When we asked top vendors of nonlinear editing systems what they feel is the greatest challenge facing the HD editorial community, there was a consensus. They said the most pressing problem is the need to handle material captured in myriad HDTV formats, such as 1080i, 1080p and 720/60p, and even mix different formats, resolutions and frame rates within a project or timeline.
Vendors of NLEs are committed to offering support for a wide range of formats, including the ability to edit in native DVCPRO HD, HDCAM or HDV. But that's easier said than done because there are always new formats and compression schemes being added as the industry strives for near-film resolution with better management of realtime processing, playback and storage of ever-larger files.
One new format attracting attention is Sony's HDCAM-SR, which is recorded by the new SRW-5000 (HDCAM-SR) DVR. As part of its CineAlta product line, it can record a full-bandwidth 4:4:4 RGB HD image (when optional RGB processor boards are installed in the DVR), as well as record HD-YUV, making it ideal for movie making.
"With the success of Sony's new HDCAM-SR format, HD-RGB is on the rise and seems to be establishing itself as the new HD standard," says Roger Thornton, head of corporate relations for Quantel (www.quantel.com/) in Newbury, England. "This is because the extra quality it delivers is very noticeable. So, your HD editing system must be capable of handling HD-RGB in full glorious, non-compressed resolution or else it won't have much of a future.
Smoke on Tezro offers editors a resolution-independent environment.
"Of course, HD-YUV is not going to go away anytime soon, so your editing system must be able to handle both in native form correctly," Thornton adds. He reports that eQ "does the lot correctly [including SD and computer file formats], without losses from transcoding."
The Quantel eQ editing/effects/color grading/mastering system combines dedicated hardware to give SD performance speeds at HD resolutions. But it has a powerful, standard PC embedded within it to give the necessary openness for connectivity, programmability and the ability to run standard PC software and plug-ins. Thornton says that "eQ has the power and connectivity to act as the hub for all post activity on any given project.
"Specialist tasks such as 3D and labor-intensive rotoscoping can be transferred as a background process to connected systems while editing and effects work carries on uninterrupted on the eQ," Thornton says. Another productivity enhancer is eQ's QColor in-context grading option that allows color correction to happen interactively within the post process, not as a separate activity. ESPN's new HDTV Sports Center, in Bristol, CT, makes extensive use of the eQ, and Detroit's Grace & Wild is using the eQ to post HD commercials.
"The most pressing problem with HD editing today," he says, "is making money. Our eQ brings together many previously separate strands of the post process. It also produces the highest quality results possible in a shorter timeframe than other system[s], and will handle any HD format no problem."
"The biggest problem facing today's editors is the lack of clearly defined standards. Our Smoke system addresses this problem by removing standards from the equation," says Maurice Patel, product marketing manager for Discreet (www.discreet.com/) in Montreal. "As a resolution-independent environment, Smoke can be configured to work in any resolution, frame rate, bit depth or HD format, with realtime playback of two streams of non-compressed RGB 4:4:4 frames at 1080 HD, 2K and 3K resolution. And you can mix source material of any resolution, frame rate or bit depth on the EditDesk, in a bin or library, and even within a timeline, converting between them to produce multiple versions."
By supporting the native HDCAM codec, Sony Xpri can use storage more efficiently.
The advantage to keeping material fully non-compressed is that "you do not encounter image degradation problems. So image quality remains pristine even after rendering a clip multiple times," adds Patel. "This gives the user the freedom to pursue a more complex creative vision." Available on SGI Octane 2 and Tezro 2P and 4P workstations, Patel says Smoke 6.0 offers the performance and workflow tools required for profitable post production, and the creation of valuable HD content for HDTV or cinema.
"At Avid, our goal is to ensure top quality regardless of the source format, from HDCAM to DVCPRO HD to HDV, and to support all popular formats while maintaining the original resolutions and frame rates," says Charlie Russell, senior manager of product marketing for Avid (www.avid.com/) in Tewksbury, MA. "The key is eliminating image resizing or frame rate conversion that can introduce unwanted artifacts. Also, with HDV, Avid eliminates transcodes by editing native HDV (MPEG-2), saving time and storage space.
