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Peter Wiggins reports from IBC 2004

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CreativeCOW presents Peter Wiggins reports from IBC 2004 -- IBC Expo Review


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In this report, I thought I'd start off Part Two of my IBC overview with my picks for the best products that I saw while at this year's IBC. That said, I'd like to stress that this article is written from a nonlinear editor's point of view. There were a lot of amazing stands with technology that not only do I not understand, but will also never use. The Discreet stand was always full but their kit is way beyond the stretch of my bank account. I also cannot see myself ever buying a Techocrane or needing to rent a transponder on a satellite, but if I did, IBC was the place to do a deal.


Best New Software
http://www.thefoundry.co.uk
Without a doubt, this award has to go to
The Foundry's Furnace 2 set of plug-ins. The day before the show opened, during set-up, Peter Warner from Apple said "Take a look at this, it's really cool." He then used the Edge Matte plug-in to auto-roto around a chap's head in seconds within Shake. Now if you've ever set foot on Planet Rotoscope, you'll know it's a fairly inhospitable and unforgiving place. Its also slow and dull, but a very necessary stage in compositing.

Edge Matte automatically draws a roto around an object and you don't even have to click on the exact edge either!

Take a look at this picture, the roto has snapped to the exact edge of my girlfriend skiing. A bit hard to make out I know, because it is exactly round the edge!



Taking a close look shows how only a few points can lead to the generation of quite a complex outline, here being shown in the purple line along the edge of the coat.
Click on the graphics above to view larger image


Here's the result, a complicated matte used to extract an object. I would do the skis and poles with another node for flexibility.


Edge Matte comes as part of the Furnace 2 package and contains the excellent Kronos retimer and other tools for generating a clean plate, wire removal and picture repair. A floating licence will cost $6000; node locked will be $4,000. However you can purchase the plug-ins separately for $1,000 each, with the exception of Kronos, which will be $2,000. If you are a regular user of Shake, I'm sure you're on the phone to the Foundry already as this is a truly amazing timesaver. I heard they were having a competition on the Foundry stand to see who could roto a picture with the least number of points -- who said rotoscoping wasn't fun!



Best T-shirt Slogan
1st place: Anonymous woman with "Talk Nerdy To Me!"
2nd place: Anyone on the GV set-up day with "JAFTS" written on the sleeve.



Best New Hardware
www.blackmagic-design.com/


I was going to say that Grant Petty, from Blackmagic Design, wins hands down with the new Multibridge, but that would just be daft with the above photo.

What is the Multibridge? It is an analogue converter/breakout box that works in SD and HD. I'll let you check out all the extensive I/O possibilities on Grant's website, but a few of the features were interesting to my specific setup.

The Multibridge doesn't need a firewire or multicore cable to it, just a standard SDI BNC. This means you can situate this breakout box up to 300 feet away from your capture card. It also means no frame latency. My Decklink card is all digital, so when a client asks for a VHS (groan) there is always some rummaging around on the floor looking for cables. Not only does the Multibridge have all the professional I/O you would expect, it also has a consumer analogue and composite out. So, in theory, you could have a digital I/O path, an analogue I/O path and consumer I/O connected permanently. The box also has a 64MB buffer on the input, so capture from unstable sources such as a VHS (groan again) is possible.

There are two versions available, one that will convert/pass through all the major HD formats and another that is SD only. Both are adjustable by plugging into the USB 2.0 connection on the front panel. The price is $1,995 and $1,495 for the SD version. Much to my chagrin, you get a free Decklink Pro card with the Multibridge, so EBay here I come!

Also on the stand was the Workgroup Videohub. An HD/SD router that allows multiple systems to have direct HD/SD access to each other. You could use this to share a deck over multi users or just use it as an inexpensive router; again everything is controlled by a computer plugged into the USB connection. There was certainly a buzz around Blackmagic, the stand was always full and Grant was always in deep conversation every time I walked past. (It was on the way to the coffee stand!)



