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August 2014
Issue: April 1, 2004

Digital Dailies

By: By Matthew Armstrong


"Clients like the familiarity of having a tape in their hands, putting it in the deck and hitting 'play,'"says JVC's Larry Librach.
The use of digital dailies has been picking up steam for several years now and today they come in all shapes and sizes. From Web-based proxies intended to keep studio executives in the loop to pristine HD images that satisfy directors, DPs and producers, digital dailies are on the rise.

The benefits are numerous and varied. Speed of delivery is one and that is where the Web-based applications step in to meet the needs of the ever-increasing pace of production, as well as a global market. Films and television shows shooting in remote locations are still going to rely on their entrusted processing labs back home to handle their negative, but they don't have three days to wait for this footage to be flown back to them. Many companies have stepped in to fill this need with a number of new products coming out just in the last few months.

"The demand for dailies over the Internet doubles every year and now we're seeing the demand for HD dailies over the Internet," says Michael Flannigan, co-founder of Video Design Research, which opened last year and has been working to make the production of dailies cheaper. They will unveil a new delivery system, Copper, at NAB this month.


According to Josh Kline, Sample Digital provides dailies via the Internet using Windows Media 9. Legally Blonde 2 was one recent film that took advantage of the service.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who are looking to satisfy the high-quality requirements at a much reduced price to film dailies with HD dailies. There are offerings from companies like JVC - with its new D-VHS system release last November - and Heuris with its nonlinear hard-drive system RushPlay, which has been on the market for two years.


RushPlay allows users to circle takes and compile them in a group, making the editor"s job easier.
"In the $10- to $50-million budget, this will continue to grow. Over that it will probably remain film dailies because budget isn't as relevant, but not many of us live in that world," says Brian Quandt of Heuris. "We are clearly on the quality side, and our dailies are meant for the director, DP, editor and producer. The other systems out there are for executive review or to try to prepare the animation/effects department. The only systems I know of that are trying to meet the quality side of the review process are ourselves and JVC."

HD DAILIES

Over the past few years JVC (www.jvc.com) has been developing its D-VHS system for high definition playout, causing quite a buzz in the post market, though the actual product only became available last November.

"Dailies is a dedicated market that that has a great need to view footage quickly, economically and as high-quality as possible," says Larry Librach, assistant vice president of business development broadcast & entertainment for JVC. "Film is still king and studios are sensitive to the needs of directors and producers, and usually they will budget for film dailies in the beginning to satisfy them. Some still budget for film dailies throughout the entire production but that is extremely expensive. So we're offering a cheaper, high-quality alternative. Many producers have told me that, 'If a DP can't get what he needs from a D-VHS screening, they're lying.'"

The complete system includes JVC's MPEG-2 encoder (though other encoders can also be used), the D-VHS mastering deck, the SRVDA-300, and D-VHS tapes that cost $8 and hold up to three hours of 1920 x 1080 uncompressed HD content. In addition to the professional D-VHS playback decks, JVC is also marketing consumer D-VHS decks that do not include security features.

"Our goal is to make HD affordable for everyone," says Librach. "We started out marketing this technology for dailies but it is going to fit into a number of applications."


VDR's Michael Flannigan says Carbon and Copper can move HD dailies anywhere, quickly.
JVC touts its system's affordability and ease of use. "Ours is a very simple and economical system," says Librach. "The studios we work with are accustomed to using a linear approach that they've been using for all these years. And they like the familiarity of having a tape in their hands, putting it in a deck and hitting 'play,' as opposed to needing a technician there or needing to be very knowledgeable of how a system works."

When developing the D-VHS system, JVC recognized the need to incorporate security protocols to prevent unauthorized viewing or even piracy, especially with high quality HD footage. When mastering the tape, the password protection is enabled and a password is entered into what JVC refers to as a "lock code." By using this method, the technician at the post house producing the dailies never knows the password, but only the lock code. The executive at the post house has a software program provided when the mastering deck is purchased that contains the passwords. The passwords are then emailed, via encrypted email, to the client when they receive the tape. Furthermore, these professional tapes cannot be played on the consumer versions of the D-VHS players.

