: Dennis Kutchera's Blog
For tech nerds like me, A week at NAB is like a trip to Disney World for a Kid. It's one thing to read about what's new or watch a video stream from the show floor, but there is nothing like being there and putting your hands on new and up-coming products.
As a lover of all things post-production, this will be my main focus. I want to find the ultimate cost-effective, efficient and bug-free tapeless workflows for television post-production. But I may have to settle for 2 out of 3. Good is not always cheap. There is more to the cost of ownership than the up-front price. Money is lost to added labour and wasted time when workflows don't really work. Today, the cost of software is barely a factor because the difference between $299 and $2699 disappears during the first paying job. Software that works well together is of paramount importance, so that editing can move the show to post-sound and the CG guys can hook into the process without a hiccup and finally the online and colorist guys need to be able to deliver the final product in the right format with the right levels. And it seems like everyone has a different standard and standards within that standard. AAF, XML, EDL, CDL are just the beginning of the metadata that all has to deliver on its promises. Shared and even remote access to larger and larger media files and security of those files is another consideration.
Tape was easy, Did you want that on HDcam or HDcam SR? Now they might want anything from OP1a to DNxHD. Some want 709 levels, some want RGB. And here comes 4K. If you are not spending 20% of your time educating yourself, you are falling behind. NAB is a great place to kick-start your continuing education. See you on the show floor!
Well, I am finally back home from NAB and I need to sort through a ton of swag. Plus, I still have notes from the show that I would like to share with you.
Is My World Really 4K?
If there was one thing that stood out for me this year, it was 4K. Clearly this is where many vendors want to take us as evidenced by the 4K cameras, monitors and workflows being demonstrated on the show floor. I think we can safely say that film is dead as we are even moving beyond 4K with Red offering 6K cameras and NHK demonstrating an 8K display. The big screens at our cinemas are pretty much 100% digital now other than a few independent repertory movie theaters. But for those who have visions of 4K broadcasting, I say dream on. The benefit is almost imperceivable to the average viewer until you hit a screen size that requires a large dedicated home theatre room. Most consumers don’t even get it when it comes to HD. We can thank a lot of the broadcasters and cable companies for that. When A&E first went HD, they took 4:3 SD content and stretched it to fit a 16:9 screen and called it HD. I see this short fatty face look all over the place on TVs. All the masses seem to care about is that their big screen doesn’t have black bars down the side of the picture. And as far as sending 4K through the ether, it’s going to take a lot of bandwidth. As it is now, the cable and satellite companies that most of us get our TV from, compress the quality out of HD when compared to over the air signals, often downconvertiing everything to 720p in addition to all the compression. So while we can do production in 4K, in my opinion, it’s not coming to your living room anytime soon. It may show up as a niche product in Japan, but the cost of a 4K screen will be pretty high for some time. However, shooting in 4K definitely has advantages because in an HD finish, you have resolution beyond HD that opens a lot of possibilities in post, starting with the ability to crop, pan and scan inside the larger frame size.
Adobe Premiere CS?
Throughout my four days on the show floor at NAB 2013, I kept going back to the Adobe booth to see where Premiere was heading and I kept promising to share my findings with you, so here’s my notes on Premiere:
First, among former Final Cut Pro users, the majority are now using Adobe Premiere CS 6 and not Final Cut Pro X. In a show of hands among about 100 people attending a Techincolor seminar, about 75% were using Premiere with the remainder cutting on Avid or still on FInal Cut Pro 7. Only one person out of the hundred was using FInal Cut Pro X.
Adobe continues to add features that will please FCP 7 refugees. I am not clear if they are calling it CS6.5 or CS7, but here’s my list of notable features coming in the next release of Premiere. First, they will now let you use any unsupported GPU to access the Mercury Playback Engine without having to do a hack. This is great! I have a PC Nvidia Geforce 570 in my MacPro that works great, but I had to mess with a line of text in Premiere’s code to make it run, but this won’t be necessary moving forward. Other new features include:
-Through edit indicators on timeline
-Lots of new shortcut keys
-A paste attributes dialog box that lets you select what attributes you want.
-You don’t have to patch tracks as you edit. Just select the track on your timeline and that is where your clip will land.
-Relinking is vastly improved with link and locate media management that includes a dialog box that actually contains useful information.
