Following the 300 demos of the QTube world tour it was clear that some questions were being asked repeatedly by different clients. Here is our selection of key questions which arose during the product demos, but if you would like to know anything else or would like to arrange a demo please contact the team.
What is the minimum internet bandwidth QTube will tolerate?
We’d recommend a decent internet connection of 1Mb/s up/download speed although we’ve frequently demonstrated the product successfully with real download speeds of 300-400 kb/s – this is well below most domestic connections. QTube has frequently been shown to work when YouTube does not.
Do we need a particularly powerful computer?
The QTube browser works in any browser which will support Silverlight – so just about any contemporary laptop, desktop or mobile computer will support the browser. QTube Edit is a Windows 7 PC application can run on a laptop PC.
Does QTube work in HD?
Like the sQ system, QTube is entirely transparent to SD and HD. Local and remote content of mixed image size and aspect ratio is handled automatically.
Is QTube still experimental and restricted to controlled demos?
QTube V1.0 was officially released on June 6th 2011. It is already in use by Quantel customers in North America, Europe and (soon), Asia.
What are the options for integrating Final Cut Pro and Avid?
QTube offers a route to editing Quantel content in any editor which will accept MXF OP1a media files – so that’s most broadcast-quality editors. Support for Quicktime is expected soon, so that’ll cover most of the rest. QTube browser does allow the download of quality media files – so a browser running on the host computer, can access a Quantel server, select and download full-res media files. This can include stills and wav audio files too.
What are the plans for releasing a more complex editor with enhanced editing functions (such as FX and titling)?
The most important goal for a radical new system like QTube is to get a functional, useful product working as soon as possible. This has been achieved with QTube, with a cuts-only video editor, local media ingest and comprehensive audio tools. The unique ability of QTube is to offer a mixed timeline of local and remote content. To allow effects of any kind, based on remote content, requires a process to allow the editor to specify the effect, see a credible display of the result and create the finished clip back in the home server. Quantel is evaluating the most efficient method to achieve this, probably by creating a ‘recipe’ for the finished timeline at the remote site – with a copy viewed in proxy media – and then have the full-quality timeline conformed and rendered in the home server. Quantel has the parts to create this workflow, it’s just going to take a little longer to build a scalable and robust practical solution.
Is QTube restricted to working with Quantel servers?
In V1.0, the answer is yes. However, QTube is engineered to be independent of the storage platform. So expect further announcements and developments.
How secure is QTube? Control of access; encryption of media while in transit; prevention of any cached media persisting and possibly “leaking”?
When considering internet security, there are three issue to consider; the three A’s:
These may be summarised as:
- Who are you?
- What are you allowed to do?
- What did you do and when?
QTube products manage all three, by using commercial off the shelf (COTS) components. Quantel uses proven technologies adding value with the workflow we offer, we are not in the business of offering security products.
Quantel have chosen Microsoft IIS 7.5 as shipped with Windows Server 2008 R2 as the web server. The Microsoft Web server offers proven industrial strength security and scalability; half of the top ten busiest web sites in the world are running IIS. Microsoft IIS also offers the Smooth Streaming technology that QTube is built upon, so that most modern browsers and Apple mobile devices can work with QTube out of the box.
Let us consider a broadcaster who would like to lock down access to essence in the most robust and secure manner. Firstly the broadcaster should provision a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) which is built by using 1 or more firewalls, with a single port configured for access to the QTube web server installation. The IIS Web Server is then configured with server certificates, and exposes HTTP over SSL/TLS (known as HTTPS) on the port designated for QTube support. IIS is configured to disallow HTTP over port 80, and Anonymous authentication is disabled.
The customer now has a choice. They might use basic authentication, and test the credentials of the users against the local Windows installation on the web servers themselves or against an Active Directory domain. However they might use Digest Authentication where they must map the users from an Active Directory domain. Either way, full AD with group policy can be used to authenticate users.
On the client side, certificates can be issued to each client, but users cannot login unless they can also supply a user name and password. In other words, QTube can enforce a mutual authentication scheme. In addition two tokens are required by a user to log in, the client certificate and the username password pair.
With this setup, both client and server can trust each other (SSL with certificates at both ends proves identity), all communication is encrypted (all HTTP traffic is carried over SSL – at whatever bit encryption the customer desires), so there can be no chance of man-in-the-middle or replay attacks. The user themselves needs to supply user name and password, so that a stolen laptop does not compromise the site security.
In this way all traffic, every picture or sound asset is fully encrypted. Every time the essence is streamed, it is encrypted differently, so that is no way to cache the essence anywhere on the internet, no internet device even knows it is video!
Let us know if you have any other QTube questions - leave them below and we will answering them here.
For more information about QTube (including the QTube White Paper) visit the QTube product page.