Later this year, JVC will release an advanced protection system so that tapes can only be played in a specific machine or group of machines. All of the professional decks currently sold already have this functionality built in; it's just a matter of enabling it.

JVC is marketing D-VHS as a high quality HD dailies solution but also notes that this technology will permeate many different markets, including digital previews - the preferred delivery format for HD television stations - and satellite recording, among other applications JVC is demonstrating at NAB.

HEURIS

Heuris' RushPlay system is a nonlinear HD system that has been on the market for two years and was first used on the films BulletProof Monk and The Human Stain. RushPlay is a service rather than a product.

After the telecine pass, the HD footage is encoded to a hard drive in MPEG-2, 1080i resolution at 25MB/s and the hard drive is physically delivered.

"The huge advantage is that you don't have to have a projectionist to run this. It is typically run by an editor," says Heuris's Quandt. "The other advantage is that it is random access, you click on a take and it's there."

As well as having the ability to add notes and share other forms of metadata, RushPlay allows users to sort takes, compiling all circled takes in a group, thus making the editor's job easier later on.

In addition to dailies, the Heuris RushPlay system has become popular as the medium for audience test screening, as a nonlinear system it enables certain scenes to be replayed and alternate versions and the like to be presented for audience input instantly.

THE DAILIES WEB

Since opening last year, Video Design Research (www.videodesignresearch.com) has focused on improving the economic paradigm of dailies, working with partners like Cintel, Digital Rapids and Digital Fountain.

"We're now using telecines that cost in excess of $1 million and $700,000 color correctors," says Michael Flannigan."Daily transfers, the mainstay of many companies, are down as low as $275 an hour. Do the math... if you buy a telecine with no money down and low interest, in 20 years you might break even. So we started looking at ways to improve efficiencies and speed up the process."

VDR co-developed with Cintel the Virtual Telecine consisting of Cintel's uncompressed HD digital data recorder, Ricki, and its color corrector, Luci, introduced at NAB '03. First, the telecine transfer is set up using a gray scale system to ensure all the footage is transferred with its full dynamic range to 10-bit HD video via Ricki. This transfer is done in realtime and then all the other work associated with daily transfers (audio syncing, data management and color correction) is performed in another suite, with tools that are a fraction of the cost of telecine equipment.

"From a productivity standpoint, we can now double, triple or quadruple your efficiency in the telecine suite depending on how many Virtual Telecine's you have associated with your telecine," notes Flannigan.

In addition to generating digital dailies faster and cheaper, VDR also has worked with Digital Rapids to offer CarbonHD, a hardware and software (a native Windows XP-based) platform for automated capture, playback, encoding and transcoding of HD and SD video and file formats.


SALT's Approvals.tv is an out-of-the-box Web application. The company's servers can host users' dailies if desired.
First introduced at last year's IBC, Carbon can capture any format delivered over SDI and play it back in realtime via an ftp site. Carbon uses JPEG2000, a wavelet compression system, which is a "lossless compression system that cuts down your storage by about two-thirds," explains Flannigan, or "we can go to any number of compression schemes if storage is an issue. Also, Carbon can convert to any format, so if you've done your HD color correction but your dailies delivery format is SD, you take that HD stream into Carbon and it will automatically downconvert it to SD."

The companion product to Carbon is a new product called Copper, which is powered by Digital Fountain. Most facilities use 10MB/s pipelines, but due to network traffic this data rate cannot be sustained. Digital Fountain technology allows for a 10MB/s rate to be maintained, allowing for the economical transfer of dailies via the Internet.

"With Carbon and Copper, we can move high def dailies from anywhere to anywhere, very quickly," explains Flannigan.

Copper also has a number of security devices built in and the very way it transfers the data, by fragmenting it and then reconstituting it on the other end ensures the data is secure.

SAMPLE DIGITAL

We could not talk about digital dailies without talking about Sample Digital, literally, since it has the very term "digital dailies" copyrighted.

Sample provides dailies via the Internet using Windows Media 9 and partners with post facilities like Level 3 Post, Technicolor, Deluxe ToyBox, Midnight Transfer and FrameSetMatch, to offer this service to clients.

