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Recent Blog Posts in April 2012

April 27, 2012
  Petabyte is the new Terabyte
Posted By Tom Coughlin

By Tom Coughlin
Coughlin Associates
www.tomcoughlin.com


Peter Jackson's the Hobbit is being shot at 48 frames per second (fps), six days a week, using 5K Red cameras shooting in 3D.  Total content generated each day is between 6-12TB.  James Cameron's Avatar follow-up movie is being shot in 3D at 60fps.

Modern high-end video cameras support frame rates as high as 120 frames per second, and at the 2012 NAB show, noted film director/special effects supervisor/inventor Douglas Trumbull said that he is doing video work at a full 120fps. As digital content capture encourages longer shooting times, a leading edge movie project can create multiple Petabytes of raw content. The lowering costs of capturing and storing rich media content means that projects that used to use terabytes of storage will now consumer petabytes.  Petabyte is the new Terabyte!

There were many examples of advanced storage systems for content capture and editing.  Following are write-ups on a few of the systems I saw.  

EditShare has created a convenient set of services including MAM, several ingest licenses as well as shared storage and archive support using their Flow and Arc (pictured below, right) systems combined with the Field storage units.  The company announced a new product, Atom, which is 40 percent lighter than Field and has four 3.5-inch drive bays and supports 1GB Ethernet as well as 10GB Ethernet.

NetApp was showing the well-designed E-5460 storage system that it acquired in the LSI Engenio acquisition.  Working with Atto and Quantum StorNext they showed a Final Cut Pro Media Content Management Solution managing 22 video streams with an aggregated sustained video read speed of 3.48GB/s.
  
Isilon, now firmly integrated into EMC, was demonstrating its scaled out storage for media applications. Livestream, a company providing on-line event coverage discussed how it has used Isilon scalable storage to meet its growing content demand.

DataDirect Networks showed its WOS Cloud Storage system for collaborative workflows as well as a new MXF server.  The MXF server can be used for paid ingest, copying and managing media content in a compact package.

Facilis showed their TerraBlock storage (pictured below) system that used 6Gb/s SAS drives and offered 600MB/s content transfers using Fibre Channel SANS (which should reach 16Gbps data rates in a short period of time).

Harmonic provides its MediaGrid systems that are being used in major media and broadcast central storage applications such as at Modern VideoFilm in Burbank.

Nirvanix was offering 1TB of cloud storage for free for 30 days for qualified NAB show attendees.  Nirvanix cloud storage is being used for a number of media and entertainment collaborative applications as well as content backup.
 
Active Storage intro duced its mMedia storage system.  This product continues Active's focus on media and entertainment post storage using efficient metadata storage to speed workflow processes.

Many other companies supplying storage for small and large scale digita l workflows were at the NAB including A3iO, Accusys xaSAN (whose ExaSAN was showing external PCIe storage arrays offering 1,200MB/s data transfers), Avere, CineRAID, CRU-DataPort, G-Tech,  IQstor, JMR, JetNAS, LaCie,  Nexsan, QNAP, SNS, Tiger Technology, Virident (in the AIC booth) was showing a PCIe FlashMax storage device to help accelerate workflow IOPS.

Some other surprising finds were a line of small storage devices servicing the digital cinema market offered by WiebeTech (part of CRU-DataPort).  Ciphertex had an extensive line of various size portable storage boxes including data encryption for storing and transporting post production video and audio content. Note that there were other cloud storage offerings at the NAB as described in another blog.

Storage solutions are fundamental to the continuing development of more immersive entertainment experience.  The sky is the limit on potential storage needs (and consequently system performance) for all aspects of modern digital workflows since more content translates directly into more resolution in time as well as space.  That is why there is so much digital storage on display at the NAB show and why there will be exciting storage opportunities in this industry for many years to come.


Continue reading "Petabyte is the new Terabyte" »

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April 25, 2012
  Top 5 Picks from NAB 2012
Posted By Tom Baurain

My Top 5:

1. Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera

Perfect this camera is not, but that this price point, you can't not help but be excited about this camera. Including Resolve and UltraScopes makes this something of a no-brainer. An odd form factor, 2x crop, and internal battery all revolve around saving costs. Apparently Super 35 sensors are not that cheap, and BMD wanted to price this camera competitively. There are already solutions coming from companies like Letus and Anton Bauer to make up for the camera's deficiencies. I am not an early adopter by any means, but 12 bit Cinema DNG, 10 bit ProRes/DNxHD make this my next camera of choice for ownership. Blackmagic, shut up and take my money.

2. Adobe Creative Suite 6

This latest release of Adobe's Creative Suite is a big leap forward for many. For After Effects, features like advanced 3D extrusions and ray tracing will attract many. Their 3D camera tracker, and how it works, could not help but make me smile. Keeping it all in the family continues with their release of SpeedGrade, meant to compete with other high end color grading solutions like Resolve. There are way to many good things about the entire suite to list, but this is a quantum leap forward for the entire suite.

3. KesslerCrane ShuttlePod Mini www.kesslercrane.com/product-p/sp_mini.htm <http://www.kesslercrane.com/product-p/sp_mini.htm

KesslerCrane had a common theme throughout many of their products that are either brand new or have been updated: make it lighter. A complaint I've heard with their gear is weight, and the team at KesslerCrane is addressing that while still maintaining top quality that you can depend on. The ShuttlePod has been a great tool for longer motion controlled moves in a variety of applications, and now they have made a smaller, lighter version that will fit mine and others needs a bit better. 

4. Zeiss CP.2 Lenses http://www.zeiss.com/cine/cp2

Admittedly this is more of a lust factor, but I couldn't help but visit the Zeiss booth and check out their new lenses. They've got new Super Speed versions of their 35, 50, and 85 CP.2 lenses. Sebastian Wiegartner used these new Zeiss lenses to great effect in his short film TUMULUS( http://vimeo.com/39266449 ) shot on the Sony F3. They also released a 70-200 CP.2 zoom lens that looked fantastic a great lightweight telephoto zoom.

5. Fastec Imaging TS3Cine Camera http://ts3cine.com/

High speed was certainly a big trend at this year's NAB, and delivering high speed in a small form factor certainly took center stage in the trend of high speed. The interface on this camera really impressed me. It's a great combination of touch screen and manual buttons. The camera can also record uncompressed RAW in Cinema DNG or TIFF sequences. It can do up to 20,000 fps at reduced resolutions, but most will probably capture at 720p doing 720 frames per second. I talked briefly with Mike Sutton at their booth and he said this camera lends itself towards shooting with anamorphic lenses, which are coming back in a big way this year.

Tom Baurain operates The Red Owl in Kansas City. He can be reached at: tom@theredowl.com.

Continue reading "Top 5 Picks from NAB 2012" »

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April 23, 2012
  The 'cloudy' haze of NAB
Posted By Jonathan Moser
By Jonathan Moser
 
LAS VEGAS - Trying to navigate the broadcast geek-fest known as NAB in half-a-day is about as realistic as taking in the glories of the Sistine Chapel by looking at one fresco...but I'll try.
 
I have to confess it's been over 20 years since setting foot in the chaotic but exciting arena of the Las Vegas Convention Center's NAB Convention, showcasing the latest, fastest and brightest in technology and trends. (The last thing I saw at NAB in 1992 was a $40,000 HD monitor with little HD material to show on it.)
 
There have been profound changes not just in sheer size, but in what constitutes the new Broadcast Paradigms...so this report is seen through the smoky glasses of over two decades of change and is also limited in scope to what hit me as the most exciting trends skewed to the post production editing professional.
 
