Tuesday, 16 May, 2006

My own Avid Media Composer... finally!

For a lot of us editors- and I'm not going to call us 'offline' we're editors - the ultimate editing machine is definitely an Avid. And when we say 'an Avid' we mostly mean a Media Composer. Not some watered down XPress or XPressDV or something like that. Though in the past 2-3 years the low-end Avids like XPress and XPRessDV have gotten pretty close to Media Composers in features.

But still a full-blown Avid Media Composer has always been something that someone else owned and we rented. At anything between Rs. 20-30 lakhs (Rupees 2-3 million), it has definitely been out of reach for most. I mean, you can get a rather good flat at Andheri for that kind of money. Or buy two luxury cars even.

So if any of us ever owned an editing system it usually was an FCP on a PowerBook or maybe a pirated copy of XPress on a cheap PC laptop. I must say though, that almost all the editors who I've seen get a PC and a pirated Avid XPress didn't eventually do much editing on it. The FCP-PowerBook people fared slightly better.

But now, finally many of us can actually afford our very own Media Composer. At NAB last month Avid announced that the software-only version of Avid Media Composer would soon be available for US$ 5,000 (About Rs. 2.5 lakhs with some taxes). Sounds like a lot of money still, but hey, it is a Media Composer. No excuses. It can do DV, all resolutions to 1:1, multi-track, multi-cam, film, anything a Media Composer can.

To be able to capture from Beta/Digi, you can buy the new Avid Mojo SDI for US$ 2,700 (About Rs. 1.8 lakhs with some duties and taxes). You'll need some fast storage for that, though. Mojo SDI has SDI, component analog, composite, S-video, AES and analog audio, all in and out.

So any of us can now finally own an Avid Media Composer. For about 2.5+1.8 lakhs=Rs 4.3 lakhs plus the cost of a good Mac or PC and some fast storage. A real Media Composer, a brand new one, that can open any old project even open old Meridien media.

And a dream system would be, a new Apple Mac G5 Quad, Avid Media Composer Software, Avid Mojo SDI, and some fast storage and a good monitor and speakers. Under Rs 8 lakhs. Add a bit more and maybe you can even run FCP on it. Of course you can get a PC instead of a Mac, but then you can't run FCP on a PC.

And by the way, this Avid Media Composer ships for PC as well as Mac in the same box. You can use either PC or Mac. No need to commit yourself to Mac or PC. Even have both and run it on either, one at a time.

One slight snafu is that this Media Composer will not run on the newest Intel Macs - The MacBook Pro, the iMac , or the MacMini. But Avid will be out with a Universal Binary version of Avid Media Composer in a few months, maybe end of the year.

And then, if the new Intel desktop Macs are available who knows... you can even get a Mac that runs Avid Media Composer, and FCP on a Mac partition and also boots in Windows in another partition so you can run Avid Media Composer, and other PC apps on the Windows partition, even play PC-only games. Mac and PC, Avid and FCP in one box. Now how about that?

Sunday, 14 May, 2006

8k Camera, 8k Projector, 8k Digital Cinema.

I visited NAB at Las Vegas this year. 24th to 27th Apr 06. Some of the biggest companies in broadcast, post production, audio, video and other film/video related disciplines exhibit there. For us Post guys, there's Discreet, Apple, Adobe, Avid, Sony, Panasonic, Thomson, Cintel, DaVinci and loads of others. Great if you're a techie or even if you're somehow connected to this business.

At one corner of the exhibition in the Central hall, just behind the LED lite panels, was an interesting display.

An 8k presentation. This was by NHK, the Japanese broadcasting company. A projection, at 8k. Yes 8k. Not 2k, not 4k, but honest to God 8k. There were two projectors. Something like one showing red/green and one doing blue. Both 8k. Maybe a Sony special edition by the looks of it.

There were shots of New York, Japan and other places. All on a large screen. And all the footage shown had been shot on 8k, digitally, and projected with music to match with an 8k projection.

Outside there was also the camera that shot it all. And the high speed storage, compression and transmission systems. These are installed at some museums and other such institutions in Japan.

Mind you, this is not some prototype, releasing in some summer or fall or spring. It is for real. Not that you can go out and buy any of this, but you can see and enjoy the results nevertheless.

And since none of the stuff shown seemed to be originated on film, one wonders... what if it had been? I doubt if film, scanned as 8k and then shown on that gigantic screen would have the clean sharp - maybe what some might call a 'digital look' - that these images showed.

If anyone is concerned about the done to death proclamation, 'Film is dead' then after seeing this 8k demo, I can assure you that neither HD nor even 2k film DI will kill off film. No sir, as long as you shoot film, you are bound by its limits. And yes these limits are for all to see when one sees an 8k DCinema demo.

Sort of like if one were to shoot on still 35 mm film and use the best possible scanner to get a high resolution image vis a vis shooting with the best possible digital still camera. Not too many will disagree that digital still cameras have more or less done away with film cameras.

By simply surpassing 35 mm film not trying to imitate them. I believe now that movie film will also be done for, by exceptional quality digital cinema cameras. But at the present time there's probably not one single camera that can honestly do that as easily as a film camera can. But it will be there surely in the next 1-3 years.

And oh yes. Just outside the theatre, was showing was a large 3D HD projection. Using cross polaroids. And a 3D display on LCD TVs as well. Both awesome. HD in 3D. What an amazing way to view it. SD in 3D probably would be a strain to watch because of the low res, but HD3D is something else.

Sunday, 7 May, 2006

The new iMac. First-hand info.

I've just got my new iMac. Its 1.83 GHz, Dual core Intel with 512 Mb RAM and a 160 Gb hard disc.
You take it out of the box, connect power, keyboard and mouse, turn it on and it starts up. Everything is already installed, you just need to put in your name and other details and it starts.

I had already downloaded Boot Camp and the drivers for Windows. And had a WinXP DVD ready. So the first thing I did was to install Windows - on my Mac.

I set aside a 32 Gb partition. The WindowsXP installation took about an hour. Then I went on to install an anti-virus and anti-spyware software. AVGFree and SpyBotSD. Then Quicktime, and Adobe Acrobat. All this took another hour. O still have to put Winzip and other stuff.

But the windows 'side' works just like a PC. I could use USB sticks, listen to music, watch DVDs burn CDs - everything. And pretty snappy too.

Anyway, why exactly did I install Windows on my Mac? The main reason was to be able to browse on certain sites that are just not Mac-friendly yet. For instance. The Indian Railways reservation site, that simply doesn't go past the password screen. And you can't book tickets on. The HDFC bank site that doesn't show icons. The Indiatimes briefcase and e-mail site. And lots more that simply don't work fine with Safari. And there's no one to complain about.

Most sys admins and webmasters at these sites aren't even aware that the Mac has a different operating system When you call or write, their replies usually start with a "Go to your start menu, select Control panel and...". Even if you interject and say you have a Mac, they simply continue "Yes I know, just go to your start menu, select Control panel and..."

Actually, come to think of it, I once showed a movie on my PowerBook to this young MBA from IIM who had also studied Computer and Software Engineering and was working as a software person in NY. And her reaction was... "No start menu and the menu always stays on, where did you get this theme?". She thought it was a clever question till I told her I was running Unix with a proprietary GUI. And she shook her head as though I was just masquerading a good looking Linux build. But she had no clue about the fact that this was the classic MacOSX interface for nearly half a decade.

Now one doesn't have to face all this anymore. If it doesn't work on your Mac, and the world doesn't understand, just try it on your Mac - with Windows this time.