IBC has lived up to its usual annual billing with lots of announcements, acquisitions and activities. We are going to try and grab a outline or collection of the things that we think you shouldn’t have missed from both the big and small players.
Acquisition headlines: Black Magic Design (BMD) announced that they had hoovered up Fairlight Audio (thus filling a part of the audio gear and console jigsaw puzzle of Grant’s vision for world domination.) BMD also announced the purchase of Ultimatte, (possibly the industry’s longest serving ‘blue/green screen’ technology company.) It has been fascinating to watch the BMD journey from video card manufacturer, to a near complete set of solutions for image acquisition and post production. Audio has been one area where BMD have not had a significant presence outside of their I/O and monitoring range, expect to see a significant expansion in this area.
If that wasn’t enough, these announcements were swiftly followed by the news that Boris Effects, so named after its brilliant founder Boris Yamnitsky, had acquired the Genarts Sapphire plugin team, thereby transforming themselves into the primary FX plugin powerhouse in a neat closing move, having acquired Imagineer back in late December 2014.
The quality of the software and technology Boris FX produce is beyond debate. The interesting thing will be how the packages are presented to end users going forward. Many editors will choose to specify or indeed own at least one Genarts Saphire or Boris package. How the portfolio will be managed both commercially and artistically will be very interesting to watch develop.
Despite what the makers of Edius, Vegas and FCPX may suggest, the realm of post production editorial landscape is currently dominated by two manufacturers, namely (in alphabetical order) Adobe and Avid. Both showcased their latest developments. In the case of Adobe their headline was the announcement of Team Projects. If you are familiar with the Collaboration Engine in Adobe Anywhere, then the new development places this ‘server’ as a hosted service in AWS (Amazon Web Services). Team projects are accessed by logging into your adobe account and setting up your Team Projects workspace, or joining an existing one by invitation. A key thing to note is that media management doesn’t change, with material still needing to be distributed across users local systems as an OS mount point of some kind. Adobe discussed the possibility of users adopting low footprint proxy’s which could be used and stored via creative cloud storage, but at time of writing we have not yet seen any real world workflows using this method as yet. However switching between hi-res and proxy is a simple context switch with the relink criteria remaining the same as in previous versions. Team Projects is a definite improvement on the collaboration front in this regard and will no doubt be an additional workflow pillar that Premier Pro users can utilise. The interoperability between Premier Pro and After Effects and well as improvements to Premier will be a boost to users including a graphical tool to map keyboard shortcuts that got longstanding PP users quite inordinately excited.
While Adobe’s strength is the interoperability between its software suites (Premier Pro, After Effects, Prelude and Audition, and to a lesser extent Photoshop and Illustrator) by comparison Avid’s strength is interoperability between its core technologies – namely storage, post editorial, newsroom and with the recent acquisition of ORAD, ingest via playmaker with slo-mo, play out, graphics and telestration. At the centre of these technologies stands Avid’s Media Central Server (MCS) core technology which coupled with Interplay, allows Editorial, live logging, archive and send to playback all via a ubiquitous ‘thin client’ web browser. At the core of their infrastructure, sits Avid NEXIS, Avid’s next generation shared storage. This year Avid announced the NEXIS E5, a ‘hyper dense’ storage engine with a 40GbE backbone that allows users to scale to around 480TB raw per chassis, and which can deliver up to 3200 MB/sec (yes that’s megabytes per second when we talk video not megabits p/s) so its a significant step forward in chassis capacity and bandwidth. Built upon this core storage, is Avid’s production asset management system (PAM) Avid Interplay which links into the INEWs component as well as the ingest, play out and graphics support provided by the ORAD integration.
We are going to cover the ORAD integration in greater depth shortly, but save to say that Avid have made significant strides in this area and the interop is looking very promising at this stage.
Video and audio over IP were everywhere, and as many respected commentators note, its still a bit of a ‘alphabet soup’. In essence there are two main groupings or initiatives in this area, all with separate alliances to different manufacturers. In turn these separate alliances are coalesced around a set of different approaches or standards. You will have seen products and solutions grouped under the AIMS, and ASPEN banners. AIMS (Alliance for IP Media Solutions) and ASPEN (Adaptive Sample Picture Encapsulation.) So who is who? AIMS is supported by EVS Broadcast, Grass Valley, Cisco, Imagine Communications, Arista Networks, Snell Advanced Media, and a couple of others. ASPEN is led by Evertz and includes AJA Video Systems, For-A, Ross, Abekas, Chryon-Hego, Hitachi, Sony, Tektronix, VizRT again with others. This is distinct from the standards or proposals that these various groupings support. There are standards for timing and synchronisation (SMPTE 2059) (IEEE 1588) standards for transfer (SMPTE 2022 1-4 5,6,7) which incorporate forward error correction (FEC) Switching and packetization. You can be forgiven for being confused. But the reality is, that despite all the complexities that these technologies are encountering, the advantages in supporting this infrastructure over the traditional (albeit awesome) SDI and HDSDI are so compelling that progress in this area is inexorable. Which shakes down and wins out has yet to be seen. but video over IP is here to stay and will be the way forward in all but very specific niche applications.
Along with video over IP, 4K and HDR were a distinct presence at the show. There are still real challenges working with 4K and larger raster sizes. Although things have got a little easer with faster networks and faster and (cheaper) machines, the workflow of acquiring 4K+, creating a working proxy, posting or editing in a proxy quality, and then linking back to the Hi Res for finishing were very much in evidence as a standard approach. Working with shared storage and collaboratively at 4K and higher resolutions is still a domain reserved only for film mastering or high end grading environments with the bulk of users opting to conform against direct attached storage in a standalone context. In shared storage environments at this level SAN solutions from Rhode and Schwartz, DDN and Quantum rule the roost, while in the realm of standalone fast direct attached storage users have seldom had more choice.
Solutions for monitoring and output are also significantly improved with Sony showing solutions for monitoring HDR (High Dynamic Range)and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) and SDR standard dynamic range) on their booth. the takeaway is that HDR pipelines for monitoring are pretty much established, but delivery to the end user is as our own Phil Crawley puts it, “a bit of a crap shoot.” In other words its still very much a gamble.
There was a huge amount to see in the VR and AR side, but in all honesty that really warrants a separate article which we will look to covering soon, as well as looking at some of the more vendor specific post workflows from the likes of Canon and BMD and Sony.