It became obvious I'd have to do a lot of mental filtering to try to see through the more than 745,000 square feet of exhibit space where almost 1,500 exhibitors spun their wares with me having less than five hours of time before flying back to LA.
 
Avid and Adobe had a huge presence. Apple wasn't on the show floor, but they did have a demo suite set up at the Bellagio showing the newest updates and partnerships.
 
Also clearly gone was any sign of tape as a broadcast medium... servers and other distribution methods were rampant and file-based and cloud were the whole reality. It's hard to get excited over storage solutions but there were plenty in sight. It also makes me realize that the days of tape libraries are almost over...now closets and shelves are populated with an infinite number of hard drives, data tape and optical disks...somehow lacking the warm nostalgia of film cans and videotapes.

There were lots of innovations and products to be seen, (3D without glasses, smarter software, thousands of new distribution tools, lots of cool lights and gadgets and effects, cheaper and better cameras), but the one thing that stood out as paramount was the nascent roll out of cloud-based broadcast technologies.
 
Cloud is the future. Signs of its impending role in future tele-production were everywhere. I think cloud-based editing will shake up our local and world broadcast and media community more devastatingly than nonlinear editing changed the post paradigm - hold on to your seats, it's going to be a bumpy ride. My belief is that if you're a post  professional and don't hop onto learning and understanding cloud-based post now, you and your career will disappear faster than the dinosaurs did 65 million years ago. It's that important.)
 
Being an Avid guy, I was shown their entry into the world of cloud-based editing and saw the implications (way beyond the technical progress) into the very nature of how we've handled post and what editing has been about in the past...and its implementation will affect us in profound and very personal ways.
 
Avid showed me the ropes on their Sphere Interplay implementation so far. Right now this technology is geared toward news gathering but that will change. It will allow a journalist (or producer/cameraman/preditor located anywhere in the world with Internet access) to simultaneously edit on their laptop, upload and acquire assets at any other Internet-equipped location while their HD media is being uploaded in hi-res (and relinked to the final timeline) to the cloud...all in realtime and all viewable and editable anywhere else in the world. The ramifications are incredible.
 
Any question you may have about bandwidth allowing the streams necessary to edit quickly and accurately are reasonably moot: low-res proxy media (at H.264) can edit over the 'net through Avid's Interplay Sphere (see picture) environment in realtime. And it's only a matter of time and new compression codecs before higher def streams with full effects can also be seen. (But keep in mind that in Avid's case, all of this media is uploaded and upres'd transparently even while editing is taking place, so that the final product is full HD.) Obviously lingering questions of bad Internet connections will be raised and addressed, but the groundwork is laid.

It's clear taking this paradigm even further that physical location will no longer matter. To edit you won't have to be either near the media itself or in a post room somewhere - and the idea of editors in New York, LA, Hong Kong or anywhere else being tied to a favorite producer will go away. Any talent anywhere in the world could engage this technology. We will now all be in direct competition with each other around the world. And the first to get those cloud-based jobs will be those who know how to work with it.
 
Like it or not, it's a whole new world of competition in the post marketplace. And it's only going to get more technologically advanced and fierce.
 
Don't let the name Cloud fool you: It'll hit us like a ton of bricks.

Continue reading "The 'cloudy' haze of NAB" »

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April 20, 2012
  NAB 2012 has come to a close
Posted By Mark Heitke
By Mark Heitke

NAB 2012 has come to a close and man what a blur.  

The last day and a half have been filled to the brim! Wednesday I tackled the North Hall exhibits and caught up on the newest broadcast tech.  It was really interesting to be able to see the brains behind the major networks.  It is always a bit fun to peek behind the curtain and understand a bit more how the content I produce ends up at its final destination.  

I also revisited some of South Hall to spend some more time with a couple things that caught my eye.  It was nice to be able to sit down and really explore some options that might help out in future projects. The first place I stopped by was SquareBox.  They make the Media Asset Management software CatDV. I have used their software before and really enjoyed how it integrated with my workflow.  I was excited to see they have some updates that should help boost performance coming out this summer.  

After SquareBox I swung over to the Sonnet booth to check out their new Mac Mini blade serve device. This thing is great, although a bit pricey considering. They have integrated a mini into a 1RU case that has 2 PCIe card slots and connects Thunderbolt. While the device felt very much like a prototype, the idea was great and I hope to see it show up more.  A mini in this setup would make a great xserve replacement and would have a ton of power.  

I finished my day at the show looking at Smoke and Premiere again. I, like everyone else is looking for a new NLE to possibly replace Final Cut Pro 7. My mind as of now is leaning towards Smoke. It is a powerful tool that really combines a lot of things I would like to see in one box. Premiere CS6 has some potential but it is not quite there yet.  

NAB has flown by in a flash and I can't wait to come back next year. I am off for some dinner at Mesa to celebrate!

Thanks POST for the chance to blog this years show and thanks for reading!



Continue reading "NAB 2012 has come to a close" »

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April 20, 2012
  The ties that bind them
Posted By Tom Coughlin
By Tom Coughlin
Coughlin Associates
www.tomcoughlin.com

LAS VEGAS - The 2012 NAB South Hall had an ever-growing complement of booths showing digital storage products or using those products.  There were of course some smattering of storage vendors in the North and Central Hall just to give the storage aficionado a bit of exercise.  The lower South Hall is becoming ever more the digital storage ghetto, where one passes storage box after storage box and often as not passes beyond, into the ethereal realm of the cloud.

This piece looks into the ties that bind storage devices to their hosts and to each other.  Many important developments are afoot that will transform the media and entertainment industry, giving it the storage and bandwidth resources to enable higher frame rate, higher resolution, ever more immersive content.  

We start of course with Thunderbolt.  Thunderbolt was but a gleam in Intel's eye with showings at the annual Intel Developers Forum and other industry events in 2010.  But with Apple's introduction of Thunderbolt connectivity for its MacBook Pro computers in 2011 all that changed.  At the 2011 NAB we saw our first batch of Thunderbolt products from a few companies such as Promise Technology and G-Tech (part of HGST). 

At the 2012 NAB Intel had a large booth with the planned implementation of Thunderbolt support in their upcoming CPU chipsets. Integration of Thunderbolt hardware into computer and server motherboards in addition to lower cost cables and host interfaces will cause the price of Thunderbolt to drop to a level approaching that of the ubiquitous USB interface.  A Lenovo computer with the Thunderbolt interface was on show in several booths with rumors that other computer vendors will be coming out with Thunderbolt interfaces shortly.  Late 2012 and 2013 will bring 10Gb/s connectivity to the masses!

The media and entertainment industry still has many facilities using the Fibre Channel networking technology for block based SANS to support video production work.  ATTO was showing a PCIe board that could be plugged into a computer to provide Thunderbolt to Fibre Channel connectivity.  This was an interesting approach that adds network connectivity to the list of capabilities with Thunderbolt.

Ethernet connectivity is important for general LAN traffic and many file based storage systems (or NAS) use Ethernet for their network connections. Arista Networks was showing a 10Gb Ethernet (GE) switch that significantly lowers the cost of high speed Ethernet connectivity, apparently by a factor of about four to one.  This switch allows category six Ethernet cabling to be used for 10 GE transport up to 100 m, less than the 300 m that optical fiber Ethernet connections but enough for many data centers.  Using copper wire Category 6 cables rather than optical cables lowers the costs enormously. With Intel Romley I/O controller support 10 GE content transport will become very inexpensive-opening up additional uses for media and entertainment storage and connectivity applications.
Continue reading "The ties that bind them" »

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April 19, 2012
  Cab adventures at NAB
Posted By John Parenteau
By John Parenteau

(Note to reader: This is a TRUE story. If anything, I cut some craziness out!)



