Saturday, 8 December, 2012

What's the scene with FCP now?

"what's the scene with FCP now?"
"I heard 'they' are stopping FCP". 

These are the commonest queries I get when the topic of an edit system comes up.
So, here's the status on FCP 7 as of Dec 2012. And if the world really ends on the 21st Dec 2012, none of this will matter.

FCP was introduced around the year 2000, and over the past decade has been through version 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Each time a new version was released, Apple stopped selling the earlier version. So when FCP 6 was released, FCP 5 was discontinued.

Last year, Apple discontinued FCP 7 and released FCP X. FCP X was not the next version of FCP, but a whole new application. It did not support many of the existing editing workflows but instead made an attempt to revamp the entire editing interface and methodology. There were many debates on whether this was good or not. And the debates will never stop.

Personally, I've bought FCP X and use it for some personal projects. With the latest version FCP X 10.0.6, Apple has covered many deficiencies, but a few remain. So I use both FCP 7 and FCP X. And I have apps that can move project from one to the other.

So, FCP 7 and FCP X work and will continue to work. If you own FCP 7 and its working on a system, it will continue working. If you buy a new system, you can install and continue to use FCP 7. Whatever bugs and issues there are in FCP 7, will remain and there will be no updates.

When Maruti introduced the Estilo, they discontinued the Zen. Meaning you could no longer buy a Zen. If you already had a Zen, it did not stop working and you can still drive it around. Eventually, over years, some parts will not be available. And you may need to stop using the Zen and get something else. 

That's exactly how it is with FCP 7. Discontinued from selling, but working if sold earlier.

My earlier blog posts on FCP X

Some other interesting links for FCP X…

For those who have no clue on the Mac, MacOS X, and the relation to PCs running Windows…

FCP or Final Cut Pro is an editing software, not a complete system. It runs on Mac computers - MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac mini, MacPro. Meaning, it will not run on Windows or on PCs running Windows. No, it will not run on your friend's Dell laptop,

MacOS X is an operating system like Windows. But unlike Windows, MacOS X runs only on Mac computers. MacOS X does not run on PCs from Dell, Lenovo, Acer, etc.

MacOS X is needed to run FCP.

Saturday, 24 November, 2012

EDL check and 'electronic pull list'

Any editor out there (in Mumbai or India), who has a life, friends and family, and is sick and tired of wasting hours and days at a DI place because...

EDLs don't match, Files can't be found, Conform takes hours and days, Eye-matching has to be done, sound doesn't sync (the new 23.976-24-25-29.97 'bhelpuri' effect), a one-day job takes 2 weeks unscheduled...
and other such irritations...

Grieve not. 
I'm offering 'EDL pre-checking' and 'electronic pull-list' for digitally shot movies.
So, only used files are carried for DI, and the EDL is proved to be fine before handing over for DI.

What I do is, from your project (Avid or FCP), I automatically parse (means read and analyze) a list of all Red/Alexa/Canon files needed for each reel. Then, these are copied to a new drive. So that drive has reel-wise folders with selected files for each reel, neatly placed in reel-wise folders. And this is a copy, so your original drive and files are intact.

I then make AAFs (for Avid MC) or XMLs (for FCP) and ensure that this each and every clip on the timeline correctly connects to this new drive. This AAF/XML can then be imported into any Baselight, Lustre, iQ, Resolve, whatever, and within minutes your timeline is ready. No manual connecting, no waiting.

And you need not carry multiple hard disks to the DI place, just this one small drive with all used-in-the-edit rushes. 

This is not a free service. Charges are fixed fee per reel. Mail me.

Monday, 12 November, 2012

Video assist, dailies and 'looks' in digital movie-making

I keep calling them movies, not films, and movie-making, not film-making because some new movies in India are being shot on digital mediums - Canon HDSLRs, Red, Alexa, Sony and others. No film used, means new methods, new workflows. The concept of 'video assist' and 'dailies', too assume a somewhat different approach.

Many if not all of these mediums shoot in a 'color space' that's not 'normal', also called 'Log' - LogC, S-log, RedLog etc. And they shoot at a high resolution - at least 1920x1080 HD, going up to 5000+ pixels across, or 5k. While shooting, these cameras output HD video out of HD-SDI or HDMI connectors.