-Looks and LUT support via the Lumetre color engine from Speed Grade with loads of preset looks plus the ability to build your own looks in Speed Grade and transfer them into Premiere. These can be used on clips or an adjustment layer in Premiere.
-Avid DNxHD can now be used as your intermediate codec.
-New integrated closed captioning tools
-This is not a new feature, but a cool trick I saw demonstrated—stacked timelines—far more useful than tabbed timelines.
In Speed Grade, there is still some work to be done in round tripping, but they have finally Adobified Speed Grade so that it looks and feels like the rest of the Adobe apps. They have added a new shot matching feature that worked like magic in the demo, but I will want to see how well it works in real life before I say wow. One feature I thought was really cool was the ability to import a Photoshop color grade. So if you are a real color genius in Photoshop, you can export a still frame, work it in Photoshop and then apply your look to the video in Speed Grade!
One more vendor that always catches my interest since I first spotted them at IBC 2009 is Filmlight, with their Baselight color grading system. It has been one of the best grading systems for round tripping with Avid Media Composer, but at a very high price point with it’s gorgeous Blackboard control surfaces. You can now save some money by using the newly supported Tangent Element or Avid Artist Color panels or Baselight’s own new lower cost Slate control surface that is designed to work with Baselight or the Baselight Editions.
Baselight Editions are plugins for Final Cut Pro 7 and Avid Media Composer that give you the full Baselight inferface in a plugin for $995. It lacks a few advanced features compared to the full up Baselight, like noise reduction, but the core features are all there if you prefer to avoid round tripping and have the time to work within the confines of the host plugin architecture. I can see some possible limitations in FInal Cut Pro 7, but in Avid, the grades will play in real time.
In speaking with Filmlight’s Martin Tlaskal about the FInal Cut Pro Edition, he said that they really worked hard to optimize the FCP7 Edition to overcome the memory limitations in FCP 7 that cause crashes with many plugins. Martin told me that sales for the FCP 7 Baselight Edition continue to be brisk as many people choose to stay with what is arguably the most popular non-linear editor ever made.
The big advantage of grading in your editor’s timeline with a Baselight Edition is the ability to make last minute editorial changes and you avoid the headaches of roundtripping media that may not have adequate metadata when it was ingested into your NLE. And if you have a full Baselight system, you can move your grades between the Edition and Baselight.
There was so much to see at NAB, it was impossible to take it all in. What someone else sees, i might easily miss. So really, for me, NAB continues long after the close because I enjoy checking out everyone else’s blogs and podcasts to get a broader perspective on what’s new.
I have one more thing I would like to share from day 4 at NAB 2013 and that is my visit to the HP booth. As a long time Apple user, I am looking at plan B for lack of a new Mac Pro. What I found in PC Land was very positive, but not quite everything I hoped for. Watch for this article in the coming days.
Wow, the last day of NAB 2013. I’ve been in Las Vegas since Saturday and in spite of my Rebok Nordic Walkers, I got a couple of blisters.
Today the show closed at 2:00 p and the crowds were light. It was a fantastic time for Byron and me to take a one hour camera crash course that Red was offering. It was the first time for both of us to handle a Red. The Red is as easy or even easier to use than a Sony XDcam. The menus and indicators on the touch screen all make sense. Since you are shooting raw, most of the settings are for you to create a your LUT as a starting point for how your footage should look. Since it is a raw file, the most important thing to check is whether the whites are burning out. It is all so easy. I’ve worked with a lot of Red footage on the post side and I love how the exposure and color can be changed after the fact just as if it was in the camera, and without compromise. A nicely equipped RED will run you about $50k. To put that price into perspective, a decent Betacam camera used to cost about $70 k and you couldn’t keep upgrading it to the latest model. Red Rocks!
I had a look today at some of the small things that make make editing easier. I bought some keyboard covers for a Mac keyboard at the show for various software I like to use. I used to hate these silicon keyboard covers because they were either too hard on the edge of each key or would eventually stretch near the spacebar and command keys. KB Covers seems to have overcome these issues with covers that don’t just sit on top of the keyboard, but fit over the sides, much like a fitted sheet. I prefer a dedicated keyboard, but it would be impractical for to have one for every app. I think I am going to like these KB Covers.
