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.....