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Subscription Based Software - it's not going anywhere

This editorial was originally printed in Issue 3 of the newsletter.

It's been a few weeks since the announcement from Adobe that henceforth all new software will only be available via the Creative Cloud subscription service. No doubt you've seen and heard the outcry from folks who want to continue to "own the software."

As my good buddy Aharon Rabinowitz said so eloquently in his blog, "YOU DO NOT, NOR EVER HAVE, OWNED YOUR ADOBE SOFTWARE. You have licensed it." Yes it's all semantics since you DID have a box with software in it, or you downloaded software which you backed up and kept somewhere in your files. As long as you have the serial number, you can launch that software at will. But you never actually "owned the software."

There's definitely the comfort factor of "holding the box" and knowing that the software is there ready to be used at any given time. But what good is that box when the software turns obsolete because the current OS will no longer support it? At that point you have two choices; keep running an older computer system so you can keep using that software or you upgrade so you can run the software on the latest and greatest systems. I don't know about you, but I tend to upgrade my computers at least every three years and running old software on a new computer kind of defeats the purpose.

The subscription model actually makes very good sense for the software industry. The biggest thing is that the industry is no longer driven by the need to keep holding back "key new features" until select times of the year to coincide with events like IBC and NAB. Think about how many times we start speculating in January or July about "I really hope Adobe / Avid / Apple / Autodesk releases these new features I really want at NAB / IBC!" And then the companies keep telling us to "hold tight until NAB/IBC to see what's new." With the subscription based model, it behooves the software company to continuously roll out new features to keep the subscriber base happy and feeling like they're getting their money's worth. I very much like this idea of constant evolution instead of arbitrarily holding stuff back to have a fatter press release at a convention.

Look whether you like the Adobe model or not, you better believe it's coming to all software eventually. It makes sense both economically and from a distribution standpoint. Steady income for the company over the year and distribute new features on the fly. It's not a question of "if" the other software manufacturers will go subscription, but "when."

If there's one lesson the others can learn from Adobe is to make sure to give a 'one year warning' as in "this will be the final year to purchase a license, after that, it's all subscription." To just come out and say "As of today, it's all subscription" was a bit of a dick move by Adobe, but with the success of the Cloud over the first year, the writing on the wall was pretty obvious to most folks.

So love it or hate it, I would not be surprised to see a subscription based model for all our software within the next 5 years.

Posted by: walter biscardi on May 29, 2013 at 5:36:28 amComments (19) Adobe, Creative Cloud

Because you asked.... More on our Switch to Avid Media Composer 6

Our short and sweet blog post yesterday about switching to Avid MC6 for our broadcast work touched off a flurry of requests for yet more information on our decision. Folks want to know “what specific features did it have that the others didn’t.” “Can you break it down feature by feature, why you made the switch?” ”You seemed so gung-ho about Adobe early on in your switch.”

Honestly I can’t break it down like that. For almost 6 months now we’ve had one edit suite running MC6 and one running Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 pretty much full time in each room. FCP 7 has been used in both rooms as necessary and I’ve also been cutting with Adobe CS 5.5 primarily on smaller projects. So this has been a real solid test. Three rooms cutting real projects with real clients in the room.

In a situation like this, you don’t compare “feature by feature.” You compare, “how does this work with the client looking over my shoulder?” Is the system efficient, can I do everything from FCP, what is the client experience, does the system service all of my needs?

Real world, client over the shoulder experience, Avid’s strength is the performance of the software in our FCP based infrastructure. What that means is my entire facility was designed to support Final Cut Pro. Mac Pros, AJA Kona video I/O boards, Small Tree Ethernet based shared storage system and a slew of third party hardware and applications. When we dropped Avid Media Composer 6 into that infrastructure with the appropriate AJA Kona drivers, the system didn’t miss a beat. We were truly stunned that Avid’s support of our hardware was that good. Tape capture and mastering are more efficient and more accurate than what we ever had with FCP. Overall performance of the Avid MC6 software on the same exact machine as FCP7 is much faster.

In comparison, Adobe Premiere Pro causes all sorts of playback and audio issues on output to our external monitors. This led to less than desirable client experiences in the edit suite. As long as the client wasn’t in the room, we would leave the external monitor turned off, but even there audio playback issues still plagued the system. See when I first started testing and posting about Adobe Premiere Pro, it was all from my 27″ iMac at home, so there was no external monitoring. At first the output seemed to work pretty well, but then things kept getting wonky and we could not get output to ever work consistently across multiple workstation.