AJA www.aja.com were showing all their Io boxes at the show. I'm certainly looking at an Io LD to do uncompressed work on the road with my powerbook. The main item on display though was the much-anticipated Kona2 card. I spent quite a bit of time with Ted Schilowitz, the Product Manager and I am in the process of writing a article about my time spent talking to him and looking at the products. I will put in a quick mention though that the offer of upgrades from Kona1, Kona HD and Io's expires on the 1st of October 2004 -- check their website for up to date details and prices.



Avid www.avid.com Avid showed off their boxed set of products at the "Share The Passion, Share The Experience" evening on the Sunday. I didn't attend, but the software bundle I saw on their stand looked fairly comprehensive though and if you prefer Avid over other NLE's, this should be value for the money.


Best Smile on a Stand (and some great drives to boot)
www.hugesystems.com


A runaway winner by Huge, although the prize is shared between Jerry Palace on the left and Robert Leong on the right.

These guys have a lot to be proud of, their drives are very well respected by other manufacturers and users alike. Near the end of the year, the U320 2.5 TB drive will be available with fibre channel 4 as opposed to SCSI. This means more than one user will be able to access the media and share projects using Xsan & a switch. A cheaper and viable alternative to Xserve RAID.


Medea came second showing off the G-RAID (http://www.medea.com/) They are saying 2 streams of 8 bit uncompressed, 7 DV streams or 2 streams of 10 bit SD if you keep the drive down to 85% capacity. (One for a user test I think)

Their FCRX2 looked attractive as it had dual fibre channel, but my early enthusiasm for low cost shared storage evaporated when I was told you still need a fibre channel switch. 2TB for under $9,000 still looks like a bargain though.

Somebody needs to bring out a cheap FC switch to appeal to the owners of 2/3 seat systems.


Most Conspicuous Absence
www.auroravideosys.com

Well, I couldn't find them. They weren't in the list of exhibitors and nothing on their website mentions IBC. Maybe they got detained at the airport when they said they had a 'bagfull of pipes' to show in Amsterdam. Doesn't say much for their commitment to European users!

Second place goes to Pinnacle's Cinewave. I had to ask at the Pinnacle desk if somebody could give me some information on the board. The kind woman on the 'help desk' pointed at the Product Manager for Cinewave, but after waiting for two lots of 10 minutes to speak to him, I gave up. I think they were a lot keener in pushing their own nonlinear software packages than supplying capture cards to individuals.

Reading their newsletter, it was interesting to find out that The West Yorkshire Police in the UK have bought five Liquid NLEs, so be careful if you are speeding up the M1 as they don't like FAST editors! (Sorry)



Best Levitating 17 inch Powerbook
www.automaticduck.com



I was interested to catch up with Wes Plate from Automatic Duck, as I'd read that he is now offering the ability to convert Motion projects to AE. The suggested workflow would be using Motion in front of a client for speed and then importing the 'approved' version into After Effects for finishing. The Motion import is a feature of Pro Import AE that sells for $495.

Those people who are sitting too close to their computer screen can probably notice that there are two windows on Wes's powerbook open. The one on the right is one of the standard Apple demos of Motion and the one on the left is the project imported into AE. There are a few wrinkles though! Particles will not transfer; these will have to be rendered out with an alpha channel. Also behaviours have to be converted into keyframes and although text gets transferred, the style does not.

Still I'm sure many AE users will save time by taking advantage of importing from Motion -- I just wish I could do the same with Shake!

Automatic Duck were in the "Plug-in Pavilion" which although it sounds rather grand, was actually just a small area near to Adobe. I can completely understand the logical place for AE plug-in designers would be next to Adobe, however I would have liked to have seen them in hall 7 where most of the computer editing solutions were. Not up and over the bridge in another hall.

I'll leave describing Adobe to my colleague Barend who is working on his report, but two things I noticed whilst walking past their stand: The first is how ugly the GUI of Premiere looks, so ugly in fact, they don't put any screen grabs on their information sheet. The second was the fact that their demo system was using the new AJA Zena card.