So, for video assist, you need no longer use the old 'clamshell' video recorders, VHS recorders, or DVD recorders. But still, in India many a digital movie camera is rented with a DV recorder or 'clamshell'. This recorder only records SD video, 720x576 DV-PAL. So the camera rental company sends out a set of converters - to convert from HD to SD and SD to composite.

So one of the first irritants in shooting HD is that while the shot is being taken, one sees a beautiful crisp HD image. But afterwards, the playback after the take, comes out as a blurred composite video SD image. Some people on set cannot see any difference so they live with this. But most cinematographers can, and it's definitely bugging.

The other factor is color space. These camera output Rec709 (or, 'normal colour') video while shooting, but on the memory card that records in camera, they record an enhanced dynamic range image called Log - LogC, S-log, Red log etc. And that's what goes for editing. 

A log image is a specially 'adjusted' image with what appears as the contrast turned down. This permits greater adjustments in post. But visually it looks dull and uninteresting to watch. RedMX, Red Epic, Alexa, Sony F3/F23/F35/F65 and some others can shoot Log, while Canon and Nikon HDSLRs shoot normal linear video.

Arri has a good explanation on Log video here...

So, there are two issues here - one is seeing a crisp image while shooting, on set, and being able to play back that image to review a take. And the other is providing this clean image for editing, so throughout the post, people get to see a good approximation of what the final movie will look like. And they won't freak out when the Cinematographer tweaks color and brightness while doing the color grading.

For the first issue, most of these Log shooting cameras provide a Linearized picture out of their monitoring HD-SDI and/or HDMI ports. So you connect that to an HD monitor and you've got a good clean HD image. To be able to review takes, you can play them back from camera and get a correct image too. But using the camera for playback that means the camera is in use even after the take and cannot proceed to the next shot. 

A better option for HD review is to use a small HD video recorder. Many models exist, and some camera rental outfits have begun sending out a Aja, or Convergent recorder.

For the issue of clean dailies, one needs to engage a person or post house that will take your camera files, process them intelligently, and apply the correct look-up-tables, and output files that are identical to the original as far as file name, timecode and folder structure is concerned. Else you end up with files that look great and can be edited, but after the edit, the color grading cannot relink back to the originals. 

In India, many a camera rental houses have dabbled with the creation of dailies. Since they have no background in post, they often use older systems, pirated software, and improperly adjusted monitors. And worst of all, use untrained FCP newbies to do these conversions. 

I get many such complaints where the converted files have changed names, or timecode missing so the editor edits away and when its time to do DI, EDLs don't match, time is lost, anger, frustration. None of these change the cost of DI, of course, so producers don't bother with this stuff. 

Some of the larger post houses have also dabbled with creating dailies too. They don't make obvious mistakes, but many a post house in Mumbai are using 5-year old systems for this, so they too take time. So dailies get delayed, and sometimes get dropped altogether. And in most post house in Mumbai there are so many commercial bookings that this free fund dailies effort gets shelved back in the calendar.

So, I've been doing daillies for a couple of movies. This began as a help for some friendly cinematographers. But over the past months, it's grown into a full-fledged dailies setup that I have at Andheri in North Mumbai. I create daillies that duplicate the look of the monitor on set. I also have a procedure in place where the cinematographer takes stills with the movie camera, color grades these on his laptop and provides them to me s a template to make dailies with so that the editor, director, and others get to see a cinematographer approved image.

Since I have an editing background, I will ensure complete timecode accuracy with dailies. As a bonus, I make dailies that take up one-third to one-tenth less space than the original camera rushes, and do conversions that are ready to use, with no import time, even for Avid Media Composer. Direct use media files for FCP and Avid.

My company Post BlackBox handles the data wrangling, backup, archive and post workflow for many movies here in India. So it's really easy for us to insert the dailies as part of the workflow. For some of our clients we have also sold full HD, video assist recorders which too, are great for dailies. 

I am now in the process of creating a laptop based, wireless HD video assist cum dailies solution on set. In a way that the cinematographer can adjust colors while shooting but still record uncorrected footage. The dailies will carry this correction and everyone in the chain sees a DoP approved image with few or no surprises in DI.

Sunday, 9 September, 2012

24fps film master to 25fps DigiBeta tape master

In a film 24fps project, one often has to make PAL outputs, at 25fps.

Here we refer to 24fps as 'true 24 fps' not like 23.976fps which is called 24fps in NTSC countries.

First, on quality... 