Fade in

Int. cab - evening

John, (46) dark haired, handsome, enters the cab.

John

Palazzo, please.

Once the door is closed, the driver guns it, throwing John back in his seat.

Driver

God damn, f**king, sh*t!

The driver seems oblivious, or so John believes, to the looming white van already in the lane he is zooming in to. The van screeches veers away. 

John

(suddenly nervous)

Uh, is Everything ok?

Driver

I sat at this f**king light for three cycles last time and never got a God damn green light!

John, noting that they are not near a light, assumes the driver means some future, upcoming light. 

The driver suddenly veers off hard to the right on a side route, taking John through an under ground path that could be a short cut or a trip through Vegas hell.

A speed bump looms, but instead of slowing, the driver speeds up, bouncing his vehicle and poor John in the back seat.

Driver (CONT'D)

(child like voice)

Wheeee!

Recovering, John tries to quickly re-evaluate his odds at surviving this trip. The driver sees another cab pulling up in the neighboring lane. He accelerates again, and John begins to wonder when they start using the close cement walls as bumpers.

Driver (CONT'D)

(suddenly)

I hate California drivers.

John isn't sure this is a reference to the other driver or that he has had some psychic moment and knows that John is from the very state he is criticizing.

John decides to try a friendly tact.

John

I like how you drive!

(beat, no response)

You're very aggressive, and I mean that in a good way!

As if John didn't say anything, the driver continues.

Driver

California drivers have no f**king clue how to drive.

John

(strangely defensive)

I'm from Oregon.

Driver

That's good. 

(beat)

These f**king Californians slow down for everything.

The driver shows what he means, John suspects, by NOT slowing down, or stopping, for a stop sign. Another speed bump comes up. The cab hits it hard.

Driver

(again, in child like voice)

Wheee!!!

Recovering again, John starts to worry. The cab has burst out in some back alleyway, seemingly heading in the right general direction, but on such a different route that no other cabs are visible.

Driver (CONT'D)

You know what else I hate?

(not waiting)

I hate pedestrians.

Strangely intrigued, John, gripping the seat as subtly yet firmly as possible, can't resist.

John

Oh?

Driver

I never slow down for them. It's their fault if they get hit.

John

(playing along)

Especially if they're in the road. The road is for cars.

John has said something right. The driver looks at him in the mirror with a smile John can't determine is friendly or insane.

Driver

Yeah! I never feel bad when a pedestrian gets hit

Having won him over, John is suddenly part of the game.

Driver (CONT'D)

(as if asking for permission)

We've got three more speed bumps coming up!

John

(with a smile)

Go for it!

The driver hits the bumps like Evil Knievel hits a ramp. But John is ready.

DRIVER

Wheeee!!!!

JOHN

Wheeeee!!!

As the car settles, the driver begins rummaging through an overhead bin. 

DRIVER

I think I have a sandwich.

John isn't sure if he's going to offer him some. But before he can refuse

DRIVER (CONT'D)

I've got a banana!

(beat, brandishing the banana)

Two bananas a day, is what I say.

He giggles.

The car finally comes to a red light. Across the street is John's destination. The Driver revs his engine as if at the start of the race.

DRIVER (CONT'D)

(gleeful)

One more light and we're there!

The light turns green and the driver guns it. A lone pedestrian, still in the cross walk, hustles out of the way as the driver practically aims for him.

Finally, the car pulls up to an abrupt stop at the casino. John hands the driver money, scrambling out of the car quickly. As the door closes, he can hear a voice in the distance.

DRIVER (CONT'D)

Have a nice day!

The end

Continue reading "Cab adventures at NAB" »

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April 19, 2012
  NAB 2012 - Last Day
Posted By TJ Ryan

By TJ Ryan

Last day at NAB and 2012 holds many meanings. My hotel room number ended with a 12, I had 12 hours of sleep since S unday, 12 is my starting hand for just about every game of blackjack that I played, my daughter is 12 and I have 12 minutes to write this before my flight leaves.  Guess I should have been playing roulette.

Today I looked at scheduling software and asset management software. Xytech, Studio Suite, and ScheduAll are the ones I like the best. For large scale facilities, Xytech and ScheduAll are the ones to look at. If you are a small post company then I would recommend Studio Suite.

Altermedia's Studio Suite is a Filemaker Pro-based software the can run on a Mac. A five-seat version starts at under 5k about half the price of the competition.

What started as a rain drop is now an ocean of options. I am talking about Asset Management Software and Media Server solutions.  The number of options for these are just too long to list but the important thing is more options means lower prices.  It is the same thing that is happening with everything in the industry.

A few years back we had the actors strike, then writers strike, then the producers strike. That led to more reality TV and content that could be produced for less.  Post solutions took the biggest hit because once they realized they could get something finished for $50k they will never pay the $200k again. Then the recession hit and manufactures had to drop prices. DaVinci became a $1k software solution and the rest are following. This NAB, Quantel introduced Pablo as a software solution as well. Red is making a 4k projector for $10k. What cost $2 million five years ago now costs $200K.

If you are a small company growing your artist this is great news. If you a large company carrying loans on millions worth of equipment it is a scary time. I fit into the small company profile so I leave NAB with a big smile on my face.  Thanks for reading my blog.  To check out what's going on in my world you can go to www.chophousepost.com.  And if you need some advice on how to build your next space look for us at www.digitalfactoryinc.com.


Continue reading "NAB 2012 - Last Day" »

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April 18, 2012
  Lost At NAB + Impressive Blackmagic Camera
Posted By Andrew Kobliska

By Andrew Kobliska

As many of you no-doubt know, the 2012 NAB Exhibit Floor is massive and simply overwhelming. After carefully scripting my route of attack the night before, I still found myself lost and disoriented early in the day during my initial recon mission. I'm usually pretty good with directions (just ask my wife), but this space is spread out over two floors in several adjoining exhibit buildings ... And did I mention it's massive?

I did happen upon the Blackmagic booth early in the day and noticed the massive crowd gathering around a plexiglass glass shrouded piece of equipment.  I couldn't get close enough to see what was inside, and I hate navigating crowds, so I asked a guy exiting from the area what the fuss was all about and he said Blackmagic has come out with a 2K camera for under $3000 bucks, and it looks F'ing nice."

I thought to myself: "Blackmagic has a camera? They make telecine software?" I had to see for myself. I fought the crowd for a few minutes and soon got a close-up view of the goods and was surprised to see not only a camera, but an amazing piece of technology!

I wonder if this announcement was as big of a surprise for Canon, Sony, Red and ARRI as it was for me? They can't be happy.

I'm pretty sure our creative team at BIGSMACK will be. No doubt we'll be taking it for a test drive in July when it becomes available. Check out the impressive specs: http://www.blackmagic-design.com/products/blackmagiccinemacamera/

Continue reading "Lost At NAB + Impressive Blackmagic Camera" »

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April 18, 2012
  NAB Day 2 Mark Heitke
Posted By Mark Heitke
The show rages on.  

Today was a day to check out everything cameras and production, which meant I lived in Central hall.  
I spent most of time visiting with camera vendors since as a Post Producer I deal with new cameras and workflows daily.  
Looking through all the choices, I still love the Alexa but am really impressed with Canon's C500 as well.  These two cameras have the best look and feel for me and workflow wise are manageable, well as much as any digital workflow can be.  

