 0 drives for data. The motherboard has an integrated 3Gbps SATA controller with support for RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 as well as an integrated 8-channel SAS controller with RAID 0, 1, and 10 support. The Z800 can handle 10TB of internal storage.

Benchmarking

We used PassMark Performance Test 7.0 and Futuremark's PCMark 7 Professional to benchmark the Z800 with the Nvidia Quadro 5000 card.  

Passmark conducts a series of CPU, 2D graphics, 3D graphics and disk tests comparing them to a baseline machine. Passmark gave it a summary score of 3023.8. As expected when compared to a generic machine with similar hardware, it did considerably better. However, machines with the same processors overclocked, like the Boxx, logically did perform better than the Z800.  


When we ran Futuremark's PCMark 7 Professional benchmarking software we got an overall score of 2963 (details at http://3dmark.com/pcm7/92473). This score is an aggregate of modules that test workloads related to entertainment, creativity, computation, productivity and storage. Individual tests include recording, importing, organizing, viewing, editing, streaming, transcoding, and storing video footage, images, and audio files, several gaming related tasks, DirectX functionality, and the computation performance of the system. 

In this case the machine performed okay. There is another machine (details: http://3dmark.com/pcm7/57596) running eVGA Classified SR-2 motherboard that is comparable that got a 5063. This machine is however equipped with higher throughput, faster hard drives and hard drive controllers so it performed better.  

From an editing and effects standpoint what would improve the machine's functionally would be to max out the RAM as much as possible, adding dedicated cards like AJA Kona, Blackmagic, or Red Rocket if you are working with Red footage and upgrading all drives ideally to SSD drives, particular for the boot drive. Regular hard drives should be at least 7,200rpm and preferably 10,000rpm or 15,000rpm. 

The HP Z800 Workstation is well optimized for post production because it has been designed to take into account the entire post workflow: hardware, applications, operating system and most critically the people interacting with that system.  

The mission of the engineers who built the Z800 was to realize better performance by eliminating internal system bottlenecks. After running real applications and thoroughly analyzing system interactions, they invented an I/O logjam busting design - one that connects the Intel CPU and Intel chipset into a uniquely balanced configuration that achieves greater parallelism within the system. In particular, the six core machines using the Intel Xeon Six-Core E5645, E5649, X5650 chips are there with the technology to make any software optimized to take advantage of multi processor functionality perform incredibly well.The result is a robust dynamic that puts everything in the workstation that the user needs to deliver the project under the most demanding deadlines.

Continue reading "Desktop Post: Part 1 - HP's Z800" »

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September 15, 2011
  IBC 2011: Pixel Farm's PFTrack
Posted By Russell Dodgson
One of the coolest things I saw at IBC this year was some of the new technology from The Pixel Farm, makers of PFClean, PFTrack and PFMatchIt.

The new releases of late have made a fairly large shift in the way 3D tracking can be approached. Firstly with the release of PFMatchIt they have introduced a node-based approach to tracking, allowing a much more fluid/iterative approach to the process. They have now incorporated this same paradigm into the fully feature PFTrack which includes geometry tracking, optical flow analysis, depth matte generation and image modeling to name but a few.

The differing price point of these two softwares offers studios a more cost effective workflow with PFMatchIt being the relatively cheaper little brother.



The two features that truly impressed me were the following:

Deformation Object Tracking - This was awesome. PFTrack has always had a really great object tracker, but they have taken this a step further. It now allows the artist to paint soft selections for regions of their global tracking mesh. As well as solving a global object track it then uses the selection areas to then create deformations to the geometry based on the movement of the underlying footage. This led to a surprisingly accurate result when solving the deformation of footage of talking man.

Depth Matte Generation - Another great feature is it's ability to take the camera data along with optical flow information to generate an incredibly dense, per pixel representation of the scene. This works particularly well on organic features. They have now added a feature that allows you to define regions of depth with mattes. This allows a much stronger solve and becomes an incredibly powerful tool for dimensionalisation.

In all the Pixel Farm are definitely pushing the boundaries in the field of match moving.
Continue reading "IBC 2011: Pixel Farm's PFTrack" »

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September 12, 2011
  IBC 2011: Tweak Software's RV
Posted By Russell Dodgson
I had a nice walk through from Alan Trombla about some of the new features in the latest release of Tweak Software's RV.

One of the really interesting things about RV is that at first glance it seems to be a fairly expensive flipbook software. Often artists use a piece of software like RV for its primary function and don't take the time to see what else it can do. I was guilty of this until I recently took the time to look through its toolset and found out what it can really do.

