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NAB 2013: On the Post Production Trail - Wrap Up

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CreativeCOW presents NAB 2013: On the Post Production Trail - Wrap Up -- Adobe SpeedGrade Editorial


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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.

SpeedGrade

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!

Baselight

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.

Final Thoughts

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.




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