This article has been expandedfor publication on the Web.
by D.W. Leitner
While Thomson won the “wow” factor with its Viper24p HD camera, innovative designs were found at every booth along theway.
Ikegami put its newly developed 2/3-inch, one-megapixel CCDsin its new HDK-720/720p (studio/portable), a native 720/60p HD camerasystem. The design includes direct output from the CCDs, newpower-saving ASICs, and up to 30-bits of internal processing that addeven more control over factors such as gamma correction.
In addition to 720p, the camera also supports 480p and 480i bycombining with the CCU (it has a down-converter/up-converter inside).Ikegami says a high-frequency correction circuit (that operates alongwith RET) substantially improves ease of focusing for the cameraoperator.
JVC smashed price/performance barriers two years ago with itsGY-DV500, an ENG-style camcorder with a full complement of professionalfeatures for under $6000.
At his year’s NAB, they did it again with the newest additionto their Professional DV line (i.e., MiniDV enhanced with resettabledrop-frame timecode and locked audio), the GY-DV300 MiniDVStreamcorder, the only $3500 camcorder with dual XLR mic inputs, trueSMPTE bars with PLuGE black reference, and user controls for pedestal,detail, horizontal enhancement, vertical enhancement, verticalresolution, auto knee, and black stretch/compress. Plus a choice of twogamma curves—a capability borrowed from JVC’s CineLine of DigitalCinema camcorders.
That would be distinction enough, but the diminutiveGY-DV300—it’s a handheld—achieves another breakthrough:with the help of a thin, modular KA-DV300U network adaptor attached toits underside and a special PCMCIA card connected by wire or wirelessLAN to a PC with an Internet connection, the GY-DV300 transforms itselfinto a simultaneous MPEG-4 server featuring its own IP address. TheKA-DV300U ($1300), which is basically a microprocessor running LINUX,also extends control of the GY-DV300 to remote browsers.
In the late 1920s, 24 fps was standardized for film projection, butseems to have caught fire in the digital video world of the early 21stcentury. No better example at NAB than Panasonic’s booth,where the popular 720p AJ-HDC27 Varicam HD Cinema camera, introduced atlast year’s NAB, was joined by two prototypes, the standard-defAJ-SDX900 DVCPRO Cinema camera and the much anticipated 24p MiniDVcamcorder, the AG-DVX100 24P DV Cinema camera. (Can someone atPanasonic please do something about name bloat?)
The first is an attempt at a universal SD camcorder, switchableamong 4:3, 16:9, 24p, 30p, 60i, 25 Mbps DVCPRO, and 50 Mbps DVCPRO50.It features native 16:9 CCDs, 520,000 pixels each, 66 minutes recordingtime in DVCPRO, 33 minutes in DVCPRO50, and four audio channels.$35,000, available early 2003.
The second, the MiniDV AG-DVX100–now, don’t confuse the namewith the classic Sony VX-1000, though it’s a hand-held in themold of the VX-1000–created quite a buzz as the first camcorder tobring both true progressive scanning and 24 fps to the MiniDV format.Sharp disappointment ensued, therefore, when it arose that the twoAG-DVX100s on display were nonfunctional dummies.
Panasonic says the AG-DVX100 will sell in September for $3,500,which will buy a camcorder with newly developed 1/3-inch 410,000-pixelprogressive-scan CCDs that capture either conventional 60i or 24p (in480-line only). No provision yet for a 576-line version (4:3 CCD only).In addition, no provision for internal 16:9 conversion at the time ofthis reviewer’s last inquiry.
The problem is that the very folks who would embrace this technologyoff-the-bat—those wishing to transfer their low-budgetdocumentaries or features to film—are the very ones who wouldneed 16:9 formatting and who would prefer 576 lines over 480 (whowouldn’t?). What’s more, Panasonic says the AG-DVX100always records and outputs 29.97 fps regardless of 60i or 24p mode.
The trick is that when the AG-DVX100 is in 24 fps mode (actually,23.98), a redundant frame is added to every 4 outputted or recordedframes to make up the difference. It appears; however, this isn’thappening in the conventional 3:2 field cadence typical of filmtransfers to NTSC, but is something novel Panasonic is introducingalong with the camcorder, which would, of course, have to be removedlater for true 24 fps editing.
Enter Apple Computer and a surprise joint Panasonic/Appleannouncement that Apple’s 24 fps Cinema Tools, also introduced atNAB, would be providing a unique editing solution in the coming months.Talk about timing and synergy.
If marketing hyperbole can be overlooked, Sony ’scontroversial idea-man Larry Thorpe hit one out of the park this year.Not because another new technology was born, but because an existingtechnology was thoughtfully repurposed based on the maverick practicesof indie filmmakers.
That’s right, an innovation for indie filmmakers—notcorporate, not wildlife, not even George Lucas! This could beconsidered a nod, perhaps, to the leading role independentowner/operators and filmmakers have played in adopting HDCAM while thebroadcasting industry drags its feet.
At NAB, Sony introduced a new IMX MPEG-2 camcorder, the MSW-900P(the “P” is for “PAL”) to the American market.The first-ever introduction of PAL broadcast equipment into the UnitedStates is a gesture of support to the many low-budget filmmakerswho’ve discovered the advantages of 100 additional scan lines,wider luminance bandwidth, and 25 fps in the transfer of their featurefilms to 35mm, i.e., sharper, smoother 35mm images with fewer jaggiesand motion artifacts.
In fact, there’s hardly a film festival today thatdoesn’t feature at least one of these PAL-to-35mm transfers. ButPAL is 50-fields interlaced; what Sony’s MSW-900P brings for thefirst time is true progressive scanning. A poor man’s 24p, if youwill, with full 4:2:2 at 50 Mbs, 16:9 megapixel CCDs, and a new digitalsignal processing large scale integrated chip (DSP LSI) that isessentially Digital Betacam in a bottle. (16:9 CCDs made the economicalDVCAM DSR-500 a cause for celebration among indie filmmakers; however,DSR-500 and older DVW-series Digital Betacams use 16:9 CCDs with only520,000 pixels.)