With a host of features such as version stacking, fast sequence building, comparison modes, basic compositing functionality, fast caching of long sequences, as well as Nuke and Shotgun integration, it really does more than at first look.

Today Alan showed me a new presentation mode that allows the user to play back at full screen on an external monitor, which makes it great for client reviews. He also talked to me about some of its new Python integrations, compatibility with ACES color spaces and some exciting developments with Shotgun (so watch this space).

Thanks to Alan for taking the time.

Continue reading "IBC 2011: Tweak Software's RV" »

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September 12, 2011
  IBC 2011: Maxon Cinema4D Release 13
Posted By Sam Johnson
Over the years (25 to be precise!) Maxon's Cinema4D has become one of the most popular 3D tools at post production facilities. This is due to its ease of use, cost effectiveness and multi-platform availability. What better place to announce the latest release of the software than at IBC!
 
Cinema4D R13 (or Release 13) boasts a range of new features from the already great R12. Main release features include a Physical Renderer, Stereoscopic Rendering and a new character animation toolset.


 
Physical Renderer enables the user to generate realistic camera settings giving a realism and new depth of field. The new character toolset contains autorig presets, simplifying the process for rigs and also cyclic walking for characters, enabling smoother motion over different types of terrain. And finally, Stereoscopic rendering - R13 enables the user to render using anaglyph, side-by-side or interlace 3D modes.
 
The demonstrator also mentioned that R13 supports up to 256 rendering threads per machine, so it's hardware future proofed, which is always good! 
 
For more information/release notes of R13 head on over to Maxon at: http://www.maxon.net

Sam Johnson got his start as a runner in Soho, learning the ropes on Avid systems and working his way up the ladder. He is now a Production/Post-Production Engineer for the LAB, AMV BBDO's post facility, and specializes in Apple Pro Applications & Xsan Environments. He also provides consultancy to the TV department. Learn more about AMV BBDO at http://www.amvlab.com.
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September 12, 2011
  IBC 2011: Baselight for FCP
Posted By Sam Johnson
One of the most accomplished grading systems is Filmlight's Baselight. And with the announcement of a standalone grading plug-in for Apple's Final Cut Pro (FCP) at NAB, it became a hotly-anticipated demo for FCP users at IBC.

The plug-in that we saw at NAB, is no-longer. Instead there is a completely redesigned plug-in, porting across almost all of Baselight's features, including the GUI. What you get is a fully-fledged grading platform in your NLE. No more round-tripping between FCP and Color. Simply apply your grade layers and render. 



Like I mentioned before, you basically have a full Baselight, primaries, secondaries, masks, etc. Unfortunately the beta currently does not support tracking, which is a bit of a shame. That said, Filmlight insist that it will come hopefully in the release version, or in a later update.

Once they demo'd the grading functionality of the plug-in they went on to demo the round-tripping between Baselight for FCP and its big brother Baselight 4.2. Just by exporting an XML 5 out of FCP and then imported into Baselight, all grade layers from FCP were visible, and more precise grading could be carried out. You can then roundtrip again and bring in the big brother's more advanced layers into FCP, including tracking data. So though you are not able to track in FCP, you can bring in the tracking data from Baselight and apply new masks to that track, for example.

They are currently working on a Nuke version, also with the same versatility and functionality, and are currently working on a Motion 5 and FCP X versions.

You currently can only use Avid MC Control and MC Transport tangents panels, though they are looking at other companies to support the plug-in. Baselight for FCP is planned to be released Q3/Q4 of 2011. 

For more information on Baselight 4.2 and Baselight for FCP, head on over to Filmlight: http://www.filmlight.ltd.uk/products/baselight/overview_bl.php.

Sam Johnson got his start as a runner in Soho, learning the ropes on Avid systems and working his way up the ladder. He is now a Production/Post-Production Engineer for the LAB, AMV BBDO's post facility, and specializes in Apple Pro Applications & Xsan Environments. He also provides consultancy to the TV department. Learn more about AMV BBDO at http://www.amvlab.com.
Continue reading "IBC 2011: Baselight for FCP" »

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September 12, 2011
  IBC 2011: The Foundry's Hiero fills the gap
Posted By Russell Dodgson
The main aim of my trip to IBC this year is to look at up and coming conform, editorial, versioning and review systems. First on my list to visit was The Foundry, the boys and girls behind my beloved Nuke. At IBC this year they announced the arrival of a new piece of software that fills a gap that their suite of tools had.