If the FCP system is outputting ProRes, then it is of the exact same quality that Smoke on Mac would output. If it were a Smoke on Linux then that would not be able to output ProRes or DNxHD so there is no way to compare.
In my experience, an FCP ProRes (HQ and 4444) or Avid MC output (DNxHD145, 220, 220x or 444) is visible indistinguishable from a Smoke, eQ or Baselight uncompressed source, if the original is a compressed video (for eg. Canon, Sony F3, Ex1/3, Alexa, etc). For an original film source scanned input, it may matter.

For the DigiBeta (or any other 25fps) output, there are two methods.

1. We run the 24fps source as '24+1' or 24@25 where we play the source at 24fps but the video output is 25fps. Only FCP 7 or Avid MC can do this, Smoke cannot. Here one frame is repeated every second. There is a visible judder once per second, just like we see on an external monitor during editing a 24fps project in Avid MC or FCP 7. This is the preferred method in India as it leaves the sound untouched.

2. We run the 24fps source at 104% speed. In this method one's 24fps master is 'conformed' to 25fps, or made 4% fast to be able to play into a DigiBeta. No frames are repeated, and all 24 frames are played every second. This method is possible in Smoke or eQ and is the preferred method in the Eu or UK. But in India we do not make masters like this as the sound runs 4% faster too and this changes the pitch and tempo. No music director would permit this in India.

So, depending on where the DigiBeta tape is headed, one selects any one of the methods above.

HDCam, HDCamSR, D-5can all run at 24fps, so no conversion is needed if your tape/disk is one of these.

For the DVD, if its PAL 25fps, you need to do one of these above two methods. For an NTSC DVD there are established methods of converting 24fps (actually 23.98fps) to 29.97 fps by repeating 6 frames. This is invisible and involves no pitch change. Almost every single English movie DVD one has ever seen, uses this (23.98-24 pull down) method. There are also '24fps DVDs' in NTSC.

Blu-ray DVDs run at 24fps so conversion is needed. 

Web movies can run at any fps from 24 to 60 fps. Most computer monitors, iPhones, smartphones, and iPads on which viewers see movies, have no specific fps, so here too anything will work without conversion.

Friday, 24 August, 2012

About DCPs and digital cinema

A friend asked me about showing his movie (can't call them 'films' anymore) at a film festival. And the festival asked him for a 'DCP' and something about JPEG-2000 or MPEG-2. This friend and many others, are used to showing their movies at informal gatherings, as DVDs, sometimes even Blu-ray disks, or, showing a movie file off a standalone player like the WD player. Some even connect their laptop to a TV or small projector, and show it.

The WD player is an amazing device. It enables you to connect a hard drive or even pen drive and play a variety of movie files. AVI, MPG, VOB, MKV, MOV, WMV, nearly any type of file can be played off it. And you can connect the WD Player to any HD TV set or projector. It even works with Mac formatted disks. Actually I think every festival and public theatre should have a WD Player, or permit their projector and sound system to be hooked to one.

To return to 'DCP'. This stands for Digital Cinema Package. It's a file format, or rather a bunch of folders with files, which can be read by a device called 'Digital Cinema Server'. Which is a computer with some special software that can play DCPs. Most multiplexes in Mumbai and other Indian cities have one. Connected to a high resolution projector.

The compression used in making a DCP is usually JPEG-2000. And file format is MXF. Picture is compressed, while sound is not. Wikipedia has a complete technical explanation here...

Without going into a detailed technical explanation about DCPs, I'll touch upon how they are made.

There is usually some software on a PC based system that takes DPX or TIFF files for picture and WAV files for audio, and 'encodes' (nerd word for convert) them to a DCP. These can then be encrypted and locked with a 'key'. The key ensures that the file can only be played at a specific location and on a specific range of dates. So that's a kind of a anti-piracy mechanism.

So where do you get a DCP made?

In Mumbai, Reliance Media Works, Real Image, UFO, Scrabble, and some others make these. But they all need DPX or TIF files as picture, and WAV files as audio. If your movie has subtitles, you can 'burn' these in to the picture. Or, provide them with an ASC file which contains subtitles in a special text format. So these are switchable subtitles. You can also provide subtitles in multiple languages and the theatre where the movie is to be shown can switch the language at will.

What if, like most independent movie makers, you have an output off FCP or Avid. In the form of an Apple ProRes or DV, MOV file? When then you're out of luck. Most of these DCP creation places cannot read anything except DPX or TIF. So you need to convert your MOV file to DPX or TIF first.