Consider that 625-line digital video (576 active lines) enjoys a 20%increase in line count over 525-line (480 active lines). Likewise, 720pHD (720 active lines) enjoys a 25% increase over 576 active lines. So,in terms of progressive line count alone—ignoring disparities insignal processing, color subsampling, horizontal detail, andcompression—625-line is to 525-line what 720 is to 625.
Join this incremental but real advantage to the fact that theMSW-900P’s camera is a Digital Betacam at a cut-rate $40,000 andits draw to low-budget film production is obvious (It readily switchesback to interlace scanning for conventional video or TVproduction.)
Keep in mind that in the art of cinematography, sharpnessisn’t everything: DPs frequently add nets or diffusion in frontof and/or behind their lenses. How might a 720p image with slightdiffusion compare to 576p without diffusion?
There are those who object mightily to equating video camcorders tofilm formats, this reviewer included. At Sony’s NAB stand it wasthere for all to see: “Digital 16” on a sign above theDVCAM PAL DSR-500WSP. “Digital Super 16” and“Transfer to 35mm Film Rivals S16 Blow-up to 35mm” abovethe MSW-900P.
Well, perhaps. As with Bill Clinton, it boils down to what themeaning of “is” is. What exactly does “rivals”mean? What it nakedly implies is parity. Anyone who has shot S-16 foryears (this reviewer has) and blown up S-16 to 35mm for years (thisreviewer has) knows this is specious. S-16 is in a different league.Clearly, Sony has 16mm in its crosshairs. Indeed, recent blow-ups ofMSW-900P footage to 35mm via Arri-Laser Recorder at New York’s DuArt Film Laboratory—formerly ground zero for S-16—haveyielded striking results.
It was only a matter of time. Well into the era of CGI, someone hadto finally smash to bits (pun intended) those enduring legacies of1950s broadcast technology: chrominance, luminance, gamma, clipping,and legal color values.
At the first-ever NAB Digital Cinema Summit, ThomsonMultimedia‘s David Bancroft introduced his new product to the manycinematographers in attendance by listing what it lacked: aperturecorrection aka enhancement or detail, gain, gamma, knee, color matrix,and white balance—in a phrase, video processing. Also colorsubsampling, encoding, quantization, and compression.
The only settings left to concern the cinematographer are framing,focusing, optical filters, shutter angle, and exposure (300-400 ASA),for which a light meter was recommended.
From the audience one could feel the love. Within hours,cinematography bulletin boards across the Internet were buzzing.Indeed, the Viper is a confluence of innovations, the sum value ofwhich will be explored in coming months as production modelsappear.
While Sony and Panasonic were perfecting IT and FIT CCDs, Thomsonwas pursuing an alternative CCD architecture called Frame-Transfer,which happens to require a spinning mechanical shutter like a filmcamera.
Unlike IT and FIT CCDs, Thomson’s F-T CCDs divide each square pixelsite into four subpixels, not square but shaped like horizontalstripes, stacked vertically. When all four subpixels are sampled asone, the Viper outputs the expected 1080 x 1920 square pixels. But whensix subpixels are combined, they form, in effect, one tall pixel, andthe Viper outputs a native 720-line image.
When three subpixels are combined to create 1440 lines of short,squat pixels, the Viper extracts 1080 lines from the center to create aCinemascope-like widescreen image with a 2.37:1 aspect ratio, makingslow, expensive, cumbersome anamorphic lenses unnecessary.
Viper outputs two disparate HD image streams. The first component is24p via HD-SDI, adjusted for color, brightness, and contrast. In thecase of a conventional HD camera, this would be the finished result.For Viper; however, it’s intended for monitoring, much like a filmcamera’s video assist.
The second stream is what qualifies Viper as the first“datacamera”: uncompressed RGB signals, digitized directlyfrom the CCDs with 12-bit A/Ds, converted to 10-bit Cineon data files(.dpx) using logarithmic calculations. That’s it. Then output via dualHD-SDI links to. … Ah, there’s the rub. No tape format can recordthis data or its sheer volume.
So, Thomson loaned one of its three Vipers to the only outfit on theNAB show floor who could output the data, Directors Friend, thoseadventuresome jungen from Cologne who last December supplied thedirect-to-disk backpack of hard drives to famed director AlexanderSokurov to shoot his 90-minute HD opus on 300 years of Russian history,Russian Ark, in one unbroken take. Directors Friend showcasedits df-cineFS system connected to a Viper via dual HD-SDI cables. Thedf-cineFS is a portable capture-and-control desk (picture a black Korgkeyboard on an X-stand) featuring a 17-inch 16:9 TFT LCD picturemonitor (1280 x 768 SXGA) and dual 6.3-inch LCD scopes for camerasignal analysis and multichannel audio levels. Its main purpose is tomonitor uncompressed 10-bit RGB data flowing into battery-operatedhard-disk units called HDreels, each with a maximum capacity of 576 GBfor 48 minutes storage at 24p. Viper is not married to DirectorsFriend; any storage device with dual link HD-SDI per proposed SMPTE372m will do the job.
With upcoming metadata standards in place, a system like DirectorsFriend will enable a DP in the field to previsualize and predeterminecreative decisions regarding color, brightness, and contrast byapplying them to Viper’s HD output as a proxy. Untouched are the raw10-bit RGB images committed to disk and unmodified from initial CCDcapture. Later in post, with the full dynamic range of the raw RGBsignals at hand, the DP’s choices, preserved as metadata, are restored.Or, given a change of mind, replaced by different decisions. Thisfollows time-tested procedures in which film is exposed, then latertimed (color graded) at the lab. This systems allows the workflow tofollow Hollywood standards, yet brings the instantaneity andflexibility of video to location work. The best of both worlds.
by D.W. Leitner
While it’s not a flashy subject, lens design lies at the heart ofproduction for both film and video. While it’s a technology thatcan change slowly, the NAB attendees saw a relative deluge ofintroductions, with new HD lenses from the two major manufacturers,Canon and Fujinon, joined by the fabled German manufacturer Zeiss,which makes its first foray into the video end of things.
Canon introduced an all-new HD-EC (High Definition-ElectronicCinematography) line of cine-style lenses. Unlike its previous HD lensseries (which are now pegged for HD ENG/EFP work), the HD-EC series hasbeen designed from the ground up with new glass, as well as improvedbarrel rotation and markings that should make camera operators from thefilm world feel more at home.