And all of us were disappointed, to say the least, that tape capture / tape mastering is abysmal in Premiere Pro CS 5.5 with tape still being a very large part of our day to day workflow. Yes, the world is going digital, but we have a lot of shooters who still shoot tape and we have thousands of hours of tape on our shelves that get used for documentary and news projects. Lack of audio controls in the Source, track assignments and a lot of other small things created stumbling blocks and inefficiency in the workflow. Our overall feeling is that Adobe has got a lot of advanced features that nobody else has, but the basic core editing experience leaves a lot to be desired and at the end of the day, we’re storytellers and need a solid core editing tool. Yes we are aware that Adobe is most likely going to introduce CS6 soon and with any luck some of these issues will begin to be addressed. Premiere Pro will still play a part in our facility on smaller projects and potentially an independent documentary.

But right now, after so many months of using both systems in our core FCP infrastructure, Avid MC6 just performs so much better. It’s actually a more limited toolset when you consider that we purchase the Adobe Production Premium suite that comes with all the other applications, it seems like a waste to spend that money on just one tool. But it makes you appreciate the tool for what it is. One hell of a very fast storytelling machine. Yes there is frustration because we have to “un-learn” a lot of our FCP mindset and re-think our workflow more with Avid than a transition to Adobe Premiere Pro. But that’s just learning which buttons to press.

So there you go, that’s more of our reasoning on taking Avid MC6 to all of our broadcast work, in a nutshell there’s more of a comfort factor bringing the product onboard for broadcast. This was probably the biggest decision I’ve had to make in my career after almost 12 years of keeping Avid OUT of my facility. But Avid truly did listen to what we told them and opened up the software to a world of possibilities by letting me simply drop it into an existing infrastructure.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 28, 2012 at 12:09:51 pmComments (12) Avid, Adobe

Biscardi Creative switching to Avid Media Composer 6 for Broadcast projects.

After lots of testing and comparing, we've made the decision to move two original series to Avid Media Composer 6. PBS series "This American Land" is starting up Season Two next week and in about a month or so we'll be kicking off a new original reality series.

Over the past for months or so, I've had one of my editors working primarily in Adobe CS 5.5 with another working in Avid Media Composer 6 to really see how they operated in all sorts of situations. Short stories, longer form, news features, etc... My editors and I struggled to come up with a definitive answer as to which we should use for "This American Land" as that's the first broadcast series to fire up for us again since we dropped Final Cut Pro.

What it really came down to is just how well Avid Media Composer works with our existing Final Cut Pro infrastructure. Mac Pros with AJA Kona boards connected to a Small Tree Communications 48TB shared storage system. It's interesting because as many of you know, Avid required their own hardware until just this past November. As I reported previously in my article, Avid's software works incredibly well with all our third party hardware. Even the shared storage works brilliantly without any sort of Avid / Unity based control.

Despite what people report and the industry wants us to believe, Tape is far from dead in our workflow. We have shooters who still have beautiful cameras that shoot tape and of course we have to master everything to HDCAM for delivery. Tape controls are just so rock solid with Avid, even better and more precise than we ever had with FCP.

So ultimately both myself and my editors felt most comfortable moving our broadcast workflow for these two shows over to Media Composer 6. We'll certainly keep y'all updated on how things roll as we move forward.

Me setting up Avid in our shop, never thought THAT would happen!

Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 27, 2012 at 3:03:28 pmComments (1) Apple, Adobe

NAB and the Trade Show: Making a Resurgence?

In 2006, the National Association of Broadcasters Convention had over 108,000 attendees in Las Vegas. That dropped to 82,600 by 2009 amid cries that the big trade show is rendered useless in today's internet connected world. All you ever need to know about your business and “what to buy” and “how to do” can be found on the internet without all the hassles and expense of traveling. In 2010 attendance crept back up to 88,044 for one of the most dynamic shows I have ever experienced.

I have to say, I’ve missed the last three shows myself. The first one by choice, the other two due to the work schedule. This year I made a decision that my schedule would be cleared for the event, particularly with the buzz around 3D. The decision was made even easier when we saw the lowest hotel rates in Vegas we’ve ever seen!

But back to the show. A 6,000 person increase is a modest jump when you consider the size and scope of this event and quite honestly, I was of the mindset that with resources like there really was NOT much of a need to get out and attend the show. It’s four (or more) days of a lot of walking, coffee, standing, talking, coffee, more walking, listening, coffee, walking, coffee and coffee. What can I say, there’s Starbucks all over in there and I’m drawn like a moth to flame.

I was reminded this year of just WHY these trade shows truly are still relevant and important to all of us in the production industry. There really is no other way to see everything you want to see, in person, operating at one time. What makes Avid unique from Adobe? What’s the difference between the new Panasonic and Sony small cameras? What kind of microphone can go underwater and still keep working? Are LED lights really any good or do I still need HMI? Why is the Grass Valley booth bathed in green light? (never got the answer to that one)

You’re spending money on equipment, software and you need answers on what will work for you in your budget. You have questions on how to do certain workflows, there are literally thousands of experts in one location. The internet is sweet and it certainly has empowered many of us to make decisions we could not otherwise have made from glossy brochures and sales pitches. But nothing beats the ability to literally compare two, three, ten similar products in the space of a few hours. Watch demo, use the product, ask questions, get answers and then have the ability to go back and ask more questions.