Until now Nuke has been fast developing as not just the go-to film compositing software, but also as a powerful and cost-effective addition to a commercials toolset.

Hiero is designed to fill just that gap. I sat down and had a through walk through with the Foundry's Matt Plec. At first glance Hiero is fairly similar in its UI to the recently-discontinued Storm, so it is clear where that Storm R&D has been repurposed.

The first thing they were keen to make clear was that it is not a Smoke or Flame, and is not currently being designed as a finishing tool. The easiest way I can explain it is in the stages of post production that it could possibly fit into.

Stage 1

It can conform from EDL or XML to its timeline and has a smart and intuitive interface for EDL wrangling and problem solving. Once this is done your media can be tagged, edits minorly (or majorly) adjusted with a standard set of editing tools, and projects versioned and snap-shotted in varying states.

Stage 2

Following this the software seems as though it is going to be able to leverage Nuke's toolset in the background to deliver various versions into the VFX pipeline. One of its biggest benefits looks to be a vast array of Python hooks that will allow shops of different sizes to customize and tweak the software to their own specifications, an approach The Foundry are always keen to encourage with open development. For delivery into the VFX pipeline these python hooks should allow users to create their own naming conventions, rules and directory structures for Hiero to deliver to.

Stage 3

Once shots have been worked on Hiero can also version on a shot by shot basis. Facilities should then be able to use Hiero as an automatically updating timeline where each clip is a container through which you can access varying versions of the same comp or shot.

Stage 4

To finish off it will then output into your format of choice for delivery to TK or wherever you choose to add your final touches.

So what does this all mean? For commercial facilities I can see the opportunity to use Hiero as the foundation for a number or sophisticated workflows that, most importantly, integrate well with single shot compositors such as Nuke.

Just within the conversation we had today a number of possible additions and tweaks were discussed that got the boys at The Foundry excited. You could tell they are itching to get back and take all their IBC feedback and make it a reality.

As I understand the beta is coming fairly soon, so those lucky enough to get on the beta can try and use it in anger.

An exciting piece of software on the horizon.
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September 12, 2011
  IBC 2011: NHK's Super Hi-Vision 8k technology
Posted By Sam Johnson
The conference award this year was awarded to NHK's Super HI-Vision, and apparently a must see. Super Hi-Vision is an 8K (7,680 x 4,320) camera and display technology developed by NHK and the BBC. Along with 8K video technologies, 3D surround sound is also incorporated.

I received my ticket from the lovely NHK crew and was shuffled into a dimly-lit room that consisted of a pair of massive projectors, a 20-foot screen, a few chairs and walls and ceilings that were peppered with Bose speakers. The demonstration started off with brief introduction to the technology followed by comparisons of SD, HD and then 8K Super-Hi Vision. Revealed was a simply breathtaking bird's eye view of a cityscape. We then were taken to BBC's White City were an Ikegami 8K camera was feeding a live broadcast to Amsterdam. 

From there we were introduced to the sound element of Super-Hi Vision. Like the picture comparisons, we first listened to a stereo mix, then a 5.1, they Super-Hi Vision 22.2 Surround Sound. I had never been so immersed in picture and sound before.

They then discussed the future of 8K and are hoping to utilize it during the London 2012 Olympic Games and further down the line incorporating it into a domestic market. They then finally ended the demo with Copa America highlights. Super-Hi Vision really came into its own. The 22.2 surround sound really gave a sense of what it would be like to be in the stadium, whilst the 8K image gave real depth - a 3D-like image (without the strain) that made the whole experience unbelievably immersive and unforgettable. 

A deserved winner!

For more information on NHK's Super Hi-Vision visit http://www.nhk.or.jp/digital/en/superhivision/.

Sam Johnson got his start as a runner in Soho, learning the ropes on Avid systems and working his way up the ladder. He is now a Production/Post-Production Engineer for the LAB, AMV BBDO's post facility, and specializes in Apple Pro Applications & Xsan Environments. He also provides consultancy to the TV department. Learn more about AMV BBDO at http://www.amvlab.com.
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September 12, 2011
  IBC 2011: The Foundry debuts Hiero
Posted By Sam Johnson
Today we were invited to the Foundry's Hiero tech demo. It was sold to me as a "Timeline for Nuke/Nuke X," however, upon the start of the demo it was clear that it was more than just a timeline. Last year Foundry announced Storm, a data wrangling tool that enabled the entry of metadata and application of basic grades to newly-ingested clips. 