Another cool tool was Shortcuts HD for iPad. This is in the App Store for free and you make in-app purchases for the shortcuts you want. How it works is that both your Mac and iPad need to be on the same network and you use the ipad for shortcuts that you use frequently or the ones you don’t have room for on your keyboard. This is not a virtual keyboard like the Bella product I wrote about. Rather this is a companion to your keyboard with your selected shortcuts arranged in your order of preference on your iPad screen sitting beside your keyboard. When you change your app on your computer, Shortcuts HD automatically switches your iPad to the appropriate set of shortcuts. Very nice and inexpensive tool.
Over at Lacie’s booth, they were showing a full line of Thunderbolt enabled drives. A year ago, they could only show you one Tbolt drive, but since then, they have built out the line and include a Thunderbolt hub that lets you use your eSata 3 drives on a Tbolt Mac. What I like about Lacie’s Thunderbolt drives is that they also have a USB 3 port on board, so you can use also them on computers where Tbolt is not available.
Next door at Caldigit, they had a variation on the Thunderbolt hub without eSata, but USB 3 instead and HDMI. I see these two products as complimentary to each other rather than competing. Caldigit was also showing a new version of their eSata and USB 3 card for the Mac Pro. The updated product should be available by summer and will include a newer USB 3 standard that will speed things up more for products that are built for the updated standard.
Over at G-Technology, we looked at their new Evolution series of Thundebolt drives The G-DOCK ev with Thunderbolt is a two-bay, hot-swappable JBOD media drive system with user-configurable RAID 1 or RAID 0. Unlike other two-bay solutions that only offer bare hard drive modules that cannot be taken into the field and used as true standalone external drives, the G-DOCK ev comes with two 1TB removable, portable G-DRIVE ev external hard drive modules with USB 3.0 ports on board.
Assimilate was showing a demo of their upcoming Scratch 8. There is a lot more functionality being added including the ability to do remote grading. I love Scratch. It is a beast to learn unless you are coming from big iron systems that have a similar interface, but it is worth the effort. It is a very powerful color grading tool and DI system with very light hardware requirements. It will run real time circles around DaVinci Resolve with only one GPU and an AJA Kona 3G. If you are on Windows, you can skip the Kona because a Quadro 6000 has an SDI option. That one graphics card is doing all the heavy lifting and being used for your GUI at the same time. There is no need for an expansion chassis filled with GPU cards to get real time performance. Your Mac Pro alone has room for everything, including graphics card, Red Rocket card, raid card and I/O card. Assimilate Scratch carries a higher price tag than some other grading software, but if you planned to use a lot of GPUs and an expansion chassis to get real time, the cost of Scratch becomes much more competitive. It is amazing what that one GPU will do with Scratch - work in real time and transcode files in the background. Sweet! They offer a 30 day free trial and there are loads of tutorials and demos available so you can see if it is right for you. I know a commercial colorist in Europe who can have anything he wants for grading, including the big iron systems from Quantel and Autodesk, but he always choses Scratch because he can do complex grades faster and better in Scratch.
I spent the last part of day 4 of NAB 2013 at the HP booth where I had a detailed look at the HP Z820. What a machine! I will bring you the story in another post. This is my free day in Vegas and I want to see the sights, so I will continue my writing on the plane home tomorrow and bring you more from the floor at NAB 2013.
Day 3 at NAB and I’m now past the exhaustion and sore feet. Tuesday night, I was not sure if I was going to make it to my bed after all the walking. Boy, did I sleep in today. So on day 3, I felt no pain.
I can’t believe I found myself watching another Smoke 2013 demo this morning, but I am really impressed with what this editor/compositor/colorist software is capable of doing.
In my last post, I wrote the praises of Flanders Scientific (FSI) monitors and their new line of CM monitors. Today I paid a visit to TV Logic. The first thing that caught my eye was their 30 and 56 inch 4K monitors. I’d be safe to bet that there is only one manufacturer of these panels, since i saw similar product at the Sony booth yesterday. Given a choice, I’d likely go with TV Logic over Sony because their whole business is about building accurate monitors. It’s a moot point though since neither brand will be shipping for some time.
TV Logic has added to their XVM line with the addition of 24 and 32 inch monitors. They are all excellent grade A full featured monitors, but at more than twice the price are they worth it? For me, I’d say no. Even if pricing was at par, FSI wins with their lifetime free calibration service - Just pay for shipping to Atlanta and they will tune it up for you. With TV Logic, you calibration option is to buy their probe and software for $1000 that only lets you reset the white point of the monitor. Good stuff, but I prefer the Flanders line for both price and picture.