I've done these conversions for many of my friends and many have been successfully shown in theatres.

There are even software packages that let you make your own DCP. Even with a key. Qube, Quvis, Fraunhofer and others make such software. I'm thinking of investing in some such software but watching and waiting to see how the demand grows (or not).

But what if you don't want to go through the trouble of making a DCP and you're happy showing it off a WD player? Well then go with it. Most theatres that have a Digital projector have one with either a DVI or HDMI input. You can connect the WD Player to the projector with the appropriate cables.

Sound may be a bit of a problem though. If your sound is stereo, then the theatre sound system will accept a stereo input with the appropriate cables. Theatres usually have such a sound system to play music before the movie begins. If your sound is Dolby 5.1, then the theatre's Dolby processor may or may not have compatible inputs for a WD Player. Though a Dolby processor will have six separate analog inputs. In that case you'll need more than cables, you need a decoder to convert the WD Player's digital output to six analog outputs.

Some months ago I showed a full 3 hour feature at the Cinemax theatre playing Apple ProRes files off my laptop who's video display output was connected to the theatre's projector. And sound system connected to the stereo output of the laptop. At the Pixion theatre (where i used to work, not any more, though) we had a permanently connected MacPro from one of the edit suites to a digital projector. And the six track output to the theatre's Dolby system. So we showed many a movie here off FCP with full Dolby surround. Sadly, the Pixion theatre is no longer operational, I believe.

Lastly, a Blu-ray disks also not a bad choice. They are reasonably easy to make, full HD in resolution, and carry up to 8 tracks of audio for full surround. And you can add subtitles which can be switched or or off as needed.

So these are the choices one has, for showing one's movie or short film at a less endowed film festival or theatre, or if one has a budget that does not permit making a print or a DCP.

Saturday, 14 July, 2012

Old, 'previously enjoyed' Mac systems for sale

A friend, film-maker of repute, is letting go of his 'previously enjoyed' Mac systems. This is a sale that he does from time to time to refresh his setup, as well as, provide young movie-makers the opportunity to buy reasonably good and capable equipment for their aspirations.

There is a MacPro, 2x 23" Cinema Displays (non-glossy screen), a MacBook Pro 15" matte hires, and a MacBook Air 11"

All systems are in Mumbai and can be picked up against payment. I'm not revealing the identity of this gentleman at the moment. But please write to me and I can hand you over to him.

MacBook Pro 15inch High Res

Custom build for photographers and film editors.
Has High Resolution, Matte Display, Solid State Drive.
Comes included with added THREE year APPLE CARE warranty.

This is a special custom built system with a 1680x1050 display. So, DaVinci Resolve will run on it without the terminal hack.

MacBook Pro 15inch Early 2011
Serial Number: C02G832QDRJM
OSX Lion
2.2 Ghz Quad Core i7
AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 1GB GDDR5
128GB Apple SSD
Backlit Keyboard
High Resolution Display
Anti Glare (Matte) Display
Apple Care included

Under Warranty till August 18, 2014
Machine Condition- Like NEW. In Box

This is a top of the line 15inch Pro Custom Configured machine.
Rs 1,40,000
Cheque or Bank Transfer accepted.
Delivery on receipt of payment.

MacBook Air 11inch

MacBook Air 11inch 2011
Serial Number: SC02G1CS4DJYD
OSX Lion
1.6Ghz Core i5
128GB Apple SSD
Backlit Keyboard

Machine condition - Like New. In BOX

Rs 65,000
Cheque or Bank Transfer accepted.
Delivery on receipt of payment.
Under 1 year Warranty till September 9, 2012
Extendable by 3 years with Apple Care.


This system will work for Avid MC, FCP and Resolve.
To run Resolve faster, you can add a GPU

Mac Pro 2008 Eight-core Intel Xeon
Series 3,1
Serial Number: YM822053XYK
2.8 Quad Core Intel Xeon DUAL PROCESSOR
Processor Name: Quad-Core Intel Xeon
Processor Speed: 2.8 GHz
Number Of Processors: 2
Total Number Of Cores: 8
L2 Cache (per processor): 12 MB
RAM Memory: 16 GB
Bus Speed: 1.6 GHz
16 GB RAM (added 2012)
320 GB 7200 RPM Drive
Super Drive

Warranty Expired.
In perfect working condition
Will install OSX of your choice.
Snow Leopard or Lion

- Rs 1,20,000
Cheque or Bank Transfer accepted.
Delivery on receipt of payment.

