FilmLight at IBC 2012
FilmLight (IBC Stand 7.F31) is coming to Amsterdam with new technology shown for the first time in Europe. The company will demonstrate its FLIP real-time image processor, Baselight TRANSFER real-time 4K dailies processing system; Baselight Editions; Baselight 4.3, the latest version with new features; BLG (Baselight Grade, an open EXR file format); and FLUX, an expandable 80TB streaming media server.
"There is a long-standing tradition that the industry previews new technology at NAB and by the time IBC arrives, it's turned into a real product," says FilmLight co-founder/director Wolfgang Lempp. "We're following this tradition to some degree, but we're also showing some new things."
FilmLight's Baselight Edition for Avid (Mac), first shown at NAB 2012, is expected to be a shipping product in September. "There has been a lot of work going into that product over the last four months," says Lempp. "At NAB there were a number of things that weren't quite ready. Now, we have a GPU renderer built into it so it's all real-time performance. We've also included our tracker that we showed last year in the main Baselight system. There is nothing like it within Media Composer so we're very excited about that."
Additional user-interface improvements are also now available in the Baselight Avid version and other features that "make it a more complete application," says Lempp. "You can run a playback of a Baselight grade within the plug-in itself in the Avid," he says. "It's a very complex feature set and we have had a good response from the beta." The Baselight for Avid (Mac) has been the subject of an invitation-only beta.
You can run a playback of a Baselight grade within the plug-in itself in the Avid. Click image for larger view.
Also shown at NAB was the FLIP streaming image processor, which will be shown at IBC. "It's Baselight in a single box to be used on set, in line with the camera, so you can have a preview from the camera with all the complex grades applied," Lempp explains. "You can use it on set for previewing a particular look you want." At NAB, the response from cinematographers, production companies and post-production customers to FLIP was "phenomenal." At NAB, FLIP was shown with a Baselight Grade File, that enables the user to take a grade designed in the Baselight grading suite (or on the Avid Media Composer using the plug-in), load it into the FLIP processor on set and use it as a file to preview footage. "That interaction between various grading tools, whether it's on-set, during editorial or finishing, smooth the communication of metadata," he says. "That's very much at the heart of what we've been working towards. And it's now implemented and working. We've added a lot of features that weren't there originally and there'll be further features to come."
Another product previewed at NAB is FLUX, a metadata management system for large-scale visual media such as post-production or visual effects. "FLUX uses a clever mechanism to extract all the metadata and make it instantly available for sophisticated searches for conform," says Lempp. "The technology demo has been transformed into a product we call the FLUX Store, which is like an extension to the Baselight systems managed storage but not just another NAS box." FLUX Store runs as fast as the network, says Lempp, who reports that FilmLight will demonstrate the transfer of 4K material over the network from FLUX into the Baselight system "It's a very scalable way of having almost unlimited storage connected in the post environment, sharing not just between Baselight systems but between other workstations and application in that environment."
Lempp believes that this kind of storage solution is on its way to becoming a viable alternative to central storage area networks. "It gets expensive to expand those systems, and this is a very economical alternative," he says. "The main advantage is the ease with which you can manage petabytes of data. We think this is particularly relevant today, with the advent of stereo 3D and high-frame rate cinema."
FilmLight is also introducing software that will allow users to freely configure the programmable Blackboard 2. "All the keys have a soft label," he says. "What we did originally was introduce Blackboard 2 with a fixed layout compatible with Blackboard 1. Now, you can configure Blackboard 2 any way you want, with any labels or layout desired. Each colorist can have his or her favorite way of working with it, and you can switch between different set-ups for different colorists."
What can we expect later in the year? "We have a Baselight Editions version for Nuke that will be released after the Avid Media Composer Windows version is released later in the year," he says. "That is a program of tight integration with Nuke and other Foundry products that we are going to talk about at IBC that will be very exciting for the VFX community. Compositing and grading is something that is as important if not more important than the attachment between editing and grading. To create a good composite without exactly being able to see the final look is very wasteful. We will put in all the metadata and Baselight support within Nuke to make it a very straightforward process."
The new tools and tweaks from FilmLight reflect a trend in the industry that Lempp pinpoints. "What we see is that the productivity of your tools has become essential," he says. "Because workflows change all the time, it's a constant battle. We feel if we integrate well between the major professional tools and make that interchange of data between those tools easy and straightforward, it helps to speed up the process and to make that process more economical."
FilmLight is on to something. The focus in post-production especially over the last several years has been on workflow and the fact that each one is unique, or a 'snowflake'. That has made it incumbent on companies that produce the tools to put more effort than ever into making sure that their hardware and software plays well with others. Creating the tools that fit within an ever-increasing number of workflows is the ultimate challenge, or what Lempp calls a constant battle. In that battle, the tools that offer the most flexibility vis-a-vis configuration are the ones that help post houses and VFX facilities win the battle.