Flamingos at the Flamingo of course....
Well another year has come and gone at the National Association of Broadcasters and here's some of the things I saw this year. Wasn't able to get around as much since I was working all day Mon / Tues in the Small Tree Booth but still saw some good stuff.
4k, Storage and Data Management
Literally everything was 4k all over the place and we're expected to be shooting and editing in this format as quickly as possible. It's obvious that very few folks in production actually have a handle on how we're all supposed to store and manage all this data. Shooting 4k is easy, figuring a way to safely store that data seems to be anyone's guess. Moving forward, everyone should FIRST be considering their infrastructure and especially their storage and archive solutions.
Small Tree Communications Titanium Z series.
Your main online storage solution, whether it's shared or stand-alone, had better be scaleable.
This way you can have enough storage for today and then very easily add more as your needs increase with these larger data sizes. One reason I run the Small Tree Communications
storage and their 5, 8 and 16 bay Titanium units were awesome additions this year. All are scaleable both in speed (via 1gig and 10gig ports) along with easy upgrade to add more storage as needed without disrupting the workflow. The portable Titanium 5 is perfect for field productions with up to 20TB (15TB useable in RAID 5) for field shoots to ingest large amounts of data while allowing multiple artists to access and log the material. The 8 and 16 bay Titaniums can be expanded by simply adding another chassis giving you more storage space.
G-Tech EV series
was showing off their new EV Lineup that is a clever take on combining a rugged drive and a RAID. Basically small rugged drives that run between 125 and 256 MB/s with USB 3 connections on the units. The units can run stand-alone via USB 3 or inserted into a Thunderbolt chassis. The chassis supports both versions of the drives, this is significant since the faster drive is thicker. The two drives can also run as a RAID even outside of the chassis connected directly via USB 3. Neat concept for managing lots and lots of data in the field and even back at the shop.
AJA Video Systems
introduced the Ki Pro Quad with the promise of "manageable 4k." In their presentation at the Media Motion Ball, AJA noted that raw, uncompressed 4k is 48GB/min. Per MINUTE! Using something like the Ki Pro Quad, we can record in ProRes knocking that data rate all the way back down to 9GB/min. So you can record native RAW if you want to for archival purposes or maybe for finishing but also record ProRes (the various flavors thereof) for your primary edit. Or just forego the RAW altogether and go start to finish in ProRes. The system even includes a RAW pass through so you can record ProRes in the Ki Pro and RAW to another recorder and 4k to HD scaling for HD monitoring. By the way, the unit also records in HD and 2k so if you are planning to go 4k in the future, but need a solid state recorder now, you'll be set for your move.
Multiple folks recommended I check out Axle Asset Management
and I have to say it looks intriguing not only as an asset management tool for projects in progress, but also as a client review tool that might be easier for us to use. Instead of uploading our cuts for clients to review, this tool will allow clients to simply log into our servers to review and leave comments on our cuts. They can also look at any and all projects / raw footage we give them access to. Really sounds intriguing and I'm planning to set up a demo with them in the near future to try it out for real. Again, this is asset management for current projects primarily, it's not made for long term, archive asset management at this time.
Thanks to Richard Harrington I was re-introduced to Drobo
and their current concept of "online archive." Essentially keeping as much archived material as we think we need to have easy access to on systems that allow us to edit on directly. The concept is that once a project is finished, we push it off our main online storage system to the Drobo to archive. When a client calls in with a change, revision, whatever, we don't have to push the project back to our main online storage system, we can simply edit directly from the Drobo because they're now fast enough to support editing directly from the boxes. I'm hoping to get a unit in the shop to test out in the near future.
