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Independence from formats




Pixel Power
4U2 Systems






Non linear Editing Moves Beyond Broadcast

by David Fox

NLE manufacturers declare independence from formats (and dependence on the Web).

Outputting to the Internet and mixing formats were the major new trends in nonlinear editing systems at IBC 99. Several manufacturers, notably Media 100 and Avid, have taken the Internet to heart, and are targetting Web users with systems capable of content creation and delivery. They see Web video creation as the fastest growing market for nonlinear. Both still sell Mac-based systems, but Apple itself has also realised the potential of the Web video market, not just with Final Cut Pro (its mid-range broadcast editing system), but also the new, very user-friendly iMovie edit package which is being bundled with all its latest FireWire-equipped iMacs - complete editing systems for under (Euros)1,300.

In the more demanding broadcast market, the ability to cater for multiple compression formats on the same machine, and even on the same timeline, has become a serious option, with most of the new machines offering greater flexibility in i/o ports, file and compression formats and even the ability to mix uncompressed and compressed footage in the same sequence.

Making machines easier to use has, however, not gained the same prominence. Most makers are trying to conform their keyboard controls (at least) and even user Interfaces to the dominant Avid standard. Jog/shuttle controllers are more widely available than they were, but not noticably so. The reborn Lightworks, when it reappears with new product at NAB, will still stand out as having the most distinctive interface. Until then, the award for most individual design goes to another UK manufacturer, Eidos, with its new, and very attractive Judgement and Justice editing systems.

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That's Entertainment

"The future of the Internet is going to contain a lot more media. Video enabled Web sites are doubling every year, and that rate will increase," says Bill Miller, Avid chairman. As he points out, entertainment is already listed as the number one reason for Internet use by 70% of users and video will be the key to reaching this growing market.

The new Avid Xpress DV is its first step in creating the Web creation tools which will output to any media, including the Internet.

It is DV-native (25Mbps), and will be under $10,000 complete when it is available next Spring. It will be distributed by IBM as well as Avid, to open it up to a wider market, and uses open plug-in software to allow it export to any streaming codec, including Video for Windows, QuickTime and RealNetworks' G2. It captures clips from a DV camera via FireWire 1394 cable.

It offers rapid timeline editing, using drag and drop, and takes about six seconds to render a one second effect (of which many are available as plug-ins).

In the online, broadcast world, "nonlinear tools are going to take over," says Miller. "Symphony and DS are doing it today. Network production environments are going to be the wave of the future. Tape interchange is going to die," he says.

"Cost effective versioning is going to drive a lot of what we do in the future," especially as so many broadcasters need to create different localised versions of their programmes, he adds.

Avid has sold more than 10,000 editing systems outside the Americas, and has upgraded its best-selling Media Composer (now on version 9.0 software) to allow two streams of uncompressed editing.

The latest Media Composer XL and Xpress 2.5 releases for the Mac were shown at IBC 99 and Miller renewed Avid's commitment to the platform. The introduction of Apple's new G4 hardware has meant Mac users now have dual-stream uncompressed editing. The Millennium edition, due out mid-2000, will also feature film support and 24p universal editing.

It also launched Avid Unity MediaNet 1.1 storage and networking solutions at IBC 99, which will allow most Avid systems (Mac and NT) collaborate over a network using shared media. It also supports video streaming, as well as AAF and OMM, "to enable people to connect and collaborate," says Miller. It offers real-time connectivity, on multiple platforms, for the NLE environment.

Avid Symphony 2.0, now includes 24p editing and mastering in native format (which can then be delivered in any format). It has sophisticated pan and scan controls for the creation of both widescreen and 4:3 versions. Where the initial edit is done using a lower quality film-to-video transfer (to save storage), it can automatically link the first EDL to a new EDL for the high quality transfer. This will generate new timecode by referencing the keycode on the film. Other features include very sophisticated colour correction.

Softimage's resolution independent DS has now reached version 3.0, which features better integration with 3D animation (it is built on the same architecture as Sumatra, which it says introduced the nonlinear way of working to animation and is integrated with DS for 2D and compositing). Other enhancements include: a more efficient timeline (more like Media Composer); the ability to mix and match media of different resolutions; a new 3D DVE and titling engine; new keying tools and real-time keyers. Performance has also been increased, so that effects which took an hour to render previously now take ten minutes. Newly launched is DS HD, which is tightly integrated with Media Composer and Symphony, and will cost about $300,000 when available at NAB.