A year has come and gone and though development on Storm had been progressive, not many customers were buying it. The announcement of Red Cine-X Pro did not help either, and was the final nail in Storm's coffin. As Storm dies, Hiero is born and ports Storm's "best bits" across. Yes there is a timeline, but what makes Hiero interesting is that it also has elements of a fully functioning nonlinear editing program. It has a conform tool, cut/trim, metadata, etc. It also round trips with Nuke very well and you are able to layer composites, i.e. FCP to Motion, Premiere to After Effects, etc.

Though only in Alpha stage at present, the potential is there for Hiero to be a great tool for Nuke artists to help manage the media. With all the features of Hiero, and if it continues to be developed, it begs the question, are The Foundry entering into the nonlinear editing market?

For more information on Hiero head on over to http://www.thefoundry.co.uk/products/hiero/.

Sam Johnson got his start as a runner in Soho, learning the ropes on Avid systems and working his way up the ladder. He is now a Production/Post-Production Engineer for the LAB, AMV BBDO's post facility, and specializes in Apple Pro Applications & Xsan Environments. He also provides consultancy to the TV department. Learn more about AMV BBDO at http://www.amvlab.com.
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September 09, 2011
  IBC 2011: Promise shows Thunderbolt solutions
Posted By Sam Johnson

With the announcement of Apple/Intel's Thunderbolt technology in the new Apple Mac hardware, Germany-based Promise Technology were the first to jump on the bandwagon.

They first released Pegasus R4 & R6 RAID enclosures. These house between 4TB and 12TB of RAW storage and are configurable in 0, 1, 5, 6 & 10 RAID levels.

The R6 has a throughput of 800Mbps and the R4 has a throughput of around 500Mbps. Both are available now.

The SANLink was very promising. A small Thunderbolt device with two Fibre Channel ports, enabling the user to connect to a SAN via their MacBook Pro, iMac or Mac Mini.

Running via an iMac, the SANLink was connected to a small VTRAK SAN and running four streams of ProRes HD.

In FCP7 I was able to scrub, edit picture-in-picture, multicam edit - it performed seamlessly, reiterating the fact that the iMac may become the professional editor's hardware platform. The SANLink will ship in December. 

 

More interestingly, Promise have also developed a prototype rack that houses two Mac Mini Servers and two SAN Links that fit in 1U, making an interesting metadata controller alternative to the now defunct Xserve for those running XSAN environments.

For more information on Promise and Thunderbolt technologies visit http://www.promise.com/.

Sam Johnson got his start as a runner in Soho, learning the ropes on Avid systems and working his way up the ladder. He is now a Production/Post-Production Engineer for the LAB, AMV BBDO's post facility, and specializes in Apple Pro Applications & Xsan Environments. He also provides consultancy to the TV department. Learn more about AMV BBDO at http://www.amvlab.com.

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September 09, 2011
  IBC 2011: Sony's OLED monitors
Posted By Sam Johnson

First stop for myself at IBC 2011 was to see Sony's new Trimaster EL OLED reference broadcast monitors. OLED is a hot topic at IBC, and Sony are one of the only distributors to be showing them this year, and I have to say they did not disappoint.

Myself and a few others were first shuffled into a darkened booth and were shown identical footage on 3 different Sony "Grade-1" EBU BVM monitors.

1) LCD
2) CRT
3) OLED



First thing you notice is the blacks. They are crisp, sharp and deep. They even perform amazingly in low ambient light.

Secondly their color reproduction was accurate and precise. Much richer than the CRT or LCD in the low-luminance range.

Finally the response time is vastly improved over the LCD. Titles and scrolling text on the OLED were very impressive and blur was very minimal. The CRT still performs better but the difference is slight.

Testing reference LED/LCD monitors recently for our own post production department, I can honestly say that these are some of best reference monitors I have ever seen.

There are currently three Sony OLED ranges. All using the same OLED panel and driver.

- BVM-E - 12-bit Panels
- BVM-F - 12-bit Panels
- PVM - 10-bit Panels

Sizing shown, ranged between 17" & 25" and prices range between £2,500 - £25,000 (approx.)

The PVM & BVM-F are available now and BVM-E ships in October.

For more info visit please visit http://pro.sony.com/

Sam Johnson got his start as a runner in Soho, learning the ropes on Avid systems and working his way up the ladder. He is now a Production/Post-Production Engineer for the LAB, AMV BBDO's post facility, and specializes in Apple Pro Applications & Xsan Environments. He also provides consultancy to the TV department. Learn more about AMV BBDO at http://www.amvlab.com.