Running on the HP xw8000 workstation, the Avid DS Nitris 7.5 is a full-featured editing system that delivers two streams of full-resolution HD media, plus color correction, title and DVE in realtime for finishing SD, HD, as well as 2K/4K for DI projects. Multiple Avid DS Nitris and Media Composer Adrenaline systems can share and play HD media and projects over Avid Unity MediaNetwork
With an optional uncompressed HD add-on PCI card, the Avid Media Composer Adrenaline enables users to input and output uncompressed HD media, including 1080i, 1080p and 720p formats via SDI and HD-SDI connections, with support for HDV and DVCPRO HD formats and HDCAM devices.
Apple FCP HD handles many different formats, from DV to film and including native DVCPRO HD - all captured via FireWire.
"Uncompressed HD files are many times larger than SD files," says Russell. "In post production, the results are dramatically increased storage costs, plus extreme bandwidth demands. Avid solves this problem with Avid DNxHD, which delivers mastering-quality HD with the file size of SD." Avid DNxHD is a new 10-bit HD encoding technology that enables collaborative HD post production via the Avid Unity MediaNetwork, the same storage bandwidth and capacity requirements as SD files and delivers a 4:2:2 color space in user-selectable bandwidth configurations.
Media 100 (www.media100.com/), now a unit of Optibase, recently extended the feature set of its Media 100 HD system with new Version 10 software. The latest release adds support for multiple video tracks, RGB color correction, motion alpha channels and advanced keying.
The update, says Mike Savello, Media 100 VP of sales and marketing, is based on user feedback and represents the company's biggest Mac-based release to date.
This new Version 10 feature set is a direct answer to [customer] input. With support for multiple tracks of video, new color correction capabilities, motion alpha mattes and an advanced keyer, this new release allows our customers to realize the full benefits of our OS X architecture."
Media 100 HD features realtime 8- and 10-bit uncompressed and compressed native HD and SD editing capabilities. The system also integrates full support for Media 100i offline formats, allowing the capture of HD content as SD offline-quality media at as little as 5 KB per frame. Most notable in the V.10 release is the ability to support up to 99 tracks, each capable of containing video, graphics, CG and still images.
First shipments of Media 100 HD with V.10 software are set to begin in the fall. Complete HD systems, including an Apple Power Mac G5 and high-speed media storage, are expected to start at around $12,000.
"The key issues in HD online editing have been limited performance, cumbersome workflows and the need for rendering of transitions and effects," says Mike Nann, marketing manager, professional post production, at Toronto's Leitch Technology (www.leitch.com/). "But our new VelocityHD breaks existing barriers, making HD editing of HD formats like 1080i, 1080p and 720p fast, easy, affordable and efficient, without sacrificing the quality of uncompressed or compressed HD or SD video."
Leitch VelocityHD ships with the Altitude board for HD and SD work.
The product was introduced at NAB 2004. "With its powerful Altitude board, VelocityHD guarantees instant, full-quality, simultaneous playback of two 10-bit [uncompressed or compressed] video streams, plus two dedicated graphics streams, with no rendering."
Billed as a low-cost HD editing solution, the VelocityHD board/software bundle starts at under $10K, with a turnkey system - complete with storage - starting at under $50K.
VelocityHD also offers multi-camera editing, as well as keyframeable, hardware-based, realtime effects, such as 2D/3D DVE, color correction, 32-bit graphics overlay, test rolls and crawls, pixel effects, masks, garbage mattes, blur, multi-target chroma and luma keying, and more, in both SD and HD.
"Our studies of the post market have shown that less than 15 percent of respondents use HD for more than 10 percent of their work, and even by the end of 2004, 85 percent of our respondents expect to be doing less than 30 percent of their work in HD," says Nann. "With its ability to handle both SD and HD well, VelocityHD can meet our customers' needs today and in the HD future."
"With Final Cut Pro HD, people can edit material from DV to film, including native DVCPRO HD footage (captured over FireWire with no generation loss), or 8-bit or 10-bit compressed or uncompressed 1080i and 720p HD (transferred via PCI). And we don't charge more or require software or hardware upgrades for HD," says Richard Kerris, senior director professional applications marketing, for Apple (www.apple.com/finalcutpro) in Cupertino, CA.