After spending a few hours looking through lenses and framing random models doing completely odd, mundane tasks I headed outside for some sun and 3D.  I grabbed some lunch and checked out the 3ality booth.  They were showing off some Hip Hop dancing in 3D.  I am impressed at how every year they stand out as one of the few groups who show 3D as a creative tool rather than just a funny new tech.  

Refreshed and reenergized I swung back into Central hall to spend some time with GoPro.  The little monster of a camera has a giant following and rightfully so. GoPro released a new color tool this year, for free, that allows users to work with their footage and should help make extreme sports videos look better an better. The tool itself is fairly nice to use but it is no Lustre.  I also demoed their WiFi pack that allows you to use your iPhone to control multiple cameras from a distance. This was awesome!  A have a friend who is working on a shoot in Alaska.  After seeing the demo today, he will be utilizing the cameras to shoot multiple angles of a helicopter and control all the cameras form inside.  A really fun prospect and it proves that GoPro is certainly growing as a viable option for DPs.  

Having finished  successful day, I headed off to the CPUG (Creative Professionals User Group) meetup at the Tropicana.  While this event has been great in the past, this year was a mess.  The presentation was stopped cold by bad mics and flickering projectors.  The audio feedback was so bad that I had to leave after about 30 minutes there.  Too bad because the schedule they had planned was certainly shaping up to be really fun.  

Oh well, the one thing that helped with was giving me a window to sleep.  The crazy part of NAB is the endurance challenge it becomes.  Long days, long nights and early mornings makes for a bleary eyed Mark.  I really appreciate everyone who has been following my posts and responding on Twitter.  Please check out my Twitter and Instagram feed for more bits as I continue  to wonder the show.  


Mark
@mheitke

Continue reading "NAB Day 2 Mark Heitke" »

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April 17, 2012
  The languages of NAB
Posted By John Parenteau
I don't really speak any languages. I like to think I remember some of my cumulative 5 years of French, and because I'm half French, that I have a genetic predisposition to know it, but I'll be honest. I suck at it. 

But having some understanding of language makes me appreciate communication even more. At NAB, so much of the experience is about understanding what the heck someone is talking about. Sure, some of it is experienced simply walking the floor. It can be  like a United Nations field trip, without all the translators (or angry political disagreements). I've heard people here from parts of the globe I didn't think had TV!

And it's not just on the floor. Even jumping in a taxi cab can be an adventure. It's a little strange that so few native English speakers chose the profession, but it is rare to find a driver that you can clearly understand. 

(Side note to Vegas cab drivers: I love you all. Now please don't circle the block three times to run up the tab. I promise I'll tip!)

And sometimes you wonder simply if you heard them correctly. My last two trips here in cabs have both degenerated in to conversations about where to find the ladies, even though I never mentioned it. But if I heard the driver correctly, I can  get a very special massage at the right price if I just ask. 

I didn't ask. 

But one of the biggest challenges for me is the language of technology. I'm not super techie, but in my job I have to know enough to hold a fairly intelligent conversation. The language of technology has a horrible habit of degenerating in to a level of complexity boarding on World War II crypto systems if you let them. What happens early in the conversation is that I usually have a split second decision to make. As my contact begins to devolve in to words and phrases that sound like the Teletubbies to me, I can either stop them and admit I have no idea what they are talking about, or I can nod intelligently, smile, and pray there isn't a test. 

More often than not I chose the latter. I assume I'll figure it out, and if not, it sounds much better than saying, "can you repeat that using monosyllabic words commonly found only in Dr Seuss books, please?"

But the great thing about NAB is that it is all about learning. Spend a day on the floor and before you know it you're an expert in third dimensional transwarp storage multipliers. 

(Just nod and smile. I'll think you know what I'm talking about.)
Continue reading "The languages of NAB" »

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April 17, 2012
  Monitor, Monitor on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?
Posted By TJ Ryan

When I come to Vegas, pressing the 6 and putting a hundred on a hard eight is a gamble I'm willing to make.  But, when it comes to equipment, like monitors, I don't gamble on picture quality.

I started out in this business in Telecine Dailies.  Working with a Sony CRT, a DaVinci 2K and a Spirit Data Cine were things I took for granted.  But now, as a partner in Chop House Post, and President of Digital Factory Inc. I can't afford to make a mistake with my money or my clients.

Since the end of the CRT I have been looking for a monitor that can compare in picture quality, black levels and off axis of viewing.  I can assure you that search is a painful and endless effort.  One must eventual come to the conclusion that there are no LCD or Plasma monitors that compare to the original Sony BVM CRT's.

At Chop House Post we use a combination of projector for the DI room, TV Logic 42" LCD for the Smoke finishing rooms and Panasonic Plasma's for the offline edit rooms.  With Digital Factory I have installed TV Logics at Paramount and AOL; Sony LCD's for shading rooms in the studios; and most of the HD trucks we build with Marshall rackmount monitors.

This year at NAB I did a monitor evaluation of the following maufacturer's Sony; Boland; TV Logic; Panasonic; Canon; and Marshall.  And the winner is... just kidding.  Before I do, we need to qualify a few things.  First we should agree that the LCD monitor solution that is being offered by all will never be the same as a CRT.  Second, when I am looking at monitors I am mostly interested in Color Critical viewing.

I started at the Boland booth and spoke with Gary Litwin.  He showed me the new SE series of monitors boasting full 10-bit color space, 1920x1080, 1300 to 1 contrast ration, 178 degree off axis viewing and over a billion colors.  "You know what cooler than a million? A billion."  The Boland monitors look really nice and range in sizes from 24" all the way up to 70".  Clients wont be complaining about looking at a 70" rec 709 monitor, will they.

Right next door to Boland was the TV Logic.  They have a new XVM series color critical monitor.  I was looking at a 32" LVM next to a 32" XVM and I could not see a difference.  I ask the salesman if could see a difference and he explained that the LVM is 8 bit processing and the XVM is 10 and 12 bit.  contrast ration and color space matched the Boland and both offer an LED back lighting.

Next up was Panasonic.  in the LCD world they have the BTLH monitor series.  I have seen this monitor in many edit bays, but I for one am not a big fan.  For my eyes the black levels and the white don't look as good as they do on the TV Logics and Boland.  Also, Panasonic only goes up to a 25" monitor and for client monitors I like to at least be over 42".  But they have made some nice impovements on their TH-50T300U plasma monitors.  I have seen the plasma's used around Hollywood in some top facilities and this is a nice option especially when you add the HD SDI input card.  The liquid blacks of the plasma still look better than LCD's

On my way to Sony I passed the Canon booth.  Canon was showing off their new 4K reference display.  I couldn't get much info on it since it a prototype only, so no brochure or web info.  In terms of just a quick view it looked good.  I will wait till it is closer to being released before giving a full opinion.

3 years ago I walked into the Sony booth and said show me your LCD solution that you plan on selling to replace the CRT's.  They hadn't quite caught up to other LCD manufactures and what they had was not impressive at all.  Especially as they were still trying to sell it at the CRT price.  This year I was blown away by the Sony Trimaster EL.  Hello blacks, where have you been.  Right in front of my eyes I see liquid shiny blacks and off axis viewing just like in the old CRT days.  Sony is using OLED technology to get deep blacks with high dynamic range.  I was able to wipe the drool from my mouth using the monitors $26k price tag.