"We co-market this solution with post houses and share in the revenue," explains Josh Kline, Sample CEO/president. "They don't pay us a flat fee but bill their clients and we get part of that."

Sample is all about speed. It provides a workstation that takes a split feed off of the telecine and teaches the post house how to encode in realtime at full frame rate, full frame resolution, and as soon as telecine is completed, the digital dailies file is completed. The file is then uploaded inside of a Web-based application to Sample's servers and they send Sample the Flex files. Sample creates a high-bit rate and a low-bit rate, and chops up the files into individual scenes and takes and wraps all of the footage in digital rights management files so the footage can be viewed anywhere in the world. It is hosted on Sample's redundant 10MB/s site.

A few years ago, "ER shot its finale in Hawaii and were flying the footage back to LA to be processed," says Kline. "Normally that would be a three-day turnaround until they got the footage back. We chop that in half. On a film shooting in Budapest, we were saving them four days."

In addition, Sample's digital dailies are not simply a streaming application but they allow for downloads and even the downloads are protected and a password is needed to log in.

At NAB, Sample will demo realtime playout of 720p material, which is enabled by Digital Rapids hardware and software. Also, the company will be showing some of the features that will be included in version 3 of its Digital Dailies solution, including the Media Markup Overlay function, which will allow users to draw on an individual frame.

"Media markup has been doable if you have an application on your desktop but nobody's ever developed a Web-based player that's protected where you can draw on the media," says Kline.

MICROSOFT

Microsoft's underlying technology of Windows Media 9, Windows Digital Rights Management and Sharepoint allows users to create their own digital dailies via the Internet or, as mentioned earlier with the case of Sample Digital, has enabled third parties to create solutions.

"One thing we focused on very early was asset security and workgroup functionality," says Jim Skinner of Microsoft (www.microsoft.com). "Sharepoint is an out-of-the-box consumer product that allows you look at, add and search information. So on your own, you can put together a pipeline to share your data."

And because of the growing popularity of the Windows Media 9 format, there is no encoding needed. Avid DS|Nitris currently outputs Media 9 and the next versions of Avid Express Pro and Media Composer will as well. Also, many of today's HD cameras will stream the format making it possible for a live feed.

SALT (www.saltsw.com) added Approvals.tv, an out-of the-box Web application, to its product range last November. Approvals.tv allows users to create their own dailies Web site in a secure, password-protected environment.

Clips are uploaded to a client's individual dailies where they can be reviewed, downloaded or annotated. Approvals.tv can be installed alongside the host company's Web site and rebranding the site to fit with the host's graphic look is a simple operation, says, Louise Rose, co-founder of SALT. Users can also choose to host dailies on SALT's own servers.

Approvals.tv supports Tele-stream's Flip Factory and Digital Rapids directly, and also allows for ftp upload and monitoring for ingest of material from any source.

"The cost savings and convenience of working this way, when set against using dubs, is becoming more apparent," says Rose. "As network speeds get faster and compression gets better, the end user's experience improves and we expect more agencies and producers to start demanding more online services from their post providers."

SALT is currently working on increasing support with third-party software, including the ability to publish movie files directly from Discreet systems. This integration will be provided by SALT's Critter asset tracking software. In addition, it will be adding more keyframe annotation options as well as its showreel compilation feature, allowing users to combine clips into playlists.

GLOBALSTOR DATA

At NAB, Globalstor Data Corporation (www.globalstor.com) will unveil a solution for time-conscious producers and photography directors, the new TransPro-DVS Digital Video Solution for creating DVD dailies.

TransPro-DVS creates high quality, on-demand, set-top-box-compatible DVDs for a broad range of digital video applications in the broadcast and professional video industries. Like its predecessor Trans-Pro II, the TransPro-DVS offers numerous I/O options, broad network connectivity and menu customization possibilities. In addition, TransPro- DVS enables users to create a wide range of video streaming files including AVI, MPEG-2, QuickTime and Windows Media 9 without forgoing security concerns with features such as character generation, encryption for Windows Media 9 files, and text and graphic overlays.