This is where I'll be spending the most time and effort for the next year really working on both our project based online storage and the most cost effective and easily accessible long term archive storage. And of course, a digital asset management system that can help us manage our ever expanding library. We are all going to have to take a serious look at our storage solutions and management as we enter the world of 4k and beyond. More than ever, Post Production professionals are going to be data management professionals.
nVidia: Adding speed for collaboration and older computers.
nVidia introduced me to their Visual Computing Appliance. Essentially a rack mount box with a Windows 7 computer, lots of nVidia GPUs (I believe they told me 16) that allows the end user to virtually run pretty much any Windows based software on any computer OS. They were showing Autodesk 3DS Max running on a MacBook Pro and Adobe Photoshop running on a Linux laptop. You run the software via the box and that allows you to tap into the GPU power that's in the box. So your MacBook Pro suddenly has the speed of up to 16 GPUs for example or you can allocate out the GPUs per user.
nVidia Visual Computing Appliance
The big thing for me is this breathes new life into older machines that have gone past their normal usefulness. Because the box is doing the heavy lifting, older machines, such as my original Mac Pro 1,1 could potentially be used with Adobe CS Next in a very fast and efficient manner. Or if I want to add new computers, I could get very basic computers with no bells and whistles since the nVidia is going to add a ton of virtual computing power. Very interesting concept and I'll be talking to nVidia further in the near future. We're also hoping to get them down to the Atlanta Cutters at some point to further explain the system.
Flanders Scientific, droolworthy
FSI unveiled their CM lineup including the absolutely beautiful 32" model. Writing words on this page will not do this monitor justice, you really need to see it in person. And as I have written in the past, the Flanders team is one of the best in the business not only in designing the products, but servicing it after the sale. They're also some of the most awesome people in this industry who bring delicious donuts to the show floor each morning.
Bram and Johan Desmet next to the gorgeous new 32" CM series.
Simply put, if you need a new monitor for your edit suite, machine room, on-set or anything else to do with film or video production, get a Flanders.
: All I'm really going to say about Adobe is that the presentation stage for Adobe was packed at all times. Tough to find a seat, seems CS Next is being well received as is the Creative Cloud concept. I was given an advance look at the software before NAB opened and they've done a great job of listening to the needs of the professional editing community to support our workflows today while moving the product and our workflows to the future. Almost all of our "checklist items" were addressed as I mentioned in my "pre-NAB" show blog. Will discuss the Adobe Anywhere in a separate blog after we do some internal testing on that. We'll have the Adobe team showing off Next at the May Atlanta Cutters meeting so mark your calendars if you'd like to join us.
Adobe's "Sir" Al Mooney, the man who heads up the Premiere Pro team.
: Not nearly as big a splash as last year's Smoke 2013 debut, but still a solid showing this year with some updates to the product line and I can say that Autodesk is reaching out to editors to move the product line forward. Was able to meet with the Autodesk team for a bit this week and I can honestly say the team is listening loud and clear to the editing community.
Autodesk's Marc-Andre Ferguson
Had a nice announcement with newly improved AMA and workflow for better native editing support with Media Composer 7. Something our facility had been looking for back when we jumped to Media Composer / Symphony 6. They also eliminated the Symphony product as a stand-alone, over priced product and now it's simply an option for Media Composer. I personally did not get up to the booth other than to do a PostChat taping so I really don't know much more than this unfortunately. Folks I met who edit on Avid were very excited about the updates.
Yep, they introduced the "online editor" concept at the show. The concept and design is not so much to edit an entire project, though I have to admit you probably can, but to tackle the problem of "the edit is never done." I run into this all the time where after the color grade has been completed, there are changes to the edit. Instead of having to make the changes in Premiere Pro and re-send the files or the project to Resolve, we could literally make the editorial changes inside Resolve. In the demo, a Final Cut Pro XML was imported to Resolve and all of the video tracks, transitions and audio tracks came into Resolve intact and ready to either tweak the edit or grade. Additionally, Resolve 10 adds Open FX support and they were showing Sapphire plug-ins in use in the booth. I would expect to see Boris, Red Giant and others come on board with their plug-ins over time. While really a 1.0 release, the editor looks very stout with all of the basic features we would expect in an NLE. Oh and the trim tools are just crazy good as is the optical flow for incredibly smooth slo-mo.
Adding a Sapphire Lens Flare in Resolve 10's Editor.
Honestly have no idea if they were at the show which is kind of odd considering their new "push to win back professional editors." If they were here, they didn't seem to want us to know about it. But I did meet some folks who are really happy with the X workflow and are cutting projects on it.
