With war breaking out overseas at the time this was written, it's a welcome distraction to consider the exciting state of digital post these days. So knowing that this column will appear just after the NAB festivities but before we get the chance to review the show, it seemed a good time to harvest a wish list from editors to enhance our post production capabilities. One thing is certain: By the time you read this, we'll all know a great deal more about where our craft, as well as our world, is headed.
Jeff Spalla, the finishing editor on Paramount's "Dr. Phil" show, really likes the capabilities of his Avid Symphony because Dr. Phillip C. McGraw tends to explore a subject at length until reaching full resolution. Yet it's Jeff's job, along with three other Avid Media Composer artists, to reformat the production to fit its airtime.
"One of the things I'd like to see is HD capabilities at an Avid Xpress price level," Jeff begins his wish list. "This would necessitate employing less expensive software-based technologies, but it would make high-definition productions more feasible. Most of the boxes available today are still unrealistic for the emerging boutique post houses that are starting to permeate our business."
Since Jeff also has a strong background on Editware controllers, he'd welcome more hybrid editing designs too. "I'd love to have servers that would let you mix full-resolution HD, SD and other formats on the same timeline," he says. "These days, especially on shows like 'Dr. Phil,' you have to be ready to cut with anything that holds a picture."
In Modesto, Calif., Dave Patterson's company, Summit Productions, has been doing a lot of work on corporate projects as well as independent features such as "The Enemy Next Door," using its five Canopus DVRex RT nonlinear edit systems.
Dave went to NAB this year specifically to check out two new introductions from JVC: The world's first professional hand-held camcorder with full HD recording capabilities, the JY-HD10U, and JVC's new DR-DV5000 removable 80GB DV hard disk recorder. "Each of these will bring the cost of both the high end and low end of digital production to the level where independent production companies can afford them," Dave predicts. "They fill a gap that has existed for a long time and should spark a healthy competition from other manufacturers."
Dave and his associates also hoped to find some software offerings with fresh moving backgrounds for compositing titles over lower third CGs. "The few background makers that have been around for years are becoming excessively recognizable," he says. "They look like used cars being recycled, and even though they are eye candy we're really hoping to find something with a new taste."
ULTIMATE HOME RUN
Kurt Reitz owns EGT Communications in Colorado Springs, Colo., specializing in, as the initials would indicate, Editing, Graphics and Training, where he edits on an Accom Affinity NLE. Kurt is most interested in finding a better graphics software package for his dedicated Power Macintosh workstation. "Photoshop is starting to show its age," he explains, "and its resolution and anti-aliasing capabilities are not holding up to today's expectations. Sure there are others, but they can get awfully expensive."
Having cut his teeth on a Dubner Graphics Factory, Kurt still thinks its output was better than what's often seen on TV. As he puts it, "Nobody has hit the ultimate home run for good clean text, the ability to rotate, kern and track, and easy layout tools that can be integrated on a Mac. Oh, and with the economic squeeze facing midlevel post these days, it should also be cheap."
One new technology he's excited about is the advent of IEEE-1394 interface cards with the ability to pump DVCPRO50 or even DVCPRO100 directly into his Mac systems. "If you look inside OS X, the codec is DV/DVCPRO already," he says. "A FireWire interface will save cabling, and our facility can purchase just one deck for formats with different data rates."
In Springfield, N.J., Gordon Osview edits at M5 Digital Technologies on several Media 100 XR systems and a new 844/X. He's very pleased with those nonlinear systems, but what really bugs him about the current state of post technology in general is the lack of what he calls "control surface integration." "We are always dealing in the AES/EBU audio realm and are using a Tascam DM-24 mixer for audio input and output. I wish it could talk directly to the edit system's timeline without having to rely on the NLE's user interface."
Both Gordon and his partner Andy Abbot come from linear editing backgrounds, and what they are asking for is integrated hands-on audio faders that will get them away from "mousing" around their GUI to control levels. "This would provide a more fluid workflow," Andy adds. "It's what I missed most when transitioning from a linear to a nonlinear environment."
M5 Digital Technologies also often has to mix 4:1:1, 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 formats on any given day. So naturally Andy and Gordon would like to see a single, inexpensive, universal transcoder. "The number of individual transcoders we need to use now adds to the cost of post," Gordon admits, "and it's a cost we'd like to eliminate."
Dale Boyce is a Discreet smoke artist at Broadway Video in the Big Apple where the company posts commercials and broadcast/cable promotions. "We do a lot of heavy lifting in color correction on our NLE," Dale says. "Currently Discreet has very sophisticated color correction in its effects systems, but we're looking forward to this migrating to the editors and I know the company is working on it."
Looking farther afield, Dale would like to see IP addresses on VTRs so they could be controlled via Internet Protocol. "This would let you hook everyone up to a facility's Fibre Channel backbone, and make conforming an EDL as simple as having a deck report the material that was loaded into it for conforming by a remote edit system. And the metadata recorded in the field could be embedded with the media to give the tapes you saw on your base workstation more than just a plain label to identify their content."
At The Tape House in New York City, Peter Heady is the senior editor for high definition, working on a Quantel iQ system, where he primarily finishes film or HD-originated feature films and documentaries. He recently mastered "Capturing the Friedmans," directed by Andrew Jarecki that won the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Festival, and as we spoke, Peter was finishing John Sayles' new indie feature, "Casa de los Babies."
Peter would like to see increased user profile capabilities on different edit systems, so each cutter can conform the user interfaces to his or her own desires. "It would be great if everyone could have each system consistently look the way they want, no matter what brand," he speculates.
And even though he works on Quantel's iQ, one of the most powerful "resolution-coexistent" post systems, Peter still yearns for more cross-platform integration throughout our multivendor world. "I'm getting projects edited on everything from an Avid to Final Cut Pro," he tells us "and it's my hope that file interchange initiatives like those headed by the AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) Association will let all the systems talk to each other more easily."
Could that be a metaphor for the world's need to communicate better on every level these days? Here's hoping the headlines you read when this column appears will realize that much desired "wish list" for everyone.