Last stop was Marshall monitors.  Marshall has always been the option I would use for installing in racks and trucks.  I love the quad monitor.  They fit perfect in a rack with 4 AJA Ki Pros.  Looks slick.  The new thing with these guys is waveform monitor vectorscope with RGB parade.   So here is what I was thinking.  Pick up a V-R72DP-2C, that's the dual 3 RU 7" monitor for $1999 and put the vectorscope on one side and the waveform on the other and you have scopes for color grading and post for under $2k.  Of course you could just by a videotek, or a techtronix, or a leader for over $12k and do the same thing if you want.  I'm looking to get a 17" DLW series and put it on the desktop for audio meters, waveform, and vector all under 4k.

All right, I am done talking monitors.  I know I promised you a winner.  So here it is.  They winner is... all of them.  Don't get mad, hear me out.  In terms of having a great Rec 709 monitor for a super price Boland is the winner hands down.  Pound for pound with the technology being the same no one can compare to the price point that Boland is offering.  Plus they have a bunch of really cool guys that are always willing to help out.  The winner for best picture is Sony as soon as I can offord it I want a trimaster.  But if I can't, a lot of my clients can and I will be recommending it for use in color suites and shading stations.  And finally, the best quality scopes with full RGB parade goes to Marshall.  I used to put in a rack moun rasterizer and then feed the DVI output into a Marshall monitor for a cost of $20k.  Now I can do the same thing for under $4k and it looks exactly like the $20k option.

Alright, back to the floor.  Good luck with your monitor hunt and happy viewing.

TJ Ryan

Continue reading "Monitor, Monitor on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?" »

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April 17, 2012
  For Us...The Winner is Premiere.
Posted By Ian Karr
I never thought I'd write this, but I think IKA Collective is going to become an Adobe Premiere house.

One of the main missions I had for this year's NAB is to decide on a new editing platform. Final Cut X isn't an option for us.  

99% of all editing is cuts or dissolves...and all editing software does that perfectly. The real measure for us is how the application fits into our workflow. Adobe has taken a "holistic" and format-agnostic approach that really resonates. I love the in-app image stabilization, adjustment layers, seamless integration with After Effects and Photoshop, and the ability to natively edit in h.264 Sign us up for 7 licenses. 

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April 17, 2012
  Blackmagic Casting a Spell
Posted By Ian Karr
By Ian Karr

The new Blackmagic cinema camera is getting a lot of attention. Offering 2.5K resolution for a 3K price tag, this could be really cool. I hope the images it generates look better than the camera itself...it's channeling a 1990's era Kodak digital camera. But hey...I love retro.  

To me, Blackmagic has become the "Apple" of the video tool/converter space. AJA is showing great stuff as always...but their culture seems decidedly more  "tech" than creative. 

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April 17, 2012
  Parallel Paths
Posted By Ian Karr
As I walk the floor of this year's NAB, I'm struck by what seems to be a clear fork in the production road. To the right, RED, Alexa and other "high road" cameras and workflows. To the left are the "low road" DSLRs, dominated by Canon but Nikon is coming on strong. The interesting thing is that the high and low roads seem to be following parallel paths. Sure, the DSLR option has been around for a few years, but it has way more industry cred at this year's show.

Now, more than ever, people are talking about the scale of projects...and choosing the right tools to match. Vendors making equipment for the DSLR world are careful to make sure their price points are in line with DSLR-type budgets. I'm seeing loads of sliders and camera support gear under 1K. Cool!
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April 16, 2012
  NAB 2012: Arrival - Mark Heitke
Posted By Mark Heitke
Ah, Las Vegas, 

Since a million people have written about this place I figured I might as well add in my eloquent two cents. 

There is a strange appeal of Vegas that I can't fully explain, but it falls somewhere in the area of what it felt like when you got to stay up and watch your first R-rated movie.  I always enjoy coming here an look forward to NAB.  Since I am younger in my career, NAB offers a chance to see plenty of things up close and personal, as well as meet the people I follow on twitter and read about.
 
Landing at the Las Vegas airport I immediately sensed the presence of thousands of video people.  I think many wear the same cologne or something but either way the city was all NAB.  I immediately jumped into a cab and headed over to the convention center.  The place was set up like an adult amusement park.  There are giant booths everywhere that are emblazoned with the various logos of the big stars.  Abobe, Autodesk, Sony and others have all staked their claim to a chunk of real estate amongst the massive show. 

I decided to start out in South Hall this year in order to focus on Post Production.  I spent a some time looking at the new Smoke improvements as  well as watching a demo, and I am pretty impressed.  Their Actions set-up is robust and really could speed up some of the projects I work on hands down.   For NLEs that are trying to fill the gap left with FPX, they have moved into a top postion especially now that Smoke on Mac is reduced down below 4k a seat.  I know that sounds like a lot in the shadow of FCPX, but for the amount of things it does I can more than justify the cost.  
The rest of my day was spent chatting and checking in with some of my vendors and checking on what is coming up that will benefit my clients.  We (Splice) have been working through a CatDV MAM system this past year so it was good to talk to the Squarebox team.  It really is amazing what you can do in a one on one session.  

My NAB has started off in full motion.  I don't know how it happened but a day can get spent very quickly at the various stations.  I am off for now to grab some tapas for dinner at the Aria.  Please check back again or follow me on twitter for more updates. 

Mark Heitke
@mheitke

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April 16, 2012
  Why John Lennon still rocks
Posted By John Parenteau
I'm a huge Cirque du Soleil fan. I've probably seen every show they've done, and can even pronounce the French name correctly. The best show, in my learned opinion, is Love. A tribute to the Beatles, at the Mirage,  is so magical I would swear they're hypnotizing us with their sequined outfits.  I'm a huge Beatles fan, so it's an easy sell for me, but before the show I just loved them. Now I loooove them! It's a very specific technical difference. 

So it seemed to be a continuation of that same magic that I met Brian Rothschild, Executive Director of a thing called the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. In addition to being a huuuuge Beatles fan, I'm also a big supporter of education. I really found a joy in my learnin' as a kid, and always try to support education as an adult, especially in helping kids of all races and financial means find a way to express themselves. So get this: the bus is a full on, decked out audio and video production studio. I don't mean a hand recorder and an iPhone. I mean full on pro tools (that's a really good thing for you non-audio peeps), green screen, instruments and even multiple sound booth capability. It is state of the art as far as I can tell. But listen to what it does. 

10 months out of the year the bus tours the United States, visiting schools, concerts, and events. At each of these the bus invites a group of kids, ranging from grade school age through high school, to record music. For 8 solid hours this group of kids, who usually have never worked together before, must write, record, and produce a video for an original song. For free. 

I saw some of the results. These are not only some slick videos, they are also some amazing songs! The beauty of the bus is that it doesn't just give young musicians an opportunity to work in a professional setting, or that they can leave with a slick video to show around, but also that they learn to work together, with kids they may only barely know. They work closely together, learning to be creative together, and no doubt form long lasting friendships because of it. 

And if that isn't enough, artists like Sam I Am, Carlos Santana, Natasha Bennefield and more, often join the kids, helping with their music and, if asked nicely, sometimes siting in on the song. I'm no musician, and the only place I sing well is in the shower, but even I know that having a chance that Carlos Santana might play guitar on my own song would blow my mind! 

It's not hard to see why it's so compelling for companies like Apple, Sony, Gibson Guitars, Avid and many more to want to help this organization succeed. There's absolutely no downside, and so much upside in supporting kids and their futures. 