The HD-EC series consists of zoom lenses (the HJ21x7.5B KLL-SC andthe HJ11X4.7B KLL-SC) and the HD-EC primes (FJ5, FJ9, FJ14, FJ24, andFJ35), all of which share a uniform design concept including aconsistent “Canon look,” color temperature, and minimizedfocus breathing.
Canon’s HD-EC HJ21x7.5B KLL-SC utilizes its new Power OpticalSystem featuring the X-Element, Hi-UD (High Index, Ultra LowDispersion) glass and fluorite. The company says the lens has up tothree times less focus breathing than any other comparable lens.It’s maximum relative aperture of T2.1 is faster than before, andis said to be the best in the electronic cinematography field.
Fujinon showed its Cine Style lens line (all designedspecifically for Digital Cinema applications) with a wide angle zoom,two new large barrel prime lenses, and two large barrel zoomlenses.
Fujinon heralds the lenses enhanced speed and image quality alongwith their film-style lens markings and operation. Four of the five newlenses have a large barrel diameter, enhancing focus-pullingchores.
The company claims the HA13x4.5B is the widest angle Cine Style zoomlens on the market. With a 4.5mm focal length at its widest end, theHA13x4.5B provides a 93.6-degree horizontal field of view. The lensoffers focus rotation up to 280 degrees, making focusing easier andmore exact. The lens is stable, too: Fujinon promises little focus“breathing.”
The new HAeF5-F (T1.7) and HAeF8-F (T1.5) prime lenses feature alarger barrel diameter than previous prime lenses designed for digitalcinema production, according to the company. The zooms feature280-degree focus rotation, 160 degrees of zoom rotation, and reducedfocus breathing.
The Zeiss DigiPrimes leave nothing to be desired. A solidworking range: 5mm (T 1.9), 7mm (T 1.6), 10mm (T 1.6), 14mm (T 1.6),20mm (T 1.6), and 40mm (T 1.6). Optimal performance at widest aperture.Identical diameters, lengths, and gearing.
Generous, easily read chartreuse scales on both sides, with almost300-degree rotation. Thursday afternoon, in the waning minutes of NAB’sfloor show, I found Sony’s Larry Thorpe, uncharacteristicallyspeechless, in Band Pro’s booth transfixed before an HD plasma screen,drinking in his first glimpse of the DigiPrimes in their glory.Dockside scenes in richly variegated mid-winter pastels near the famedMaine Photographic Workshop and rivers of blinding halogen headlampsracing up dark German streets at night towards the camera, free ofglare, flair, and reflections. These are indeed perfection in a B4mount.
All deserve kudos for their contributions. Once again Zeiss hasadmirably raised the bar. Now, if someone could lower the bill.$115,000 a set.
by Bob Turner
One of Avid’s most exciting new products, Avid|DS HDEditor features a Media Composer-like editorial UI, works in HD and SD,offers the same Avid|DS metadata compatibility with other products(Avid and non-Avid), and has the most common finishing tools. It alsooffers a more Media Composer-like 3D DVE but does not have the effectstree or most sophisticated compositing tools. There’s a new,lower price, too: $85,000.
Many in our industry prefer Mac platforms, but want the advancedediting tools, media asset management, and metadata, such as the XpressDV, that you can find on an Avid system. Avid says that after June,filmmakers will not need to choose when Avid XpressDV on the Mac startsshipping.
Fairlight, after acquiring the Lightworks assets,introduced the next generation product, Lightworks Touch. This new NLEcontinues to offer the cherished Lightworks jog/shuttle controller andthe operations that are free of pull-down menus or distracting UIclutter. Lightworks Touch comes with an array of new features includingreal-time chromakeying, realtime color correction and realtime 2D DVEeffects. It also offers plug-in support for Inscriber Title Motion,Boris CG, Discreet combustion, Ultimatte, Hollywood FX, and eyeonDigital Fusion. The company claims that this is “a robust,intuitive, nonlinear editing system that puts the editor at the centerof the creative process,” and frankly, I agree, especially whenoff-lining 24p projects. The system now offers multiple storage andnetworking solutions. The best feature may be your choice of three waysto own a system. In addition to buying or leasing, the third purchaseoption allows qualified buyers to “pay-by-project.” See www.lwks.com for details.
5D began shipping Version 2 of their Cyborg software and itis clear that major improvements were made by listening to customers.There were many operational and workflow enhancements. The mostimportant may be the new 3D compositing environment and new Timelinemodule, which put 5D Cyborg at the vanguard of the next generation ofcompositing/visual effects systems. Version 4.0 of InteractiveEffects’ Piranha HD software (for SGI and Linux platforms)offers amazing capabilities. It includes Piranha HD paint, compositing,and editing/finishing. If you do not require the cost and HDsophistication, the company also continues to offer the low-cost Amazonpaint and FX compositing product.
Laird Telemedia was showing three versions of Dvora, aturnkey, work-out-of-the-box system running Avid’s Xpress DVversion 3.0 software. A solid easy-to-operate platform with software,it’s ideal for directors and filmmakers wanting Avid’sbulletproof metadata management, making this a very attractive newproduct.
Chrome Imaging, from Matrix, is a Windows-based product thatintegrates many high-end features (interactive Flowgraph GUI,integrated paint module, motion tracking, 3D integration, and aPrimatte Chromakey). The company was also promoting their hot new 3Dparticle system featuring realistic, natural FX.
Clearly one of the biggest new postproduction product introductions,Media 100’s turnkey 844/X features four real-timeuncompressed 4:4:4:4 video streams and some very sophisticatedcompositing features with a familiar Media Composer-like user interfaceand compositing tools that compositors would find very easy to adaptto. This product, designed for short-form work, offers impressive powerfor its low $60,000 turnkey price tag.
The iQ has been a success for Quantel. It is most popular formajor studios. Designed as a long-form finishing system, it offerssuperb performance when working in 2k Digital Cinema or HDTV formats.But the Average postproduction facility in the United States worksprimarily in SD resolutions with rare needs for HD resolutions. Quantelintroduced eQ for this market segment. The system offers all theedit/finishing tools of iQ, and excellent realtime capabilities whenworking in standard definition uncompressed video. It features the sameresolution co-existence feature (any video format stored natively,mixed with other formats on the timeline, and output in any desiredformat). It works with HDTV resolutions with very fast rendering, and2k film resolutions as well, but slower than the iQ. The SMRP is$175,000 including storage.
