Is EDIUS Ready for Primetime?
September 20, 2011
I've been tracking the EDIUS nonlinear editing software ever since it was introduced by Canopus Corp. more than a decade ago, boasting some of the most advanced codecs then available. After being acquired by Grass Valley in 2005, the capabilities of EDIUS have increased exponentially. Today it seems ready to be considered a viable contender in the accelerating NLE competition for broadcast and high-end post.
"Because of the major turmoil in the boundary market between Pro A/V and broadcast NLE systems, we are adding high-end features to EDIUS on an option basis without rewriting its user interface," said Ed Casaccia, director of product marketing at Grass Valley editing servers and storage. "The really cool thing about EDIUS is that if you just peel off all the code, what you have inside is an exquisitely efficient engine for encoding and decoding video, making it a software-codec editor that can even perform in a 4K workflow."
EDITING A GRITTY TALE
The proof is in the post, of course. But, this fall we should see the first stateside release of a major independent feature film edited with EDIUS, a feisty look at the British indie rock scene called "Powder," which was cut by director/editor Mark Elliott for Red Union Films in New Ferry, England.
"Powder" is the tale of a gritty Liverpool group called the grams, and you can tell they are representatives of modern rebellious youth by the way the band's name is daringly spelled in all lower caps. Based on a book by Kevin Sampson and starring Liam Boyle, Alfie Allen and Al Weaver, "Powder" revolves around the grams getting a shot at a major recording contract if their enigmatic lead singer can re-connect with his long-lost writing partner. The problem is a punk-ish previous band member has already stolen their hit song.
The film was edited by its director, Mark Elliott, who had been cutting projects for major U.K. broadcasters since 1989 and personally making documentaries around the world. Elliott edited Red Union Films' previous feature, "Awaydays," also on EDIUS. But the heavy northern England accents of the "Awaydays" cast, incomprehensible to outsiders like us Yanks, earned it only limited release.
Elliott has worked on most mainstream NLEs, but found that when he started on EDIUS back in 2008 with version 5, the ability to re-map the keys on the EDIUS system to match the combinations with which he was most familiar smoothed the learning curve. And, its ability to mix and match formats on the timeline facilitated using the random flavors of source material often thrust into an indie budget film.
A clip from indie feature film “Powder,” which was edited with Grass Valley’s EDIUS
"You can edit with EDIUS as if it were a word processor," Elliott described, "with the intuitive ability to cut and paste files across whichever track you need to address on the timeline. Not all of the mainstream edit systems let you do this as easily when we were getting started, and it has just gotten better since then with the latest version 6 software."
Elliott began editing "Powder" only after the cameras stopped rolling and he had hung up his director's hat. During the shoot, his assistant editor, Rhys Barter, would put together rough cuts to assess the compositing elements and check continuity within scenes.
EDIUS was able to flawlessly communicate its EDL and metadata to other systems, especially the Avid Symphony DS, which was used to composite crowd/stage scenes during sequences shot at the U.K.'s V Festival rock fest.
A FLEXIBLE SYSTEM
The most complicated scene for Elliott to both direct and edit was the opening sequence in which the grams' lead singer is walking through the V Festival followed by a reporter and his own inner thoughts visualized through flashbacks.
"It was the flexibility of the EDIUS system that let us manipulate all those elements," Elliott recalls, "along with the high quality of the HD video it displays, which let us see all the nuances very clearly."
Post-production supervisor at Red Union Films, Dave Harry, was behind the choice of using EDIUS on "Powder." When asked what he liked most about the system, he laughed, "The fact I could afford three of them."
But Harry also heralds the advances Grass Valley has given EDIUS between version 5 and version 6. "The system is unbelievably stable," he said, "and its new VTR function let us simply slave the EDIUS to a DaVinci grading system and play out the video almost as if it were a linear telecine during color correction."
"Powder" was finished at Sumner's Post in Manchester, the largest post-production facility in the United Kingdom outside of London.
As post-production technical supervisor at Sumner's, Brian Hardman oversaw the color grading performed by Jamie Parry and the finishing process right through to creating its 2K DCI files.
"Red Union Films brought their EDIUS system right into our facility so we could finish the VFX work," Hardman said. "It communicated its files and lists beautifully with all of our other post-production systems. I can understand why EDIUS would be attractive to independent producers."
It looks like EDIUS has come of age for broadcasting and high-end post during an age when many editors are seeking alternatives to previously dominant cost-efficient NLE systems.
Jay Ankeney is a freelance editor and post-production consultant based in Los Angeles. Write him at JayAnkeney@mac.com.