Nor is there any other place where you can stumble on to products and ideas you’ve never heard of. I’m starting two original television series here and I’m interested in some new Panasonic cameras and Canon Lenses. On the way there, I found a whole series of LED lighting setups. Lower power consumption, bright lights and potential HMI replacements. Prices ranged from $250 to thousands of dollars. What’s the difference in the brands? From what I could tell it was really the ruggedness of the frames, the rigs and the electronics. Some felt flimsy and fragile while one brand they literally slammed the lights on the desk to show they’re almost unbreakable.

We might be producing a new fishing series as well and I found a microphone company that was dunking one their products in water and the mic was functioning perfectly AND it was much less than the mics I had been looking at online. They pointed me to another company that had a reasonably priced waterproof transmitter. I never would have found either if I wasn’t walking the show floor. Yes I could have asked about this on the internet and would have gotten some really good advice from pros in the field. But this was nice to see, hear and touch.

So with this uptick in interest in 3D particularly, it seems to be that the Trade Show might be even more relevant in today’s internet world than ever before. We can make reasonably informed decisions based on the information we get from the internet. We can make completely informed decisions based on a combination of information from the internet AND first hand experience at a Trade Show. If I did not attend the show this year I would not have believed that, but it’s just true. Also, I can’t tell you how many people would tell me, “Did you see such and such? No? You have to go check this out in Booth....” We see this all the time with internet forums where one question leads to advice to look at an alternative. At a show like NAB you can not only look at the alternative but make a reasonable decision very quickly whether it’s a good alternative or not.

If you looked at Twitter, and many other sites during the 4 day run of NAB this year, those sites were just completely flooded with requests for more information, please test this out, please look at this, is this really as good as they say it is, etc....  People were begging for information that was on display right there on the show floor.   Does it cost money to go to a Trade Show?  Yes.  Is it money well spent?   Again I have to say Yes.   With the incredible changes our industry is going through, you simply can't afford NOT to attend these events at least every other year.

If you did not make NAB this year, plan to come out in 2011 as 3D should be in full swing. If you are in Europe, plan to attend IBC and check out what is on the horizon. At the very least, try to attend one of these Road Shows from the various manufacturers, though I do find them somewhat of a waste of time. You only get the one perspective from those, you really can’t compare and contrast what you’re seeing in the road show vs. another manufacturer.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 18, 2010 at 1:21:29 pmComments (3) nab, final cut pro, avid, adobe, trade show

The Three A's; Avid, Adobe and Apple

The 2010 National Association of Broadcasters convention had the Post Production world buzzing about the Three A's of the industry.  Apple, Adobe and Avid.   Well, really more Adobe and Avid since they were actually at the show and had something to demonstrate.

Adobe brought their CS5 creative suite to the show with some incredible announcements.  Not the least of which to me is the ease of integration with other NLEs like Final Cut Pro and Avid.  Adobe has decided to "play nice" with with their competitors to make it easier for Post Houses like mine to get projects into and out of After Effects for one.  Right now this requires plug-ins like the Automatic Duck Importer for AE (which is totally awesome by the way), but with CS5, we could essentially take an FCP timeline, send it to Premiere and then send it over to AE.  Ok, the Duck plug-in is around $500 and Premiere is $799 so it’s a bit silly to even consider Premiere just for this functionality.   But......

Premiere has taken a huge step forward with their 64bit enabled Mercury Engine.  Much more realtime functionality and you can see in their online demos 4k and 2k material scrubbing and playing back in the same timeline.  You will have to install CS5 in a 64 bit system to run and run an Adobe Certified graphics board in order to take full advantage of the Mercury Engine functionality.  But the functionality of Premiere is very much on par to what Final Cut Pro based facility are used to and the real-time functionality of the CS5 package simply blows FCP out of the water.  

Avid brought us Media Composer 5 and what really got the show buzzing was their support of Quicktime.  More specifically, Apple’s ProRes codec.  So now there is the very real possibility of Avid working right alongside Final Cut Pro in the same facility or for sharing projects across facilities.   
Not only that, Avid’s H.264 native editing support refutes everything we’ve been saying about that codec and Final Cut Pro for the past few years.  Whenever someone said they could not get H.264 to edit well in FCP (such as from a DSLR), we would inform them that it was not a proper editing codec, it was a finishing / delivery codec.  Transcode it to something else like ProRes.  Avid (and Adobe for that matter) is now showing that assumption to be false.  Take the H.264 and start editing right away in realtime.