I strongly suggest you check it out. If you're at NAB right now, you can find the bus parked outside the side door near the Sony booth in the central hall. Or, for those geographically challenged, go to http://www.lennonbus.org. And tomorrow ( Tuesday, April 17th) Morgan Spurlock of Supersized and 30 Days fame, is hosting a live streaming event from the Lennon Bus. If you cant be there, watch it by ownloading the Lennon Bus app for iPhone and Android,  at  lennonbus.org/live, or check out the site for more details!
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April 16, 2012
  NAB 2012 - Game Changers
Posted By TJ Ryan
NAB 2012 is finally here and this year it's not just about going to Vegas.  There are actually new things to see.

The show kicked off to a fast start, faster then the $500 I lost at poker last night.  There is already a buzz with some great new game changing products.  Everyone is talking about the new Camera from Blackmagic Design. Whopping 2.5K Resolution for Under $3000.  The camera rocks 2.5K recording in RAW formats, meaning the image won't suffer due to in-camera compression and will preserve extremely broad dynamic range. More impressive, though, is the price tag.  

Looks like Blackmagic has all the basis of production covered with routers, switchers, frames and now the camera.  

AutoDesk's big debut of their new Smoke software had a wall of people around their booth cramming to get a peak.  Load the Smoke for mac (about $3500) on a lap top and plug in a Promise Pegasus thunderbolt drives and enjoy 700 mb/s read and write speed while doing editing and effects from your boat.  

AJA never disappoints and this year was no exception.  The new KiPro Rack unit is perfect for studios or post.   Record all your camera iso's and line cut from one interface.  John Thorn, the product manager of the Ki Pro, has taken this unit to a whole new level.  AJA also unveiled the T-TAP.  This is a mini converter with thunderbolt to SDI and HDMI outputs.  Perfect for when you want to play out SDI from your laptop.  Of course they still have the IO series and the new IOXT has thunderbolt connectivity. Thunderbolt, thunderbolt, thunderbolt.  That's all any one cares about this year.  With the most promising solutions coming form Sonnet tech.  In addition to their thunderbolt expansion chassis and thunderbolt drives, they have put together some really nice mac mini rack solutions that offer thunderbolt connectivity as well as PCI slots.  The AJA booth has one of the new rackmac mini's with a Kona card in it and if you hop over to the Promise booth, they are running a san with mac mini's and their new SanLink, a thunderbolt to Fiber adapter.  Looks like my next XSan will be two mac mini's in a rackmac mini with fiber cards.   I know, I know you want a thunderbolt SAN.  Well, I can't give you all my secrets.  Just in case your storage solution is bigger and more critical then the average Joe and you don't trust a mac mini, then all you need to do is head over to Active Storage and check out their active SAN.  

I spoke with Jordan Woods from Active and he showed me how their new servers can import the volume config from your old Jurassic XServer and you can have a rock solid solution with their servers. It makes sense, apple stopped making the XRAID so they made an Active RAID, apple stopped making the XServe so Active made the Apple SAN.  Thank you Active.  For a critical deployment there is no better option.  And just when you thought fiber was dead and 10 gigE was the future, Active Storage introduces their M-Raid with 8gig fiber just in case you need 1000 mb/s read and write.  Me likey.  And just for fun you can add their M-Vault.  The M-Vault is a 4 RU chasis with 60 drives.  Yes, I said a 60 drive Raid.  Oh, I almost forgot, I stopped by the Quantel booth to check out the Pablo, a personal favorite of mine but out of my price range.  So, I thought.  Not anymore.  They now offer a software solution that comes with everything the pro version has.  This solution can be custom configured in any machine and runs off multiple graphics cards with a video IO card.  Very similar to the product line the DaVinci took.  

Of course this wouldn't an article about game changers without mentioning RED.  Their new RED Dragon 6K resolution camera is something to behold.  And there is a line stretching around about 100 people deep to get into their theater to check out their new 4K projector.  Okay, I think my feet are rested, back to walking the floor.  

Check back later for more posts.

TJ Ryan
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April 16, 2012
  Timeline - Day 1
Posted By John Parenteau
Day One

Sunday
10:30pm  Forego late night "club" to get a decent night sleep. 

10:45pm  Lay awake wondering what friends are doing at "club"

Monday
7:30am  Rise and shine! Trip over large round pillow that fell on floor at night

7:35am  Check schedule. First meeting on show floor is at 10am. No problem. Check email. Figure out what I should wear. Realize it doesn't match.  Curse bad taste. 

7:50am. Cut myself shaving. Blood everywhere. Apply pressure. 

8:15am. Had to get dressed one handed. Upset I chose a white shirt. Still bleeding. 

8:45am  Still bleeding. Weigh embarrassment of having toilet paper on face against being late. Toilet paper wins. 

9:05am. Blood flow reduces from arterial rate. Use Kleenex to dab as I head to the bus. 

9:20am  Can't find bus. I thought there was a bus. Taxi line is so long the end of it is near NV/CA border. Dab chin. Still bleeding. Get in line. 

9:45am  Grab a ride in a limo with four hungover Brits. Most of the talk involves ladies of the night and lack of sleep. I look out window to make sure we are actually going to NAB and not Crazy Horse 3. 

9:55am  Made it to show. Registration line is so long I think it merges with the taxi line from hotel. I begin to think this might be NAB registration for next year. 

9:56am  I realize I have press credentials! I ask a very helpful staff member who proceeds to point out that press registration is at the other end of the convention center. (note that this convention is so big that the "other end" is a half a mile away). 

10:10am  Find press room. No line. Sweet. 

10:15am  I find the right hall and note that the booth I'm looking for is around aisle 6000. Sign above me says I'm at aisle 100. I start walking. 

10:30am  Make it to the booth. Lost feeling in my legs.  Luckily they have a nice chair and cold water for me. 

11:00am  Good meeting. I look around and my head explodes with all the awesome vendors around me. Can't wait to explore!

Lesson learned: NAB is about the journey, as well as the destination. And be more careful shaving. 
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April 14, 2012
  NAB 2012
Posted By John Parenteau

Ever since entering the entertainment business as an adult (meaning after film school, because before,  we had no idea what NAB was, nor had any money to make the trek to Vegas...), I've made an effort to see the show. Now, attending for my 15th year, I realize that the show itself is much like my experiences fishing with my dad. Early on, in both scenarios, it was a magical world. Just like packing up the night before for the trip to the lake, there was a high level of anticipation. What would I see? What would it be like? At NAB, there was always technology that was exciting, mysterious. What does that do? Can I use that? Working in visual effects, and at that time in a desktop revolution that was, to be frank, being led by me and many of my friends, we had little exposure to any other area of broadcasting. So going to NAB was like a kid in a giant candy store. Some kids would die to find themselves locked in a construction yard with all the keys to the bull dozers; we were kids in and amongst the coolest computer technology, software, camera gear, microwave technology and the like. Like that first trip fishing, when everything was magical, so was NAB.

But like anything that matures and becomes jaded, so did fishing, and so did NAB. More so for fishing. What was at first the excitement of rowing out on the lake at dawn quickly became the hassle of getting up too early, being too cold, touching slimy bait. NAB wasn't  slimy (unless you count the "club" you attended the night before), but for a short time it became more frustrating than anything. In the years were I owned my own fledgling company, the wonder of the most amazing equipment on the earth was replaced by the knowledge that I couldn't really afford the toys I wanted. NAB was less of a kid in a candy store, and more of a kid OUTSIDE of a candy store, unable to get in, plastering his sweaty palms against the glass.