Apple Cinema Display 23 inch HD DVI
two pieces

Matte Screen
USB, Firewire connectors at the rear
Warranty Expired
In perfect working condition
In Original box

Rs 35,000 each
Cheque or Bank Transfer accepted.
Delivery on receipt of payment.

Friday, 6 July, 2012

Smoke for everyone

About a week ago, as promised, Autodesk put out, for download a trial version of their newest version of Smoke called Smoke for Mac 2013

For this who want to try it out, it can be downloaded here...

If you're a Smoke editor with years of experience, and you rush there and download it, be prepared for a shock. The entire interface has been changed. Working methods are different. There's right-click nearly everywhere.

And if you're not a Smoke editor but a FCP or Avid editor, then too be prepared for a shock. Particularly if you've tried to learn Smoke many times and given up because the interface wasn't something you could clearly understand.

Smoke 2013 is the first attempt by Autodesk to make Smoke easy to use. And make it similar to Avid and FCP. Hopefully, it will drive many editors to try and use it.
To help master the interface, Autodesk has videos up at their Smoke YouTube learning site...

Here in India this Smoke will be available as a product from about September. But, if you're in a hurry and can work with the limitations in the trial software, you can get a complete Smoke system for about Rs 7 lakhs. And that's with HD/2k capable storage of 10 TB and full dual link 4:4:4 HD video in and out.

Tuesday, 22 May, 2012

So where are we on FCP X?


FCP X, which is Apple's name for the next version of FCP after FCP 7, was first shown at a large exhibition in Vegas (NAB 2011) in April last year. And then released a few months later. At the first preview, many people praised it, some even cheered and applauded. But when it became available and editors began using it, they criticized it for the lack of 'professional' features.

That, coupled with the fact that no new MacPro has been introduced for over a year, let some to believe that it was the end of the road for professionals on the Apple platform. Some moved on to Avid, some to Premiere Pro. Maybe a few even 'came back' to FCP X, to give it a second look and maybe because the alternatives were equally frustrating.


One year later, where are we on FCP X?

In India, has it become the successor to FCP 7? Probably yes, or probably not. The exact number of FCP X licenses is not easily available as it is only sold online through the App Store. Further, how many people who bought it are actually using it in India is also hard to get a hold of.

So only Apple know exactly how many people have bought it. They also know how many of these are existing FCP 7 license holders.

Apple released 4 updates to FCP X in this past year. Features like XML import and export, video out and others were added. So has this made FCP X better and more usable? Here's a look at where FCP X doesn't work out, and where it probably shines.

What FCP X can't do (yet)

Film 24-25 editing off DV or Beta tapes. Keycode, cut lists, pull lists, telecine logs. All this doesn't work in FCP X. So if you're stuck with this kind of editing, either move on to simpler 24fps HD workflows, or stick to Avid or FCP 7.

Shooting on DigiBeta or any tape based material, where you need an EDL at the end of the edit. Or editing where you need to output an OMF or single tracks of audio. Dump to Digibeta or any other tape. These are some situations where FCP X cannot be used.

Getting used to FCP X

FCP X is a completely new editing interface. It's magnetic timeline, 'skimming', single monitor, and lack of a traditional project-bin-clip-sequence structure, appear a bit confusing at first. But as you get used to it, the real power becomes obvious. FCP X is not limited to 4 GB RAM, and uses all the cores of CPU your system has. So rendering, mostly in the background, is really fast. It's simply faster than FCP 7 by a large margin, in many editing tasks.

For a documentary project shot over many months, various sources, and file types, FCP X has a better method of organizing media. Even automating a large number of naming and classifying tasks. So identifying and locating your media is much simpler.

FCP X, for an editor used to working in Avid or FCP 7 may be very different. But for someone who has no previous editing experience, but a good editing sense, FCP X is a very easy software to master. I believe FCP X is a boon to first time editors who find FCP 7 and Avid too difficult to master.

FCP X resources

For a quick start, there's a paper at the Apple web site called 'Final Cut Pro X for Final Cut Pro 7 Editors white paper
which outlines the difference between the two. And Philip Hodgetts book 'Conquering the metadata foundations of Final Cut Pro X'
is an excellent guide to how FCP X manages data about footage.