Pond 5 Premiere Pro Plug-In
Had no idea this concept existed. Basically Pond 5 has created a plug-in that allows you to open up their stock footage library via a media browser window inside Premiere Pro. So instead of perusing the Pond 5 website, downloading sample proxy files, moving them to your media array, importing to the project and then inserting into the timeline, you can literally drag and drop from the Pond 5 browser into your timeline. Once you complete the edit, purchase the full resolution version of the proxy files to complete your project. Love the simplicity of how this works and we'll be downloading that plug-in for all our workstations.
So I already talked about Resolve but like last year, Blackmagic stole the show buzz with a new camera. The Pocket Camera for just $999. We all pretty much expected the jump to 4k but most were surprised by "mini me." The constant refrain I heard for three days was "have you seen the little camera?" It was rather brilliant sitting on display with a massive Arri lens on the front. What I appreciated was the weight of the camera, it's not a cheap plastic body alá point and shoot cameras. At that price point, I will definitely be adding at least one of these to my toolbox. How can you not? Super 16 quality in a ridiculously small form factor. It's just like having a GoPro or two in your bag but with a LOT more versatility. It's even more discreet in public locations than a DSLR or the Cinema Camera. I can't wait to put this thing up on a remote helicopter.
Grant Petty and I at our annual chat. One of the highlights of each NAB for me.
Speaking of the small form factor, I had my yearly chat with Grant Petty in the BMD booth and he told me the story of how the Pocket Camera came to be. He was on vacation with the family and had taken the Cinema Camera along to play with. At one point he asked his wife if he could put it into a bag and she told him, "No, that camera is too heavy." So Grant had to carry the camera around during the trip. So that got him to wondering just how small could they take the technology? The end result, the Pocket Camera. I absolutely love stories like this because there's no focus groups, costly studies and projections or anything like that. Just, "gee I'd really love to have the quality of what we have in a smaller form so I can take it on trips with my family AND use it in production." It's been fun to watch the evolution of the company over these past few years as they are now taking us truly from start to finish across their product line.
Minty fresh Avid and Adobe project sharing
Sharing Avid projects with multiple editors cutting the same project in the past required either Avid solutions or the use of FlavorSys Strawberry. Strawberry is really an enterprise level solution way beyond the reach of smaller shops.
Mint on display at the Small Tree Communications booth.
FlavorSys introduced Mint at NAB and I got to see it up close and personal in the Small Tree booth. Designed for smaller shops like mine, this allows multiple editors to work on the exact same project at the same time. You launch the projects from the Mint interface and it essentially tracks what the editors are up to and syncs their work together in the project.
Here's the cool part, it also works on Adobe Premiere Pro projects. Just the project itself. This is something I plan to try as soon as I get back to the offices.
I am truly humbled by all the folks who thank me for all the articles, tutorials and advice I've given out through the years via CreativeCow.net, my various websites and many other places I hang out.
It's Kylee Wall! My tag team partner in the Small Tree booth.
It's nice to hear that the work is appreciated and that's is been helpful through the years. I just like to share what we've learned, what we've broken and how we fix it to offer our perspective on the production industry and if it helps you avoid our mistakes or make more informed decisions, well that is awesome. So thanks for taking the time to find me and truly, thank you.
If you didn't come out this year, well you'll find me right back in the Small Tree Communications booth for NAB 2014!
Walter Biscardi, Jr.
That's a Wrap on NAB 2013
Coming to you from 36,000 feet over these fine United States as we jet from the home of this year's Final Four Championship to Sin City. I figured this was a good a time as any to share my thoughts for this year's annual love fest for all things production also known as the National Association of Broadcasters Convention. Which begs the question, how many people attending are actually broadcasters? I'm sure their numbers have been overtaken by the thousands of independents and digital content developers. But I digress.
Reading the hype before the show, it's obvious that we are all supposed have converted our entire workflows to 4k by now and those of us who have not are simply falling behind the times. I don't know about you, but we haven't even done anything in 3D yet so we must be completely and utterly lost by now. For the next week we are going to hear about the folks who are using 4k on a regular basis and some who have completely converted over to a 4k workflow. "Look, they've converted to an ENTIRE 4k workflow now, so the rest of you listen up and start converting NOW!"
