Wednesday, 18 April, 2007

Final Cut Pro 6

On Sunday a day before NAB 2007 began, Apple announced Final Cut Studio 2 consisting of Final Cut Pro 6, Motion 3, Soundtrack Pro 2, Color, Compressor 3, DVD Studio Pro 4, LiveType 2, and CinemaTools 4.

There aren't shipping immediately, so first-hand details are sketchy. But going by reports, viewing videos and reading up at Apple's Web site here are the highlights.

Final Cut Pro 6

Mix multiple formats and codecs in the same timeline. Yes you do it even now with FCP 5.1 but you need to render. In FCP 6 you can make a new sequence set as Open Format and anything in it will play in real-time. How this impacts clips with filters and transitions, needs to be seen.

ProRes 422. A new codec which gives you great quality at low data rates. Sort of like how DVCProHD or DNxHD on Avid. An new hardware from Aja called IO-HD will be needed to work with this codec efficiently. Blackmagic has also introduced hardware called Multibridge Eclipse that does this acceleration.

But if you have an older BlackMagic or Aja card, or no card, can you still work with ProRes422? Remains to be seen.

Color

In some countries it is spelt colour, but means the same thing.

Some time last year Apple took over a small company called Silicon Color. They used to make a film and video colour grading software called FinalTouch. It sold in 3 versions - FinalTouchSD for $1000, FinalTouchHD for $5000, and FinalTouch2k for $25,000.

With FinalTouch2k you could do colour grading for an entire feature film. Meaning you could do DI. And people bought FinalTouch2k for $ 25,000.

Now Apple is giving away FinalTouch free, meaning part of Final Cut Studio. But whether Color (as FinalTouch is now called) has retained all the fill-blown DI features of the original FinalTouch2k, remains to be seen.

What I'm really keen on finding out is whether Color can work with DPX files and conform them to an EDL. And then exported the graded DPX sequence as Quicktime for use in FCP and do do deliverables like pan and scan etc.

To really grade like a DI suite you need a grading panel. And with Color, the Tangent CP-200 is supported. Check with Tangent www.tangentdevices.co.uk

3D compositing

Motion 3 part of FCS 2 now supports 3D and 32-bit floating point for compositing.There is also bezier masks, tracking, match moving, and stabilization. If you're a compositor, you know how big that is.

I don't use Motion all that much, so maybe I'll do so when I get Motion 3.

Surround mixing

Soundtrack Pro 2 now has surround editing and mixing with an innovative graphical display. And there's autoconform so you can make changes to the original edit in FCP 6, STP will show the changes and even implement them.

Compressor 3

Its become faster for one thing. Has more codecs even supports ProRes. And AutoCluster. meaning you can actually use QMaster now.

CinemaTools 4

Details are sketchy, but the table view is more interactive and in the Open clip window you can now open the next or previous clip in the same window without having to close the earlier one. Clip Analysis shows up in the margin instead of having to open a window.

Costing

Upgrade from any version FCP is $ 700 or about Rs 35,000
Upgrade from any version FCS is $ 500 or about Rs 25,000
A whole new one costs $ 1300 or about Rs 65,000
All these will not be available before May.

Meaning if you spent on an upgrade earlier tis year or late '06, you now have to spend some more. I wonder what happens to people who bought FCS this month.

For the IO-HD or Multibridge Eclipse hardware (either needed for ProRes422 support) you need to shell out $ 3500 or about Rs. 2.2 to 2.5 lakhs. Both these ship in July.

What's not changed

Capture tool still doesn't seem to show a time-code display or audio level meters during capture. So if your VTR is far away you still have no feedback.

Media Manager still looks the same, but if there are improvements I need to wait and report.

Relink even if the clip is not identical to the original. Again don't know if that works like in an Avid.

So basically these are the new things in FCP 2. More as soon as I get my upgrade.

Sunday, 8 April, 2007

What is the x in 8x, 24x, 56x in CD and DVD drives

CD-R, DVD-R, CD-RW, DVD-RW and such discs and drives that read and write them, mention speeds as 2x, 8x, 24x, etc. What is this x in normal data transfer terms of MB/sec? I did some research and this is what it means.

In CD drives and discs, 1x is 150 KB/sec (KiloBytes per sec). This the speed that floppy drives wrote and read at. So CD drive makers expressed their speeds as multiples of this to help people understand how fast it worked with respect to floppies.