To read our interview with Trevor Francis, Quantel’s Worldwide Marketing Manager for broadcast explaining QTube's development and future plans please visit the Quantel blog.
In the final part of our Trevor Francis interview, he takes us through some practical examples of how QTube can be implemented to create more flexible and efficient workflows. He also tells us how the technology is expected to evolve in order to benefit other sectors.
“You mentioned that QTube is ideally suited for remote-working correspondents – can you explain this in more detail?”
“Here’s an example that came up at a meeting last week – very often, correspondents are asked to do a live two-way where they stand in front of a camera on location, and are interviewed by the anchor back in the studio. Frequently they are asked to comment, live on air, on the report that’s just been broadcast, and they often haven’t seen it, because that report’s been edited by someone else in another part of the world.
“What tends to happen is that the home studio call the correspondent up, tell them briefly what’s in the report and then tell them the questions they are going to be asked and the sort of reply they should give. However, with QTube, the correspondent overseas can pull out their laptop or iPad, and watch the report before it’s broadcast, so they entirely brief themselves. They can speak with much more authority and confidence having actually seen the report in advance, and heard what the various pundits and protagonists have said.”
“What about correspondents carrying out remote editing?”
“Well, what would happen in the past was that footage would be sent from the home country to the journalist by satellite, or more recently, by email, perhaps. Then, it could be incorporated into the story and sent back again. This was expensive and time consuming, and also required people at both ends to manage it, not to mention the inherent quality losses.
“The alternative to this was that correspondents would be told something like ‘We’ve got the Prime Minister saying something relevant in Parliament and it’s 12 seconds long, so please leave a 12 second gap in your piece and we’ll fill in the hole when it arrives’. This is risky (and costly) because it involves another person making sure that the footage is there on time and works without any problems.
“With QTube, correspondents on location can edit a piece, including adding any additional video which is stored remotely. This has huge editorial benefits because it means that stories are far more complete and can easily include a mix of on the ground coverage and a background perspective – perhaps with studio-designed graphics or other added value. So correspondents’ reports are more complete and can be achieved quicker and with fewer people involved. The editorial, operational and business management people are all happy.”
““So presumably there are also situations where it can be used for remote clearance?”
“Yes, it doesn’t just have to be a reporter. Sometimes there are stories that are sensitive for one reason or another, and they may require an executive to sign them off before they’re broadcast. Using QTube, as long as the Editor in Chief can get hold of an internet connection it doesn’t matter if they’re at home, or on a plane, or on holiday in Barbados – they can still view something which, for whatever reason, requires approval.
“The same principle applies to sending material to lawyers. When I worked at ITN we had to either call the lawyers in, or we would send VHS tapes to them. This all costs time and money, but now you can just email them a hotlink and say: ‘Click on this and tell me if it’s okay’. It’s much quicker and cheaper for the client because they’re not paying the lawyer to sit in traffic, and they can get a decision instantly. With QTube, the lawyer could even type their comments directly into the file.”
“There’s a white paper which details some more examples of the technology. Were there any examples that you found particularly exciting?”
“QTube is based on the premise that the connection I need back to my home studio is the same speed I might have at home. So we’ve even tried it on a plane with Wi-Fi available. Some of my colleagues have used it for viewing and editing content while flying 40,000 feet up in the air travelling at 600 mph between New York and Los Angeles!”
“You’ve mentioned that these are only the first uses for this technology. What can you tell us about plans for future development?”
“At the moment what we’ve shown is really aimed at the broadcast industry and so far we’ve only been able to hint at what it could offer in the future to film people – but it’s definitely implicit in the QTube technology. For films that are shot on locations around the world it could enable an executive producer, or principal director or art director to see the result of a day’s shooting by the first, second or third unit. This could have taken place in a jungle in Borneo, or a street in Havana or wherever – it wouldn’t matter.”
In part two of our interview with Trevor Francis, he explains how QTube exploits key Quantel technologies from both the broadcast and post-production sectors. Part one can be found here and part three is here.
“Can you take us through some of the main Quantel technologies which led to the evolution of QTube?”
“There are at least three unique Quantel technologies that underpin the way QTube works – FrameMagic, Identity and the Quantel Virtual Filesystem (QVFS)."
“Tell me about FrameMagic – I think this has been around for quite a long time?”
"Yes it has, but it is just as valid today as when it was conceived in our R&D Lab many years ago. FrameMagic goes very much hand in hand with Identity, and absolutely underpins the way that QTube works because it cuts out all unnecessary media movements. The browser doesn’t need to move any full-quality media at all; the QTube Editor moves only locally ingested frames or other frames which are not stored in the remote server.
“FrameMagic has been in Quantel’s products since the early 1980s (starting with Harry over 25 years ago). Back in the 1980s, disk drive storage was microscopic at just a few megabytes, so any way of cutting down storage requirements was invaluable.