Quantel is unique in that it also offers a Windows-based softwarepackage, Qeffects, with the very same tools and capabilities for$12,000. This is a radical marketing concept. Offer the exact samefeatures in a family of products – no reduced feature set –but sell the different models based solely on performance. Everyproduct is AAF-compliant (better compatibility with offline editorsmanufactured by competitors) and offers workgroup and networkingfeatures.
by Dan Ochiva
Ten years ago, Discreet rolled out its signatureproduct—its Flame turnkey visual effects system. Discreetestimates that Flame was an essential product behind some 95% of theAcademy Award nominated films for Best Visual Effects since 1996. Apretty good run for the first decade.
At NAB 2002, the company presented a complete rethinking of itsentire product line. The Discreet Media Architecture is the basis of afully interactive, non-linear digital production environment. The firstexample application, code-named Strata, offers an immersing visualeffects framework. Not just another stand-alone program, Strata is partof a new production environment, relying on a first-of-its-kind assetserver, Mezzo (also a code name). Be sure to read July’s Siggraphpreview for more on this unique initiative.
Discreet also announced the latest versions of Inferno (5), Flame,and Flint (the latter two in Version 8). The main story here isenhanced feature sets, such as mixed resolution support, extendedediting capabilities, and support for background rendering onLinux.
Apple knows it has a winner in Final Cut Pro (Version 3 justpiles on more reasons to adopt the straightforward editingprogram).
OfflineRT, an offline format that seems designed for editing on theroad with a PowerBook. While not the best resolution for every editingjob, the format enables you to hold up to five times as much footagecompared to DV. That works out to over 40 minutes of video per gigabyteof hard drive space. Connecting via Firewire, editors can transcode DVfootage to OfflineRT on the fly (that’s more than 24 hours on astandard PowerBook’s internal hard drive). Other FCP 3 featuresinclude an advanced set of color correction tools (including primaryand secondary color correctors), range checking, zebra-stripe overlays,and waveform and vectorscope monitors.
Pinnacle Systems introduced its Liquid editingfamily–Pinnacle Liquid Blue, Pinnacle Liquid Silver, Pinnacle LiquidPurple, and Pinnacle Liquid Field. This is Pinnacle’s relaunch ofthe highly-regarded FASTstudio product line, which Pinnacle acquired inSeptember 2001. The Pinnacle Liquid line-up is aimed at networkedbroadcast production. That includes support for the full range ofindustry standard codecs, which help integrate with DV and MPEG basedtape formats. Liquid includes media management features as well asprimary and secondary color correction, dynamic slow motion, and 2D and3D DVEs.
Pinnacle Systems prices its CinéWave Classic as a new low-costuncompressed video system created for Final Cut Pro users. It pricesnearly 30-percent less than a CinéWave editing system. The Classicincludes one of several available CinéWave I/O breakout boxes,which include a 10-bit SDI Pro Digital breakout box, and theCinéAcquire application and plug-module. The new CinéAcquire,a video capture and device control product for CinéWave, can beused as a standalone application or work directly from within graphicsapps such as Pinnacle’s Commotion Pro and Adobe After Effects.
Interface Media Group Senior Editor Bill Davis says that bothCinéAcquire and the complete CinéWave Classic system reducethe steps it takes to get video from tape to a compositing program.“In the past we had to interrupt a full edit system and an editorjust to pass clips to a graphics artist. Now anyone can grab video asneeded.”
Matrox positions its DigiSuite family as the most completeplatform for DCC. The Dorval, Quebec-based company’s Flex 3Darchitecture powers a huge number of realtime 3D effects. Meanwhile,bundled software includes Adobe Premiere, Inscriber CG, Ligos LSX MPEG,Sonic Solutions DVDit! SE, and Sonic Solutions ReelDVD (other softwarecombos are available).
DigiSuite MAX, now in version 7.0, includes realtime effectslayering over video and graphics, realtime blur, 2D and 3D DVE, slowmotion, keying, and YUV color correction. Output includes your choiceof native-DV, DV50, MPEG-2 I-frame 50 Mbps, or M-JPEG, with inputincluding DV over 1394, analog component, Y/C, and composite. SDI andAES/EBU are optional via an add-on module. Other features includerealtime MPEG-2 encoding for DVD authoring, accelerated MPEG-1 encodingfor multimedia and Video CD authoring, and MediaExport forhardware-assisted batch web video encoding.
by D.W. Leitner
Panasonic and Apple Add Firewire to DVCPRO VTRs On April 4,2002, Apple announced its purchase of Zayante, a key developer andmanufacturer of Firewire technology, founded in 1996 by defectors fromApple including Apple’s chief Firewire architect. Three days later atNAB, in a joint announcement with Panasonic, Apple announced acollaboration to add Firewire to upcoming Panasonic DVCPRO50 and DVCPROHD VTRs, making them the first decks to support 4:2:2 ITU-601 at 50 Mbsand HD at 100 Mbs over Firewire. At least that will be the case inabout a year, when Panasonic expects to bring this new feature tomarket. Older DVCPRO devices imposed a non-standard proprietaryPanasonic DV protocol. (Later DVRPRO VTRs did offer compatibility withstandard “Blue Book” Firewire as a selectable option.)
Sony 50 MBs Blu-Ray Disc Concept Camcorder, Shown Behind ClosedDoors Talk about a disruptive technology! As early as next year,Blu-ray could supplant DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW. Blu-ray will berecordable consumer media in a 12cm disc, but it boasts a blue laser of405 nanometers in wavelength, finer than the 650 nm red lasers used byCDs and DVDs. This translates into smaller spot sizes, pits, and tracksand greater data density. Basic specs have been set by a Big Nine ofmanufacturers including Hitachi, LG, Matsushita (Panasonic), Pioneer,Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Thomson.