Ok, I get it, 4k is coming (or it's already here) and there's no denying more data yields more beautiful images and that extra real estate gives more options when it comes to Post. But for the 98% of the rest of the production world, which comprises the vast majority of sales that come out of NAB, 4k isn't on the radar yet. First, there's no need for 98% of production today for 4k imagery. Heck, there are still projects ORIGINATING in SD. (shock and horror I know.) Second,.... well I already mentioned there's just no need for 4k imagery for many projects.
A good friend who is an amazing videographer lamented to me today that 4k makes it too easy to manipulate the image in Post. So the way something is shot in the field is not necessarily how it will appear in the final product because we, in Post, can re-frame the 4k image to suit the client's needs. So he's afraid it'll be more of "hurry up and shoot it, just shoot it wide and we'll reframe later, let's go!" Thus reducing the time he has to help move the story along with proper photography and framing in the field. This would be a shame because the art of the photographer is something that should not be lost just because we go to larger imagery.
Here's how I'm approaching 4k, which is actually different from how I approached the change to HD. I'm looking at the infrastructure from a Post standpoint. What am I going to need not only for data speeds across my network, but for sheer storage volume? How clean / easy is the 4k to proxy to 4k final workflow in the toolset we're using today, which would be Adobe Creative Suite and Resolve. What tools would make the 4k workflow more efficient if I had to make the jump in the near future? From what I can see going in, we're pretty much set for 4k to walk in the door with just a few more add-ons, but I'm not going to make any specific 4k purchases right now "just because I can." Like anything else, the longer I wait, the more the price will drop, we simply don't have a need for 4k right now. And quite honestly, the pre-show announcement that our current AJA Kona cards already support 4k means we're most of the way there already.
The thing to weigh when considering the jump to new technology like 4k is simply, "will I get a return on my investment?" This is not a "build it and they will come" type of thing. If you truly believe that adding 4k to your workflow WILL increase your clientele / workload because of the market you service, then seriously consider it. If you HOPE it MIGHT increase your business because "we have the cool new technology" and we can get ourselves into a new market, I can almost guarantee you that's a waste of money. If at all possible, unless you have tons of money at your disposal, you want to already be established "in the market" before you make the jump. Besides, "the future is 8k" is already being touted at early events so why rush into 4k now? Let them figure out all the issues with 4k and jump in at the 8k level. The 4k will just be your b-camera by that point. I'm only half joking....
By the way, with HD, I saw that broadcast was VERY quickly rolling into HD and hardly anyone in town was really working with it in Post when I started. So I jumped in faster than anyone else because it was already about 'here.' I don't see 4k delivery to the home on the near horizon. Japan has announced 4k broadcast in 2014, but seeing how long HD took to get traction in the US, I'm thinking it will be a bit longer here. No need to be the 'first kid on the block with 4k" this time around.
Resolve, the Online Editor
Either through brilliant marketing strategy or a complete "f-up" a very subtle marketing banner from Blackmagic Design appeared on South Hall this past Thursday FILLING THE ENTIRE FRONT OF THE BUILDING announcing the new "Resolve 10.... including Online Editing." Of course in this day of of social media, the sign promptly appeared across the Twitterverse and led to a very amusing phone call with BMD. It went something like this....
"Hey, so I see Resolve 10 is going to include online editing."
"WHAT?!? You just made me spit out my coffee."
"Well it's all over South Hall right now."
"Geez, I had no idea. Well isn't that funny."
And actually it WAS funny. We had a good laugh because my contact was genuinely surprised that the banner was all over the building several days early. And as we were chatting I could hear his email in box chiming away..... Of course that was about all the info I could get, a good laugh and a promise to show me the features on Monday after the press announcement.
Sooooo, what exactly does this mean, "online editing?" In the traditional sense, that would mean Resolve could take a project that was done in some offline format / codec and then reconform the entire timeline to the original media, effects, titles and all. The biggest question I have of course is what NLEs will this interface with and how?