And like Adobe, Avid has a much more seamless P2 / tapeless workflow that does not require transcoding, wrapping to be able to edit with this material.  Simply bring it in and start working pretty much instantaneously.  

Now the one thing Avid has NOT really done is open up the platform to third party hardware.  Right now you can use the Matrox MXO2 Mini for display only.  So you can watch your project on a monitor and do a crash record to a VTR or DVD Recorder but that’s pretty much it.   No support for the AJA Kona Boards or the BlackMagic boards at this time and Avid was very vague on whether that would come in the future.  “The MXO2 Mini is the first step” is what I was told during a meeting, but that was all they said.   What I would ideally like to do in our situation is install the Avid Media Composer 5 software to work on our AJA Kona 3 based systems.  This would allow me to hire any freelancer whether they want to work with FCP or Avid and we could work in one universal codec, ProRes so any system could access the media.  This is going to be a wait and see with Avid to see how willing they are to really open up the software to third parties.  Short term I might install one copy of the software with the Mini so an editor could use Avid in our shop and we would lay back to tape using a Final Cut Pro workstation utilizing Automatic Duck to move the project over.  Right now to really use the Media Composer software fully, you still need the Mojo hardware and I’m not going to spring for that.

So that leaves us with Apple.  (sigh) Apple’s lone appearance was at the Supermeet.  Note I said Supermeet and not FCPUG Supermeet.  That’s because the FCPUG part of it was dropped and in this case, for good reason.  Apple sent up Steve Bayes, Sr. Product Manager for Final Cut Studio to give a presentation.  Mind you, this followed the two jaw dropping presentations from Adobe and Avid.  Steve starts off with “I’ve got a secret” and proceeds to tell us really nothing at all about Final Cut Pro.  There was no secret, just more marketing buzzwords about how wonderful Studio is and how many production partners are using Studio or something along those lines.  See I can’t even remember much about what he said because it was basically meaningless.

Your two strongest competitors take the stage in what used to be the Final Cut Pro Users Group Supermeet, completely knock it out of the park, and all you can do is whiff?  I would like to say we heard crickets in the room, but that would be a disservice to the Rio Hotel so it was more or less silence that greeted this earth shattering “secret” from Apple.

When Final Cut Pro came out, the industry laughed at it.  Here’s a cheap little NLE knock-off that will never get traction.  Apple proved that wrong by offering a very low-cost, yet powerful editing tool that can truly work in all manner of film and television post production.  Apple worked its way to the top of the heap in terms of users worldwide, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.3 to 1.5 million registered users (and who knows how many more “non-registered” users).  Nobody could match the suite of tools, particularly with the addition of Color, for just $999.

Well, now we’re all kind of laughing again.  Apple’s notorious silence allowed Avid and Adobe to completely leapfrog all discussion about Final Cut Studio and leaves the post-production community wondering whether Apple can keep up.  When your competitors can work with your very own codec (H.264) better than your own product, that’s a problem.  When your competitors can work with tapeless workflow better than your own product, that’s a problem.  When your competitors can work with more realtime functionality using your very own hardware, that’s a problem.   Basically Apple sent up Steve as a sacrificial lamb and really should not even have bothered.

The integration of the entire Adobe Suite has been much tighter than the Final Cut Studio suite for a few years now, but there really wasn’t anything to get me to even consider dumping FCP for Premiere.  In fact, despite the fact that many of us like to defend Final Cut Pro vs. pretty much any NLE out there by saying it’s the artist that makes the difference, not the tool, I never really considered Premiere as a viable alternative for editing.  It just never felt like a “professional editing tool” for whatever reason.  Probably just a personal bias and I just don’t hear of very many “pro users” that base their facilities around Premiere.

With CS5, the Adobe suite suddenly looks very promising as an alternative.  Even more so since it runs with all of our existing infrastructure we have in place for Studio.  The only change would be to replace our ATI graphics cards with the proper nVidia cards to support the Mercury engine.    If Avid opens up their software to all third party hardware, especially the AJA Kona boards, well then that certainly becomes a very viable alternative as well.

That’s one of the beauties of what Apple has actually created.   A very strong third party hardware market that is software agnostic.  By concentrating on just the software and computer hardware, Apple opened up the Audio / video hardware to multiple independent companies like AJA and BlackMagic who designed their products to work with multiple NLEs out there.  And as we all know, FCP / Premiere / Avid all work essentially the same way so if you know one, you can switch to another one pretty darn quickly.  

Will I make the switch?  I’m not doing anything immediately though I will upgrade all our systems to CS5 when that is released.  We run CS4 on all of our systems currently as we’re very heavy After Effects and Photoshop users so we have the Production Premium suite.  When the CS5 bundle gets here you better believe I’ll be poking around in Premiere to see how it operates and just how well it “plays with Final Cut Pro” and how it compares to working with Final Cut Pro.