There are also excellent online resources on FCP X. 

Ripple Training's 
Apple Pro Video Series - Final Cut Pro X

and Larry Jordan's 
Final Cut Pro X Quick Start 

These cost a bit to buy, but are worth every cent. 
MacBreak Studio is another excellent resource, and is free too.

For actual classroom learning, there are a couple of places in India where one can learn FCP X. 
There's Evolve at Andheri W, Fine Tune in Hyderabad, and probably Whistling Woods.

I am planning two comprehensive course on FCP X, one for existing FCP 7 editors, which will be a one on one comparison between the two. And the other would be for complete freshers, who I believe are the target market for FCP X. And some customized courses for anyone who wants to integrate FCP X into an existing workflow - for TV serials, talk shows, documentaries, and such like.

Will post details as they get fixed.

For actual day to day experiences, there's a Facebook group called 'I honestly love FCP X'

and a Creative Cow forum on the FCP X debate 'Apple FCP X or not'


There are now utilities like 7 to X which let you export an XML from FCP 7 and import it into FCP X. And X to 7 that does it the other way around. Another neat tool is X2Pro that lets you send FCP X sequences to ProTools. These and more tools are at Apple's site

If outputting to tape is absolutely essential, then Blackmagic's Media Express Utility and Aja's VTR Xchange allow you to capture and playout to tape with insert. So you can simply export from FCP and use these to output to tape.


So FCP X is an exciting prospect. It will be loved by some, hated by others. But it is definitely here to stay. In fact, I think the transition from FCP 7 to FCP X is about as dramatic as the one many years ago, that made us switch from Steenbeck to Avid. We survived.

Tuesday, 17 April, 2012

The big BIG news at NAB 2012 Day 1

OK, this is being written at the very end of a very tiring first day. Lots of walking as usual, cold dry weather, jet lag, and low nutrition and hydration.

So I'm going to dole out points of interest as I saw them…

Blackmagic Cinema camera. Yes Blackmagic has thrown their hat in the camera ring. It's 2.5k. Shoots as CinemaDNG (an 'open' RAW format), or ProRes or DNxHD. Records on SSDs. Has a touch screen. And allows easy naming of clips with auto incrementing of takes/shots. Just like Deva does for sound. So you don't have to deal with names like 377_0982_03, or A112C001RTYJ3 etc.

Blackmagic announcement of a improved Resolve interface. Ultrastudio express, small Thunderbolt video I/O. Terranex converters at ridiculous prices but with same features and performance and more. Reduced mini-converter prices.

Aja has a 4k recorder (Ki Pro Quad), that receives 4k RAW from Canon's forthcoming 4k camera the C500. 4k will stream as RAW over HD-SDI. And debarring will also be done by the the KiPro Quad.
Aja also announced a tiny Thunderbolt output device, and a rack mount KiPro. KiPros will now record as DNxHD via a free software update.
More details here...

Arri showed a software update for the Alexa which is FREE and which allows you to shoot full 2k on the Alexa as ProRes. This is a slight resolution boost from HD.

Canon showed the C500 camera and the 1D-C 4k cinema camera. Its much larger than the 5D MkII and costs many times more.

GoPro had a huge stall that threatened to edge out Panasonic. Sony moved to the back of the central hall from their position at the entrance. Blackmagic was the largest stall at the entrance of South Hall. Quantel, Filmlight, Autodesk stalls were considerably shrunk. Prime Focus are showing the same old CLEAR stuff which wins awards but appears to be a solution looking for a problem.

3D is not everywhere but still seems to be a fad that refuses to go away.

Disk storage systems big and small of all shapes and sizes were everywhere. Thunderbolt devices were in the scores if not hundreds too.

Dailies and on-set data management seems to be an upcoming flavor. Many systems, some costing many tens thousands of dollars were presented. Colorfront, Scratch Lab, many others. 

Links to other coverages on NAB 2012.

Saturday, 14 April, 2012

Surprise announcements pre-NAB 2012

Smoke is changing

Take  look at this.

Expect something dramatic about Smoke from Autodesk. It's not clear if its Smoke on Mac or Linux, or maybe both. I won't make it for this as I'll be on the way to Vegas when it happens.

Avid Symphony affordable... or not?

Avid has just announced Symphony 6 for US$ 999 (meaning Rs 75,000 to 80,000 in India). This is for an upgrade from Media Composer. A crossgrade from FCP ridiculously costs US$ 5,999 (Rs 4.5-4.8 lakhs in India).