A single-sided Blu-ray Disc will store 27 GB (compared to DVD’s 4.7GB) and use MPEG-2 for 13 hours of SD video or 2 hours of HD. Panasonichas proposed a dual layer disc to increase capacity to 50 GB. You’veheard of Moore’s Law? This is Moore’s Law at warp speed.
IT Goes Production
by D.W. Leitner
Nowhere was IT’s footprint bigger than in Sony’s vast booth.(“IT” is New Economy lingo for “InformationTechnology,” favored by folks who call corporate activity“the Enterprise” as if it were a spaceship.)
At last year’s NAB, Sony Broadcast proclaimed the melding oftelevision with narrowcasting, Webcasting, and datacasting,rechristening what it sells “Anycast.” This year’spermutations included “IP-casting” (Internet Protocol) and“AV/IT.”
Today’s heirs of “AV/IT Convergence,” as it was calledthen, include the latest Sony MiniDV and Digital-8 camcorders, all ofwhich feature USB 1.1 (12 Mbps) and transform themselves into MPEG-1streaming Webcams when used with special USB drivers and third-party PCvideo conferencing software.
An example at NAB was the new DVCAM DSR-PDX10, which was alsoBluetooth-enabled to wirelessly send and receive email messages andbrowse webpages on its LCD display, downloadable, of course, to aMemory Stick. (Don’t toss your laptop just yet: Real, QuickTime,WindowsMedia, and Flash aren’t supported.)
If this is what Sony is achieving in the consumer realm, it shouldcome as no surprise that Sony’s pro products are being IT-enabled. Inlaunching Anycast a year ago, Sony announced a one-year goal ofembedding an IP address (URL) in every Sony product, consumer andprofessional, and they have well nigh succeeded.
Introduced at NAB was a plug-in card with an IP address for Sony’sexisting family of MPEG IMX VTRs. Using Gigabit Ethernet, the cardconnects any IMX VTR, anywhere in the world, to any other similarlyequipped IMX VTR or server, anywhere in the world. This enablestransfers of low-res proxies of video clips and the clips themselvesover any suitable IP network.
Moreover, any so-equipped IMX eVTR can remote control any othereVTR, anywhere in the world. File transfers are watched over by Sony’sDeviceMonitor software running on a PC, using Simple Network ManagementProtocol (SNMP).
Sony also introduced a $5,000 DVCAM hard-disk recorder, DSR-DR1000,with built-in Gigabit Ethernet and SNMP control. The necessarymeta-data foundation for Sony’s eVTR scenario is MXF (Material eXchangeFormat), at present undergoing scrutiny by SMPTE. So key is thiselement that Sony has been joined by Avid, Cisco, and Quantel infacilitating its adoption as a standard, which should come soon.
MXF will enable laptops to query remote servers or VTRs and requestthumbnails, logs, dates, timecodes, and production notes in addition tovideo downloads. Work is underway to map MXF’s descriptive metadata(date, camera, reel, take, notes, etc.) into the Advanced AuthoringFormat, so that AAF’s toolkit can read and write MXF filesdirectly.
AAF, if you’re not aware, is the Holy Grail of digital nonlinearediting and postproduction: a standardized, cross-platform“super-EDL” that will reliably import/export all data fromall effects, picture, and audio tracks, consigning OMFI and crudeCMX-era EDLs to the scrap heap.
In sum, to paraphrase Neil Armstrong, Sony’s IMX eVTR may be alittle step for Sony, but it’s a big step for all broadcast. Indeed, agreat leap into a brave new world of IP-networked production andpostproduction from which there’s no turning back.
DDRs & Storage
by Dan Ochiva
Getting more storage always seems to be near the top of most to-dolists at NAB. That need comes as more elaborate graphics production,complex editing jobs, and moves into streaming media all call for addedgigabytes.
But hard disk prices continue to drop precipitously, even whilespeedier interfaces such as Ultra160 SCSI hit the market. (Late in May,Seagate Technology announced that it has demonstrated Ultra320 SCSItechnology, which is pegged to deliver a 320 MBs data transferrate).
DDRs look to follow a similar path, adding greater capabilitieswhile lowering the sticker price. The DDR’s considerablevalue-added electronics mean they won’t follow the hard drivemarkets nose-diving prices anytime soon.
Accom’s WSD/HDX Multi-Definition Disk Recorder with KeyChannel Option succeeds the company’s well-regarded WSD/HDhigh-definition disk recorder. Flexibility is key, as it’sdesigned to handle a variety of live-to-air, postproduction, andstreaming applications.
It’s the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company’s firstcomplete plug-and-play multi-definition recording system with anintegrated disk array. The WSD/HDX uses Ultra 160 SCSI drivesconfigured for a standard record capacity of 22 minutes of uncompressed1080 60i high-definition video (that’s about 88 minutes ofstandard definition video).
The WSD/HDX now features a physical control panel for hands-onresponse; many major operations can now be driven without using amouse. There’s an option for simultaneous record or play ofvideo, key, and audio in a single operation under a unified clipidentity. An additional option allows users to record LTC timecode withmaterial and choose whether to preserve timecode discontinuities orreplace them with internally generated timecode.
Developed for post, Avica’s MotionStore DDR convertsuncompressed digital media as well as captures/plays motion or stillimages as high definition digital data. File gateway conversionsinclude JPEG, SGI RGB, raw YUV, SMPTE, and DPX.
During post on Ice Age, the MotionStore helped convert imagedata and compile individual frames into full-motion clips.Avica’s mastering hardware and software were also used to encodeand package the Digital Cinema Distribution Master.
The MotionStore was used at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound duringthe final mix of the latest Star Wars episode to provide playback ofhigh definition images while interlocked with a multi-channel audiorecorder.
Lucasfilm also used the Avica StillStore to examine, at apixel-by-pixel level, the output of the Sony CineAlta, to provide imagequality analysis on the set and on location. The StillStore is unique,says Avica, since it can zoom up to 256 times resolution, even while itmaintains accurate pixel-level representation of the original capturedimage.
Working together with Industrial Light + Magic, Avica provided asuite of encoding hardware, software, and content packaging tools tomanage the process of creating final digital distribution masters,encrypted for secure delivery via satellite and DVD. The AvicaDataStore was used to encode, secure, and package the digital moviedata in formats for worldwide distribution in nine languages, includingboth dubbed and subtitled versions.
