Avid on the Uptick

It can be lonely at the top. And, as Avid Technologies, the leading provider of nonlinear postproduction systems has learned, it can sometimes also be unprofitable. But now...

It can be lonely at the top. And, as Avid Technologies, the leading provider of nonlinear postproduction systems has learned, it can sometimes also be unprofitable. But now that the company has reported a net income for the first 9 months of 2000 of $5.7 million under the leadership of David Krall, Avid’s new president and chief executive officer, things seem to be looking up for the giant from Tewksbury, Mass. "We are very pleased to be posting our third consecutive quarter of increasing operating income," Krall said. "A year ago, at the beginning of Avid’s restructuring, we said that we had two fundamental goals: restoring Avid to sustained profitability and focusing our resources on targeted growth opportunities. Our work is not yet complete, but our results over the past three quarters have been very encouraging."

One sign of this upbeat mood is that Avid is leveraging the popularity of its own brand name. Last summer the new Avid Media Solutions (AMS) division renamed its high-end effects-centric system on Windows NT, Softimage|DS, as simply Avid|DS. In November, the company released Version 4.0 software for the standard-definition Avid|DS, which includes a "remote processing" option enabling background rendering.

Early this year, Avid will launch its first foray into real-time, uncompressed HDTV video editing with the new Avid|DS HD system. It’s in beta-testing right now, but one Montreal production company, Media Principia, is already posting a feature called "The Baroness and The Pig" on an Avid|DS HD system. It’s a period drama set in 19th century Paris shot with Sony’s high-definition HDW 700A 1080i camcorder.


The original Softimage|DS system was able to handle high-definition video, but not in real time. The new Avid|DS HD benefits from a new PCI card code-named Jupiter, which has a separate parallel connector to an outboard breakout box called Sirius, which provides the BNC connectors for both standard-def and HDTV input/outputs.

"Avid|DS HD has exactly the same feature set as the standard-definition Avid|DS," Maurice Patel, technical product manager for the Avid|DS System said. "But now the high-def version has hardware support for real-time HDTV I/O, and also for the true high-definition YUV color space. We go to RGB for a lot of its effects work, but translate back to the legal HDTV color space for output. It also comes with LVD SCSI storage instead of Fibre Channel."

The Avid|DS HD software is capable of handling any HDTV format, but in its initial release the firmware will be limited to 1080i at 30 fps, 29.97 (dropframe) fps and 25 fps, as well as the Sony flavor of 1080 segmented frame progressive recording, called 24P. Future releases will expand the menu to include formats such as 720P and 480P.

With strong support for conforming, using OMFI, and real-time uncompressed HDTV I/O, projects that originated on an Avid Symphony or Media Composer system can be automatically assembled on the Avid|DS HD system to produce high-quality HD masters. In addition, projects originated on the Avid|DS system can be Total Conformed in the Avid|DS HD system, preserving all the creative editing and effects from offline during the finishing process.

"When it comes out, Avid|DS HD will offer a fully integrated toolset, including an advanced process tree for effects and compositing," Patel said. "The kind of throughput you will get from an Avid|DS HD system will be far more extensive than you’ll find on some of the less-expensive HD finishing systems, with real-time software-based effects, keying and color correction. It’s a whole new level of high-definition postproduction performance."

At about the same time as Avid|DS HD becomes available, Avid will release a software-only version of its Avid Express DV nonlinear edit system and, shortly thereafter, a software version of its newsroom editor, NewsCutter XP. Imagine having Avid’s editing power on your own laptop computer. That will be something to show off in the business-class section of your next transcontinental flight.