Spotlight (June 07)
Issue: Volume: 30 Issue: 6 (June 2007)

Spotlight (June 07)

Appel Unveils Final Cut Studio 2, Final Cut Server
Apple polished its reputation in the broadcast realm by rolling out two major releases, Final Cut Studio 2 and Final Cut Server.
A significant upgrade, Final Cut Studio 2 includes Final Cut Pro 6, which introduces Apple’s ProRes 422 format for uncompressed HD quality at SD file sizes, and support for mixed video formats and frame rates in a single timeline. The suite also includes Motion 3, featuring an intuitive 3D environment, paint, and new behaviors; Soundtrack Pro 2, with a number of new tools for multi-track editing, surround mixing, and conforming sound to picture; Compressor 3, delivering batch encoding for multiple formats with a single click; and DVD Studio Pro 4.2 for SD and HD DVD authoring. Final Cut Studio 2 also contains Color, a new professional color-grading and finishing application for consistent color and signature looks.

Final Cut Studio 2 is available now for $1299, or $499 as an upgrade.

In another big announcement, Apple unveiled Final Cut Server, a new application that works seamlessly with Final Cut Studio 2 to provide media asset management and workflow automation for both postproduction and broadcast professionals.

A scaleable server app that supports variable-sized work groups, Final Cut Server includes a cross-platform client that enables content browsing, review, and approval from within a studio or over the Internet. The offering automatically catalogs large collections of assets and enables searching across multiple volumes via an intuitive user interface.

Final Cut Server, available this summer, will cost $999 for one server and 10 client licenses, or $1999 for one server and unlimited client licenses.

Eyeon Shows Its Vision and More

With its focus on image-processing solutions, Eyeon Software announced the addition of two new products, Vision and Rotation.

A postproduction system for the broadcast industry, Vision’s tool set has been designed as an add-on to NLEs and postproduction suites, with fields/frames and PAL/NTSC support. Extensive motion graphics capabilities are combined with a scripting engine to automate repetitive tasks, such as station packaging and promos. Vision is resolution-independent, with 64 times the color fidelity of 10-bit video. Sporting multiple plug-in APIs, Vision allows for hundreds of extra features from many third-party manufacturers.

Rotation, meanwhile, complements the company’s Fusion compositing system, providing an all-inclusive package for the demands of rotoscoping, keying, and retouching. The integrated scripting and bins system make Rotation part of the collaborative workflow. Large departmentalized film facilities can use this solution to create roto mattes, while retouched clean plates can be funneled to the senior compositing suites for finishing.

Vision and Rotation are shipping now for $695 and $1495, respectively.


Blackmagic Unveils Three New Offerings
Blackmagic Design made a trio of product announcements at NAB, including Intensity Pro, a new, low-cost yet high-quality video capture and playback card for professional videographers; the Multibridge Eclipse editing system; and HDLink Pro, a new model of the popular HDLink converter.

The Intensity Pro is said to be the first card to combine the high quality of HDMI capture and playback with the wide compatibility of analog component, NTSC, PAL, and S-Video, along with analog audio capture and playback. It enables users to capture directly from the HD camera’s image sensor, bypassing the video compression chip for true uncompressed video quality.

Intensity Pro can be connected to any big-screen television or video projector for edit monitoring, since current computers don’t have the processing speed to render complex, multi-layer, real-time effects in HDV playing back to FireWire cameras. Included with every Intensity Pro card for real-time video mixing is On-Air software, which enables customers to plug two Intensity or Intensity Pro cards into a computer for two-camera mixing for live video production.

The card is available for $349.

Also at the show, the company unveiled its Multibridge Eclipse, possibly the first editing system with 3gb/sec SDI, HDMI, and analog video capture and playback, 16-channel audio, and 2k film via SDI resolution capture and playback. Multibridge Eclipse allows twice the SDI data rate of normal HD-SDI, while retaining compatibility with normal HD-SDI and standard-definition SDI equipment. The 3gb/sec SDI allows 4:4:4 video using a single BNC-type connection, while Blackmagic Design’s new 2k via SDI ability enables high-resolution, real-time 2048x1556 feature-film editing. The system also includes color management via built-in 3D lookup tables.

Multibridge Eclipse will be available in July for $3495.

In addition, the company announced the HDLink Pro, likely the first monitoring solution for DVI and HDMI displays that features 2k support via 3gb/sec SDI. A new model of the HDLink converter that allows low-cost DVI and HDMI displays to be used for SDI monitoring, HDLink Pro allows any supported DVI or HDMI display to be used for HD-SDI monitoring. Moreover, HDLink Pro supports the new 3gb/sec SDI standard for twice the SDI data rate than normal HD-SDI. Ideal for HD or 2k film monitoring, HDLink Pro switches between SD, HD, and 2k instantly. HDLink also features a new chassis with all connections on one side.

