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The Editors' Wish List

It's almost spring, a time when many a post pro's thoughts turn to "editor's dreams" -- speculation on innovations they would like the industry to conjure up to improve all our digicutting lives.

Gary Adcock, a Final Cut Pro "finishing" editor and founder of the Chicago Final Cut Pro Users Group, spoke to me while he was addressing groups at MacWorld in San Francisco, where he heard the pre-announcement of HDV support for iMovie and the new Final Cut Pro Express. Already some of his wishes had been fulfilled! But his editor's dream is to see multicam editing capabilities and 5.1 audio mixing added to Final Cut Pro.

"As more and more people are doing high def, we need to address its surround-sound component," Adcock said. "And since Apple's consumer-level Garage Band music creation tool already has a MIDI interface, why don't we see that in FCP's more professional Soundtrack module?"

Adcock also is not a fan of the skinny tape in miniDV cassettes, so he would like to see more of the wider digital tape recording formats that would support balanced audio, real SMPTE timecode, and suffer less slippage. And while we're at it, he longs for affordable HD waveform and vectorscope-style metering scopes. Wouldn't we all.


Daniel Miller is a Media 100 844/X and Media 100 HD editor in New York as well as CEO of U Direct Productions, which posts high-end commercials and industrials. He is looking for a way that all his systems could work together more seamlessly.

"We're still swapping out hard drives between graphics and editing so we could use better networking capabilities," Miller said. "In addition, even with all of our systems, we still need to go out of house for film-to-tape transfers, so a low-cost telecine would be high on our wish list."

At Steam in Santa Monica, Calif., Scott Bryant oversees a creative services company helping promo and commercial clients such as The Learning Channel and Discovery HD Theater. He's pretty happy with Steam's three BOXX HD [pro] RT nonlinear edit systems, but since Steam started out doing 2K rotoscope rendering work for the 1997 film "Flubber" with Robin Williams, he is very aware of the challenges of wrangling large high-resolution media files.

"It used to be like watching snails crawl," he said, "but today's HD systems are editorially like the speed of working with DV. Drives are so inexpensive we don't even bother with offline/online procedures, but we need more power like a collaborative networked rendering farm solution to pump out the rendered special effects that we specialize in more quickly."

Bryant also could use faster HD color correction for desktop systems, maybe with dedicated hardware enhancement involving giant RAM buffers.

"Today's PCs are limited by the amount of RAM they can access," he said, "and in the high-def world, we need to overcome that."

The New York creative editorial facility Northern Lights Post recently acquired a Discreet smoke NLE to accompany its flame and other nonlinear systems. One of the partner/editors, Mark Littman, needs better connectivity between his facility's disparate workstations.

"Why can't one effects machine read another effects machine's format?" he said. "Each manufacturer does it different. But from an editor's point of view, an effect that transforms scale from zero to 100 is an effect that scales from zero to 100. I don't think any company would be giving up anything proprietary if they standardized that."

Littman believes one of the differences between a professional editor and a kid cutting video on a home laptop is the ability to integrate high-end toolsets.

"Even the AAF [Advanced Authoring Format] edit protocol only works 90 percent of the time," he said. "I hope they can fulfill all of their promised intentions for completely compatible file interchange because it is that last 10 percent that often causes problems."

Leslie Allen is creative director at Cinergie Creative, a visual effects and design company in Topanga, Calif., that is doing a series of jazz performance shows called "Live at the Blue Palm" for the BET, and using a lot of green screen shots on Adobe Premiere Pro systems. Allen's looking forward to someone migrating hardware-based special effects capabilities onto the Linux operating system.

"Linux is far better than Windows at getting the maximum amount of processing power out of each chip," he said. "And I also predict that Adobe will be moving aggressively into the digital-intermediate market. After all, Discreet is running their lustre color correction system on a PC, so anything is possible on a desktop."

For Allen, the creative tools for the mid-range post market have been neglected.

"I'd like to see editing software packages strip out some of their features so these could be put into dedicated outboard systems," Allen said. "For example, they should concentrate on better deck control rather than fancy fades and wipes, which sophisticated producers often consider low-end gimmicks. We also need the ability to edit in 24p but play back on standard monitors because 24 fps monitors are so expensive."

Some editors, such as Evan Anthony, senior editor in Manhattan's Frame:Runner, believe HD is coming in too many flavors.

"I think we need to standardize the HD formats," said Anthony, who cuts long-form HDTV shows on a Sony XPRI system among other NLEs. "I really like Sony's HDCAM, and its real-time effects on the XPRI are just mind-blowing. But some new formats, such as the prosumer HDV, will inevitably be working their way into the professional arena and clients are going to start calling for them. The problem is, however, that there is only a limited offering of HDV decks and none of them are compatible with other HD formats."

FotoKem in Burbank, Calif., is a full-service post-production company that also processes more 35mm than any other lab in the United States. Its director of creative editorial, Bill Admans, works on an Avid DS Nitris among the company's large complement of edit systems.

"We are in the business of creating studio masters, especially for long-term storage, and our clients are very unsatisfied with the current compressed high-definition formats," Admans said, "so the big move is toward data archiving. What we'd wish for is the incorporation of more 2K and above data processing into traditional editorial tools supporting the SMPTE DPX [digital picture exchange] file format with the same efficiency that current HD workflows allow. That would also sure help the burgeoning digital intermediate industry."

Admans also remembers that once during a Discreet inferno demonstration, the presenter opened a door in the front of the Onyx server to reveal a draft beer tap.

"I'd really like to see that kind of technology included in every post-production system," he said.