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Network News

EditStream, Philips' networked news editing system, got its first European showing at IBC 99. It allows multiple users to simultaneously access the same audio and video material, add voice-overs and then almost instantly conform material to air. Because each edit station doesn't have to have direct access to the broadcast server, the system can easily be scaled from three to more than 100 workstations without having to increase the size of the broadcast server. Although it integrates best with Philips' own Media Pool server, it can be used with most transmission servers. The first seven workstation system has just been installed in Los Angeles.

Philips also plans to widen EditStream's appeal from broadcast to Internet production. The broadcast model already offers several quality levels, and Philips has now added MPEG-4 for video streaming on the Web. This was first used, experimentally, for the World Athletics Championships in Seville. As EditStream uses PC technology, it will be able to use low-cost components for the Web application, to keep the price low. "The off-the-shelf aspect [of EditStream] helps quite a bit in repositioning it for other markets," says a spokesman.

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Mild Mannered

Panasonic introduced PostBox 2000, a mid-range system sporting mild M-JPEG compression, at IBC 99. The latest in its MX series, it is being positioned as a complete post-production solution, including real-time 2D and 3D effects. New features include: 4:2:2 processing with optional SDI/AES/EBU interface, built-in Zip and CD-ROM drives, and three PCI slots for expansion cards.

The upgraded version 4.0 editing software "has all the features for long-form editing," says Daryl Blair, Panasonic's European product manager for non-linear and server. It includes: one-step editing to timeline; slip-and-slide; variable audio speed; animation import; and automatic audio split edits. It also uses a new jog/shuttle controller which is claimed to give it significant operational speed advantages over rivals and includes four faders and allows users easily access all editing and timecode-based commands.

The system supports multiple compression levels, and features real-time audio mixing, a fully integrated character generator with real-time animations, such as roll and crawl, and built-in paint program.

The turnkey system includes an art tablet and 70 minutes of on-line resolution disk storage. "Everything is in the box. There is very little in terms of options, just the 3D DVE board for real time effects," says Blair. A DVCPRO-native version is about a year away.

Its QuickCutter is aimed at faster response times and users can mark up shots while material is being input in 4x downloads, for rapid editing. Options include SDTI and Fibre interfaces. Panasonic also has a new four channel video server, which integrates very well with QuickCutter. QuickCutter also forms the core of its DNA news system working with an SGI Origin server over fibre which can begin playing out a file within only a few seconds of it starting transfer from QuickCutter.

Version 3.0 software will be available in December which will have "vast improvements on the audio side; much more flexibility in routing and processing audio," including a MIDI-linked fader panel, says Blair. "The original concept was to keep things as simple as possible, but people wanted more features," he adds.

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Nextore Neighbours

Thomson's development and distribution agreement with Discreet Logic, announced at IBC 99, marries its Nextore server with edit* for post-production systems it is installing now. This integration allows edit* to cut directly on the server, rather than sending material across a network, which frees up a lot of router space and saves time by not having to do all those serial digital transfers, says Nadeau.

The NT-based edit* can be used compressed or uncompressed (variable). It can use parallel processing as it offers true multitasking and all installations run on dual Pentium processors. It is also integrated with paint*, effect* and 3D Studio for ease of adding graphics, effects and 3D models.

The partnership with Thomson, makes edit* more attractive for news editing (although it can also interchange material easily with Profile). It can edit direct from tape to the timeline, to avoid the need to pre-digitise. It also has a voice over feature and users can plug a microphone directly into the system.

Discreet's high end systems are also extending their reach. "Probably the most interesting development is that we are first to market delivering a universal mastering solution which edits at 24 frames in high definition, using Fire [version 3.6], which can output to film and any video format," says Marc Nadeau, Discreet's director of product management.

Its mid-range Smoke NLE is limited to video resolutions, but both Fire and Smoke have been optimised for finishing episodic programming, with new database tools and search functions, and better data management to cope with projects containing one or two thousand shots. The software is shipping now as a no-charge upgrade to existing users of version 3.0.

