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Is Digital Studio Ready for Online? New York’s First Edition Editorial Provides a First Look at Softimage’s DS

Twenty-five years ago, we started First Edition Editorial with only twoemployees in a one-room studio in New York City on 45th Street, just off5th Avenue. Today, over 38 employees occupy six floors of an east-sideManhattan townhouse, and perform editing, design, special effects, CGI,Flame work, and graphics.

We attribute a lot of our success to staying on the forefront oftechnology, and believe strongly in the virtues of Beta testing. We choseto Beta test Softimage/DS because, if Softimage delivers as promised-and webelieve they will-this product has the potential to change the waycompanies such as ours think and work.

Softimage/DS could redefine the way we create and edit, allowing us to mix,do digital effects, and composite on one reasonably-priced system. BecauseDS brings an online tool set to a compressed (offline) environment,traditional offline editors can now experiment with tools that they neverhad access to previously. This alone will greatly increase the level ofcreativity we will be able to bring to a project.

We are currently in the second Beta cycle with Softimage|DS. The first Betarelease caused us some frustration and hair pulling. We sent an incredibleamount of feedback and “Please Change This” lists to Softimage. Softimagewas a good sport about it, though, and internalized our concerns.

When we received Beta 2, we saw a tremendous difference. For instance, withBeta 1, we were not unhappy with the time warp effect; it was not intuitiveenough and did not provide the functionality we were expecting. Softimagecompletely redid the time warp effect for Beta 2. We could now do speedvariations more easily and reposition frames to make them fit with theaudio. Also, we saw big changes in the user interface-it became much moreintuitive. The hardware behind Softimage/DS has come a long way, as well.We originally started out on a NeTpower workstation, which was good, butwhen we got the new Intergraph system, a TD-425, with Beta 2, you couldreally feel it all coming together.

We originally started by performing only experimental work on DS-recreatingcommercials, reconforming rough cuts, a few benchmarks-but we have sincemoved on to cutting an entire video from scratch.

We’re most impressed with the integration and open environment of DS. Anintegrated toolset and common UI allow us to switch from editing to paintto compositing, giving us a lot of freedom for creativity. If an operatoris familiar with other software, we can easily install it on the samesystem. For example, if an operator has 3-D capabilities, we couldeventually install Softimage 3D. But at the same time, this createsadditional challenges.

Because of the many options with DS, an editor or operator will really haveto think about how to approach a project. They will no longer bespecialized in editing, compositing, or audio-they’ll be able to do theproject or work with an associate who is able to fill in for the areas withwhich they are unfamiliar.

We do a lot of audio work at First Edition, so we were really pleased tosee that DS has simplified even the most complicated jobs. The audio suiteis very cool and incredibly easy to use. You can go to animation mode andquickly pan or fade or mix. Press another button and an animation graphcomes up. Over time, every single frame is given a point on the graph thatthe user can just click and go to. Adding a sound effect or moving audio isvery fast. In a linear suite you would lose a lot of time.

The compositing in DS has proved to be another plus. During a project weworked on recently, we needed to revise a composited scene from our CGIdepartment. Both our Flame and Editbox suites were busy, so we loaded thematerial into DS. The fluid, interactive compositing on the timeline workedvery well. In the DS architecture, it never feels as though you’re changinga tool set for another when you change suites. Slipping background elementsand color-correcting foreground elements is completed right from theimmediate tool set, right on the time-line.

We really liked the way it works, and once we feel we’re getting theprocessing power we will really push it to the limits. It has been veryexciting to watch this product grow and feel part of the team making it allcome together. Its clear that with Softimage/DS the barriers between onlineand offline editing will quickly disappear.

DS will be taking the postproduction process one step further by offeringan integrated set of platform-independent tools that bridge the traditionalgap between offline and finishing, between editing and compositing, andwill redefine the way people work together. This will eventually allowproduction artists full control over all aspects of their jobs-providing anenvironment for their creativity to flourish. If Softimage continues todeliver as the Beta of DS indicates, we believe it will have a substantialimpact on the industry.

Bobby Smalheiser is president of First Edition Editorial; Scott Holmgren ischief engineer; and Royce Graham is an editor. Located in MidtownManhattan, First Edition can be reached at (212) 838-3044