As HD production was seen as a mainstay at NAB2006, the challenge of wrestling with it in post took center stage. After walking the convention center's endless aisles and off-site presentations, I found several new developments deserving special attention beyond next issue's product overview.
Avid had a number of significant announcements at NAB2006, including the release of software-only versions of their Media Composer NLE for both Mac and Windows platforms. But perhaps their most intriguing introduction was a whole new kind of post-production system, the Avid Interplay.
At the core of Avid Interplay is the world's first nonlinear "workflow engine," a PC server that connects to an Avid Unity media network to act as a central nervous system, providing powerful and secure access to all active and archived media assets. That way Interplay can connect the whole production team to a shared-data and media backbone that smoothly manages the flow of projects from inception to completion.
The system offers a broad range of low-cost tools for searching, archiving, viewing, logging, automatic transcoding and intelligent tracking of multiresolution proxy files. In addition, Avid Interplay is open to any media production environment by accommodating more than 100 different media and nonmedia file types. It can also link to production tools from virtually any other company, so we can expect a whole slew of third party applications that will run on the Avid Interplay system.
Autodesk announced that its high-end RGB 4:4:4 Discreet systems which were created on the SGI platform have now all been ported over to the Red Hat Linux 3 operating system. All of them, including flame, fire, smoke, inferno, flint and lustre, could all be seen running on IBM workstations.
"NAB2006 was the first time we had all of our products on the same computing platform," said Mark Petit, Autodesk vice president of product development. "Using Linux gives us the 'magic cocktail' combining 64-bit memory, high-end graphics thanks to the use of NVIDIA boards, and the network performance to connect all our systems in a high speed environment."
This move is a reflection of the growing computing power of multicore CPUs (both Intel and AMD) on the new platform. For example, the Discreet Inferno visual effects system on the Linux operating system offers up to five times the performance per CPU of previous SGI platforms such as the Onyx 2.
"The hallmark of our systems has always been super high resolution and super high bit depth," Petit said, "letting people work in 4:4:4, 10- or 12-bit color space, and adopting Linux lets us process data in real time while also responding to our customers' trend toward working with richer HDR [high dynamic range] floating point representation imagery."
For most users, Autodesk's move to Linux will present a negligible learning curve, but if you're not on the last major version of Discreet software you'll have to purchase an upgrade to the last major version such as flame 9, smoke 7, inferno 6.
A SHORT HIKE
Just a short hike from the convention center campus over at the Marriott Suites, Macrosystem invited people to see their latest NLE, the Casablanca Renommee (French for "renown"). This is not a system that is everything for everybody, but with 130,000 "Cassies" already sold worldwide it is definitely an HDV-capable NLE that can be something for anybody.
As an editing appliance, setting up a Casablanca involves no more than connecting RCA or S-Video cables to your TV set and plugging in the mouse or optional keyboard. Then you are ready to edit DV or HDV (24p or 1080i) material using Macrosystem's new Super Edit 5 software.
The new Casablanca Renommee ships with a 300 GB hard drive holding up to 11 hours of HDV footage imported over FireWire, includes a 3.8 GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor and 1,024 MB of DDR-RAM. It runs on Macrosystem proprietary operating system, which gives the system remarkable stability.
All the editing functions are contained on one screen, which offers the trade-off of a crowded display against the advantage of simplicity. You work on a "storyboard" instead of a timeline, and all titles and effects are icon-based. When editing an HDV project, every editing step is initially made in standard resolution and then applied to the HDV footage in the background.
After editing a production on the Casablanca Renommee, it can be burned onto the built-in dual-layer Pioneer DVD burner in 30 fps standard-definition, output onto HDV tape for HD playback, or archived onto Macrosystem's new real-time HDV recorder.
Editware introduced a new linear edit system called the LE-2000. For those only familiar with hard drive digicutters, "linear" means it directly controls spinning-reel tape decks without needing to digitize the material to disk first.
"We developed and introduced the LE-2000 after a number of potential resellers and end users asked for a product that could easily be used as an alternative to the Sony BVE-2000, which was discontinued in 2005," said Jay Coley, president of Editware in Grass Valley, Calif. "The BVE-2000 was the successor of the BVE-910, the lower end linear edit controller from Sony, and they sold thousands of them."
Like its Sony predecessor, Editware's LE-2000 knows nothing about mice or QWERTY keyboards. The system uses a unique control panel boasting a handy jog/shuttle knob and dedicated direct keystroke access to upper level editing functions. Lower level options are then displayed in a multiple choice format accessible on the edit screen itself.
The LE-2000 is available in 4-VTR with mixer and switcher configuration, an 8-port model, and the top-of-the line 16-port/10-VTR version with upgrade paths available for all versions. If you are using a legacy switcher and mixer for your tape-based editing, Editware's new LE-2000 is the only linear controller of its kind that is left.
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