But the beauty of NAB is that it has something for everyone. What replaced the wonder of the equipment was the interaction with my peers. Parties began to take precedence. By the early 21st century I was going to NAB to attend the coolest events with all my friends, meet some amazing new people, and share in the excitement of an industry that is much smaller than we realize. 

Now, the fishing trip is less magical, but perhaps even more fun than it was as a child. As an adult, I can appreciate the bigger picture; the peace of sitting on the still water, the beauty of nature, and perhaps being able to share the magic with my own son or daughter. I've also matured in my approach to NAB. I still find wonder on the show floor, but I also find long time friends eager to catch up, companies excited to work with me on some new innovation, or a presentation a friend is part of.

I'm excited to be heading to the show this year. I think I've realized that, just like fishing, the magic is where you look for it. This year I think I'll find it in the people around me, enjoying the show from their own perspective, either for the first time with wonder and amazement, or as experienced attendees who have found a new level of enjoyment in their long time friends and business partners.

____________________________________________

John Parenteau was born in Southern California, but moved to Oregon when he was 2 (not on his own, with his family). Country life suited John, and soon he was living a Tom Sawyer-esque lifestyle which included tromping through the woods, looking for Bigfoot and shooting "crawdads" with his bb gun. John is now a senior manager for Pixomondo, an international visual effects company with 12 worldwide divisions. Recent credits include "Hugo", "Fast Five" and "Red Tails". Current productions include "Snow White and the Huntsman" and "The Amazing Spiderman".

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April 13, 2012
  NAB Super Session - Predictions from the Street: The Power Players behind the Great Content Shift
Posted By Daniel Restuccio

By Daniel Restuccio

Marty Shindler (pictured below) is a man on a mission. He wants people to remember that "show business" is at least 50 percent business.  This is why the former head of finance at Industrial Light & Magic and long time industry management consultant organized and is moderating the NAB panel Predictions from the Street: The Power Players behind the Great Content Shift. Things have changed radically says Shindler. Many years ago if you were going to make a movie or a TV show, you did it on film; now you do it with digital cameras. Today, producers can make content and put it up on YouTube.  "A few years ago you watched content on your television and now you're watching Netflix and Hulu streaming."

Participating on the panel are Doug Creutz analyst at Cowen & Company, who identified profitability trends on "The Hunger Games, Lions Gate and Disney's "John Carter"; David Enzer, managing director of Roth Capital Partners, who is responsible for technology financings and M&A in the media, software, communications and convergence sectors. He has completed over $2B in transactions over his career; James Marsh analyst at Piper Jaffray who recently commented on the new Video on Demand service that would make first run movies available for homes 60 days after their theatrical release; and Michael Pachter, Wedbush Securities, who has a four-star analyst rating on Yahoo Finance and is a specialist in gaming industry analysis.

"These are knowledgeable people," continues Shindler. "Analysts are the ones that monitor these things and look at the metrics of what's going on in the industry. They study how one company affects another company all along the pipeline and at the end of every research report they write they have to declare that they are independent:  that they don't own Apple or Digital Domain or Comcast stock."

"The content creation business is a risky business. Somewhere between 65 and 70% of the studio movies that are made lose money. Look what happened to John Carter. Disney wrote down over 200 million dollars on that movie. "If that was an independent," says Shindler, "they would have gone out of business."

Perhaps Shindler's session description says it all: New paradigms in consumption are forever changing the way we create, manage, deliver and monetize content. These changes are forcing media and entertainment companies to closely examine and evolve their long standing strategies and business models, often moving into uncharted territories to reach the moving target customer. Newcomers are also entering the game, but their approach to the content creation, distribution, and delivery game is entirely new, innovative and potentially disruptive.

The panel, Predictions from the Street: The Power Players behind the Great Content Shift, is one of the Super Sessions. It will be held on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, at 2:15 PM in Room S222.
 
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April 13, 2012
  NLE Battles: What about Sony's Vegas?
Posted By Greg Wilker

As a long-time user of Vegas (back in the Sonic Foundry days), I always wonder why it is not considered in legitimate discussions of NLE programs. Its ability to process many media formats on the same timeline (and within the same project), real time previewing of effects (without the need to render to see the result), excellent audio capabilities along with a good community of users to draw from when the need arises, seem to me really solid features that put it as a competitive choice along with Avid, FCP and Premier. And it delivers professional grade media for final out-put.

And as I look at Tor Rolf Johansen's review of FCP X (10.0.3), he ends with: "The speed gains (from 64-bit code and multicore support), the two-thirds price cut, and some innovative new edit tools that make this update a true contender."

Well, all those items mentioned by Tor can also be said of Vegas Pro; fast, competitive price and key features.

And, as further "real world" innovation, a recent Vegas update added the ability to render straight to a YouTube account - including the HD formats that YouTube uses for its streaming. This may seem superficial at first glance, but when one considers that everyone has "official" media on YouTube - from big time Hollywood studios to an incidental kid in Nebraska named "Fred" - then perhaps this capability is not as trivial as one might presume upon first hearing of it. It certainly has made my life easier with rendering content and adding it to YouTube as part of my normal business/project workflow.

I have said for a long time that FCP was largely ignored by the industry until Walter Murch took a "leap" and edited "Cold Mountain" with it - and then won an Academy Award. The suddenly everyone jumped on the FC train. Sony Vegas would benefit from a similar circumstance.

But as long as Sony Vegas Pro is continually left out of professional conversations about NLE choices the likelihood of it happening is greatly reduced. People are losing out on a strong contender of choice; and losing out on the progress that comes from honest competition.

I hope you and other journalists will start giving some time to Sony's Vegas. I think the industry would do well by it.

I recognize this is a "love letter" for Sony Vegas and thus biased because of it. It must be love because I have no stock or any other monetary gain (that I can think of) by writing this.

Greg Wilker is based in Mill Valley, CA. He can be reached at:  jersey@well.com.

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April 04, 2012
  Autodesk Media Summit identifies trends and solutions
Posted By Daniel Restuccio
By Daniel Restuccio

SAN FRANCISCO - The Autodesk Media Summit held at Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco last week was a preview of their eagerly anticipated 2013 product launches. The event focused more as a trends overview than serious deep-dive into specific products.

Autodesk president/CEO Carl Bass' (pictured below) keynote focused on addressing their customer's profitability by increasing the efficiency of all of their software products. He also provided a sneak peak into some specific features and identified three big changes in the computing landscape: mobile, social and cloud computing.

Autodesk has numerous mobile apps in various stages of deployment, including Sketchbook Pro, 123D Catch, 123D Sculpt (iPad ready) and 123D Make. Development of apps for mobile devices will grow significantly especially when mobile devices like the iPad 3 have more memory and screen resolution than an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Bass even showed a screen shot of Maya running on an iPad.

Another major trend noted by Bass is cloud computing. Autodesk will eventually expand their Autodesk 360 concept currently working with CAD customers to media and entertainment application users. This will allow CG and VFX producers to render scenes in the cloud, relieving them of the need for a dedicated renderfarm. The days of going back to the office and saying you'll email a file are over Bass said. Cloud computing allows the center of the workflow be where you are and frees the content producer to use any device to connect to the Internet and share and collaborate instantaneously.