At the show, Avica also announced the release of its new MultiplexSolution Digital Cinema Servers based on the FilmStore productline.
The Avica Multiplex FilmStore system includes a central storage andmanagement system, the A2900, along with any number of lower cost AvicaA550 Cache Servers. Content, loaded into the central storage systemover network connections (VPN, broadband, or satellite) or by DVD, isthen sent out to the Cache Servers over a secure, local Gigabit networkfor storage and play out.
With the PFC500 RAID system, Grass Valley emphasizesavailability. The PFC500, says the company, can stay online even if adisk drive, power supply, controller, or fan fails—and beserviced without going offline. Its modular architecture makes iteasily expandable, to add channels, more storage space, or move tohigh-definition production.
Using a Fibre Channel link to a Profile XP, the PFC500 employs tenFC drives per frame (either 36 GB or 73 GB), with the RAID-3 arraysconfigured as 4 data/1 parity. Fitting in a 3.5 RU low-profile chassis,the RAID array offers an optional redundant hot swappable power supply,optional redundant hot swappable RAID controller, auto fail-over withsecond controller, redundant fans for cooling, and optional hotstand-by drives. The drives, power supply, RAID controller, and fansare all replaceable while the system is in service.
First, SANs caught everyone’s attention, offering a method totightly manage massive amounts of storage on a high-speed network.Recently, NAS (Network Attached Storage) products have gained the buzzwith their uncomplicated delivery of massive amounts of storage in aheterogeneous OS environment.
Now, one company claims it offers the first combination NAS/SANdevice specifically designed for rich media content. HugeSystems, out of Marina del Rey, Calif., introducedHugeMediaLibrary, an interesting all-in-one storage and server unitapproach to shared media access over traditional TCP/IP networks suchas Ethernet (10BaseT), Fast Ethernet (100BaseT), and GigabitEthernet.
The HugeMediaLibrary comes either as a single RAID-3 controllermodel with up to five 160 GB removable disks or a dual-controllerversion containing up to ten 160 GB drives for a total of up to 1200GB.
What’s the thinking here? Users don’t need to choose betweenthe benefits of Ethernet and Fibre Channel, since the HugeMediaLibraryincludes both in one shared storage subsystem. The integrated 2 GBFibre Channel ports enable integration into existing Fibre Channelnetworks, while the integrated Gigabit Ethernet ports include nativefile sharing capabilities and broad cross-platform compatibility.
Previously, according to the company, shared network storage’sbiggest drawback has been speed. The new storage system includeshardware TCP/IP acceleration using Alacritech’s 1000×1 Single-PortServer and Storage Accelerator, claimed as the industry’s firstIntegrated Storage Network Interface Card (IS-NIC). The card enablessimultaneous acceleration of both IP storage and standard Ethernettraffic.
Leitch Technology announced it would offer 181 GB drives for theVR445 self-contained broadcast server. The two-channel server, whichfits in a 7-inch (4RU), 65-pound frame, is said to provide an entirelynew entry-level price point for budget-conscious customers who want tomove to using a server. With the introduction of 181 GB drives, theVR445 now offers 543 GB of RAID-3 storage. That’s more than 70hours of programming content using a video data rate of 8 Mbs.
The VR445, expandable to four channels, can be optionally configuredto allow for Gigabit Ethernet FTP content transfer. The VR445 operatesin MPEG-2 4:2:2 and 4:2:0, DVCAM, DVCPRO, and DVCPRO50 environments.DVCAM and DVCPRO files can be transferred into the VR445 at four timesnormal speed via SDTI.
At the show, Leitch also announced the availability of 2 GbsFibre Channel architecture and VRMediaNet media management. Along withthe 181 GB drives, the introductions help increase the capacity of aserver system built on a single Fibre Channel loop from 44 broadcastchannels and 730 GB of storage, to over 100 channels and 18 TB ofstorage. Scalability is further increased by the introduction ofVRMediaNet, which allows multiple server systems to appear as a single,virtual system under the control of a client/server media managementapplication.
Less expensive storage used to mean buying or building your own JBOD(Just a Bunch of Disks) device. But the combination of remarkableimprovements in hard disk density (and attendant price drops) alongwith less expensive RAID technology makes storage a buyers’market.
Medéa has been among the price/performance leaders in RAIDstorage over the last few years. In debuting the new VideoRaid RTS diskarrays, the Calabasas, Calif.-based company proclaimed it theindustry’s lowest cost redundant disk array.
“VideoRaid RTS provides data protection and top notchperformance for (DCC) applications, while it prices as low as $7/GB– significantly less than what other vendors charge forunprotected just-a-bunch-of-disk (JBOD) products,” says RogerMabon, vice president of channel marketing at Medéa.
Built around a compact five-drive desktop tower, the Medéa RTSdisk arrays sport capacities of 160 GB, 320 GB and 640 GB. The Ultra160SCSI interface is said to offer a sustained data transfer rate of up to100 MBs.
The RTS uses the company’s Multi-Stream Technology, basicallya caching algorithm that enables the arrays to support playback ofcomplicated NLE time-lines with up to two real-time uncompressed videostreams.
At the show, QuVIS introduced a new QuBit model, the QuBit601, with uncompressed SD recording. For the QuBit ST and EL models,QuVIS added SD recording and postproduction specific features.
The QuBit 601, a 10-bit uncompressed NTSC/PAL recorder/player,includes eight channels of digital audio. QuVIS claims the QuBit 601 isunique its ability to be expanded into a full-featured multi-format HDsystem-the equivalent of the current QuBit ST—“a feature noother devices offer.”
Fully configured, QuBit 601 can record/play approximately 2 hours ofuncompressed 10-bit standard definition content. The optionalResolution Enhancement Package, transforms QuBit 601 into the Topeka,Kan.-based company’s flagship product, QuBit ST, by adding higherframe rates and larger image sizes, including HD. QuVIS alsoincorporated this 10-bit capability into the QuBit ST and QuBit ELunits, which benefit by becoming both 12-bit compressed and 10-bituncompressed recorder/players within the same architecture. Users canchoose to go with any file structure or disk formatting setup theywant, says the company.