No I’m going to wait to see what Apple has to show us, whenever that is.  They have to not only hit a home run, but knock it completely out of the park.  I want to see a realtime alternative to Adobe’s Mercury Engine.  I want to see the ease of use of H.264 and other tapeless formats that don’t require Log and Transfer with a re-wrapping.  I want to see very tight integration between the apps in the suite like CS5.  And I would really like to see Apple open up an “ease of use” path for working back and forth with Premiere and Avid systems.

So right now, my feeling and what I heard very often on the show floor, at the Supermeet and my various meetings with people is it’s time for Apple to put up or shut up.   They set the bar high for a full featured non-linear editing system at a very low price.  Adobe and Avid just blew right by them using the same hardware that is available to FCP facilities.   Is Apple going to move the Studio suite forward and really improve the workflow for professional editors as the other A’s have done, or are they simply going to maintain the status quo with a few updates to just continue to sell Mac hardware?   At the moment, Apple’s silence is deafening.   I'm reminded of the NFL Playoffs commercial campaign a few years ago, "Show Me Something."  Anything.....    Once I can see what Apple has to show us, then we'll make the decision on where we go from there.  We're about to grow from 4 to 9 edit suites in the next few months so what we see revealed from Apple will make the decision on where our company goes from here. I'm hoping they hit it out of the park so we don't have to change anything, but it's easy enough to make the switch if that's better for our company.

Of course the one thing Apple still has going for it is Color.  Adobe and Avid still don’t have anything to match that.   Oh that’s right, DaVinci took care of that for them, but that’s another blog entry.....

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 18, 2010 at 7:27:50 amComments (9) apple, final cut pro, adobe, nab, aja, blackmagic

Adobe Encore CS4 still exhibiting "Project Created In Windows" errors on Mac

This problem has been around at least two years since we started using Encore CS3.

Create an Encore BluRay Project on a Mac. In our case, a Mac Pro Octo 3.2 machine running the latest OS, Quicktime and Encore CS4.

Save that project.

Open the project on a second Mac that contains the BluRay burner. In our case a Mac Pro Quad 3.0 machine running the latest OS, Quicktime and Encore CS4.

Get the error message, "This Project was created in Windows and cannot be opened."

I posted a query in the Cow Adobe Encore forum, but no responses so far. I'll let you know if I get anything.

Haven't called Adobe Tech Support because the last time we tried that, they could not figure out why I didn't have any Windows Machines in the shop so how could the project possibly have been created on a Mac? They're not very helpful in my experience.

So I'm just letting you all know, Encore still does not have anything to make you "Come for the BluRay, Stay for the Flash." Fortunately we do have NetBlender's DoStudio in here for real BluRay projects and it works flawlessly.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 10, 2009 at 7:57:32 amComments (7) bluray, encore, adobe, final cut pro

BCM completes new Good Eats Animation

BCM has completed a new historical animation for Good Eats with Alton Brown on the Food Network.

Artists Walter Biscardi, Jr., Aaron Stewart and Brian Mead worked closely with Alton Brown and producer Dana Popoff to create the latest in a series of historical animation that have been created for the Good Eats. This time it's a look at crackers, which have a surprisingly interesting story to tell! Animated by Biscardi in 720p HD, the one minute animation will appear in an upcoming episode in Winter 2008.

Tools used: Photoshop, After Effects, Canon 30D camera, Crackers.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Oct 7, 2008 at 2:54:40 amComments (2) after effects, hd, entertainment, adobe, animation, canon

Creating BluRays on a budget - Part 2 (DoStudio)

Well, we've got our HP workstation up and running with DoStudio's Trial Version now installed.  The Trial version is the complete application with only the commercial replication features turned off.

First impressions are this thing is definitely NOT DVD Studio Pro or Encore.  This is a very serious tool along the lines of Apple's Color compared to the 3 Way Color Correction filter in Final Cut Pro.  There is a learning curve as a lot of programming is manually done rather than simple drag and drop type of operations.   This feels more like a professional authoring tool and less like a toy.  Don't get me wrong, I love DVDSP and it's simple drag and drop functionality, but it's nice to essentially have almost endless possibilities open to us and forcing us to actually learn what we're doing.  Anybody can drag and drop, but it's nice to be able to get your "hands dirty" and go under the hood to see how to really operate authoring software.

In just one day, we've been able to get a nice main menu and chapter selection pop-up menu already underway.  A little snag on the pop-up where we can get it to pop-up but it's not going to the various chapters like we programmed.  NetBlender's support has been great to work with so far and we've uploaded the project file for them to poke around and see where we went wrong.  I'm sure it's operator error as we've been using the software all of about 6 hours.

