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Recent Blog Posts in February 2011

February 17, 2011
  HPA 2011: Arri's Alexa, Codex's recorder, media clouds & storage
Posted By Tom Coughlin

Arri’s new digital camera, Alexa, was on display at the Codex table in the demo room at the HPA Retreat.  The Alexa records 2880x1620 pixel in a 12-bit ARRIRAW format, with capacity of about 10GB per minute. Image formats supported include 12-bit ARRIRAW, 10-bit HD-SDI, 12-bit ProRes 4444, or any other 10-bit ProRes formats. The whole exposure range of the captured image is mapped from the 16-bit range into the respective target output range. The camera is set up to use SxS Pro flash memory cards, but other recorders can be used, such as the one made by Codex, described below. The Alexa has a 3.5K sensor with 800 EI base sensitivity.  
 
Codex is offering a digital on-board recorder that is compatible with the Alexa. This flash memory-based solid state drive device comes in 128-512GB  storage capacities (about 25 and 50 minutes of recording time for 12-bit ARRIRAW video). The Codex recorder can record uncompressed or wavelet cinema quality HD materials plus audio and metadata. After shooting, captured material can be offloaded at faster than realtime. The company provides a desktop transfer station that can be used for these data transfers. The recorder interface can be run remotely on a computer or using a Bluetooth remote control. Data conversions with the Codex recorder are processed on the fly by a multi-core processor system. Supported file types include Avid MXFR (including INC, DNXHD and 3D CNXHD), DPX, QuickTime and ARRIRAW.
 
Some other interesting exhibits at the HPA Retreat included TATA Communications (an Indian Company), which is offering cloud based media tools using their Enterprise Mosaic. TATA is offering a managed file delivery service with accelerated transfers and auto resume with their Content Flow. The company’s Content Vault enables searchable storage and recovery of media content, and its Content Transform provides cloud-based transcoding and publishing for media content. Nirvanix was also showing cloud offerings that are being used by NBC Universal. DataDirect Networks was showing the latest version of their S2A high performance storage system. Direct recording of workflow content onto LTO drives was demonstrated by 1 Beyond, and Cache-A discussed their use of file-based LTO tapes for modern workflows.
 
Thomas Coughlin is the founder of Coughlin Associates ( www.tomcoughlin.com ), a data storage consulting firm based in Atascadero, CA.

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February 17, 2011
  HPA 2011: A feast of workflows — and new cameras
Posted By Tom Coughlin

“I think in an event like this, everyone should show their workflow,” says Michael Cioni  of Lightiron Digital.  And so it was at the 2011 Hollywood Post Alliance retreat in February 2011 (http://www.hpaonline.com). The Supersession today called these Snowflake Workflows since individual workflows often seem as unique as snowflakes (and perhaps melt and change as quickly as snowflakes in a Winter thaw).  From Tron Legacy to The Social Network, modern production workflows were revealed by the folks who made the content. Digital production processes included a number of equipment, metadata and asset management approaches.
 
One of the most interesting sessions on 2/15 was the comparison of Next Generation Prodution (NGP) workflows on test content. Warner Bros. set up a black box creative workflow emulator test facility with five cameras and multiple recorders using one hour of mixed format 2D test content. 20 workflows were emulated with this test content. The NGP near-set workflow went through several action blocks, one flowing into the other.
 
Asset management software allowed metadata check-in followed by image and data QC and storage in a near-set repository. The content was transcoded and then synched with the audio. Color management and image transforms followed, with the final results used to create deliverables. These deliverables during the emulation were archive backups (.dpx or native camera formats on LTO tape), color corrected master files (when applicable), editorial media (such as Avid DNx HD 115 with/t.c. burn-in), digital dailies (H.265 w/security burn-in) and finally DVDs (w/security burn-in).
 
Warner Bros. published an internal report on the results and we hope that they will release parts of it for wider consumption later. Interoperability studies on post production equipment are perhaps common with larger production companies, but it is difficult to find information like this. Such interoperability studies can do much to spur development and improvement in post production hardware and software.
 
In the evening, Sony announced a new OLED reference monitor in 17-inch and 25-inch diagonal sizes, and also showed a new solid state based professional video camera technology. Sony is introducing flash memory cards (looking a bit like SXS cards) with storage capacities of up to 1TB as the next generation SR camera media. They had a room where they showed recorders that could read and transfer content from the cards to digital tapes (or HDDs), and also showed editing stations, including Final Cut Pro and Avid to edit content from the cameras.  
 
Thomas Coughlin is the founder of Coughlin Associates  ( www.tomcoughlin.com ).

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