Expected to be available in July, HDLink Pro will be priced at $795.

AJA Launches New Coverters

AJA Video announced two new converters: the FS1, supporting virtually any video input or output in HD or SD, and the GEN10, an SD/HD/AES sync generator for professional video post and broadcast environments.

The FS1 is a universal HD and SD audio and video frame synchronizer and converter. With a flexible architecture, the FS1 can simultaneously support both HD and SD video—all in full 10-bit broadcast-quality video and 24-bit audio. Also, the FS1 supports virtually any input or output as analog or digital, HD, or SD. It can up- or down-convert between SD and HD, provide simultaneous outputs of both formats, and support closed-captioning and the conversion of closed-captioning between SD and HD formats.

FS1 also includes 10-bit HD-to-HD cross-conversion for 1080 and 720 formats. For audio, the FS1 supports eight-channel AES, balanced analog, or embedded audio with flexibility. The converter is also network-ready, supporting SNMP monitoring and Web-based remote control.

The GEN10 is a flexible solution for synching video and audio devices across a facility or network. The GEN10 converter features seven outputs, including two groups of independently controlled SD/HD sync outputs and one AES-11 output. The SD outputs can be switched between black or color bars, and HD tri-level sync can be switched between 19 HD formats, including all that are in use today. Moreover, the AES-11 output can be switched between silence and tone, and all outputs are in sync with one another and are sourced from an accurate master time base.

FS1 and GEN10 are expected to ship this month. FS1 carries a price of $3990, while GEN10 costs $390.


DI Workflow
Keeping The Flock Process On Course

In the recently released action/drama The Flock, a vigilant state agent (Richard Gere)—while training his young female replacement—must track down a missing girl who the agent believes is connected to a paroled sex offender he is investigating. Working against the clock, the pair sort out the details while tracking the potential killer. Similarly, those working on the movie had to work against the clock while solving difficult issues. To this end, the group facilitated its unique 2k workflow and digital intermediate process by using AJA Video’s KONA 3 video capture card.

KONA 3 is AJA’s uncompressed capture card for SD, HD, Dual Link HD, and 2k for PCI Express (PCIe) Apple G5 Power Macs and Mac Pro systems. Supporting any uncompressed SD or HD format, KONA 3 also captures and plays back uncompressed 10-bit and 8-bit digital video and 24-bit digital audio. With this flexibility, the card was an integral part of the film’s Apple Final Cut Pro editing pipeline. Warner Bros. performed the scanning, color correction, and film-out for the project.

David Blum of Phoenix-based Catalyst FX served as the visual effects supervisor on the film, and he recruited George Rizkallah of the Burbank, California, Product Factory to develop a customized 2k pipeline that would enable the team to do a final conform on the feature using Apple’s Final Cut Pro.  The pipeline employed four KONA 3 cards running on Apple Mac Pro systems with Final Cut Pro on an XSAN network with 26tb of storage. The systems were connected via 2gb Fibre Channel.

“Because of the way that our visual effects shots were created—many multi-layer timeline effects on more than 800 shots—the only practical way to complete the film on time and on budget was to do our final conform in Final Cut Pro,” says Blum. “The AJA KONA 3 provided the perfect solution and performed brilliantly. I could not have finished this film without the KONA 3 card. The folks at AJA worked closely with us to ensure that our pipeline was running smoothly.”

The Flock is the first major feature film finished in 2k, DPX, 4:4:4 log color space using Final Cut Pro, and both Blum and Rizkallah credit the success of this workflow to the card. Because the offline Final Cut Pro sequence was too complex for all the visual effects and editing to be replicated within the production company’s timetable, Rizkallah customized a pipeline using Cinema Tools combined with original software to create pull lists for scanning, and then set the handles of the scan to match the Media Manager handles set in Final Cut Pro to the KONA 3 2k setting. Using AJA’s DPX-to-QuickTime Translator, the sequential DPX files were wrapped as QuickTime files for proofing and rendering, and then converted back into sequential DPX frames, which were then delivered to Warner Bros. for color correction on a FilmLight Baselight system.

“We chose the KONA 3 for several reasons,” says offline editor and Product Factory owner Rizkallah, who was the DI supervisor for The Flock. “When you’re doing a 2k conform in Final Cut, you have huge file sizes and amounts of data to work from. AJA is the only solution that can handle files of those sizes. The fact that the KONA 3 can do HD or SD down-converts from the 2k in real time is a huge timesaver, as is the fact that you can look at an accurate 2k image on an HD monitor, especially when the alternative is renting a very expensive 2k or 4k projector. Most importantly, AJA’s tech support provides immediate solutions to problems as they arise.”

Rizkallah points out that the key to the group’s success was AJA’s DPX Translator. “The fact that AJA technology can convert DPX to QuickTime is incredibly efficient—QuickTime can be easily read in Final Cut or just about anything else that uses QuickTime out there,” he says.