One big thing that is missing as of right now is an "Undo."   This is reminiscent of Final Touch before Apple purchased it and turned in to Color.  Final Touch did not have any sort of Undo so you had to be very careful of what you were doing.  NetBlender tells me that Undo is a feature that will be added on this fall with an update and we're already looking forward to it!  :-)

The big adjustment is that we have to essentially "forget" the DVD mentality.  There are so many different possibilities in authoring BluRay that you have to design the menus and even the overall flow differently.   Still wrapping our heads around this, but using this software definitely calls for more planning and thought than just hurry up and get it done.

More soon! 


Posted by: walter biscardi on Sep 17, 2008 at 3:35:09 am dvd, hd, adobe, final cut pro, bluray, hd dvd, indie film

Creating Commercially Replicatable BluRays on a budget - Step 1

So many of you have read of our failings with Adobe Encore trying to create BluRay discs.  Today we start a new chapter in BluRay authoring by transferring all our needs to NetBlender's "DoStudio."  

NetBlender has instituted a really neat month to month licensing option that's approx. $250 per month to use the software.  This is truly a month to month deal.  So I can activate it for September for $250 and then sign up again in December.  There's no extra fees, nothing.   They have several plans for 6 months, 12 months or you can outright purchase the software if you want.   But in my case, we plan to produce maybe 10 BluRays all of 2009.   Probably in batches of 3 or 4, so I might spend $1,000 total next year in the licensing fees, which is significantly less than $8,000 for the permanent license.  So to start out, I can just go $250 per month which is easily charged back to the client per job.

The only caveat to this software is that it requires a Window machine, and we're a full blown Mac shop here.  So I did what I swore I would never do..... purchased an HP Workstation loaded with Vista.  Of course, the sad thing for me is this is a fully loaded workstation for less than $1,700 and I know that if I created a fully loaded Mac Pro it'd be around $5,000 or more.  So that's one good thing, I guess!  

One really neat little gadget I added on is a 160GB "pocket drive" that slips into the bottom of the HP machine.  We'll use this to transfer the large MPEG-2 files and graphics files from our Macs to the HP.  Neat idea to essentially put a portable drive that slips in like a USB stick. 

So that's Step 1 - get an HP Workstation!   I went by NetBlender's recommendations and picked up the following machine:

HP Pavilion Slimline s3500t PC- Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium with Service Pack 1 (32-bit)- Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Quad processor Q9300- 3GB DDR2-800MHz dual channel SDRAM (1x2048,1x1024)- 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 9500GS, DVI-I, HDMI, VGA adapter- 1TB 7200 rpm SATA 3Gb/s hard drive- 802.11 a/b/g/n Wireless LAN card- Blu-ray DVD writer/player & Lightscribe SuperMulti DVD burner- 15-in-1 memory card reader, 2 USB, headphone port- No TV Tuner w/remote control- None (Integrated 5.1 capable sound w/ front audio ports)- Microsoft(R) Works 9.0- No additional security software- HP keyboard and HP optical mouse- 160 GB 5400rpm HP Pocket Media Drive

- HP Home & Home Office Store in-box envelope 

I'll give you folks regular updates as we move forward with this new BluRay authoring tool! 

Posted by: walter biscardi on Aug 25, 2008 at 4:33:18 pm dvd, hd, apple, adobe, final cut pro, bluray, hd dvd, indie film

Adobe Encore Button Routing still not correct for BluRay

7 months into our BluRay authoring experience with Adobe Encore and button routing still does not work correctly in the BluRay mode.  We're trying to create a very simple Chapter Selection menu, but no matter what we do, the last button in the menu is always auto selected when you choose the menu and when you want to return to the Chapter Menu, you can't, you always go back to the Main Menu.

We notified the head of the Encore team of this issue on May 28th and also notified him that we had a July 1st deadline for 5 retail BluRay titles.   They were supposed to download the files that day and get to work on it.   Then June 20 we were asked to upload the files again so they could get to work on it.

To date we have no solutions and essentially had to scrap the Chapter Menu on the titles.  Just a word of warning to anyone who wants to plunk down money for Encore CS3.  DVD authoring is fine, but if you intend to do BluRay discs, be prepared to make major concessions to the failings of this software. 

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jul 12, 2008 at 4:38:22 pmComments (10) dvd, adobe, bluray, hd dvd

Adobe Encore Flash Build does not work on the Mac

Well we thought we had things starting to go well with Encore after we figured out that the buttons would turn into blobs and figured out a workaround, but alas, more things just don't work.

One of the supposed really cool things about Encore is the ability to build your entire DVD in Flash. This allows you to upload a working version of the DVD in a flash based format for a client review. Well, we've tried this multiple times on both our Mac Pro Quad 3.0 and our new Octo Core 3.2 and all Encore does is build maybe 10% of the project and then it simply hangs. Really disappointing.