The press release says $ 999

but the store says $ 5,999

Symphony is like an Avid Media Composer with Smoke capabilities but a Media Composer timeline. You still need a powerful MacPro or HP Z800 Windows workstation. And video I/O like select Aja or Blackmagic cards, or a Nitris box.

Canon full-frame 4k DSLR

And Canon just introduced a DSLR capable of 4k digital movies.

It's motion-JPEG 4:2:2 8-bit, but the video is ready to use, no need for conversions. The camera will also output video uncompressed as a video signal at 4k and HD. But 8-bit. Pricing is stated as US$ 15,000 and available 'within 2012'.

Friday, 13 April, 2012

NAB 2012 preview

It's been a bit quiet on my blog lately. 

I've been busy with an initiative to help digital movie makers. 'Movie-makers' because film-makers use film to make movies, 'movie-makers' make movies, with or without film. Anyway, this initiative is still under development, with name, trademark, and other procedural issues being sorted out. Once it's all done, I'll report here.

Meanwhile, I'm at NAB 2012. For those that don't know, NAB is the National Association of Broadcasters. Every year, they organize a large exhibition and conference at Las Vegas in the US. The exhibition begins Monday 16 Apr this year.

So, leading up to the exhibition there have been several announcements. Some of which will impact movie production and post-production. I'm concentrating on post-production as that's more of my livelihood for now.

Here are things to watch for, at NAB 2012...

Thunderbolt devices

A Thunderbolt equipped MacPro is still awaited, but the number of Thunderbolt equipped MacBook Pros, iMacs, and Mac minis are growing. Thunderbolt devices have been pretty thin so far. This NAB, expect a whole new set of Thunderbolt peripherals. 

Thunderbolt - PCIe, Thunderbolt - SATA, Thunderbolt - Fibre, Thunderbolt - GigE, Thunderbolt - SAS, and many others not yet unveiled, might mean that maybe we won't need that Thunderbolt MacPro so badly after all.
New software for editing

Avid Media Composer 6 has been out for a while, and Avid, most certainly, has more tricks to show.
Adobe has just unveiled Premiere Pro 6 which at least one site has proclaimed is the 'FCP 8' that never happened. 
And, there may be a new entrant in this edit software market. Maybe, but not certain.

FCP X, an editing software that has been slammed by some hailed by others, and possibly doesn't enjoy the numbers that FCP 7 did. This NAB, may be the turning point. We may see many stalls sporting FCP X. There are indications that FCP X is gaining traction, although from a whole new market. I for one am making it a priority to examine this piece of software more closely, and even use it more that I currently do.

An announcement from Apple is unlikely, but no one can really predict Apple.


Filmlight showed the Baselight plug-in last year. It's shipping this year, for FCP 7, even if its been almost a year since FCP 7 has been discontinued. For a large installed base of FCP 7 users, particularly those who need to inter operate with the full Baselight, here is a innovative colour correction during editing workflow.

GenArts, Foundry, and a host of others make plug-ins for FCP (7 and X), Avid, Premiere Pro, and other NLEs. These seem to do pretty well and at NAB 2012 we will see more and better stuff from them. I have a ffeling though, that plug-ins need to improve dramatically, in capability and speed, and fall in price if anyone has to make windfall from making them. 

Blackmagic announcements

Blackmagic always has something new - cards, external devices, software, something. This year too, expect something. Maybe something Earth-shattering like the $ 1000 Resolve some time ago. Maybe a new control surface, or even a monitor.

Aja announcements

Aja too, probably, has something big planned for NAB. Their current Thunderbolt video I/O offerings are already more featured that anyone else's. But something more that video I/O may be shown.

Red announcements

Red, the digital camera company that created a huge impact to the digital movie-making market with the Red camera, has a stall at NAB this year. So expect either a new camera announcement, modifications or upgrades to existing ones, or something dramatic. This is also probably the first year this innovative company has some real competition.


Many companies will show digital movie data recording, copying, transcoding, and management tools. In the form of software, hardware, devices, or all of the above.

To 3D or not to 3D

A couple of years ago, after Avatar, 3D was projected as the next big thing. It hasn't quite worked out that way, and 2D is still around in a big way. This year too, 3D will be about as luke warm as it was and may even go on the decline.