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August 11, 2011
  SIGGRAPH: Technology partnerships & leveraging existing productions
Posted By Michael Stein

In recent years, there has been an increase in technology partnerships in the graphics industry, and both trends have continued this year at SIGGRAPH. As the industry has matured and the technology portfolios have increased, the major studios are looking to find partners to reduce risk, increase their development efforts without a matching increase in cost, or reduce their expenses by trading tech for software. Additionally, studios that used to write their own software for almost everything are realizing that by combining off-the-shelf software with custom pipelines they can achieve their production goals with reduced development time and risk.

On the technology partnership side, there were two major announcements at the show. Side Effects Software announced that Dreamworks Animation has purchased a global site license of Houdini in a deal that will see them collaborating on R&D efforts as well as sharing IP. The site license itself is not unique, but if DWA can provide custom solutions to problems that are then well integrated into Houdini, they can increase efficiency and visual quality more than they would otherwise. 

The other big announcement came from Autodesk, who has entered into an exclusive, 5-year licensing agreement with Disney for their XGen aribitrary primitive generator technology. Autodesk gains a powerful new tool to improve its Maya product, and while the terms of the deal were not announced, Disney is likely to see a meaningful payoff for their years of development effort. These announcements, along with the continued licensing efforts of companies such as The Foundry, will surely cause studios to look at their own tech and tools for opportunities of their own.

I attended two sessions, which illuminated how studios can combine existing commercial products with their own pipelines to achieve efficient results at a high quality. At a course on urban modeling, Pixar presented a talk on how Esri/Procedural's CityEngine was integrated into their pipeline for creating the streets of London. At the Directing Destruction talk, MPC described their Kali toolset for FEM destruction, built on the DMM engine from Pixelux. In both cases it was clear that by focusing on pipeline and integration rather than core technologies, the studios were able to quickly put systems into production without long R&D cycles. For small studios this approach seems obvious, but it's interesting to see the shift for the major studios as well.


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August 11, 2011
  SIGGRAPH: World Builder
Posted By Jeff Kember

Temperate Controlled Display System: Participants are able to choose between hot and cool water springs to influence the image presented to them. The system consists of a LCD display, a water tank, thermal camera and computer. As small cups of water are poured into the water tank, the thermal camera records the local temperate change and 2D position and sends that information to computer creating the image. One example featured a monochromatic line drawing that would become colored when warm water was drizzled over selective areas. A 3D stereoscopic example was also presented depicting an aerial view of an island. Applications of warm water would cause the terrain height to increase. Cool water would reduce the height of the island making it part of the sea floor. The thermal camera was very sensitive to temperature variation and subtle changes in elevation were possible. The installation provided a high degree of visual feedback, was fun to play with and had an almost zen garden appeal.

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August 11, 2011
  SIGGRAPH: RolyPoly
Posted By Jeff Kember

RolyPoly - Two participants are able to sense each other's presence through two white egg-like orbs. Both orbs have the ability to sense touch as well as vibrate to provide tactile feedback. An accelerometer in each orb allows the participant to affect the intensity of the vibration in the remote orb.

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August 11, 2011
  SIGGRAPH: ChordxxCode
Posted By Jeff Kember

Ph.D. Tomoko Hashida is part of the team that developed a new type of 3D volume display system. Using a programmable 2D ultraviolet light source and stacked glass plates with UV sensitive dyes, they have been successful in creating 3D geometric shapes and objects. The system does not require special glasses or other viewing aids. Multi-colored dyes are available now and higher densities are possible with further development. The geometric patterns seem to float effortlessly in the brightly lit white display cube.

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August 10, 2011
  SIGGRAPH: Vancouver hit by storm
Posted By Stephanie Hungerford

SIGGRAPH has hit Vancouver by storm, with almost 20,000 people in attendance - what could make up a small city, in fact. Apparently SIGGRAPH is one of the biggest entertainment industry conferences in North America and the largest computer graphics conference in the world. Did Vancouver really know this was happening until this week? As a result, the city has now been caught humbly responding to the event of the year with a bashful whisper, "What? Lil' ol' me? Gee, you shouldn't have!"
 
In particular, the kick-off event Sunday night at the Pan Pacific, sponsored by BC Film, really hit home how fabulous British Columbia is and what this province has to offer business-wise to the companies of the world. It was a classy event paying homage to our tax breaks, mild weather and fabulous talent. As the sun poured in through the windows overlooking the glistening waters and lush green mountains of the conference centre's surroundings, I watched the world's industry movers and shakers listen to the unabashed plug of our city. I swear I could hear their thoughts... "Move here? Well...okay. If you say so." BC Film was practically handing out work permits at the event! Mouths really were salivating, including my own and it wasn't just because of the mini-sliders. Although, those were GOOOOD.
 