Frame Magic first appeared on the Quantel Harry
“Back then FrameMagic helped to maximise the use of disk storage by splitting ingested content into frames, which are the smallest useable units of media. Simple edits could be created by re-playing those individual frames over and over again. Only when a frame had to be modified – as a key, or colour change or other effect – were new frames created. It does this by giving every individual frame its own Identity using a unique number (just like a mobile phone number, for instance, which identifies just one individual anywhere in the world). All edits are stored just as tiny instructions (or metadata).
“While we obviously don’t suffer the same storage constraints today as in the 80s, there is still a massive bandwidth problem with moving large quantities of high resolution media quickly over the internet. For most operations, QTube is serving proxy media, scaled to the instantaneous performance of the internet. When high resolution has to be moved – whether ingested from a camera or created by effects – FrameMagic ensures that only the minimum number of frames is actually transferred.
"Because of this you get a kind of efficiency multiplier – let’s say you have a news report about a political event, for which you have a significant piece of video (e.g. a quote or sound bite) that is used many times during the day. The story might be featured in the news at 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 10 o’clock, and each time it could have a slightly different edit. With FrameMagic, you don’t need to have individual copies for each edit – the system just provides the individual and specific frames which are required for each version, and which are defined by the metadata. If you were to join together all the reports and broadcasts they may add up to an hour’s worth of reporting (and they would all look slightly different), but they’d occupy only minimal extra storage. Of course, if you’re working with remote media on QTube, you get the same efficiency multiplier by massively reducing network traffic and the management headaches that go with it.”
“Does this also have implications for media asset management?”
“That’s right because if your original frames are repurposed (because you’ve only got one copy of them), it’s easy for a rights management system to be able track how many times they have been used. If you use a system that makes copies willy-nilly all over the place, not only do you have storage problems because you’re consuming disk space, you’re also putting unnecessary traffic on your data networks and you have a higher risk that your paper trail will go wrong.
“This can also be very useful if you’re a broadcaster dealing with footage which is covered by a stringent rights agreement – like most sports, for example. If you only have one copy of your original recording it’s easy for a rights management system to be able track how many times it’s been used.”
“What part does the Quantel Virtual Filesystem play in QTube?”
“Well this came about as a result of some work we had done in the post production sector. The key breakthrough here was the instantaneous presentation of an image that is in one format in another format, and this development originated with the Sam data server. Around 2006 there were a lot of customers who owned some of our powerful post production finishing and colour correction systems such as iQ and Pablo, who didn’t want these systems to be tied up by really time consuming frame by frame jobs such as rotoscoping, or film restoration – jobs which could take weeks. Essentially they wanted to be able to do this sort of work on ordinary computers, but the problem was that ordinary computers weren’t powerful enough to manipulate the really very large high quality image files that were involved.
“So we developed the Sam data server and this could instantaneously adapt these very high quality images into other formats so that they could be manipulated and displayed on ordinary computers using commercially available software (including our own).
The Sam Data Server was launched in 2007 alongside Genetic Engineering
“Before Sam was released the only alternative was to take the original files and then convert them into something like a QuickTime file, but this meant that you lost the direct reference back to the original file. This method also meant that if you had a team of people working on some material it was harder to keep track of who had done what.
“The Sam can maintain the identity of each frame so that if a user manipulates a specific frame, the same changes are mapped back on to the original high quality version. It creates a virtual view of the media to which it applies metadata that essentially defines which pixels are affected and changed. When we were developing QTube, this idea of instantly adapting files to whatever the required format found another use, and it’s one of the lynchpins of the system.
“QTube uses Microsoft Smooth Streaming to deliver the best achievable image quality over the internet at any moment. To achieve this Smooth Streaming assumes that the source has many different resolution versions of the file being sent available to it and switches on a second by second basis to the appropriate image quality while still delivering pictures in real-time.
“To first make a number of different resolution copies of any files required to meet this need is both very time consuming, wasteful in terms of storage and a management nightmare. The Quantel Virtual Filesystem gets round this by ‘fooling’ Smooth Streaming that it has all the necessary different resolution versions of files instantly available but actually only creates them on the fly in real-time as Smooth Streaming demands them. It’s a very clever adaptation of a great idea from one area into another – and it’s a result of our ‘joined up’ approach to R&D."
“What about security? No one wants their images hacked!”
“Fortunately some very large companies have already put a lot of work into this and QTube takes full advantage of their investment! QTube uses industry-standard Microsoft IIS secure authentication and SSL encryption to protect media assets. That’s the gold standard in internet data security.”
In part two of this interview of this interview Trevor will give examples of how QTube can be used in different situations and how Quantel intend to develop the technology further.
Since its initial preview at IBC 2010, and following its launch at NAB in April 2011, QTube has generated a huge amount of interest and queries from around the world. These have come not only from broadcasters but also from other facilities that can see how QTube’s inherent benefits can be harnessed for wider uses.