A new (to me) monitor line I found toady is from a company called Ruige. It was hard to tell how good their monitors are on the show floor, but they had similar product to both FSI and TV Logic and at a lower price point than even Flanders. I couldn't look at many features since the menus were all in Chinese, but this company may be worth watching.
Over at the Red booth, they were showing the new 6k Red Dragon. They were upgrading camera on sight in a special lab. For just under $10k, you get a new sensor and firmware. Red was also offering a 1 hour hands on class to demonstrate how easy it is to use. I signed up. so I could learn more about the camera, not because I want to shoot, but because knowledge makes me a better post production professional.
In the evening we went to a session put on by Techicolor that was basically an open forum on color in the film making process. They also demoed their Color Assist plugin software. It is a good introduction to primary color correction and it adds curve correction to FCP 7 It works in FCP 7 and X as well as Premiere. A show of hands around the room of 100 mainly indie film makers was very revealing - the majority were editing on Adobe Premiere, only one on Final Cut Pro X and only a few still on FCP 7. Maybe 20 percent raised their hand for Avid. Looks like Adobe is winning our hearts.
We are off to our last day here at NAB 2013.
Day 2 of NAB 2013 and I briefly started in the Central Hall, so some of this post is not just about post today.
Clearly tape has become a dead medium as I cruised through the Panasonic and Sony booths—not a video tape or VTR in sight. I had a brief look at the broadcast monitors from both companies. I am not a fan of Sony monitors, but they were showing a tech demo of 56 and 30 inch 4K OLED monitors. OK, I was impressed. I am hearing so much 4K chatter this year from cameras to post, that I think I could safely call NAB 2013, the year of 4K. Getting into 4K will require a new monitor for post work, but the good news is that a lot of hardware you own may already be compatible. AJA, just as an example, announced that your current Kona 3G becomes a 4K card with a free firmware download!
My son Byron, an up and coming shooter, asked me if I thought 4K broadcasting was on the horizon. I personally doubt it, but the big advantage of 2 and 4K is that in post you are dealing with larger than HD frames, so if you want to do a resize or pan and scan, you don’t lose quality in an HD program.
Also in the Central Hall, I had a look at the Small HD DP7 Pro Hi Bright 7 inch camera monitor with Byron. This is the best camera monitor I have seen. It’s OLED and can be viewed in very bright sunlight as was being demonstrated outdoors next to the Small HD booth. It’s an amazing little screen, but comes with a large screen price.
Next to Small HD we found Freefly demoing a new camera mount they call Movi. This is a real game changer for shooters. It out steadies and out glides everything else out there. It’s made of carbon fiber, very light and hold a camera absolutely level to the horizon, even when running and making sharp, sudden turns. And it can be your’s for a mere $15,000.
On my arrival in the South Hall, I saw a series of Apps call Killer Keys VR from Bella, the keyboard company. On version gives you a virtual keyboard on screen showing all the shortcuts for dozens of apps, but the really cool one was Killer Keys Pro that gives you a keyboard on your iPad showing all the app shortcuts and it will actually control the app on your computer. I see this as useful for a freelancer who has to suddenly use an App he isn’t familiar with and the client’s computer does not have a dedicated shortcut keyboard.
I spent most of my morning at Autodesk, watching one Smoke 2013 presentation after the other. I have to say I am impressed with the free training that Autodesk is providing for Smoke with online tutorials. With those and their 30 day trial, you should be able to tell if the $3500 Smoke for Mac is right for you. It is an editor, a compositor and a color grader all in one. I was impressed with the ease of moving an edit from Final Cut Pro X into Smoke 2013 for the finishing touches. The workflow seemed pretty seamless. But then, it was a demo ;). Seriously. though, it does work pretty well outside of motion FX. After seeing FCP X and Smoke working in harmony, I asked a well known DaVinci user what editor he had the most success with moving a sequence from into Resolve. I was surprised that for Resolve, FCPX was the most seamless as well. I think I will have to take a long serious look at FCPX again. I actually saw some editing on Final Cut Pro X at the Smoke demos and I confess - I was somewhat impressed with the speed and ease of use.
Flanders Scientific was showing their new CM series monitors featuring their new flagship CM320TD 32 inch HD grading monitor that sells for a show-stopping $5495. If you need to grade 3D, this is the screen to get. It includes the legendary Flanders policy of free lifetime calibration. All you need to do is ship it to their office in Atlanta and they will tune it back to spec if it has drifted over time.