Breakout sessions on what is being dubbed Autodesk Entertainment Suite Ultimate: Maya, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, Softimage and 3D Studio Max focused on a more user friendly UI across products and many new features. There's a new live link function between Maya and MotionBuilder that syncs a scene in realtime between the two programs. Move a character in MotionBuilder and it moves in Maya and vice versa. Maya now reads 3D Studio Max CAT files. Softimage has a new CrowdFX simulation feature. 3DS Max and Adobe After Effects continues to be more tightly integrated. Atomic Fiction founders and VFX supervisors Kevin Baillie and Ryan Tudhope talked about their Autodesk-centric workflow, which via cloud rendering allowed them to finish a set of VFX shots for $30K that normally would have cost nearly 10 times that amount.

One of the more impressive presentations that echoed announcements made at Game Developers Conference 2012 placed Autodesk squarely in a position to rock the games industry via a games development system still in development called Project Skyline. Originally previewed at GDC in 2011 this fresh iteration takes the Entertainment Suite Ultimate programs, leverages the FBX file format and via Autodesk's Gameware middleware communicates with virtually any game engine. This workflow allows game designers and artists a more direct hand in prototyping games instead of running iterations by having hardcore coders bind art together in C++.

Greg Castle (pictured, right), Autodesk's product marketing manager for games says, "Skyline offers developers a previously impossible level of efficiency and ability to iterate by linking our art creation tools directly with the runtime. Users can create and modify assets within our modeling tools and see those changes reflected live in the game runtime environment."


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April 02, 2012
  Why Is A/V preservation such a nuisance... and necessity
Posted By Joshua Ranger



By Joshua Ranger
Senior Consultant
AudioVisual Preservation Solutions

www.avpreserve.com

Preservation is a big, fat pain. I dedicated two solid years studying (and 20 years paying off the loans) the archiving and preservation of audiovisual works. I have been consulting in that field for the past five years. Yet, even I find that preservation is a pain.

Why do I feel that way? Well, I'm human, and humans tend to favor those actions that are most simply implemented. To be kind to myself, I refer to this as conservation of energy. To be realistic - I'm kinda lazy.

The other reason I feel this way is based on my work experience. As a consultant, I have had the lucky opportunity to visit and work in archives and media collections across the country - from television broadcasters and studios to military bases, universities, museums and record labels. I've seen a lot of media and drives containing wildly different content housed in all sorts of organizations. But, despite their variety, they all face similar problems, namely backlogs, funding and personnel shortages, as well as those piles of unknown materials that overwhelm collections.

The frequency with which I see these backlogs in audiovisual archives has to make me think that preservation must be a major pain. Preservation certainly does not seem as difficult as the creative aspect preceding it. The production of these materials takes so much drive and effort to conceive, produce and follow through on. Considering the amount of work that goes into production and post production, post-post-production must therefore be incredibly annoying if these same proactive people are not doing it.

That makes me wonder, then, why is it such a pain? It can't be because the actions of preservation themselves are too complex for people who know the media, because they aren't, really. Instead, it seems that preservation is more akin to exercise or going to the dentist or cleaning under the couch cushions - there is no immediate, measurable daily consequence to ignoring it, but when you finally deal with the issue or take action, the direness of the situation slaps you in the face and overwhelms you. This temporal/conceptual block makes preventative actions easy to ignore and curative actions easy to repeatedly put off because, really, who wants to pay the piper in order to face the music?

Ignoring preservation in the near term is essentially exchanging expediency and ease now for discomfort and expense later. At that future point the work (or the teeth or the couch) is not necessarily unrecoverable, but the cost and effort to do so are 1) well above what they would have been had proper prevention been taken, and 2) potentially prohibitive or a major impediment to following through on the needed work.

The benefits of prevention are conceptually obvious - lower costs, better long-term conditions, improved quality of life, lowered restoration effort - but they are not perceptually obvious...until things are too late.

But when we look at history, we see that the cost and benefits of the choice to preserve or not preserve have been felt - repeatedly and viscerally - throughout the industry at monetary and personal effort levels.  For example:

-    After the original production of Titanic, the only thing that Lightstorm Entertainment archived was final release version on color separation film masters. Film is great, but the original, editable CGI or digital source materials are now inaccessible, limiting the choices or increasing the costs of reissuing where those effects may need to be recreated from scratch.
-    After years of delay, TBS HD has recently begun airing Seinfeld in HD at a 16:9 ratio. Typically, older, non-widescreen content is shown in pillar box or ends up being stretched (and severely distorted) to fit newer television sizes. Seinfeld was actually shot on film with a soft matte so that it would be HD-ready in the future, though the new versions had to be re-mastered from the film originals because the older syndication copies are 4:3. Titles and some interstitials also had to be redone because they were not originally shot in the same manner, increasing costs and delays.
-    When the creators of games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band figured out they could utilize isolated audio tracks as the basis of interactive gaming, it sent record companies scrambling to go through their existing collections of multi-track tapes that had been little used, often ignored, and overwhelming recording studio storage space for decades. By some estimates the Guitar Hero franchise alone sold over 40 million units and earned over $3 billion in revenue.

An interesting commonality in these examples is that they do not fit into what have become the standard arguments for the economic benefits of preservation, most typically monetization through repurposing such as DVD extras, alternate takes on CDS or box sets, and various theatrical or other re-releases. I think we are now seeing the limits of these strategies - the collapse of the physical media market and the increase in streaming services (that don't include the DVD extras) as well as the small completist or fannish markets that, even if one believes in the long tail theory, do not sufficiently support the costs of production and distribution for premium or esoteric content.

Instead what we see in our examples is 1) a spectacular amount of revenue derived (as is often the case with novel technologies) from the unforeseen use of existing material/resources, or 2) the delay and decreased amount of normal revenue levels caused by the unprevented need to restore or recreate inaccessible materials. In the Extra Content scenario, resources are allocated to produce bonuses that may or may not contribute to increased revenue generation. In the Forced Restoration scenario, extra resources are allocated to bringing an asset up to releasable quality (investment that may not be recouped) which is added on top of (or replaces) the now expected bonus content. The bonus material included becomes an additional cost; excluded it becomes something for reviewers to complain about.

In the end, inserting archival procedures as part of a production process - and distributing the cost across time to minimize it - positively impacts future possibilities, just as the time and cost of flossing over the long term benefits one by preventing the sudden, all-in cost of a root canal.

MORE TO COME

From the studios to independent producers - and the archives that may end up acquiring their materials - these are the types of issues facing content creators and the types of issues occupying us at AudioVisual Preservation Solutions as archival and content management consultants. These are also the types of issues - from a preservation minded bent - that we will be exploring in this new blog for Post magazine. With the increasing use of digital media and the expansion of ways that content is being used and distributed in organizations, we're seeing the traditional walls between archives and other departments crumbling. Success for all will depend on learning new skills and ways of thinking, forging or strengthening cross-department relationships, and innovating new means for re-use and access. We hope this venue can be a place where archival and production issues can uncover their conflicts and their commonality, looking for new ways to move ahead and solve the issues we all face in maintaining the works we create and love.


Footnotes

http://brtf.vidizmo.com/MashupPlayBack.aspx?id=nCi9Dw1Z7Mc%3d&msf=0ef0x3ELzo4B39Qa56zxFw%3d%3d
http://www.engadget.com/2008/09/03/seinfeld-goes-hd-on-tbs-hd/
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=14610320#post14610320
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_video_game_franchises
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/2011/02/10/guitar-hero-gets-axed_n_821159.html

The New York Times had an interesting article recently about the continuing restoration of Abel Gance's Napoleon since its initial release in the 1920s, citing the fact that there is little likelihood of seeing it projected on film outside of special occasions because the cost to the copyright owners (Zoetrope Films) is too great. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/movies/the-many-lives-of-abel-gances-napoleon.html

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