Most Interesting Show of New Technology
www.nvidia.com

Well, this could have been the biggest disappointment section as I was determined to leave the show with an Nvidia 6800, beg borrow or steal. What better place to 'acquire' a card than the Nvidia stand itself -- wrong.

Nvidia do not make the 6800, they make the chips and then licence the card design to more than 20 manufacturers. The card is a 'gaming' card and not one of the 'pro' cards that they were exhibiting there. A 'pro' card by definition is a card that they guarantee will not change in design or manufacture for 2 years, so if you have multiple workstations, the output will be identical on each.

So, somewhat dejected, I was just about to leave when Matt Fairman from Nvidia said, "You do know you can stack cards" -- WHAT??? "Yes you can stack card -- they piggy back and the board sees the two cards as just one unit, take a look." And there they were, sitting in a PC case.


Take note of the little jumper in between the boards that link the two Quadro
cards together. Maybe a glimpse of things to come!


Nvidia were running Gelato (http://film.nvidia.com/page/gelato.html) on this PC. This is a 3D renderer that uses the GPU rather than the CPU. I'd like to be clever here and understand the concept of having a render farm attached to the back plate of your computer, but I won't. What was clever was a split screen output from the two cards that moved up and down depending on that half's scene complexity.


Tektronix get second place with their video measurement plug-in for Avid, launched at NAB, but on show for the first time in Europe.
http://www.tek.com/site/ps/0,,25-17236-INTRO_EN,00.html

The built in waveforms on most non-linear editors are close to useless, this plug-in brings accurate monitoring of levels for anybody with a Media Composer Adrenaline, Media Composer, Symphony, or Xpress Pro.



Click on graphic above to see larger image.


Just take a look at that detail. For somebody who is used to staring at a 601 for the best part of a day, this is a revelation. If you are into serious colour correction, this is the tool for you. Preset alarms, onscreen alarms and everything you would expect from Tek, all for just $1,250. My only whinge is that it's not available for FCP -- Imagine a scalable version that would do all the HD flavours!

You have my vote if anybody wants to start a campaign to get this running on a Mac.


Samsung come a close third http://www.samsung.com/Products/DigitalSetTopBox

Samsung were showing "Follow-me TV" a central hard disk box 'served' various screens around a house. You can start watching a movie in the lounge, get tired, pause the film, then go to the bedroom and pickup watching where you left off.

Although connections are via coax or Home PNA, it makes you think of the possible direction iTunes and Airport Express might take, should they move into video streaming. Works with music and it can also do a slideshow of your digital photos too. Let me know Samsung if you require any Beta testers.


Summary
This year was my 8th IBC and over the years there have been many changes. The show is now very software orientated and must go into the Guinness Book of Records for the most plasma screens collected in one place. It is therefore very hard to just walk by a stand and discover a revolutionary new product; you have to do a bit of digging.


Overall Impressions?
Final Cut is now a serious tool that broadcasters see as a replacement for their now aging standalone systems like Avid and others. Apple has to crack the Unity market with Xsan though. Expect more third parties to be offering FCP as a high-end editing solution. One year, somebody counted over 130 different NLEs on show. Now I think the battle is going to come down to about five.

The cost of editing HD and SD has plummeted to such a low entry point that broadcasters are now not really planning yearly 'big budget' upgrades. They can buy and upgrade their kit as and when they need it. One UK news company said to me regarding Motion, "It looks great, but if we don't like it, we'll just use the G5 for Photoshop."

XDCAM looks as if it will be the next acquisition format for SD over P2 unless Panasonic manage to dramatically lower the card costs. The new Sony 1080i HD domestic camera looks promising, but to quote Mike Brennan: "Pretty hard to judge indoors."

There are too many HD formats, there has to be some rationalisation. 720p doesn't give us Europeans much advantage over SD, so why don't we just jump straight to 1080?

The opportunity for small companies to write 'niche' software is growing day by day. A company like Apple doesn't want to write a piece of software to interface to another competitor. If I had any programming skills at all, I'd be looking for that killer add-on app that would let me retire early to the South of France.

Now what's the status of my 6800 on the Apple Store?


Peter Wiggins, IBC 2004



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