Essentially QTube enables users to access and edit media assets from anywhere in the world via the internet. Not only does it provide frame-accurate editing of all server-based assets (including media which are still in-coming) but it also renders both the location of the users and assets irrelevant, making truly global media workflows possible for the first time.
Following QTube’s nomination for the content management category in the 2011 IBC Innovation Awards, we thought it was a good time to talk to Trevor Francis, Quantel’s Worldwide Marketing Manager for broadcast, who carried out a worldwide tour with the product featuring over 300 QTube demos.
Trevor talked to us about how QTube works, how it has evolved from a number of unique Quantel products and how it is likely to become even more versatile as it develops.
“So can you tell us how you explained QTube to people who hadn’t seen it before as you took it around the world?”
“Well, the simplest definition is that with QTube, the operator and the media no longer need to be in the same place. Since the earliest days of broadcasting you always had to have your media in front of you, and even with the advent of digital editing you still needed to be close to a machine with the media loaded on it.
“With QTube, you can travel around the world with a laptop or whatever, and the media can be anywhere, near or far - so a TV professional whose job requires them to travel continuously can work normally wherever they are. QTube does for TV production what texts, email and smartphones have done for personal communication.
“Once location stops being an issue, everything can be more flexible and people can begin to work much more efficiently and also more creatively. It offers a serious business opportunity to save money, to be more competitive, and to get things done faster. It also means that anyone who needs access to any media can be better informed and up to date, because access is no longer an issue.”
“Right, so what are the different elements of the QTube system?”
“There are three parts to the system. Firstly we have the QTube Browser which allows users to find, select and view content from the server. This can work on any computer with a web browser. The browser today is mostly passive, so users can watch and listen to files, and they can leave text descriptions and comments (metadata). We're already started work on the next generation of QTube Browser and this is going to offer further interactive workflows; this product has a long way to go and we're right at the very beginning. We've already demonstrated a working trial interface for QTube on the iPad which works in Safari."
QTube has been trialled in Safari on iPads
“Secondly, we have the QTube Edit which allows users to edit images and sound wherever they are, using an internet-enabled version of the standard Enterprise sQ desktop editor. This means it uses the same user interface as sQ Cut or sQ Edit. QTube Edit can work on any machine that runs Windows 7 (including laptops), so remote users are free to make frame accurate edits to broadcast quality media, which are immediately ready for playout.
“Finally we have the QTube Transformer, and this provides the infrastructure between the sQ system (where the media lives) and the various QTube clients.”
“What elements of this are unique to Quantel?”
“Well there are quite a few things! One of the absolutely key features is the fact that QTube is designed to work on live recordings – you can literally start working on recordings while they’re happening, which is obviously a huge benefit for broadcasters. Imagine if you couldn’t start working on footage from a football match until half-time? This would mean that you were unable to get anything done for 45 minutes! We’ve got around this because of the inherent structuring of Quantel’s technology, so users don’t face that limitation.
“I’ve already mentioned the fact that it's frame accurate, which means that any editing decisions that are made are reflected exactly at the remote end. So for example if I’m editing a political speech I can select it right down to the exact syllable required.
“In practical terms that means that even if I’m working remotely, QTube enables me to build a story that is ready to be broadcast. This isn’t just a technical advantage, it’s also a major business benefit too. Without QTube, many remote-working correspondents or producers will rely on colleagues in the home studio to help with the preparation and finishing of their story. This is inefficient and out-moded.”
In part two of this interview Trevor explains how a number of significant Quantel broadcast and post products helped provide some of the underpinning technology that makes QTube work:
Thomas Urbye is the Managing Director and colourist of boutique London post-house The Look. In our guest focus this month Thomas says "workflow" should be about getting simple tasks done quickly - not complex procedures.
A buzzword that is often bandied around the post-production world and by manufacturers is "workflow". Many of them don't really know what it actually means, because they're normally trying to sell more bits of kit, so they build around their own products, rather than considering what is actually needed. In actual fact, workflow is more about a facility's own personnel and their knowledge, the tools that they are using, and how easily they can adjust to each project that is thrown at them.
One thing I have worked very hard to do is to learn from weaknesses in our workflow. At the end of a major project I ask the team at The Look to write a brief report stating things that held up delivery for our clients. Sometimes it's simple things like DVD printing or labelling stalling because of some network conflict - though we've also had confusion because we've had too many emails from the clients themselves!
These things have to be managed, fixed and improved, allowing workflow to go in both directions: being able to go back has to be as easy as going forward.
