Friday, 13 January, 2006

Final Cut Pro 6 (rumoured)

and the future of Digital high-end post.

OK that sounds like a really pompous title for something that is not even official ... yet!. Just up at rumour sites and being debated in forums. "Avid should be worried...", "Discreet should be worried ..." etc etc. Well, past history has shown that no such thing really happens. To Avid, Discreet etc, that is.

In brief, the rumour says ... (it's just a rumour, folks)
1. FCP 6 software will have a Final Cut Extreme version that will be US$ 10,000. About Rs. 4.5 lakhs in India - just the software. System, monitor, storage extra.
2. FCExtreme will enable 2k and 4k editing. Meaning it will handle film res scans like it does quicktime now.
3. Will work with a new, as-yet-unreleased nVidia card.
4. Will use a new super-huge monitor. 42" or 52" which will be able to show full 4k. At the moment Apple's 30" display can show full 2k at 1:1 resolution. I work with three. They're staggering.
5. 10Gig ethernet interfaces might be added to Mac Quads. This will enable transfer of 2k material over the network at near real time speeds or faster.
6. Storage will be new XRAID Extreme using dual infiniband. This is all frontier technology stuff. The as-yet-unreleased version of Lustre will use infiniband. At the moment it takes two XRAIDs RAIDed together to ensure 2k playback.
7. Some more features like 1080/24p DVCProHD, 5.1 audio native etc.
8. And I hope they fix the capture tool and media management.

So, at a very rough guesstimate, we're talking about Rs 35-40 lakhs for a system that can edit and online anything DV, SD, HD right up to 2k/4k. A poor man's DI system. Yes, I said poor man. Because rich-man's DI is done on a Lustre that runs Rs 1.7 crores, or Baselight for a little less Rs 1.2 crores, or Nucoda about the same, or even Quantel iQ for Rs 2.5 crores.

These figures are just top-of-the-mind Dollar/Pound plus Customs duty calculations. I seriously invite anyone who knows exact figures to comment.

Anyway, getting back to FCP 6 (rumored), this will have a definite impact. May take some time, especially in India, but it will happen. We are a film country still, for mass entertainment. meaning we still shoot film, post in film and show film in tens of thousands of theatres. And only a handful are finished digitally. So the market is open for systems at the mid and low end. FCP 6 (rumoured) can change that.

Feature film DI or digital intermediate, that costs (er... I cannot say it publicly) a certain amount per film, can now be done for a third or so. Yes sure it can.

But don't go running believing anyone and everyone with 35-40 lakhs and an FCP 6 system will be able to do it. Now way sir. The system setup is tricky at best. Performance of disk systems has to be tuned. Conform has to be skillfully handled. And grading. The actual grading is not something most editors are equipped to handle. You need a "real" colourist for that.

But it's doable. And one can start off with trailers, promos, teasers and such like. Small 60 sec to 2 min jobs. No big DI house really wants to touch those and will gladly farm them out to a small house. And gradually take up a small-time feature that doesn't really have the budget for DI.

So there is some scope here in the near term at least. And if film is outmoded as a distribution format, and DCinema is used at all theatres... no problem. FCP and Compressor can do compression to MPEG-2, MPEG4, H.264 even now.

I'd love to get my hands dirty and make this work. Anyone with deep pockets, a sense of adventure working with frontier technology, and a desire to make money do let me know.

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