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Terminal Velocity

Newly launched is DPS' Velocity (about £4500 for card and software), which can do both compressed and uncompressed and features real-time 2D and 3D effects. Although it has two video streams, it adds a third layer if the DV option is installed. It can overlay live feeds (or graphics) without having to digitise, so it effectively adds another stream. Although they haven't yet implemented it, in theory it could offer three streams, with the third stream coming directly from the hard drive.

"When you're in uncompressed mode, you only get a single stream of uncompressed video at one time, so you can't crossfade two uncompressed streams at the same time," although at mild compression (up to about 15 MB per second), you can, says Peter Kavanagh, DPS' special projects manager.

Analogue i/o is standard, but both SDI and 1394 are options. Users can also spread the timeline across dual monitors. It has eight audio channels, including real-time EQ, with Sonic Foundry Sound Forge software. It also comes with Digital Fusion DFX compositing software and Inscriber CG.

DPS has added a Virtual Tape File System, which allows users to install other software which isn't aware of the DPS disk and make it work with it. When video is being played off the hard drive, users can still save and retreive other files on it without disturbing video playout. The system makes each frame of video simultaneously available in nine file formats: SGI, TGA, BMP, PIC, TIF, IFF, VPB, RAS and RLA, which is particularly useful for animation users.

Its Reality card (£2795) is aimed at animation output and compositing, making it more of a digital disk recorder, although it can do simple editing. As it uses the same hardware (which runs on NT), users can add the DVE 3D card and editing software to bring it up to Velocity spec. Both are 32-bit systems, so they don't have to render or store the alpha channel separately.

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ED Passes Collage Exam

Pixel Power's uncompressed high-end editor, Collage EDit has been upgraded, with more new effects, including page crawls; multi-level, selective, unlimited undo; and a doubling (or more) in DVE render speed.

"We've made significant improvements to auto-conform speeds, by making more optimised use of tape machines, using more intelligent machine control, taking a sequence of clips on the fly and taking audio and video together even if they don't overlap," says James Gilbert, Pixel Power's development director. The revamp is aimed at establishing EDit as a finishing machine for autoconforming, especially for long-form programming, and he claims it makes EDit is "very cost effective" as an autoconform engine.

It is placing more emphasis on core editing use rather than effects, and is trying to streamline the editing process, using a traditional control panel, "to provide the same editing tools an editor would expect from a linear suite," he says.

It has integrated character generation, paint and graphics (including a complete Collage), and Gilbert claims "it's probably the most powerful integrated graphics engine in any nonlinear editor."

The system has sold mainly to high-end post production facilities, with about 20 installed in its first year. The basic system has 72 minutes uncompressed storage, costing £65,000. Additional units of 72 minutes (most installations have had two) cost £10,000. It can also do wavelet compression (selected as it had fewer artifects than M-JPEG), variable from 1.5:1 to 25:1.

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Just For You

Dutch NLE maker, 4u2 Systems, has expended its range of systems with the launch of PraiSonic, an offline video/online audio machine, aimed at audio-led editing. It is designed for programme makers and is simple to use (9 keys and 4 function keys). It was designed in response to customer demand for audio-oriented systems. "A lot of people are editing the audio first," says Jan Trapman, 4u2 Systems' managing director.

"It's very important to make a system anyone could handle," to help take the pressure off the one or two more expensive systems he says customers typically have.

The NT-based system can handle eight analogue and two digital audio channels in and out, as well as three video tracks, and costs ¤12,000 for a complete turnkey solution including audio mixers and effects and hardware.

Its DiVine online DV 25 editor has three video and eight audio tracks and the same simple way of working, and costs ¤9,000 complete. Its Viternity 2 offline editor (upgradable) costs ¤7,000 and SpotLIGHT, its software for portable use with advanced logging and EDL output, costs ¤1,500, including a timecode/video grabber card.

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Time Travel

Play's Trinity system has offered editing from the beginning, but only in linear mode, now it can also act as an NLE (or hybrid), with version 2.0 software. It does all the other things Trinity can do (switching, effects, graphics, etc.), but incorporates a new card, Time Machine ($5,995), which allows it access the hard drives, offering dual-stream real-time video with eight channels of audio. As an NLE, it needs at least three disks (SCSI-2 Ultra Wide), and runs its own Wavelet compression format (which compresses from 3:1, which Play says is "virtually lossless", to 25:1). An uncompressed version of Time Machine is in development.