When we set up the facility I was keen that we invested in systems that had a full toolset on them. At the time, the Quantel eQ made so much sense as we could grade on it as well as doing basic VFX work, but more importantly it was good with audio and you could knock a clock up with it very easily! Workflow for a small to medium facility is about how quickly you can do simple tasks, such as doing a clock or exporting a QuickTime to a drive. If the client can watch the playout happen in front of their eyes, they seem to really appreciate it, and we've got a setup that also allows us to do other things on the systems at the same time.
Because we now have two Quantel Pablos and a Sam (a Quantel system that allows remote importing/exporting of file formats) and an SGO Mistika with its own fibre storage, we've managed to get away from complex SANs and file managing. Network traffic and portable disk drives are the nasty demons that are the troublesome areas, introduced by our clients that never have a standard. So we have worked hard to keep things simple: we don't have a complex flow-graph of procedures, but rather we focus on being able to get deliverables and VFX shots around in the fastest way possible.
For five years now the thought of even playing out to HDCAM SR just to do a grade because it's faster than doing it via data has seemed alien to me, let alone the fact that a lot of TV drama is still done this way. Workflow is not about going from one system in to another, then in to another, because if the client changes the edit then you have to go back to the first process and go through it again. That is not workflow, it's nonsense.
As a small company with high-end clients we are able to adapt to new technologies, new delivery requirements and to be proactive in reducing any unnecessary work - and I see any work that is not chargeable to the client as unnecessary and evidence that a company is bloated and that they are dodging the need to improve their own infrastructure and staff training!
3D Masters is a conference for broadcast professionals to discuss the financial and technological challenges faced by the industry as 3D broadcasting becomes more sophisticated and more prevalent.
The conference provides a concentrated day of industry-leading speakers, market insights and informed debate and this year Quantel were delighted to be the platinum sponsor for the event.
While we were there we asked some of the key speakers and delegates to tell us where they think the industry is now and how they think it will develop next.
Chief Engineer (Broadcast Strategy), BSkyB
"I used this analogy at this morning’s session: the 3D child has now been born and it’s still in that very early stage of development. It’s up to us to make sure as a group, as an industry as a whole, that we develop that child into an mature adult in a sensible way, rather than letting it become a bad teenager that destroys the 3D community.
"We need to strive for increased harmonisation and get everybody singing from the same song sheet. We need more understanding and training about what makes good 3D; people often don’t see the bad 3D unless they can compare it to good 3D. As a result we can have content producers creating 3D in isolation, not realising that it might be lacking in a certain way. In these early days, people in the broadcast industry need to have an education and gain an understanding of how 3D works and what’s good for the human mind.
"From Sky’s perspective we’ve made a commitment to really develop 3D and develop the platform, to make sure it’s here to stay. So it’s literally a case of encouraging content producers to produce good content on an ongoing basis, just to fill that content gap."
"The thing that I really appreciated from this morning’s sessions was that we all seemed to be speaking the same language. The key thing is that the quality absolutely has to be there, and everyone seems to appreciate that fact. It’s so important – you can’t just run with it. As an industry we all have to be very careful and very precise about making sure that the quality is good enough. Education is the main hurdle at the moment, in terms of consumers but also our colleagues. I think the industry has a habit of thinking that consumers are not very intelligent, but that’s simply underestimating the market. Consumers are hugely intelligent, they can spot good 3D and (crucially) they can spot bad 3D. They know and they’re learning very fast. So we all need to work hard to ensure we keep up with their expectations, and for this the quality of the 3D must be consistent, and it must be as high as we can possibly make it.
"There aren’t yet enough skilled professionals who have a genuinely good understanding of how 3D works and how we can make it watchable, mainly due to a lack of experience. We need more stereo operators and more professionals who know how it all works. Those of us who are experts in the field have an obligation to pass on our skills.
"The really exciting thing about 3D is that none of us really know where it is going. I just came back from BANFF, the world media festival in Canada, and there was a lot of talk about how everything we’re seeing right now is just another stepping stone to something else. Long-term, people are talking about images emanating out of your phone, 360 degree rotating images… it’s impossible to tell what will come next. I have no idea where we’ll be even in a year because the language is changing all the time and the technology continues to develop at a brilliantly fast rate."
Chief Executive Officer, 3Ality Digital Systems
"We need to lower everyone’s expectations that it’s going to be an overnight transition. Everybody seems to think that 3D is failing because we didn’t wake up this morning and everything was already in 3D. Everybody needs to get realistic expectations!
"The future of 3D is ubiquitous - it’s everywhere. You won’t be able to buy a TV without it being 3D enabled, and all content will be available in either 3D or 2D, as you choose. This really is the future.
"It will take a lot of work to get there. We need a better business case, and until the business case improves this isn't going to happen. At the moment cost is the thing stopping it. Methodologies are being worked out – but cost is still the main stumbling block."