So for CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW drives and discs...
1x = 150 KB/sec
4x = 600 KB/sec
16x = 2.4 MB/sec
24x = 3.6 MB/sec
32x = 4.8 MB/sec
48x = 7.2 MB/sec

Its different for DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW and DVD+R DL
1x = 1.375 MB/sec
2x = 2.75 MB/sec
4x = 5.5 MB/sec
8x = 11 MB/sec
16x = 22 MB/sec

And the new Blu-ray disks have a different measure too.
1x = 4.5 MB/sec
2x = 9 MB/sec
4x = 18 MB/sec

As a comparison, 2x of Blu-ray is equal to 6.5x of DVD is equal to 60x of CD.

For digital video working, the speed and capacities of these drives can be expressed like this.

CD-R and RW discs can record about 4 mins. of DV quality video in about 2 mins at 48x
DVD-R and RW discs can record about 21 mins of DV quality video in about 4 mins at 16x
or about 4 mins of 8-bit uncompressed video in about 4 mins
DVD-R DL discs can record about 40 mins of DV quality video in about 50 mins at 2x
or about 8 mins of 8-bit uncompressed video in about 50 mins
BD-R and RE discs can record about 2 hrs of DV quality video in 46 mins at 2x
or 25 mins of 8-bit uncompressed video in 46 mins
Dual layer BD-R and RE discs can record about 4 hrs of DV quality video in about 92 mins at 2x
or 50 mins of 8-bit uncompressed video in about 92 mins

So Blu-ray discs have the potential of replacing DV tapes completely. They are already available as video recording media in XDCAM systems but that's not DV, its MPEG compressed.
And DVD-R DL discs are useless for any kind of video media backup because they are so slow. You can write 8 DVD-R discs in the same time that you can write just one DVD+R DL.
And when Blu-ray gets to 8x it will be fast enough to write uncompressed 10-bit SD video in faster than real time, as well as write compressed HD at many times faster than real time.

Thursday, 5 April, 2007

Apple at NAB 2007

What about FinalTouch and Proximity?

The 8-core MacPro announced and shipping. A larger XServeRAID. 4Gb FC cards available. But what about FinalTouch and Proximity both of which are Apple's products now and have been for a few months.

At NAB, there is some likelihood of ...

1. a new DPX based workflow maybe even DPX integration into FCP.
2. something new on the film or HD grading front from FinalTouch even a new Apple FinalTouch.
3. some sort of a shared media workflow borrowing from what's available within FCP/XSan with something from the Proximity acquisition.
4. an asset management software maybe even integration with FCP/Motion and - a long shot - a better Media manager for FCP.

That much i can guess. More as things hot up before NAB.

New Dual Quad or 8-core MacPro

So the MacPro has also gone Octa - or octo. Eight CPUs in one Mac. Just had to happen since HP and others are already selling PCs with 8 CPUs. This is the same Woodcrest or whatever its called CPU.

The 8-core was just placed on the web site with an announcement that it would be available in a few days. No show, no fanfare. And this announcement has happened a scant 10 days before NAB. Where Apple will have a special media event on the 15th Apr.

So what does that mean for NAB and FCP? Definitely no more hardware announcements. At last year's NAB it was widely rumoured and even believed that there would be FCP 6. But no such thing came out. No new hardware, no new systems, just the new MacBook pro announced but not shipping. And FCP 5.1 shown but not shipped.

I guess Apple wanted to avoid the inevitable disappointment that this would cause if they just came up with a 8-core MacPro and nothing else. And even the 8-core XServe and newer higher capacity XServeRAIDs have already been introduced a few weeks ago.

So at NAB there might be demos with the existing FCP and Motion on the 8-core MacPro, some fast shared storage with the new XServeRAID.

And then maybe there might be bigger things around so Apple just got this MacPro out of the way so they wouldn't be diluted. Who knows? We all definitely will on the 15th Apr.

Avid Media Composer on Intel Mac

Avid announced a few days ago that the new version 2.7 of Media Composer and versions of XPress Pro will now run on Intel mac systems. MacPros, MacBook Pros and even Intel iMacs.

And I've just finished installing 3 Media Composers on Quad G5s. I even tried running the PC version of Media Composer on a Dual dual-core MacPro on the 'Windows side'. it works fine except for the serial port thing. Keyspan doesn't work under WinXP.

No more of that needed. You can run MC on the 'Mac side' of a Mac Pro just as well. But if you've bought MC ver. 2.6.4 or earlier and now want to upgrade your older G5 to a Mac Pro its not going to be free. Adrenaline users need to pay $ 1000 to upgrade to MC ver 2.7 (as the Universal Binary version is called) while MojoSDI owners need to pay $150 from what I can gather.

I don't have India pricing just yet, will get it from Real Image by and by.