But I digress. 

 
 
The exhibit floor itself has been an impressive introduction into the minds of tech geniuses. A plethora of James Cameron-type technology for new innovations in motion capture, for example, seems to be everywhere you look. I've even seen a 3D virtual clothing design company and an impressive gallery booth by Emily Carr University making you feel like you are actually at the MOMA. It is spectacular. Rainmaker Entertainment, a local animation studio, created a set-like experience representing a look into the world of Luna, their newest short film premiering in the Electronic Theater.  
 
Stepping into the "world" is the theme this year. What everyone is realizing is that SIGGRAPH is no longer just for the PhDs and mathematicians of the world. It is for the artists as well. Finally, the right and left brain unite and they are actually getting along. Did anyone ever think that would be possible? With technology driving this union, it finally IS possible.
 
The parties aren't bad either.
 
Last night Lighter/Darker hosted their party at the Revel Room, only to have to overflow into the Charles bar down the street just to accommodate the studio folks clambering to get in. Dreamworks hosted an exclusive invite-only party at the Shangri-ooo la la. Animatrik and Annex Pro struck gold hosting an after party at The Fortune Sound Club, where everyone ended up at the end of the night anyway, so if you were hoping to rub shoulders with your animation mentor earlier on, you probably could last night. Would you care for another drink Mr. or Ms. Studio Head? Oh why not.
 
Tonight shouldn't be any different, with most studios such as Rainmaker and Imageworks hosting early on to accommodate for Nvidia's late night party at the Aquarium and Digital Domain at the Shangri-La. Only two days left and what a week it has been. 

Vancouver, you've done well for yourself and thanks for not raining. 

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August 09, 2011
  3D postcards from SIGGRAPH
Posted By Jeff Kember

Raleigh Souther (raleigh@3dcheese.com), CEO of Fun from 3D Cheeze, is using off the shelf hardware and customized software to produce "3D" postcards of attendees. Two images are captured on green screen, processed and sent to a color printer. The "secret sauce" is a proprietary plastic lenticular lens, which is applied to the printed image. Guests are able to tilt the postcard to view both of the two images in a flipbook fashion. 

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August 09, 2011
  SIGGRAPH: Always choose problems worth solving
Posted By Michael Stein

Before today's keynote speech, a moment of silence was held for Andy Witkin, who passed away last September. Andy had a distinguished career in computer graphics, and was most recently a researcher and computer scientist at Pixar. I had the privilege of being one of his students as an undergrad at Carnegie Mellon, and then 10 years later being one of his co-workers at Pixar.

Reflecting on Andy's contributions made me think about being part of the graphics community, and how great it is to have a chance to not only attend a conference, where we can come together and discuss technological advances, but to be able to step outside the day-to-day and reflect on where we've come, and look to where we are headed. Being in one place with colleagues and friends make you realize how we are solving similar problems, and perhaps by communicating and collaborating we can quickly solve the problems that challenge us, and move on to the unique problems, or at the least the harder ones together.

Andy was known for telling his students and colleagues "always pick problems worth solving." So much what I've seen so far follows that maxim. On Sunday, at the "Pushing Production Data" talks, Dreamworks presented a novel approach for doing out-of-core global illumination using points, which was used on Kung Fu Panda 2 and scales to billions of points in a single scene. Weta, known for both their digital effects as well as their practical prop-making, approached the problem of digitizing props through a setup which controlled both a physical turntable as well as a digital camera, and unique computer vision algorithms. Capturing images in a controlled environment enables them to get accurate representations efficiently. 

"Facing Hairy Production Problems" presented solutions for different game and film production challenges, include two different approaches to writing parallel code that works efficient on both CPUs and GPUs.

The conference kicked off in force on Monday, with a full slate of talks, panels and courses. Cory Doctorow presented the keynote, which was focused on what has gone wrong with copyright and how to fix it. For a conference attended by many industries, which ultimately generate creative works, there seems to be no greater problem which affects as many people attending SIGGRAPH.

One common theme that's been picking up steam over the last several years is open source software. The movement has had a huge impact on the software industry at large, and the visual effects, animation, and games industries are starting to make great strides. 