Creative Director, Can Communicate
"If you had come to an event like this two or three years ago, it would have been full of geeky people showing things that had been half-built in the back of someone’s garage. A few years later and it's predominantly broadcast professionals and broadcast creative production people. There’s a much bigger appeal about the whole 3D side of it now, than there was. For example this morning I was in a panel with Natalie Sampson from Vision 3, who were consultants for Atlantic Productions on Sky's "Flying Monsters 3D".
"If 3D continues to be a high-quality product and doesn’t descend into a free-for-all where anyone’s doing it anywhere, then I think it's here to stay, and I think it will be a successful partnership. There is a danger that too many people are trying to do it, too soon, with little or no training or understanding. That’s something we really need to avoid. The last panel agreed that "quality is King" and if you produce quality product then 3D will be successful. 3D doesn’t make a bad story good!
"The future of 3D is really promising, but I think that the public needs to be better informed. It’s still essentially a small industry - that’s one of the problems. Also, I don't think the screen manufacturers are really helping anything at the moment but it's like any evolving technology industry, everybody's still learning.
"I think the industry will change as more high profile events are broadcast in 3D. For example, next week I'll be working on the Wimbledon broadcasts (doing the lead stereography). It's the BBC's first free-to-air 3D broadcast which is a significant step. Now that the BBC - as a national broadcaster - is beginning to provide 3D content, that unlocks the potential for other events such as the 2012 Olympics next year. So overall I think that all the signs are positive."
"3D Masters last year exposed a little bit of hype and naivety around 3D, but today's event is much more about creating the market. We've moved beyond the early adopters now and the good stuff is starting to appear, as the craft skills have started to hone. Craft skills in the UK are really important - they're our best contribution to the movie industry.
"Four years ago we had the first wave of people who rushed off and wanted to know about 3D, because they felt they had a commercial role to play or because they hoped to creatively expose themselves through it and benefit from it. That wave petered out a bit after a couple of years because there were no budgets, no scripts and no content - everyone was looking too much at Hollywood to provide the example.
"Hollywood filled this gap early on, but this led to a rush of stuff that was badly converted. The recent quote from Jeffrey Katzenberg where he said that "bad stuff is damaging 3D" chimes with his speech at IBC two years ago when he warned that content would have to be good quality all along to work. So we’ve reached a point now where everyone is talking about quality, and what the industry has to do now is identify the areas where there need to be new standards right across the board in order to facilitate quality. Right now we need the silent mass of really capable people at the top of the film industry in Europe, to come along and drive the quality side.
"I’m optimistic in the sense that I did a master class at IBC 4 years ago, on how to and how not to shoot 3D, and the audience there were young cinematographers, young producers, young directors... that was the thrill. They weren’t the old guard of the industry, they were young guys wanting to learn to earn."
“Black Butterflies” is an English language German-South African co-production feature film about the turbulent life of the left-wing liberal 1960s poet Ingrid Jonker, directed by Dutch filmmaker Paula van der Oest. Carice van Houten stars in the title role for which she was recently awarded a best actress award from the Tribeca Film Festival.
The film largely focuses on Ingrid Jonker's stormy relationship with author Jack Cope (played by Liam Cunningham), as well as her father Abraham Jonker (Rutger Hauer), who was Chairman of the Apartheid Government's parliamentary censorship committee, and was responsible for banning some of her work.
We spoke to colourist Donovan Bush from Condor Cape Town, who graded the film on the company's Pablo system:
"Richard Claus of Comet Films decided to finish the DI on the Pablo at Condor Cape Town, as that was the only DI system in town at that time that was able to accommodate a 4K feature film.
"The film is set in Cape Town, the Netherlands and Paris, but was filmed entirely on location in Cape Town.
"Having worked with DOP Giulio Biccari in the past, I was very excited to be working with him once again. Producer Richard Claus opted to shoot the film on a RED one camera with a mysterium chip, as it was more cost-effective than shooting on film, with the added advantage of being able to finish the “film” at 4K resolution. I was a bit sceptical at first, and would have preferred that the film was shot on actual 35mm film, but I have to admit that the end results were stunning.
"Although the film is set in the 1960’s, the look of the film could be best described as modern yet naturalistic, and the period is conveyed in the production design rather than in nostalgic sepia tones. I initially did a basic grade on the film with Richard Claus for 3 or 4 days, to get the film into a good place, and then spent the remainder of the two weeks grading with Giulio Biccari, finessing each shot.
"Most of the cinematography was done on a single camera, but Giulio had to reluctantly use a second camera for two scenes. Unfortunately the second camera was an older RED camera which didn’t have the mysterium chip, so the two images were vastly different, although they had to seamlessly match in the edit. I created a basic colour setup for each camera which I could quickly apply, and then added cascades on top of each shot that needed a bit more work.
