Imagine this: Your client is sitting in their office, on the road or elsewhere, and you are also sitting in your office, at home, on the road, wherever. Both of you are viewing the same video in perfect sync - shuttle, jog, pause - and you're both looking at the same frame. How nice would that be? syncVUE goes well beyond being merely a video player.
Connecting Through Skype
Before starting with syncVUE, you must first set up a Skype.com account. Skype is a free voiceover- IP / live chat tool. Your Skype account name will be your license name with syncVUE, so you will need this information when you register your syncVUE license.
Licensing & Transfers
One of the clever features brought to syncVUE is the ability to extend and retract licenses. So instead of asking your client to purchase a license to use this tool, or purchasing a lot of licenses for a lot of clients, you can purchase a few yourself and extend them to clients as necessary.
In my case, I've purchased three licenses. One is permanently assigned to me, tied to my personal Skype ID. I also have two others, bcmclient1 and bcmclient2, that I can assign and move based on an end date I have assigned each license. At any time, I can clear out a license and assign it to someone else, by rotating the Skype name to the correct client at the time of a scheduled review. So all my client has to do is download the syncVUE player and log in.
Since the syncVUE license is tied to your Skype account, you can install syncVUE on as many computers as you see fit. I have it on my G5, Powerbook and Mac Mini so I can use whichever computer is most convenient. Windows users, don't worry about me referring to Apple products, as syncVUE works just as easily with Windows.
Distributing Your Video File
First, everyone must download the same Quicktime file. The video file actually plays off the user's own computer, with syncVUE providing synchronization. syncVUE works with any Quicktime format, so the choice of codec, frame rate and size is up to you. Just keep in mind the amount of time it will take to get your file to the client. Reviewing an uncompressed 10bit HD file in perfect sync would be cool, but do you have a week to upload it?
Intelligent Gadgets syncVUE
Viewing Multiple Files
You can review multiple videos in a single syncVUE session. Just place the videos into a folder and have your client do the same. How many? As many as you want. Now go into the syncVUE Preferences and use the Browse button to find your video folder. Remember to tell your client to do the same thing.
As you send new files to your client, have them also put them into their local folder which is using the same hierarchal structure and naming as your local folders. If you and your client keep the media files in the same folder structure using the same names, you can review multiple video files with your client as easily as viewing raw clips in your editing system.
After you set up licenses and assign them to Skype accounts that you can move and reassign as necessary, you then invite these users to participate in sessions.
The syncVUE Interface
syncVUE's interface is simple and straightforward. It uses the same basic VTR controls that users are accustomed to: play, pause, stop, backward. It also has a volume control and time display. A side drawer contains the participants. There is also space for Locators and Notes.
Inviting the client, or clients, to join the review session is quite easy. Once you add your client to your Contacts list in Skype, syncVUE refers to this list and then sends a note to your client. I've actually gone ahead and created some client accounts so they don't even have to create a Skype account if they don't want to.
You can have voice conversations and if your computers and connections are fast enough, it works very well. Generally, you only want one person to control video playback but you can actually go into a "free for all" mode where everybody has control of playback - though that will cause issues if you both hit something at the same time.
Look Ma! No Hands!
Loading video is easy once you have the Asset Folder set in your Preferences. Once you select a Quicktime file from within your Assets Folder, this will not only load up the file on your system, but also on your client's computer at the same frame. This is usually the first "Wow!" moment for clients. "Hey the video just popped up on my screen. Cool!"
The name of the file appears in the upper right of the player window so you can verify that you're both watching the correct video. The timecode display also shows, though you can switch that to a regular Counter if you'd like. Total runtime for the file is displayed next to the timecode along with elapsed time.
The syncVUE interface is intuitive and uncluttered.
As you play the video, either viewer - you or the client - can place Locators in the timeline by simply hitting the Tab key. You can add a note to each locator as you go along, or come back and add the notes after you're done.
In the image below, you can see the locators on the timeline and if you look at the Locators window to the left, you can see who added what. This is great because I may see something technical in the video, so I'll just place a locator for one reason, while the client may see something related to the content to review. In the Notes window you can see the note I added to verify the shot used.
Locators are found on the timeline beneath the image window. Notes can be assigned to each Locator.
You're free to scrub, rewind, fast-forward, whatever you would normally do when viewing videos and syncVUE will keep all the players synced to the same picture. There might be a slight lag of a few frames during playback depending on file size, computer and connection speed, but whenever playback is stopped, they all stop on the same frame. You collaborate rather than waste time asking "are you looking at the same frame I am?"
Can't seem to set up the time for everyone to get together? Or maybe your deadline is just so tight you can't spare those 20 minutes to stop editing and review the video with the client? No problem, your client can review the video(s) on their own, export their locators and email them to you using the File Menu > Export Locators.
If multiple people must review the same clip, have one person review it, export the Locators to person two, and so on. Then the last person sends you the final export with everybody's notes.
Final Cut Pro editors can bring the locators directly into their projects where they appear as Markers. When you use the FCP Export you're creating an XML file. Now make sure that the same clip your client viewed is on your FCP system. From within Final Cut Pro, go to the File Menu > Import > XML.
You'll get a video clip with the locators converted to Markers. The syncVUE notes are there and it tells you who created the note. Again, this is huge if multiple people are involved in the review process.
This is the most impressive tool I have ever seen for helping creative professionals be more productive. It's not a flashy plug-in or a super computer or a multi-million dollar suite but it is a tool that easily allows for collaboration of people - and that collaboration is often the key to a great project. Developer Michael Buday understands that and now, whether you're across town or across the globe, there is now a simple tool that truly fosters collaboration on a grand scale.
I'm giving this 5 out of 5 Cows, the highest ranking we have. If we had a "Cow of the Year" award, I'd put in my vote for syncVUE.
Walter Biscardi operates Biscardi Creative Media in the Atlanta, Georgia area. He has 13 Emmy™ Awards to his credit and is also the HD editor for the Food Network's popular "Good Eats" show. Walter is a longtime Creative Cow leader and friend who can be found in our FCP, AJA, Apple Color and other forums.
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