I spent more time at Adobe, watching Premiere demos, but I will have to end today as I did yesterday by saying, more on Premiere later. I slept in this morning and I need to motor over to the convention center to see what else will attract my eye in toyland.
A little Pre-NAB
This is the second time I’ve come to NAB with my son Byron Kutchera, who turned 21 last year. He was crazy enough to follow in his Dad’s footsteps and get into the TV an Film business, For the first time ever, I came to NAB two days early to take in a little Vegas culture; and what better way to do that than to see The Vegas Show at the Saxe Theater, a stage show celebrating the golden era of Las Vegas with reenactments of classic performers doing their signature stage shows. It was a very entertaining Saturday evening with thanks to Ty Reveen.
Sunday was off to one of the Premium Outlet Malls that we lack in Canada (save for Niagara Falls) for some good walking shoes for Byron, who learned last year that skateboard shoes and NAB are a bad combination.
NAB Show 2013 Day 1
Monday, we were at the Convention Center by 9 and the crowds were light. One the way in I spotted some signage announcing DaVinci Resolve 10 as an online editor. As someone who loves spending his day coloring pictures and unraveling tech issues, I made a beeline straight to the Black Magic Design booth and got a ringside seat for the first demo. There is a lot new new added functionality that is taking Resolve 10 into the realm of becoming a finishing tool where you can complete the online as well as grade color. Resolve 10 supports Open FX plugins with unlimited piugins applied per clip. There are a few plugins that I often can’t finish a show without, so this is great news. Black Magic has also added a Static Text Generator; Bars, Tone and Slate Generator; Multitrack Audio Editing; Optical Flow Slo Mo, Compound Clip support, transform, Multi-Track Audio Ediitng, Stereoscopic 3D Editing as well as grading, and Crop Transform @ Opacity Effects. Resolve 9 already has the best stabilizer I have ever seem and combined with probably the best picture scaling out there, so Resolve 10 is becoming serious competition for other finishing tools like Autodesk Smoke. 2013.
The big news over at Avid is Media Composer 7 now priced at $999 with Symphony becoming a $1499 option that you can move from one seat to another of MC 7. Avid’s already robust media management just got better with AMA clips now fully managed as if they were native Avid clips. AMA is no longer a read only feature, but is also writable. Frameflex is a new feature that lets editors pan and scan or reframe 2K and 4K files (including stills) into HD in real time (dependent on your computer’s horsepower). Avid has also added a master audio channel that is as full featured as the individual track, a revamped mixer that only shows the channels you are using and a fantastic right click audio clip fader, so you don’t have to open the mixer to adjust a clip’s audio level. Love it! Adjusting individual audio clip levels via a mixer has been an Avid feature for 20 years; something Adobe only learned in the upcoming release of Premiere.
More on Premiere in another post. Byron and I are off to day to at NAB. Oh, my poor aching feet.
I found a rather frustrating bug and workaround in Avid Symphony 6. We recorded time code from the audio recorder to the audio track of a Canon 7D. We then AMA linked, transcoded and had Avid read the audio track timecode into Auxiliary 1. Then for the audio clips, we imported, took the source time code and copied it to Aux 1 of each clip. Now we should be able to put everything in one bin and Autosync.
Instead we got an error message. After trying many settings and checkboxes, we were still without sync sound. It looked like sync by in points, lined up to the slate was going to be our MO. But first we tried something—we unlinked the transcoded DSLR clips, modified them to V1 only and relinked. Now Autosync worked as it should with everything instantly synced!
I reserve the right to be wrong, but I am sure this should have worked without unlinking audio.This workflow predates tapeless. I remember using it with audio TC on SVHS tape years ago; reading time code from an audio track is a very old trick for Avid. If this is considered normal, then Avid needs to change this, along with a few other things, for a more efficient tapeless workflow.
I've somehow got my user messed up here at the COW with three accounts. My original account dates to the first week of Creative Cow and we are trying to get my split personalty merged back into one. That's causes me some confusion, so I've never really utilized my blog here on the COW. While Ron is trying to unravel my user account, it seems like this version of me functions normally (no jokes please!).
So as unexciting as this post is, it is my test post to see that everything will work as it should. If I end up with this appearing in illogical places, please excuse me as I test and try to enter the blogoshere!