We're an Adobe Premiere Pro shop primarily with Avid as our secondary tool. Workflow right now is to edit offline natively, export a self contained ProRes file, send that into Resolve, color grade and then send back to Premiere Pro / Avid for final assembly including graphics, sound, slate and layback to tape or digital file output.
If Resolve can now take the entire timeline with all the final graphics and sound mix with all necessary slates at the head, that will definitely knock off a big step in the last roundtrip. And are we getting to the point where Resolve can be a 100% legal tool for digital file delivery so we can knock off that step of sending the project through a legalizer for broadcast delivery? I'm definitely excited to see what Grant and company have done and what this means for collaboration with the existing NLE tools out there.
Flanders Scientific, Inc.
I'm going to be honest right here and say I can't say much of anything because FSI has shared with me preview knowledge of what they will be showing. If you don't know already, we run FSI monitors exclusively in all 6 of our production rooms because of their quality, price and performance. What I can say here is that you can expect the company to continue to build on its heritage and if you are in the market for a field, production or post monitor, put FSI at the top of your list.
Adobe Premiere Pro CS "Next"
Adobe has already announced CS "Next" as they are calling it right now and I can tell you that Adobe allowed me to get a sneak peek at what they are showing at NAB. If you were waiting for "Premiere Pro" to "take care of those stupid issues" before switching, your wait is over.
Many of you know we jumped head first into Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 back in June of last year after making the decision to leave the Final Cut Pro platform after 11 years. While the software workflow was similar there was a lot of adjustment on our part to adapt our needs to the Adobe "way of doing things." In some ways the workflow made sense, in others, it just plain had that "designed by an engineer who doesn't have to use this in front of a client" feel.
So I started reaching out to my Adobe contacts, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much, with "suggestions" on how I would go about making the product even better. Ok, sometimes I came off harsh and I'm surprised they even kept talking to me after some of my conversations, but they did. In fact they listened to a LOT of professionals and hobbyists alike and worked very hard "under the hood" and deep in the code to take care of those little things that just make our time in the edit suite that much more efficient and creative.
Two major biggies for me are the new media management focus and the clip mixer. Media management is more robust and we can finally reconnect to media directly within the timeline. That was always a "WTF?" thing that I would constantly keep trying to do in the timeline and then scream. That would cause the client to look at me like I was crazy, I would laugh about it, edit for a while then repeat the process...... Glad that's gone. The Clip Mixer is a great addition for doing those quick mixes for a client where you can literally just run the show through and more or less "mix on the fly." And if you end up revising the timeline, all of your audio adjustments STAY with the clips rather than being married to the track.
Track Targeting has been addressed, more audio functionality, in fact more functionality and efficiency seem to have been the mantra in this development cycle. That's what I know I was saying and many other professionals were telling Adobe. Enough of all the whiz bang super cool new features, get back in and address the basics so we can be that much more efficient AND please dear gosh make the media management more solid. Adobe pretty much ran my entire checklist of "please address this" with about the only thing missing for me is a "Transcode and Consolidate" function.
One thing that has been especially impressive to me has been the attention of Adobe's engineering team to their longtime users. I've read many posts and articles, particularly from those who have switched to Final Cut Pro X that other manufacturers are "scared of change" or they are "stuck in the old model of doing things." That's a very naive way of looking at things. It's MUCH easier to simply cut and run to develop a brand new product from scratch and say "this is the way it's going to be" rather than build something that can bridge the past to satisfy tried and true established workflows while moving to the future. Adobe has done an amazing job of creating that bridge ensuring that their longtime users still feel comfortable using the software while incorporating much of the input from "newbies" like myself along with new features that keep moving the product forward. Would have been much easier for Adobe (and Avid, Autodesk and others) to simply say "We're done with the old product, here's the new one, deal with it." Fortunately for us, Adobe actually listens to the end users.
Cinema Camera - Year Two
Well we already know Marco Solorio is showing off a new model of the BMCC with a new mount this year so that's out of the bag, but now that we're on year two of the introduction of the Cinema Camera I'm curious of its affect not only for BMD but the industry as a whole.
