Behind the Scenes at NAB2002

The impact of what was being displayed at NAB is not always apparent from booth exhibits on the floor, so we're going to begin a series of columns looking behind the scenes at some of the more interesting technologies introduced at the 2002 confab that will be shaping the post-production world.

For example, Avid Technology's intended future course was encapsulated in its "Start to Finish" theme, heralding an intent to move far beyond a leadership position in nonlinear editing and 3D effects.

"In addition to delivering 'best of breed' systems for video, audio and 3D graphics, we were aggressively emphasizing the ability of our systems to provide seamless interoperability," David Krall, president and CEO of Avid said. "We see it as moving beyond nonlinear editing into a nonlinear workflow model."

Of course, Avid did bring out 100 new feature enhancements to its Meridian hardware-based systems, including Symphony, Media Composer XL, Film Composer XL and Avid Xpress. Among these are a more customizable user interface, a new keyframe model, and a feature called "Media Chunking" that lets users begin working with a shot even before it has completed digitizing.

But perhaps the most impressive new functionality was Timewarp Motion Effects for significantly improved keyframeable dynamic variable speed clips. On the Symphony system, this extends up to the choice of rendering with the help of Avid's new FluidMotion technology, incorporating motion-prediction algorithms for awesomely smooth motion effects by individually interpolating every single pixel from field to field.

Even more significantly, Avid gave its Avid|DS and Avid|DS HD systems a whole new user interface with version 6.0 that will be immediately familiar to Media Composer editors. Now supporting the Advanced Authoring Format (AAF), the new software lets you load bins, clips and sequences from a Media Composer or Symphony system via OMF for automatic conforming all the way up to high definition material, even including the 720/60P format (SMPTE 296M) that is growing in popularity. Unlike some TV networks, Avid is taking HD production very seriously.


There was one introduction from Avid, however, whose potentially complex implications were understated by its conceptual subtlety. It's called MetaSync, and will eventually be a standard feature across Avid's post-production line.

"MetaSync has been in development for so many years that we have already been notified that Avid will be receiving U.S. and international patents for several pieces of the technology," Krall tells us. "Previously, interactivity elements of a program had to be added during post by a separate team of creators in a downstream application. MetaSync brings it right into the primary editing process."

Basically, MetaSync lets you edit the metadata associated with a given clip directly into the "Meta Track" of a sequence on the timeline as long as the file type or process can be represented in XML (Extended Markup Language). That way, the metadata is synchronized with each audio and video event as easily as marking "in" and "out" points on a clip. And, most importantly, not only can the editor provide real-time feedback to the metadata content developers, but each time the metadata element is updated, its relationship to the designated clip is tracked with every change in the edited sequence.

The most obvious initial implementations of MetaSync's flexibility will be in manipulating subtitles and secondary audio programming. Now if you re-cut an edited program, these auxiliary bits of information will move along with the revised EDL. But it won't be long before hot links to HTML pages will be included for purchasing buttons for merchandise seen on the screen, or maybe even stats and bios for sports fans. The possibilities for MetaSync enhancements to almost any program are endless.

More than 100 companies have already expressed interest in joining the Avid MetaSync Developers Program. "It's been years in the making," Krall says, "and we think it highlights our pride in the technology investment Avid has been devoting to extending post production capabilities."


Over at Editware, we saw the first major initiative answering a question some facilities are just starting to ask. How can you edit material from either tape or disk-based sources on a single platform, while maintaining the value of all those ancillary devices that have already gobbled up so much of your capital expenditure? And how can you accomplish this challenge, while using material ranging from offline video all the way up to digital cinema resolutions and beyond?

Editware's answer is Fastrack, a truly hybrid editing system. Not only can Fastrack interface with both nonlinear video servers and linear VTRs to make frame accurate edits, the system can also control existing mixers, switchers, character generators, audio decks and dedicated effects modules that are already sitting in your edit bay.

(click thumbnail)Editware is the first company to be able to edit from multiple frame rate devices
"We know this is an ambitious introduction for us, given these economic times in our business," says Jay Coley, President of Editware, Inc., "but we feel that offering this unique solution to a growing need will help many facilities better manage their transition to totally digital operation without leaving their legacy equipment behind."

Running on Windows, Fastrack can synchronize a continually expanding list of devices with frame accuracy onto a real-time timeline, displaying up to 80 separate video tracks from individual server channels or tape deck outputs. Among other features, its GUI boasts an Active Tracks Status display, Control Track/Timecode Marker, timecode calculator and on-air preview mode. The software functionalities include Pre-Read, Auto Overlap, Film Mode, Auto Swap, Smart Add, Action Tag and Matchframe.

You operate Fastrack with either a dedicated editing control panel with frictionless jog knob or the Editware K6 keyboard. Both support mouse-driven point-and-click editing commands. When a program is finished, it provides an immediate playout either to air or any recording medium. Fastrack even has an "Optimize" feature to create playlists for automation protocols such as the Louth VDCP.

One reason for Fastrack's multi-device control success derives from Editware's extensive history in linear and nonlinear editing developments ever since it began supporting the Super Edit software of the Grass Valley Group editors that it purchased in 1996. As a result, Editware is the first company to be able to edit from multiple frame rate devices. If your video's timecode is drop frame, but your DAT audio is not, Fastrack's software can actually keep them in sync. Editware has even shown how Fastrack can mix and match 24 fps film-style footage with 30 fps video on the same timeline, a trick nobody else has managed to accomplish up to now.

"It all has to do with internal number crunching," Coley declares, "and of course there would necessarily be some drift in timecode over an extended edit. But we can assure users that each edit will at least begin at the same place, no matter what its frame rate."

Fastrack is already in use at Euro Disney and Prime TV in Australia, and is being considered by Sony Pictures in southern California.