"We also discovered that using ND filters with the mysterium chip had a tendency to make the shots quite pink (infrared ND filters yield a better result), so I more or less neutralised that in the grade, using the HSL keys to do any additional work on the skintones. I also found that at times with digital cinematography, there were some low light situations where the highlights (such as candlelight and car headlamps) tended to be a bit greyer rather than truly white, so I again used the HSL keys to make them “pop” out a bit. I was really impressed by how clean these keys were – television work is quite forgiving, but this was a 4K feature for the big screen, and the results were amazing!
"I am a traditional telecine colourist, and don’t often get to work on the Pablo, but I’ve always found it very easy to switch over to using the Neo panels, and find it a very comfortable environment to work in. One of my favourite features is the ability to instantly switch between cascades. Since we’ve upgraded to the Neo panels I’ve also found the system to be remarkably stable."
Igloo Post is a boutique post house in London’s Soho, which during the last 18 months has been hard at work turning around sixteen nature and wildlife documentaries. Six of these documentaries have just had their UK broadcast premieres on the Eden Channel. We spoke to Igloo’s Online Editor and MD Brian Ainsworth about working crazy hours, dealing with different formats and running a business around a single Quantel system.
“We’re very excited right now because we’ve just finished six 1-hour wildlife documentaries for Earth-Touch. UKTV’s Eden channel broadcast all six during the course of a single week – they called it “Earth-Touch: a brand new series to Eden". We did all the online, colour grading and deliverables, all through our single Quantel eQ system.
"Earth-Touch are specialists in filming wildlife material and at any one stage they have up to ten camera crews around the world capturing fantastic HD footage. We work very closely with Earth-Touch which is owned by Igloo’s co-director Costa Theo, so it’s a bit like a sister company. We share office space with Earth-Touch’s London branch so it’s very cool having their Executive Producer Chris Fletcher onsite too. In total we’ve completed sixteen 1-hour documentaries during the last 18 months, of which thirteen have used Earth-Touch footage. We’re working on another one at the moment and there are at least another six which are in the pipeline. It’s a massive relief during the current economic climate to have so much work lined up!
“As a rule the post-production side is always tight, and we generally get two weeks per documentary. This has to include the conform, the colour grades and the deliverables. All of this is done on the Quantel except when we have to do conversions (which we put through the Alchemist).
“All documentaries are shot in HD (1080/50i) using Sony’s flagship F900 cameras. The production and offline is done in Durban (where the Earth-Touch headquarters are based) under the supervision of Graeme Duane, Roger Hoaten and Lara Cox. Earth-Touch use Final Cut Pro and all of the footage is ingested from HDCAM and put onto hard drives as uncompressed 10bit QuickTime files and then shipped to London.
“The normal two-week time limit effectively always ends up being 14 working days, so we work through weekends and sometimes we do night shifts as well. Once the hard drives have arrived we take the original Final Cut Pro projects and turn them into AAF files for the Quantel, using Automatic Duck. 99% of the time it just works really well and if you’ve got say six layers of video your Quantel timeline has six layers and is essentially bang-on to the Final Cut Pro timeline. Sometimes we need to play around with the speed/size changes slightly but nothing major. Once the files have been converted we then spend around a day ingesting the files.
“After this we spend about four days on the conform and sorting out things like the supers, effects and rollers. When this is done we move on to the colour grading. We like to allow between 8-10 days for this, because you never know exactly what you’re going to get, and the grade is of great importance and can be very fiddly. A lot of the time we’re putting footage together which is shot on different days in different lights, so this can cause a few challenges. Footage may also have been shot at different times of the year (and in different seasons) and in these cases we have to try and match the different shades of green foilage and the different lighting to try and make it all as seamless as possible. This is less of an issue with documentaries which predominantly feature underwater footage.
"We try and keep everything looking as natural as possible. All these documentaries are ultimately designed for international sales so it’s important to keep them as appealing as possible for every possible market. Some of the documentaries are quite cutting edge – we have one based around a guy who dives with crocodiles (which to my knowledge has never been done before!). Earth-Touch do let the editing styles change a little bit between the different documentaries but as a rule we try and keep the colours as natural as possible. We don’t like to pump up the blue sky too much or make everything look “super real”; we just like things to look natural.
“Working closely with Earth-Touch we’re adding and changing things all the time and the colourists led by Tori Janke are always working on things. That’s one of the great advantages of the Quantel – you can hop on and change a little bit and it’s not going to affect anything else that’s happening. The music design and audio mix work is all completed in South Africa by David Birch and the graphics are designed by Earth-Touch in Durban.
“Out of the six documentaries we’ve made for Eden one of the hardest to complete was “Pride in Battle”. Brad Bestelink the cameraman followed the lions over a course of years which meant that we had a lot of season changes throughout the footage. We also ended up working with Pogo Films in order to get “Diving with Crocodiles” completed. This was because we found ourselves with three documentaries to finish in only a few weeks. In general we can cope with two simultaneous projects by working weekends and evenings (which means the Quantel is always working!). However, “Diving with Crocodiles” had to be finished at the same time as “Pride in Battle” and “Cheetah: Price of Speed”, so we brought in Jamie Dickinson at Pogo to do the grading on their Quantel system.
