NAB 2001 stands out for me a a bit of a sleeper. The non-linear revolution is now an historical fact with the quality issue long removed from under the magnifying glass. The personal computer has firmly usurped the black box hardware of the analogue days. And HDTV production standards are now fairly settled. So there just was no one big wow factor this year.
AVID UNITY & XPRESS DV:
In my observation, two themes did have some dominance on the floor. First was shared storage, networking and digital media asset management. The other prevailing theme was the DV format. This was most evident at the Avid booth where the Unity shared storage system and Avid Xpress DV were drawing huge crowds. In the face of all this market push towards these two products, Media Composer, Symphony and even Avid DS HD were all reduced to just small demo stations in the Avid megabooth..
The Avid Xpress DV was the closest thing to a show stopper for me. For US $1700.00 you can buy the next generation of Xpress software and install it on a notebook computer or even a desktop with a firewire card and edit in the DV codec. Sure everything has to be rendered and it is only 4:1:1, but heck, what a great idea for editing dailies on the road or getting away from the office to work on a scene. The beauty of this over any of the other software editors is that the project will open in any other Avid or can be OMF'd to other finishing systems that support OMF. As an Avid user, this is on my "must have" list and will change the way I work. Right now Xpress DV is only available for Windows 2000 with Mac development delayed until OSX settles out.
APPLE, FINAL CUT PRO & OSX:
OSX fans will also be disappointed to know that Apple's own Final Cut Pro 2.0 will not run on OSX, only OS9.1. Final Cut Pro once again generated a lot of interest with the first major upgrade since it's release. I really like Final Cut. The new version has rid itself of some annoyances and added real time capabilities. (For the whole story, see Phil Hodgetts' review of FCP 2.0 here on the COW.) Now the hardware manufacturers need to play catch up, The most promising non-DV board for real time, the Pinnacle Cinewave still wasn't real time, but is the one to watch with both SD and HD versions available now with rendered FX.. The hardware will do real time, they just have not implemented it yet. On the PC side, it is running under the Targa 3000 banner in real time with Adobe Premiere.
ADOBE PREMIERE 6 & AFTER EFFECTS 5:
Adobe was showing Premiere 6.0 and After Effects 5.0. Both have a lot of new goodies to offer, but Premiere still needs to support more than one timeline per project and import edl lists (and maybe support OMF, or better yet AAF) before I can use it for real serious editing.
AUTOMATIC DUCK: MAKING AVID & A.E. BEST FRIENDS:
A company not on the floor, but with a presence in the Avid booth was Automatic Duck. The CEO and founder, Wes Plate is no stranger in Avid circles. Wes has come up with a product that will change the way I work. "Automatic Composition Import" will convert an Avid sequence into an After Effects composition with all Avid FX and transitions converted into AE equivalents. I always hated having to try to syncronize layers in AE when I could do it much faster in Avid. I usually avoided AE. I was unimpressed with Media 100's export to AE because with only two video tracks in Media 100, it is a horizontal export. Since Avid has vertical power with its multiple video tracks, this really makes sense to set up layers in real or near real time in Avid and then leave the rendering to another CPU running AE.
Fast is company I would like to know more about. This year, they were showing "Ivory," an uncompressed Standard Definition non-linear system. It uses the same FASTstudio interface as "Silver" and the same "Silver" offers an uncompressed option. The whole package takes full advantage of Window NT (2000 on Ivory) and they offer a multi-processor board that renders everything that requires rendering in the background. I am not sure what the point to "Ivory" is. I can say that Fast offers a turnkey solution that works and the editing interface is very comfortable. Does anyone know what happened to Fast "Blue"?
There was lots of talk of realtime DV editing. But a lot of the realtime systems are only realtime in analogue preview, requiring rendering of the final DV output. One exception that is shipping was the Canopus DV Storm. This is very real realtime in DV. Canopus has a serious edge with their codec which I believe is why Avid chose the Canopus single codec card for Xpress DV. All processing stays in YUV. Without a decompression to RGB during rendering, the quality remains high. No degradation. Your interface choices are Storm Edit or Adobe Premiere on Windows. There is also a turnkey solutuion called StormRack &Mac246; a complete Pentium III 1gig workstation ready to go. Now if only they supported Mac and Final Cut Pro.