At a panel entitled "The Need for Standardization within Global Visual Effects Productions Through Open Source and Open Standards," industry veterans from MPC, Sony Imageworks, ILM, and others discussed how open source efforts can enable studios to benefit from knowledge and experience outside their walls, allowing them to focus on the unique challenges that each faces. The discussion focused on a number of key issues, including the initial formation of an open source project, choosing the proper governance model, and which areas of the visual effects/animation pipelines are good for open source projects. Some of the discussion was focused on Alembic (http://alembic.io/), an open source interchange format developed by Sony Imageworks and ILM. Much of the industry is watching Alembic's development carefully to see whether it can serve as a successful model for open source standards or if it will just add yet another standard to a somewhat crowded area filled with past attempts. In general, many facilities are working to understand how new open source projects might improve their workflows and let them focus on other problems "worth solving."

That's all for now from Vancouver. Check back for more updates throughout the week.

Michael Stein is with The Moving Picture Company in London. He can be reached at: michael-s@moving-picture.com.

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August 08, 2011
  What I'm looking forward to at SIGGRAPH
Posted By Michael Stein

The flight yesterday from London (and Heathrow in general) was packed with visual effects and other CG professionals getting ready to descend on SIGGRAPH. Seemed fitting that our first night here coincided with the last night of the annual Celebration of Light, a global fireworks competition. 

SIGGRAPH is being held outside the US for the first time this year, reflecting the massive dispersion of companies and talent across the globe. As a relatively recent transplant to London, I'm attending with a slightly different perspective than I have in the past, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the industry is changing on a global scale through the official SIGGRAPH presentations and by just catching up with old friends and colleagues. The shift is clear when you walk around Vancouver, as I passed by several VFX studios without even trying, and even got a sneak peek at MPC's new Vancouver location (http://tinyurl.com/3jnvgg9).

In addition to using the time at SIGGRAPH to gauge how the visual effects industry is shifting, I always look forward to seeing how other corners of the computer graphics universe are evolving, in hopes of finding new and interesting ways to share technologies and approaches to solving production problems. As games are continually improving visually; films are trying to do things faster; and everyone is trying to find efficiencies in production, there is so much to learn from what others are doing.
 
I'll be blogging about the buffet that is SIGGRAPH: technologies, products, people, and events that shape the conference and will shape the next year in computer graphics. Check back throughout the week!

Michael Stein is with The Moving Picture Company in London. He can be reached at: michael-s@moving-picture.com.

For more on MPC's Vancouver facility, click HERE.

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August 05, 2011
  What is SIGGRAPH?
Posted By Stephanie Hungerford

I have been asked, "What is SIGGRAPH?" by many up here in Hollywood North, and it's not just my mom asking this question. I give them the general spiel that it is a conference and exhibition supporting the new technologies behind computer graphics and interactive techniques, but what most people don't know is it is also a chance to see the latest and greatest in animated films.  It is where art and technology meet - it is the future.

Some people ask how it differs from Comicon? I would like to think that SIGGRAPH is the "behind-the-scenes" look at how everything is made. Generally speaking, there wouldn't be a Comicon without a SIGGRAPH.  I also don't expect to see anyone dressed up as a Storm Trooper at SIGGRAPH, although you never know!  I'm telling you now, it won't be me.

Even if you don't consider yourself a techie, or perhaps you even struggle to set your alarm clock properly, SIGGRAPH is a chance to learn a little bit, or a lot, about this progressive industry. It is spectacular to see what the next generation holds and how art fits into the ever-changing world of technology. 

Stay tuned for my daily blog posts on all things SIGGRAPH!

Stephanie Hungerford has been working within the multi-media realm of film and television for the last five years. She started at Twentieth Century Fox in Los Angeles and now works at Rainmaker Entertainment (www.rainmaker.com) in Vancouver.  

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July 26, 2011
  SIGGRAPH Beyond the Convention Walls Part 2: Art & More in Vancouver
Posted By Jessie Nagel
Some more tips on where to go and what to see during SIGGRAPH 2011, from a Vancouver native.

Vancouver has been called terminal city, so named because it was the terminus of the Canadian National Rail line. But as a teenager, the name evoked a certain appealing ennui - food for my arty soul. I know you can relate. So in honor of that vibe, I wanted to offer some additional area finds that speak to the inner geek or alt hipster, depending on your point of view.

The Waldorf Hotel is a home base, if by home you mean a 63-year-old hotel re-imagined as a creative compound where contemporary art, music, food and culture convene under one roof. Tiki bar - check. Music events - check. Place to get a haircut - check. Wine tastings - check. Dig it at http://www.waldorfhotel.com.  Oh yeah, you can stay there too. The once gritty Main Street had been polished with the advent of galleries, vintage and boutique designer shops and restaurants. Most of the action happens between Broadway and 18th but there are a few cool places closer to 3rd including The Narrow Lounge and restaurant/gallery The Whip.