Supposedly this issue has to do with Leopard and the latest Quicktime, but the Mac Pro Quad 3.0 is currently running Tiger and it doesn't work there either.

Also, we've discovered that Encore CS3 is incredibly unstable on the new Octo Core 3.2 as well. Crashing at least every 10 minutes if not more.

Posted by: walter biscardi on May 15, 2008 at 4:12:57 pmComments (2) dvd, adobe, bluray, hd dvd

Encore buttons turn into blobs

Looking for a little help here from folks familiar with Encore. Creating a custom menu in Photoshop using one of the stock Encore Menus as a template. Got nice looking icons in the Photoshop file, but they turn into blobs when they get into Encore. See below.

So here's how the menu appears in Photoshop. Notice the icon next to "Original Songs for Projects" is a nice bow and arrow icon and you can see the file naming structure to the right is correct from Encore.

So now look at the button as it appears in the Preview Mode in Encore next to "Original Songs for Artists." It's just a red blob. And yes, it also appears this way on a burned DVD.

So anyone have any thoughts on why my icon turns into a blob?

Posted by: walter biscardi on May 8, 2008 at 3:20:58 pmComments (8) dvd, adobe, bluray, hd dvd

I hate Adobe Activation

There, I said it. I hate Adobe's Activation procedure. Yes, I understand you have to protect your software from all the complete morons and low-lifes who can't pony up the money to purchase software legitimately, but geez, do you have to make this procedure so asinine that it affects legitimate purchases?

Three weeks ago I installed Apple OS 10.5 on a fresh hard drive on my editing workstation. A day later I installed my copy of the Production Premium Package CS3 to do some After Effects work. The Activation screen obviously pops up, I tell it to go ahead, but it fails. Fine, I'll Activate it later.

Two weeks ago I use After Effects and the Activation warning pops up again, again it fails to automatically activate on the internet. So I go ahead and do the Phone Activation. No problem, it gives me the activation code and I get the "Thank you for Activating the software" and I move on.

Yesterday, I launch Photoshop for the first time and I get the Activation request AGAIN. Ok, now I'm confused. Activiation only has to happen once across the entire suite, just like the last time I did it on my OS 10.4 (Tiger) drive. But what the heck, if it wants to activate again, what the hell.

Again, the automated activation fails. This time the phone activation also fails and instructs me to call an 800 number. I call that 800 number. This is where the fun really starts.

After 30 minutes of getting my serial number, putting me on hold multiple times, asking me a bunch of questions, putting me on hold again, asking a few more questions, putting me on hold again, I'm told that my serial number is invalid.

"Excuse me?"

"Your serial number is invalid."

I'm looking at the serial number on the screen and the serial number on the box of Adobe Premium Production Bundle CS3. They match. It's the serial number that Adobe put on the sticker and it's the serial number I've been using since July of 2007. But now it's invalid.

"Um, could you tell me how that number is suddenly invalid because it has been a valid number for almost a year and it's the number that's printed on the sticker on the box."

"You have activated it twice, now the serial number is invalid."

For those of you following along so far, you'll recall that I successfully activated the software last week, there was no reason for Photoshop to ask for a third activation. But I digress.

"Well, I have the box right here and I have my receipt, this is a valid copy of CS3, what do we do now?"

"Please hold while I make a phone call."

10 minutes later (yep, I'm watching the clock like a hawk now because my blood pressure has started to rise.)

"Do you have the proof of purchase?"

"Yes, it's right here in my hands."

"Well then, you'll have to fax that to us so we can issue you a new serial number, you can only activate your copy of the software 2 times."

What?!? I paid $1,200 for software and I'm only allowed to activate it two times and then my serial number will magically become invalid?

"Ok, once I fax it to you, what happens?" "We will issue you a new serial number in 48 hours after we verify the purchase."

48 hours AFTER they verify my purchase which should be quite easy to do considering I have the original discs sitting right here in my hands. Now the Adobe grace period will run out in a few days so if they can't verify my purchase right away, After Effects will stop working right in the middle of a project. You know, that same After Effects I purchased in July 2007 that Activated perfectly fine two weeks ago on this very same computer in this very same operating system? The one that had a valid serial number two weeks ago but now that serial number has suddenly poofed into a pumpkin never to be used again.

I send the fax. "Busy / No Response" I send the fax again. "Busy / No Response" I send the fax 20 more times over the past two days. "Busy / No Response."

I call Adobe Tech Support again today. "I can't get your fax machine to pick up. Is it working?" "Please hold while I make a phone call."

5 minute later "Just keep trying the fax it will pick up eventually."