MATROX DIGISUITE MAX:
Matrox, the hardcore Canadian hardware company impressed me with Matrox Digisuite Max which now touts 3D DVE's and a new multiplayer compositing engine that uses compression free internal processing while supporting DV 25, DV 50 and MPEG2 I-frame editing. There is also real time MPEG2 encoding for DVD and accelerated MPEG 1 encoding. The Max card is an add on to the Digisuite card and can be added at an time if your application will support it.
GADGETS, GIZMOS & WIDGETS:
Without a major show stopper to consume my time in one or two booths, I had time to wander the floor to find some amazing little gizmos, gadgets and necessities that could make my edit day a little bit better.
The most amazing shipping product was the DataVideo VDR-3000 CD recorder that also does VCD's in various formats, including CDDVD which records up to 18 minutes of DVD MPEG2 video on a standard CD! This will play on only the newest DVD players or those made in Taiwan. It will also play on a Windows computer with a small player app also burned onto the disc. This all occurs in real time at the press of the "record" button with video input via YC or optional firewire.
Pioneer's DVD/CD R/RW drive was showing. It is a step up from the Apple SuperDrive (made by Pioneer) in that the DVD's it produces are replicable. Pioneer also had a mockup of a real time DVD recorder showing which records a DVD in real time from a video input. It also generates a very simple menu on the disc.
DVD authoring is no longer the big expensive mystery it once was for me with the low cost Apple DVD Pro authoring software and their top G4 which sports a DVD burner. The same drive can be had in a Compaq workstation for about half the price of the G4. Or so the rumour goes as no one at the Compaq booth could point me to it.
I found a company called Compucable making a variety of neat products like firewire boxes that convert standard ATA drives for DV editing and the Gdock-2. This is a multifunctional USB hub with an expansion bay for a floppy drive or Zip disks, 2 Geo/serial ports, 2 ADB ports and the promise of a Memory-card and Smart card reader in the future. This box has a zero footprint, fitting snugly on the top of any Tupperware G3 or G4.
With all the world on DV, how does one integrate analogue and SDI into the mix? Simple. Promax and Laird Telmedia were showing firewire transcoders that handled all manner of signal conversion. Laird had a variety of single and bi-directional converters. Promax had one with the option of SDI and the unique feature of RS-422 machine control and time code converted to DV control and code.
With a the world ablaze in DV, the old rules are often ignored, yet still apply with regards to technical specifications. While there is no way around the siz missing lines of video in DV, there is no excuse for unmatched, un-colour corrected shots. If you have to render, then render. Every edit suite that is doing the final finish must have a professional and calibrated daily video monitor and a waveform monitor and vectorscope.
Sony has introduced new monitors in the PVM-20L5 and 14L5 that meet the challenge of today and can be upgraded tomorrow via optional input cards. In addition to standard analogue inputs, you can also opt for SDI, IEEE 1394 or HD inputs. With 800 lines resolution and SMPTE-C phosphors, Sony has a winner.
For scopes, the bargain comes from ex-editor Steve Nunney's company in England, Hamlet. Both the LCD SCOPE and the ADEPT (on screen overlay on your program monitor) offer SDI, Component, Composite, YC and DV inputs and measurement with a basic familiar waveform or vector display. No confusing new digital measurement and no excuses for not accurately monitoring your output. These are sensibly priced products that belong in every non-linear edit bay.
These are all products that could be put to work in my studio. There were of course impressive high-end products such as Sony's new non-linear HD system and Orad's amazing camera tracking virtual studio system but they are way out of my market.
But the coolest thing I saw at NAB was a Samsung mobile phone similar to the Samsung 8500 displaying streaming video in colour originating on an Emblaze Systems server.
I can't wait for NAB 2006. Our world is changing rapidly and we need to be ready to meet the new demands of HD, streaming video, DVD and who knows what 5 years out from today. I love NAB. It is for me, what a trip to Disney World is for my two sons.
See you their next year!
-- Dennis Kutchera
EDITOR AT LARGE (TM)
Avid Cowboy and Edit Wrangler
Dennis Kutchera's online work in support of editors worldwide began in the early 1990's and in early 1997, he founded all of The WWUG's (wwug.com) Avid and Discreet editors resources. Today, Dennis is an active and honoured part of the leadership of CreativeCow.net, a user's resource targeted at support services for media professionals. Dennis is an award winning editor whose work for the noted PBS series "Shining Time Station" still airs around much of the world. He has a long career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and today runs Dennis Kutchera Post Production in Halifax, Nova Scotia.