The passing of film - 'tapeless' - has been spoken about in every NAB for the past decade or so. This is probably the first NAB where film's end is truly near. And if, between this NAB and the next, film manufacturing companies go under, then NAB 2012 might be the last year we see film scanners and recorders. 

The big boys

Autodesk, DFT (Thomson), Quantel, FilmLight, Arri, Digital Vision aka Nucoda, Cintel, Grass Valley, and others - these have been the big boys in post-production at NAB. Large stalls, hundreds of people manning them, announcements, parties, multi-million dollar gear on show and sale - have been their characteristics.

The decentralization of movie production, changing nature of broadcast, Internet based entertainment, approaching demise of film, and other factors have threatened their existence just like the mainframe computer manufacturers were edged out by the desktop PC revolution.

And so their stalls and presence shrinks with every passing year. But you can't write them off yet. This NAB, at least one of the big boys will have one more big moment. And maybe one or more of them won't be around after this year. Sad, but likely true.

Tuesday, 17 January, 2012

DaVinci Resolve on Windows

Yes, you read that right. DaVinci Resolve on Windows.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, which has been available on Linux, then later Mac, then recently a free Resolve Lite version on Mac… is now available on Windows 7. On Windows too there is a free version - Resolve Lite - and a paid version ($ 1000 or about Rs 70,000). if you have a full Mac version, then that dongle works on Windows too.

So what's the big deal, and the downsides on DaVinci Resolve on Windows?

First, a well-endowed Windows workstation with nearly the same spec as a MacPro or new iMac can be assembled for somewhat less money. But, more importantly, faster GPUs are available for Windows than for Mac. Like the GeForce GTX 580, Quadro 5000 and Quadro 6000, none of which are available for the Mac, yet.

But before you go out and get the cheapest Acer or Dell or assembled PC to run Resolve on, take a look at Blackmagic's spec on the workstation where they have qualified mainly two systems. HP's Z800 and SuperMicro's SuperServer. 

The document is called
DaVinci Resolve 8.2 Configuration for Windows
and its here...

If you explore the costing on these machines, you will probably find they cost nearly as much or in fact even more than a MacPro. Check for your self.

But still, these workstations come with more PCIe slots, and more wide PCIe slots so its possible to have more than one GPU, a Blackmagic card, eSATA or SAS card and even one or two Red Rocket cards to make a Windows based Resolve a more powerful machine. Like you can do 3D grading in 4k! And, you can use USB 3.0 for faster storage. USB 3.0 also lets you use the Blackmagic Ultrastudio SDI in place of a Blackmagic HD Extreme card. This is external so one PCIe slot saved.

If you need a basic Resolve on Windows setup, Blackmagic has now qualified a beginner Asus motherboard with an i7 CPU so you get get started for considerably less than with a workstation.

The only downside of Resolve on Windows is that many Mac-specific codecs may not work on Windows. And Windows cannot write or render to ProRes. But if you're working with Red or DPX, then you're good to go on Resolve on Windows.

But what is Resolve?

For those that don't yet know, DaVinci Resolve is a software version of the DaVinci colour correction system that's in almost every telecine suite in Mumbai. Pixion, Prime Focus, Famous, Avitel, Shemaroo… you name one and most likely they use DaVinci for colour correction.

So, if you're an ad film maker who (still) shoots on film, waits till it gets processed, and then runs the negative through a telecine machine at nearly any post house in Mumbai… your film 'gets' its look on a DaVinci.

Some years ago this company was sold to Blackmagic who make video capture cards that work with FCP (and with Premiere Pro and now Avid Media Composer too). Blackmagic took the capabilities of the entire DaVinci colour correction system and put that into a software version - using the power of the computer's CPU and graphics card to do exactly what earlier took nearly a hundred kilos of electronics to achieve.

Unbelievable? Well then, just 15 years ago, 1 terabyte of hard disk space would have weighed about 500 kilos, but now comes in under half a kilo, and your mobile phone has more processing power than an entire desktop computer of 15 years ago - the progress of computers has made DaVinci shrink to a software. 

So, the software Resolve can do everything that a 20 year old Resolve hardware could. And yes, the DaVinci hardware in telecine suites in Mumbai is practically the same as what was sold two, yes two decades ago.

If you're in the market for a Windows based colour grading system, and probably have one of these workstations lying around, and would like to experiment, let me know. 
Alternately if you want a turnkey Windows Resolve grading system too, drop me a line.