“At the moment we’re working on an Earth-Touch documentary for National Geographic which is a co-production with another production company. It was all shot at 60p and we’re working at 23.98 because the co-production Final Cut project files were supplied like that. I thought it was going to be a nightmare but amazingly the Quantel just churns it out so it hasn’t been a problem. We’re sticking to working in 23.98 because that’s how the source footage is and when we get around to doing our 1080/59.94i drop frame timecode playouts we’ll do all that from the 23.98 master made on the Quantel. Just knowing that the kit can handle whatever you throw at the timeline removes a lot of the stress of a project.
“The Quantel also suits us because it’s one piece of kit doing the work so our overheads are quite low. Because Earth-Touch are based in South Africa we have to financially try and match what it would cost them to do the work locally. We run a very tight ship but still produce top-class work, which has been broadcast throughout the world on channels which include ARTE; RDF; Canal +; the Smithsonian Channel; National Geographic and now the Eden Channel.
“For our next step we want to start looking at 3D stereoscopic documentaries. Our Quantel setup at the moment is an eQ running 4.1 and we want to upgrade to V5 soon for the stereo tools. Hopefully once UK documentary production companies find out about us we can consider expanding our Quantel kit too.”
The IABM (International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers) is the worldwide trade association for the broadcast and media technology supply industry. Quantel has been a member of the IABM for over 20 years and Roger Thornton (Quantel's Head of Publicity), currently sits on the Members' Board.
Following the IABM's appointment last year of Roger Crumpton as Director of Education, Employment and Training, the organisation has turned its attention to addressing the global shortage of qualified broadcast engineers and technologists with the launch last week of the IABM Training Academy.
We asked Roger to explain the current state of the industry and how the IABM intends to help boost the number of qualified engineers.
"Towards the end of 2010 I completed a 10-month research project on behalf of the IABM to look at the worldwide training requirements of the broadcast and media technology sectors and to assess the industry’s current skill requirements. The survey encompassed broadcasters, education establishments, and technology suppliers across the U.S., Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, and the IABM has used it for the basis of its new training program."
"One of the most significant findings to come from the study was the fact that there’s currently a shortage of engineers with broadcast and media technology expertise. While on one hand it’s clearly good to hear some positive news on the employment front when there’s still a fair amount of bad news out there, the fact remains that this is not good news for the broadcast industry as a whole at the moment."
"Some employers who supply broadcast and media technology products and services are having problems meeting their commitments to customers because of difficulty finding and retaining the right technical expertise. According to the latest IABM’s Industry Trends Survey, 35% of companies cite this as a problem."
"It’s a complex situation though. It’s not just about conventional broadcast engineers, and in fact some of these engineers are finding it difficult to get placed. Rather it’s about engineers with specific skill sets. These include people with experience of multi-platform delivery, digital media infrastructures, asset management and related skills. In addition it’s also about people with specific experience in things like product management and infrastructure architecture."
"Perhaps more worrying is the fact that the industry isn’t doing enough to sort out the problem itself. In the past, major broadcasters and suppliers helped to develop and grow the engineering talent in the industry for the long-term. This approach is much less prevalent today and employers tend to be much more focused on short-term performance."
"The IABM has launched a Lifelong Learning Manifesto to stimulate a longer-term view among industry stakeholders and to foster initiatives that tackle some of the issues. Key to this is creating a common understanding of the knowledge and skills needed by engineers at different stages of their career development and then putting in place recognised pathways for continuing professional development (CPD). Right now there is no recognised CPD framework and it’s not just a country specific problem - it’s an international problem."
"Broadcast and media technology is a global business and these issues need collaborative activity on a global scale. Almost 100 companies and organisations (including Quantel) have signed up to the manifesto, suggesting the industry recognises that action is required."
"As part of its own response to these issues, the IABM is also establishing a Technical Training Academy to offer classroom and on-line training programmes to encourage companies to invest in sector specific education. The first courses have now begun to roll out and one of them is an entry-level programme: Audio and Video Fundamentals for Engineers."
"However, it needs to start much earlier than that. Schools, colleges and universities are not doing enough to produce the pool of engineering talent that the industry needs for the future. Equally, the industry is just not doing enough to relate to and identify with young people and encourage them into this exciting industry. Many people are obsessed with content - we need to get people excited about delivering content. Think Formula 1, think Libya and think X-factor and suddenly delivering it can get just as interesting as taking part or watching it!"
For more information about the IABM's Training Academy (including their free 3D online course module), please visit http://www.iabmacademy.org.