‘The Tonight Show’ VFX Team Taps AJA Xena 2Ke

The VXF Editing team at “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” are using the Xena 2Ke video card from AJA Video Solutions as a key component of their VFX editing pipeline, according to AJA.

AJA Xena 2Ke is the company’s top-of-the-line card for Windows Vista and XP, delivering uncompressed SD, HD and Dual Link HD video, enabling customers to work with 2K frames in a flexible and future-safe architecture.

“I recently started using the AJA Xena 2Ke card both for ingesting HD green screen, and as part of our Adobe After Effects compositing workflow,” said Mac McAlpin, VFX editor for the show for the last 15 years. “I love the way the XENA interfaces with Adobe applications, and the fact that the video capture and playback windows are all accessible directly within the After Effects GUI is really killer.”

McAlpin is part of a team that produces pre-recorded green screen comedic segments for the show, along with credit roll montages and last-minute effects that might be required on-the-fly during taping.

“We had a particular instance last season where the Xena 2Ke card was a life-saver,” he said. “Something appeared on-camera that we needed to get rid of while taping the show. It was during a guest interview, so it wasn’t anything we could re-shoot. I took my HD CAM recording and fed it into Xena, loaded the clip into After Effects and tracked the offending object then blurred it out; and by the next commercial break—some 15 minutes later—the shot was safe for air, ready and complete in HD to hand over to the show’s editors,”

“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” was first introduced to the AJA Xena 2Ke card by LA-based system integrator and AJA dealer DV411 who has been servicing the show for more than 10 years.

McAlpin heads the VFX Editing team in the Tonight Show control room with assistance from After Effects artist Gary Reisman and VFX Editor Fred Kaplan, creating pre-recorded ‘drop-in’ segments that are featured regularly on the show. The show’s production pipeline includes Sony HDCam as the main acquisition format and a separate Avid Nitris department for editing, with AJA Xena 2Ke in use primarily for ingest of footage, though the team is also working on a playlist functionality to make Xena more of a main frontline tool in playback for the show, according to AJA.