Another neighborhood worth exploring is Commercial Drive a.k.a The Drive (http://www.thedrive.ca). If you've got a penchant for patchouli this is your area... but if you are adverse to the hippie aesthetic, do not shy away. The Drive has plenty of things to see and do that don't involve a dream catcher. This was once the center for Italian life in Vancouver. A few Italian cafés still thrive in and amongst the vintage shops, restaurants and the co-op bookstore.

If you love shopping at record stores - think High Fidelity - then Zulu Records is your new heaven. Located on 4th Street in Kitsilano (see my previous blog post), Zulu (http://www.zulurecords.com) was founded in 1981 and has since been the place in town to get great music of all kinds including local bands and vinyl.

From sounds of the city to Sins of the City - walking tour, that is. The Vancouver Police Museum offers this glimpse of the city's shady past. For more information: http://www.vancouverpolicemuseum.ca . They also hold workshops for fingerprinting and blood spatter. Um...okay.

We move next to the unreal, as interpreted through art: Check out the Vancouver Art Gallery's current UNREAL show. As noted on the website (http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca): UNREAL considers contemporary artists' explorations beyond the rational and looks at the ways in which they delve into ideas around desire, fantasy, anxiety and the absurd.  Sounds like perfect place to end this post.

See you in Vancouver!

Jessie Nagel is a PR vet specializing in our industry. Her company is Hype (www.hypeworld.com). 


 
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July 14, 2011
  Coming to Avid Media Composer: 64-bit, 4K and higher projects, a new interface
Posted By Brady Betzel
BURBANK - Just before an Avid-hosted event last night on the Warner Bros. lot, editors who gathered there were discussing the shortfalls of FCP X as well as the direction of Adobe and Avid. The buzz was palpable.

Inside the Steven J. Ross theater, Avid brought the troops together to emphasize its commitment to the professional market, hammering home that their focus is us: the editors. It was good to hear at a time when some industry people and businesses are feeling abandoned after the release of FCP X.

In the lobby, vendor tables were on display: AJA, Matrox, MOTU, Blackmagic, Blue Fish 444, and many other Avid technologies were being shown. Interestingly, no hints at any new Avid created hardware though.

With great hors d'oeuvre's and drinks, the excitement and buzz was thick in the atmosphere. I overheard many people asking what they are going to do in terms of software, I even cringed at overhearing someone mention Final Cut Pro X, what some are referring to as "iMovie Pro," as a "professional" solution - hopefully it was a joke. Avid cleverly sprinkled DVDs around the party for people to take: "Avid for Final Cut Pro Users." As we entered the theater, I noticed that it was full. Our industry is actively pursuing a leader during this weird time. A quick intro was followed by a panel between two editors discussing their careers and jumping between different nonlinear editing systems. They included Alan E. Bell (500 Days of Summer, Water for Elephants, The Amazing Spider-Man) and independent editor Jonathan Alberts. To the meat and potatoes of the night: We were first given a legal disclaimer saying that none of what was going to be shared is 100% going to be in a future release - but in today's market they better be.




Avid introduced DNx 4:4:4 resolution, interoperability with more third-party products such as Blackmagic, Blue Fish 444 and MOTU...they even showed an AJA Kona card, which would be a very welcome addition to the family, and 7.1 sound was discussed at one point. The audience was very excited about native 2K, 4K and higher projects within Media Composer, as well as the announcement that Media Composer will be 64-bit.



Finally, one feature I didn't think was going to happen was a new interface. It appeared that they have a tabbed timeline window now, similar to Premiere Pro, After Effects and Final Cut. Avid reiterated that they are not sacrificing features, and the interface will be able to look like previous versions if you do not like the change. [Editor's note: the shown image is that of a prototype.] Avid re-emphasized its commitment to the professionals in the industry. Media Composer and Pro Tools will continue to grow together and become more cohesive. Shifting from the old ways of Avid being a "closed" system to the newer ways of being an "open" system is starting to surface much more prominently and will continue to grow with its AMA architecture and expanded third-party support. As long as Avid does not go the way of eliminating prominent features in their toolset, the future of Media Composer and Pro Tools seems to be headed in the right direction.

For more on Avid's Media Composer preview, check out Post editor Randi Altman's ARTICLE.

Brady Betzel is assistant editor on Lopez Tonight and a regular contributor to Post Magazine.
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