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Recent Blog Posts in September 2011

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

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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.
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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.

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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.

Continue reading "IBC 2011: Sony's OLED monitors" »

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