Well gee, Thanks Adobe! I'll just keep trying to fax a proof of purchase that I should not have to fax to you at all. It's because of a failure in your Activation procedure that I'm sending anything and wondering if I'll get that new magical Serial Number that will make the world right again. Because if not, well than After Effects just stops working right in the middle of that new show open I'll be creating this week, but what the heck, it's only a deadline.

And by the way, make sure there is absolutely NOTHING your Tech Support guys can do on the phone, make sure I have to fax something in to prove that I own the copy of CS3 that I activated AND registered giving you all the information about me and the company just so you could verify that information in the future.  Make sure I have to do something like fax information to a fax machine that only picks up between 1:30 and 1:45 in the morning and only on a Tuesday. 

So I repeat. I hate Adobe's Activation procedure. There is absolutely no reason that legitimate owners should ever be stopped from activating their software for any reason whatsoever. Particularly since Apple's OS can get so good at corrupting itself that a complete erase and install is sometimes in order.

Speaking of Apple, Adobe could learn a lot from Apple's Tech support personnel. For one thing, Adobe, for the folks calling from the U.S., please please please get Tech Support Agents who can speak English fluently. I honestly don't care what country they are in, I just don't want to spend half of the 1 hour conversation asking "What was that again?" "Excuse me?" "I don't understand, can you repeat that?"  

When I call Apple, I usually getting incredibly friendly folks from Canada and we have very pleasant conversations. I love the way the say "aboot" instead of "about." But at least I can understand them and they are extremely friendly and cordial on the phone.

Both times I called Adobe, I had a very hard time understanding what these folks were saying and that just adds to the level of frustration.  Trust me, there's a lot of people here in the U.S. I would NOT want answering the phones either because I can't understand them.  But when you're in the position of talking to people, especially about technical issues, we need to be able to clearly understand them.

Adobe needs to protect their software, but they need to do it in such a way that does not hinder legitimate owners. And they need to better train their Tech Support phone personnel to speak clearly and fluently in the native language of whomever is calling.

If nothing else, this escapade has shown me that I really do need to dig deeper into the Apple Motion manuals to figure out how I can move more of my workflow to that software. I've never had any sort of serial number issue there no matter how many times I've had to reinstall the software.

Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 12, 2008 at 3:23:22 pmComments (18) photoshop, after effects, premiere pro, adobe

Aharon Rabinowitz on NPR!

I've found out that our very own Aharon Rabinowitz is now doing occassional Technology reports for NPR! How exciting is that?! He's done one report and hopefully this will lead to many more. As someone who has gained a LOT of knowledge from this guy with all his After Effects tutorials and training, I want to congratulate him on this latest achievement. Hopefully this is just the first of many reports we can expect to hear from Aharon.

Congratulations buddy!!!

For those who haven't heard his first report yet,


Posted by: walter biscardi on Feb 5, 2008 at 9:38:50 am apple, technology, adobe

DiscMakers Medley a so-so DVD Replicator / printer

For those of you who followed my blog about the issues with the Primera Bravo II DVD Replicator printer, you know that I purchased a DiscMakers Medley unit to replace it.

Well, while DiscMakers claimed the print quality of this unit would be equal to the Bravo II, in reality it isn't. This is disappointing because they both feature the same printing unit from Lexmark. The difference appears to be in the Bravo II drivers as there are many more options available to the user to achieve incredibly sharp text and good solid colors. What was printed as a solid color on the Bravo II is a mottled mess on the Medley as it is just not capable of printing a very tight dot pattern, even at the 4800dpi print setting. And this is using the exact same 300dpi TIF image and exact same DVD stock that was originally printed on the Bravo II so we're comparing apples to apples here.

On the upside, the Medley does reproduce the correct colors on the disc from the original file with minimal tweaking. That was a major issue with the Bravo II as we would have to throw the colors and shading out of whack in order to get acceptable color results on the Bravo II.

As a straight replicator, the Medley performs as expected, absolutely no issues there. But if you are looking for a very high print quality, this definitely would not be your unit. Print quality is decent, but not something you would want to present to demanding clients. 

Posted by: walter biscardi on Jan 29, 2008 at 5:21:25 amComments (2) editing, dvd, apple, technology, adobe, final cut pro, bluray, hd dvd

Quicktime Player now reads Timecode

As Chi-Ho Lee noted on the Final Cut Pro forum today, Quicktime 7.1.6 has been released in anticipation of Final Cut Studio 2 and you can now read timecode in the Quicktime Player. Wow! Finally! Not sure why it took so long, but here's the proof.

If you click on the running time you now get a drop down box which gives you three choices of the Standard Running Time, Timecode and Frame Number.

Here's the clip now showing the original timecode off the camera tape. VERY cool and now anyone with Quicktime Player can accurately see timecodes without the need to burn in TC windows. Thank you Apple!

Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.



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