Doremi Labs’ V1-UHD offers HD recording and playback inwhat—for my money—is one of the most attractive casedesigns going. The compact DDR records and plays uncompressed HDTV720p, 1080i, and 1080p (24 and sf) at 8- or 10-bit resolution. The baseversion of the V1-UHD is available with a reasonable entry price, andoffers 7, 14, or 39 minutes of 10-bit recording in its compact 3Uchassis. With an external video storage unit, recording time can beexpanded to several hours.
by Dan Ochiva
News production, one of the few growing sectors in the video trade,benefits with non-stop product intros and upgrades. Grass Valleyadded the Grass Valley NewsBrowse desktop browsing system to itsDigital Newsroom Production Solution. Working with lower-resolutionMPEG-1 files, the PC-based software allows rough, cuts-only edits.
NewsBrowse generates an EDL to send to a Profile XP Media Platformsystem for final conformation and play to air, or to the morecomprehensive NewsEdit system for further editing.
GVG also announced the laptop-based NewsEdit LT nonlinear editsystem for fieldwork and the NewsShare real-time, shared-storagesystem.
Grass Valley’s Digital News Production Solution got an upgradeto Version 4.0, offering a range of new features for NewsEdit systemusers. The NLE portion gains voice disguise, blur and mosaic effectsfor use in investigative reports, external control support, and a MediaObject Server (MOS) script interface that enables users to link ascript to a video while editing.
The new software release also includes a 2D digital video effectsoption with a wide range of video and audio effects. Its blur andmosaic effects, says the company, enable editors to cover up imagesthey may need to disguised for legal or source-protection reasons.
For those who still like the feel and workflow of tape-styleediting, the external control support option controls timeline andsource VTRs using basic transport functions such as play, stop, rewind,fast forward, jog, and shuttle.
MOS integration in the new release enables an editor to query ascript from the Profile XP Media Platform, display the script, and editthe video according to parameters of the script.
Leitch, pushing further into media management for its line ofnetworked servers, introduced VRMediaNet. The Client/Server system(built on a Microsoft Windows 2000 server) allows you to integrate thedatabases of multiple server systems. The idea is to provideinformation about and management of media at one or more broadcastfacilities.
All data about any connected Leitch VR server system comes via asingle-user interface that can be run from any networked clientworkstation. VRMediaNet provides full metadata management, and it canbe expanded to include wire services, script writing, story management,tracking of media usage, and broadcast rights.
Leitch also announced the introduction of InstantOnline-II for itsline of VR400 series broadcast video servers. The product links theonline server system and the proxy-editing environment for its newssystem.
Pinnacle Systems presented its long-range strategy fornetworked media based on the company’s new Palladium Architecture.Palladium is an open foundation for sharing storage and mediafiles.
Collaboration is the key word. Pinnacle envisions the single mediafile standard to enable pulling together broadcast and productionenvironments where simultaneous ingest, editing, browsing, and on-airplay out functions interact across a high-speed network. Third-partyproducts and industry formats such as MXF will also be able to be ableto integrate with the system.
Pinnacle has already shipped the Palladium Architecture as part ofits MediaStream 900 series video servers. Palladium is currently beingported to Pinnacle Systems’ Vortex Networked News editing systems, withavailability scheduled for summer 2002. Over time, other PinnacleSystems professional editing and broadcast products will have theoption of connecting via Palladium to share media assets.
by Dan Ochiva
Streaming media offerings, while trailing off after the dotcom bust,still saw important product announcements. The market should seegrowth: streaming, moving beyond generic applications on the Web, hascaught on in business and education, with other groups including postfacilities now offering the technology to their clients. The imminentrelease of MPEG-4 could further boost streaming media use.
Anystream, which provides software for automating theproduction and distribution of streaming media, extended its Agilitysoftware package to include fully integrated indexing, logging,synchronized rich media presentation, and media managementcapabilities.
“Rather than buying and integrating multiple expensivesoftware products, content producers in corporate communications,broadcast or production services can tap Agility to automate everystage of streaming content production,” says Geoff Allen,president and CEO of Anystream.
Nonlinear video editing manufacturer Canopus improves MPEGencoding for its DVStorm users via StormEncoder 1.02. The hardwareallows capturing video directly to MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 files in realtimethrough the DVStorm’s analog and DV inputs. The idea here is togo to MPEG formats directly rather than capturing as DV and thenoutputting to MPEG-1 or MPEG-2.
Ontario-based Digital Rapids debuted StreamStation, astreaming media encoding and batch encoding workstation. StreamStationcombines a dual Xeon processor IBM IntelliStation and Digital Rapidsdual channel Stream video capture and processing hardware. The productincludes the ability to up resolution video to near HD resolutions(1024×768), preview all changes in realtime, and individually controlthe encoding process on a stream-by-stream basis.
Boston’s DMOD (Digital Media On Demand) announced a newrelease of the DMOD WorkSpace tool—a technology designed forsecure digital media collaboration and distribution. Company officialssay that version 2.0 adds new business rules for copy protecting anytype of digital media, seamless integration with the QuickTime player,and new delivery options allowing digital content creators to sharemedia over any network, including the Internet or existing FTP, VPN,Instant Messaging, or email systems.
IBM showcased many of its digital media software solutionsthrough its Digital Media Factory, which integrates IBM technology withpartner tools for encoding, indexing, organizing, storing, viewing, anddistributing video content.
One of those partner technologies is Ancept’s Media Server2.7. Ancept showed off the new server at the show—a tool designedto extend the capabilities of its initial Media Server. The new versiontargets the broadcast industry specifically, and includes functionssuch as keyframe extraction, vertical interval information, and aconforming engine to create and transfer EDLs destined for non-linearedit suites.
Leitch Technology released version 1.1 of the dpsNetStreamerexpandable multiple Web stream video/audio encoder. The new versionadds features including an automated scheduler for streaming functionsand the ability to pre-record footage for later insertion into a liveWeb stream, complete with batch capture.
Pinnacle Systems’ EasyEncode SF, a software option forits StreamFactory broadband encoder product, helps streamline Web mediaproduction and workflow by batch encoding and automatically publishingmultiple bit-rate streams to the Web.
