Avid, Discreet Unveil New Gear at NAB2001
Given the bedlam of the floor scene at NAB, it is always gratifying when representatives of major edit system manufacturers are willing to take time away from the crowds to give me an inside look at what they are showing and where they are going. In the next few issues you’ll get a chance to listen over my shoulder without the foot-weary strain of the actual event.
The Avid|DS HD was unveiled as the new high-definition editing system from the largest creator of NLEs. It’s designed to bring all metadata information along with the EDL to conform projects offlined on a Media Composer or work in conjunction with the Avid Symphony finishing system for multiple format distribution.
"The real strength of Avid|DS HD is its toolset," said Tony Cacciarelli, product designer for Avid|DS, "which integrates editing, compositing, effects creating, titling and audio work with those functions accessible all the time." This means users can bring the tools to the medium on a single workstation rather than transporting the material from one platform to another. "We’ve actually trademarked the concept as ‘NLP,’ for ‘Nonlinear Production,’" Cacciarelli said.
One of Avid|DS HD’s most welcome new features, which won’t actually be available until the company releases Version 4.02 sometime this summer, is the ability to edit with a 1/4 resolution offline version of the original HD material to maximize storage during the creative cutting process. "This will also give you real-time effects during offline," Cacciarelli said, "and with the ability to batch conform the final project it means you can start and finish a high-definition production on the same system."
With the new Avid|DS remote processing feature, computationally intensive rendering tasks are processed in the background without interrupting the edit session.
For a long time editors on the run have yearned for a next-generation Avid software package that could bring full-editing functionality to a laptop computer, so there was a lot of interest at NAB2001 in the new Avid Xpress DV Version 2.0 release. "This is the most affordable laptop editing software Avid has ever brought to market," said Alan Hoff, product manager for Avid Xpress. "It’s an extremely open design, and we have qualified an extensive list of Windows notebooks from all the usual suspects – Compaq, Dell, IBM, etc. – for it to run on. The software has been re-architected to exploit the power of Intel Pentium III and Pentium 4 processors up to 1.5 GHz and the Windows 2000 O/S with no additional hardware except a DV I/O card."
But what of Avid’s promise last year to maintain parallel functionality on both the Windows and its original Macintosh platforms? "We have no plans for a Mac version of Xpress DV at this time, but we are gauging market interest," according to Hoff. "Right now we are looking at the acceptance of Apple’s new OS X release and its ability to handle real-time video. They tell us the drivers are going to be available soon, so once they are market-ready we will evaluate the possibility of a Mac version."
Avid also brought out new software Version 3.5 for Avid Symphony and 10.5 for the company’s Media Composer lines, each being Windows 2000-compliant and offering goodies such as crawling titles, improved real-time moving mattes and enhanced intraframe editing capabilities.
"I think one of the most important messages from Avid at this NAB is that we are emphasizing the ability of all our systems to work together via our shared storage network offering, Avid Unity MediaNet," said Patti Osterhout, product manager for Avid Media Composer, Symphony and Media Station XL. "Now that Avid Technology is on the board of the AAF [Advanced Authoring Format] Association we will be supporting enhanced interoperability with other postproduction systems as well. Our goal is to help our customers increase the return on their investment in an Avid editing suite," she said.
Discreet, a division of Autodesk Inc., had four major announcements at NAB2001. The most interesting was the introduction of heatwave, a new interactive workflow environment that integrates Discreet’s core production systems with third-party applications.
"With heatwave, we can uniquely integrate our editing, effects and animation systems across different network configurations and OS platforms," said Terry Ragan, director of industry marketing for Discreet. "It’s a digital media asset nirvana that will let people scale their operations from working peer-to-peer all the way up to full broadcast postproduction applications."
Discreet also demonstrated edit 6 software for its Windows NT NLEs, which began shipping last February. Among its features, this new software includes edit slipstream for automated Web publishing directly from the timeline. It also offers 99 layers of vertical editing and compositing as well as 48 audio tracks.
But perhaps the most significant news from Discreet was that the price of the company’s high-end smoke HD nonlinear system that is now on the SGI Octane2 platform has been brought down under $260,000 – complete with 90 minutes of high-definition storage. It also features multiple format delivery.
"With the high-definition configuration, smoke now offers real-time HDTV I/O for what we call multimaster editing," said John Miller, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at Discreet. "Since it can output in HD, 601, PAL or NTSC, smoke gets rid of the black box format converters," he said.
Discreet is offering a new pathway to let postproduction facilities concerned with the cost of providing high-definition services to their customers do their daily standard-definition work on the same system that can also be called upon for high-definition editing when the need arises.
"With both the smoke and fire NLEs and also our flint and flame effects system running on Octane2 visual workstations with improved HD I/O performance," Miller said, "we can now offer even midrange customers a new price/performance option to move into high-definition postproduction."
Marketing director Ragan explained this is in response to the changing international marketplace for digital post. Discreet has learned that although high-definition broadcasting has been eagerly adopted in the Asian and Pacific markets, domestically the format is being used more as a production tool. "In the U.S., people are shooting in HD and outputting whichever format they want to deliver," she said. "The new multimaster editing power of our editing and effects systems is catering to that need."
There’s a lot more to come from my on-the-floor interviews at NAB. Stay tuned, and wear comfortable shoes.
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