Final Cut Pro HD (see our review on page 64), for only $999 plus the Mac, "enables creative professionals to be productive from the moment they fire it up," Kerris adds. To mix formats on the fly, users can install the Pinnacle CineWave board or the AJA Kona board, both certified by Apple for compatibility with Final Cut Pro HD. Leveraging the Power Mac G5 (and Mac OS X "Panther), Final Cut Pro HD provides playback of up to four streams of native DVCPRO HD video and enables users to edit anywhere, even on a PowerBook.
The Digital Cinema Desktop feature allows basic SD and HD monitoring directly to an Apple Cinema Display, further lowering the cost of entry for HD editing. The system can output to most professional tape formats, or encode MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and QuickTime files for delivery on DVD, the Web and hand-held devices. New to Final Cut Pro HD is realtime color correction, motion graphics integration and RT Extreme for HD, which enables realtime playback of over 150 HD effects, filters, transitions and composited video streams with no rendering or expensive hardware add-ons.
"When it comes to graphics, 'we get it,'" says Kerris. "Graphics and video are part of our DNA. What makes the Apple platform so attractive to creative professionals is that they can spend their time being artists rather than systems integrators. And considering Final Cut Pro HD's price/performance, facilities can afford to put a system in more than one suite."
"The biggest issues in HD editing today are cost and performance, especially since producers and broadcasters don't want to pay a premium to have their shows finished in HD," says Linda White, GM for Xpri sales and marketing, for Sony (www.sony.com/professional), in Park Ridge, NJ. "Our Xpri HD NLE solves this problem by integrating realtime tools that are effective in producing a high-quality program, yet [is] cost effective to operate."
By supporting the native HDCAM codec, Xpri uses storage more efficiently and promotes a more streamlined workflow, reports Sony product manager for Xpri, Chris Marchitelli.
Besides being suited for editing HDCAM, Xpri can also handle compressed IMX and uncompressed HD and SD video. Priced at $80,000, Xpri is a Windows-based software and hardware solution, with optional boards for realtime effects and HD I/O. Xpri 7.0 adds a new realtime HD color corrector, multi-camera editing and HD and SD chromakey. Xpri also integrates Adobe AE and Pinnacle Commotion compositing tools.
"Our goal is to offer HD solutions at SD prices," says Juan Martinez, director of strategic marketing alliances for JVC (http://pro.jvc.com) in Wayne, NJ. JVC's JY-HD10 camera, which shoots 720/30p (1280 x 720; 30fps) for $4,000, is bundled with free KDDI HD editing software. KDDI offers basic cuts, dissolves, timeline and timecode capabilities to edit the native MPEG-2 ATSC-compliant HD stream, which JVC's camera records. HDV (HD Video), initially developed by JVC, got its name because it records onto DV form factor cassettes.
"For those who want to convert MPEG-2 compressed HD signals to standard HD-SDI, AJA offers the HD10A converter that enables NLEs like CineWave HD by Pinnacle Systems or Avid's Nitris to import and edit HD footage shot with the JY-HD10U," says Martinez. "For Apple Final Cut Pro users, NJ-based Lumiere Media offers a plug-in that allows editing of HDV without rendering the timeline." Also, CineForm (www.cineform.com/) in Carlsbad, CA, offers "Connect HD," an HD accelerator for Windows that allows users to capture content from HDV camcorders and D-VHS decks in full HD resolution.
Boxx Technologies has incorporated CineForm's Prospect HD realtime 10-bit HD video engine with Adobe Premiere Pro (on Windows XP) into its HD [pro] RT. This software-based HD NLE delivers realtime multi-stream processing of three streams of 1080/30p HD footage, along with realtime titles and effects, color correction, transitions, graphic overlays with motion.
Video is ingested from a variety of 8-bit or 10-bit HD sources, including HD-SDI and HDV and, in realtime, it's converted to CineForm's efficient Visually Perfect format prior to writing the stream to disk. This workflow reduces the bandwidth required to process high-resolution content and lowers storage costs.
"HD [pro] RT is a realtime HD NLE that offers a leap in price performance," says Boxx (www.boxxtech.com/) CTO, Todd Bryant, in Austin, TX. "The combination of Boxx technology and the NLE capabilities of CineForm Prospect HD and Adobe Premiere Pro running on Microsoft Windows XP, makes editing HD an affordable reality for anyone working with HD footage."