Pinnacle says the software, along with a direct connection to a VTRvia RS-422, enables StreamFactory or StreamFactory X2 to become areal-time batch encoder for projects such as converting tape librariesinto browse-able streaming media for on-demand viewing from thedesktop.
by Dan Ochiva
Compact yet powerful switchers became a hit at the show, especially forthose planning to upgrade their telecine suites. Van operators, liveshow mixers, and other mobile users, also faced with limited space,turned up at the booths.
The VTB-1D, a 10-bit SDI switcher from Brick House Video,comes as a portable stand-alone or rack-mounted unit with separateremote panel and integrates auto/manual dissolve and wipe, 4×4 SDIinput/output, analog composite program output for monitoring, embeddedaudio switching, an internal test generator, and 525/625 switching.
With a rack-mounted processor unit and a control panel only a littleover 17×11 inches, Sony’s compact DFS-700A has greatproportions, even while it offers 700 pre-programmed effects andreal-time 3D capabilities. Sporting full component digital processing,the switcher operates in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, a full function chromakeywith each digital effects channel (a second channel of effects isoptional), and a standard DSK with dedicated key source input.
The DFS-700A comes with eight inputs (four SDI and four analogcomponent), with optional inputs of an additional SDI, analogcomponent, analog composite, and Y/C.
Snell & Wilcox debuted its HD108 Switcher, one of threeswitcher products acquired from its purchase of PSP Digital. The HD108packs a lot of features inside its 19-inch rack mount, such as eightdirectly accessible inputs from a full program preset row, two keyerswith chromakeying, a single YUV color corrector, and 4:2:2 framestore.Internal 10-bit I/O processing supports all current high-definitionstandards. The addition of the SD108 mainframe enables switching inboth the SD and HD domains.
by Dan Ochiva
Ultimatte’s Ultimatte HD, its third generation realtime HDmatte compositing system, works with all Digital HD and Digital Cinema24p/psf image standards. Since the patented technologies employed areavailable in hardware for real-time applications (as well as plug-insoftware for Adobe, Avid, and Discreet programs), users canpre-visualize the finished composite on set during production, enablingcreative decisions to proceed sans guesswork, according toUltimatte’s Reid Baker, director of business development.
by Dan Ochiva
Panasonic debuted a new option for its AJ-HDC27 Varicam HD CinemaCamera that allows it to deliver cinema-style gamma performance andalso increase its variable-frame-rate capabilities. What the optionprovides is extended gamma control, one tool to enable high-definitionvideo to more closely approximate the dynamic range of film.
The option also provides a wider range of variable frame rates (from4 to 60 fps with the ability to change the frame rate in single-frameincrements) to overcrank and undercrank the Varicam to achieve fast- orslow-motion effects.
by Dan Ochiva
The merger of Compaq and HP had just begun at show time;a complete strategy for combining the two workstation product lines isyet to be determined. However, two product areas that look sure tocontinue are Linux and a take-no-prisioners attitude towardsworkstation pricing.
Compaq presented its workstation Linux certification summary, achart that lists specific workstation/processor combos that wereguaranteed to run with versions of Red Hat and SuSE, theleading Linux flavors. (For the truly committed Penguin followers,Compaq even offers a port of Linux to its popular iPAQ handheldPDA.)
HP offered proof of its Linux chops, presenting the results of itswork to help build Linux drivers with graphics card leaders 3Dlabs,NVidia, and ATI. HP also offered its entry-level x1100, a specificallyLinux workstation with a pre-tested version of Red Hat 7.1, a Pentium 4combined with the latest 266 MHz DDR memory, and a choice of graphicscards.
The DreamWorks partnership; however, was the point-of-prideannouncement. HP had worked behind the scenes ever since an April 2000road trip to DreamWorks revealed a studio ready to move to Linux, ifthey only had help with the hardware. In part to prove it was seriousabout Linux, HP committed to DreamWorks’ requirements, whichincluded dual-display capability, color-calibration support, and Wacomtablet support.
Announced only a few months before the show, IBM made much ofits Digital Media Factory (DMF), an open-technology framework comprisedof IBM’s e-business infrastructure to manage, store, protect, anddistribute digital video, audio, and images. The hardcore creation partof DMF—IntelliStation workstations, storage, and servers—isLinux based. A full-up system includes media and database management, acommerce capability (i.e., sell it over the Internet), and 24/7 fromBig Blue’s famed services offerings.
SGI introduced Fuel, a new workstation line that leveragesthe architecture of its high-end SGI 3000 product. Quoted as delivering30% more performance at a 57% lower price tag than the base Octane2,Fuel features a new generation of MIPS processors (500MHz and 600MHz),and from the 3000 line, high bandwidth architecture, increased memory,and increased cache. Throw in the VPro graphics card—capable of48-bit RGBA—and take it home for a list price around $11,500.
SGI also introduced Visual Area Networking, an initiative addressingwhat the company sees as a growing problem in computing: while graphicsand moving image processing power grows, poor interconnections and thelack of an overall control structure creates difficulties and securitydilemmas for working interactively with dispersed systems. The VANconsists of a central, hub supercomputer to which all computers connectvia an IP network, aided by SGI’s OpenGL|Visualizer softwarewhich orchestrates the collaboration.
by Dan Ochiva
Aja’s Kona realtime HD card is the first uncompressed 10-bit YUV,dual-stream HD QuickTime card built from the ground up for OS X.
The Kona card features read like a wish list: realtime effects;realtime offline JPEG captured directly from HD-SDI to Firewire disk;WYSIWYG video output of the Macintosh desktop to a video monitor or LCDfor true preview of HD color-space and artifacts when using Photoshop,After Effects, Combustion, etc.; native OS X six-channel, 24-bit, 48kHzAES/EBU audio with hardware sample-rate conversion for each input forseamless mixing of asynchronous or mismatched sample rates without popsor clicks; and provision for simple firmware updates of new features astime goes by. $11,000, available soon, and running flawlessly atKona’s stand.
South Melbourne, Australia-based Bluefish444 might not befamiliar yet to card buyers, but its partnership with DigitalVoodoo should give you a clue as to what business it’s in.Instead of Macs, though, Bluefish444 handles only the PC I/O cards.