As I recently saw at Marco's workshop in Atlanta, the BMCC is absolutely insanely good at green screen work when shooting in RAW. If you used the camera for no other purpose than that one thing, it would be a great investment. But as we know, the camera takes the concept of small form DSLR camera and adds much better image quality and flexibility in photography.
So will Grant and team introduce another Cinema Camera? Will they speak of 4k this year? What will be the sequel? I'm very curious to see what comes out of Monday.
But beyond Blackmagic Design, has the Cinema Camera influenced camera manufacturers at all? Grant told me last year that he never intended to build a camera. He was just tired of seeing cameras at what he considered too high a price for what they offered. He wanted to offer a quality, "good enough" camera for a majority of what most projects and productions need. Will we see cameras influenced not only by the design of the Cinema camera, but more importantly, the price? Oftentimes in this industry when one company leads the market price downward others start to follow. Will anyone follow Grant's lead towards "affordable" cinema style cameras? That's something I'm really interested to see this time around when I visit the camera manufacturers.
This feels like it's a critical year for Avid. The company that really introduced the concept of computer based editing to the masses has had some really negative press leading into the show. How they respond, the products they present and especially their reception among the professional community will be interesting to follow. Teaming up with @PostChat for a tweet up and social media outreach was a great start.
Will be interesting to follow their story over the course of the show and the reception of the community.
Shared Storage - Ethernet grows up
Of course many of you know that I've been using Small Tree Communications solutions for ethernet based shared storage for about 6 years now and for pretty much all of that time we've been limited to around 100MB/s. Thanks to the new Titanium lineup of products Small Tree will be showcasing at NAB, we're now able to push 350MB/s and more through our systems. In fact they are scheduled to be demonstrating a system pushing an insane 1.4GB/s. Across Cat 6. Ok, we are NOT going to be installing anything like that in our shop, but if you are someone who needs absolutely insane speeds for your workflow.....
The Titanium 4, or as I call it, the "SAN in a box" is an awesome solution for small shops (up to 4 workstations can connect to it directly) and especially remote operations either on set or corporate events. Laptops and workstations can both connect directly to something that's just a bit larger than a lunch box.
Ethernet based shared storage is definitely grown up at this point and well beyond "technical voodoo" as some of my friends call it. Solid, reliable and super easy to connect to additional systems, well worth a peek if shared storage is on your checklist of things to see at NAB. Yeah, storage is boring and very unsexy, but let's face it, if you work in Post Production it is THE most important purchase you will make.
Camera Data Workflow
Again, VERY unsexy part of what we all do everyday, but holy crap, can this part of production get screwed up so very easily. How many of you get incomplete camera data on a regular basis so you have no timecode and sometimes, even better, no audio, or the camera data is scattered all over the hard drive. Why? Because the camera person or the assistant on set doesn't know how to properly copy the raw camera data from the camera card to a hard drive. It's NOT rocket science but yet we get the same problem all the time.
Imagine Products ShotPut has been around to help with that and last year Adobe rolled a very 1.0 version of Prelude. This year should bring us an updated version of Adobe Prelude along with Red Giant Software Bullet Proof. Bullet Proof looks VERY promising from early looks and it's from Red Giant who brings us so many truly useful tools to help our digital lives.
If you work with digital cameras, please, please, PLEASE look over these products and incorporate them into your data transfer workflow.
That's a good question.
"What will be the big breakout product of the show?"
"What will Grant Petty surprise us with this year?"
"Will Bram Desmet bring us donuts at the Small Tree booth?"
"How loud will the winners at the SuperMeet have to scream to get their prizes?"
All that and more will play out over four days and nights in Las Vegas.
Well that wraps up my thoughts from 36,000 feet over, oh I don't know, let's say Kansas. Have a great time in Las Vegas everyone and if you're not able to be there, just put on some Sinatra, grab a cocktail, open up your Twitter feed and set your web browser to CreativeCow.net. You'll almost be able to smell that pleasant mix of "new carpet smell" and "Starbucks Coffee" that permeates the convention center.....