Reaching Post-Production Users With Free Software

June 20, 2017

For starry-eyed pilgrims like this foot-sore columnist, the NAB Show is an endless spree of techno-splendor. But let’s face it. The real purpose for exhibitors is to showcase their new products and sign mega-buck deals for new equipment.

So it was striking how many post-production companies this year have discovered that the road to fortune is paved with free giveaways to further the acceptance of the uniqueness of their products.

AVID MEDIA COMPOSER|FIRST

Even before the exhibit halls opened, Avid’s CEO Louis Hernandez told their Avid Connect pre-show gathering that the whole Avid MediaCentral environment would be extended to the cloud using Azure servers, thanks to their new partnership with Microsoft.

Hernandez also announced they would offer Avid Media Composer|First, a free version of their flagship NLE. Although it’s a fully featured version of Media Composer, Media Composer|First is limited to four video tracks and eight audio tracks and outputs to streaming social media channels. It joins their existing, free offering of Pro Tools|First, which has been available for download for more than a year.

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Avid CEO Louis Hernandez said Avid is reaching for the cloud.

Pro Tools|First is available from the Avid website now and is actively involved in cloud collaboration. You can register for Media Composer|First on the site today and download it beginning June 29. Its cloud component will be coming in the near future.

LIGHTWORKS FREE

EditShare’s v14.0 of their Lightworks NLE is available on Windows, Mac and Linux as a version gratis: Lightworks Free. It has all the same tools as Lightworks Pro, except you don’t get advanced features such as project sharing, stereo 3D editing or Avid DNxHD codec support, and its output is limited to exporting to You Tube or Vimeo at up to 720P.  

However, the Lightworks site provides a large library of tutorials to help you get started and there is an active community of users to share advice. As an editor you get to import a long list of formats, play with more than 100 built-in FXs and train on the same user interface that was employed to cut a whole bunch of feature films (such as all of Scorsese’s flicks).

MISTIKA

Another powerful edit system that is seeing the advantage of free training is SGO’s Mistika. Actually, SGO has taken the Mistika hero suite and broken it down to its components, with the first to be released being Mistika VR for stitching equirectilinear virtual reality images together. The next will be Mistika Color. Once they are all available, you can reassemble the modules to get the original Titan, which will then be called Mistika Ultima.

This takes considerable learning to master. So SGO is also releasing Mistika Insight, a free software intended for education and training that lets students and freelancers learn the Mistika technology. Supported by weekly webinars and online tutorials, Mistika Insight runs on Mac, Windows and Linux.

MYNC

One of the niftiest freebies dangled in front of us at the 2017 NAB Show may only be available through June 30, although Grass Valley, a Belden Co., may extend the offer. This little pip is called Mync, a “personal content management tool.” Originally bundled with GV Browser in EDIUS v8 back in 2015, Mync has now been cut out on its own in two versions: Basic (free) and Standard (not much more).

Mync is a video player running on Windows, which is no big deal. But it’s also a video organizer, and one that can handle the kind of files you’ll get from smartphones, USB flash drives, memory cards and DSLR cameras. And that is a big deal. Imagine being able to browse and search files shot on your iPhone.

Mync can create a storyboard that can be shared with others over YouTube, FTP, Facebook or Vimeo, even trimming shots and exporting to an XML file. And that’s with the free Basic version. The standard version adds the ability to import professional file formats, and export unlimited storyboards and MP4 movies.

But just being able to organize your cell phone photos/videos on the free Basic version is a gift in itself. Claiming absolutely no inside knowledge, but just judging from Grass Valley’s nomenclature, I’ll bet there is going to be a Mync Pro somewhere in our future. Until then, you ought to grab that Mync Basic while it’s still there for the downloading.

CINEXINSERT

The final unexpected gift from the video gods I found at the NAB Show was truly unexpected. Not just unexpected that it’s free. Unexpected that it works at all.

If there is one thing everyone in postproduction knows, it’s that once a master file has been rendered, you can’t unmix the soup. So if even a single subtitle has to be changed, the whole production has to be remastered, re-exported, and, equally time-consuming, re-QCd. But somehow “everyone” didn’t tell the folks at Cinedeck.

By treating the rendered master as data instead of video, they figured out a way to insert edit into it without having to remaster the whole kit-and-kaboodle. It’s called CineXinsert, and this utility to their recorder has proved to be a rather disruptive technology in the post houses of Hollywood that specialize in making deliverables, although it’s gradually catching on.

So what does Cinedeck do next? They’re giving a version of this technology away for free and calling it cineXtools BASIC. I’ve spoken with them, and their goal is to reach more users to let them know the impossible is possible.

The catch is that cineXtools BASIC only works on rendered master files with two soundtracks. That pretty much eliminates the next “Star Wars,” but makes it perfectly applicable for corporate videos, house of worship productions, student projects and anyone who simply wants to see the way this magic works.

Of course, Cinedeck will be glad to sell you the full version once your budget is convinced it’s worth it.

Jay Ankeney is a freelance editor and post-production consultant based in Los Angeles. Write him at [email protected].

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