Users can edit using one, two or four real-time video monitors for fast visual editing. Graphics are another strong selling point, with object-oriented paint, animation and compositing tools, real-time character generation including crawls, and a wide range of effects. Trinity NLE is the first integration of Electric Image (which Play now owns) 3D technology, for modelling, animation and ray tracing, into Trinity.

Features include: 3D Video Tracing, which allows users to create 3D graphic animations with live relections, refractions, shadows and lighting from multiple video sources simultaneously; colour correction; simultaneous 2D and 3D digital video effects, warp geometry effects, chroma, luma and linear keying (all in real time).

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Frame To Frame

Editware's Super Edit is an NT-based hybrid tape/disk system designed for use with Grass Valley's Profile servers. It costs $26,000 (plus the Profile and audio mixer) and can edit direct from tape to Profile without pre-digitising. It can also run Profile's media manager locally and control four channels of Profile plus three other vision sources (or DVE, paint system or switcher) - that is not a long-term limit, as it already controls 12 machines in the lab (available next Spring).

It supports MPEG-2 and M-JPEG Profiles and, for MPEG use, it can edit any frame to any other frame within a Long GOP structure (16 frame GOP or longer), as it can edit on any I, P or B frame. "It's not the edit system which is being clever, it is the decoders within the MPEG stream on the Profile which make it possible," says John Willis, technical manager AVtek Systems, Editware's European distributors.

The interface is very traditional, with the look and feel of a linear editing system, using a text timeline rather than a video timeline, and the VPE Editing Controller. "We're aiming to put it into a broadcaster who has decided to go with Profile networking but has vast expertise in video tape," says Willis.

Although the Profile-based version was only introduced at IBC 99, Super Edit has been around for a long time. Indeed, Editware claims it is the longest supported product of any type in broadcast television, as it was introduced in 1970. It is still writing software which will run on the old systems (although the hardware is also upgradable).

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Get Reel

ReelTime Nitro is now shipping with in-sync Speed Razor. It delivers two streams of video plus a graphics track and effects in real time. It includes Pinnacle's own real-time Genie DVE, which offers customisable effects, page peels, ripples, etc.

"In this part of the market, it's the only product which supports real-time DV in AND out without rendering," claims Steve Schrier, business development manager, Pinnacle Systems. The system is M-JPEG internally, but converts to and from DV in real time using 601. "In the tests we've done at 4.5MB per second it's transparent," he says.

A base version, board only without PC or storage, bundled with Premiere, costs $4,000, rising to $10,000 with Speed Razor.

It also launched a dual-stream DV-native editing system at IBC 99, the DV 500, which "is very much aimed at the pro-sumer level and will cost less than $1,300," for board and Premiere, says Schrier. It edits and creates effects in real-time, with DV (25Mbps) and analogue i/o. It also comes bundled with FreeFX (which is free from Pinnacle's Web site and works with all of its existing low-end technology). It produces highly accelerated true 3D effects, including warps and mapping video to 3D objects, when running on any graphics card with a Direct X chip (although it can operate at lower performance using just the PC's CPU).

Its DC-1000 is a basic editing system bundled with Premiere, ACID Music software, and Impression CD Pro (for CD authoring), while the DVD-1000 card, which does dual-stream MPEG-2 IPP editing, adds full Impression software for DVD authoring to the DC-1000 package. It uses SmartGOP technology which Schrier says is "really clever" and allows frame accurate editing at higher packing densities. It can run on a fairly standard PC with low-cost storage and comes with Y/C and DV i/o, with a component option available at the end of the year and the possibility of SDI in future.

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More Power

Multilayering and multiprocessing are two of the advantages of Fast's revamped 601 systems, which have also been improved in many other ways. IBC 99 saw the launch of FAST-Studio version 2.0 software, with a whole host of new audio and video editing features as well as FAST-Studio XL, which allows the software take advantage of multiple processors.

Most of the version 2.0 improvements are in answer to user requests. "People were annoyed with the speed, so handling times have been improved and the general speed of the system is faster," says Darren Mostyn, freelance editor, Online Creative, who works on technical development for Fast.

"The audio has been completely rewritten. There are a lot of extra features, so you can globally raise the level of a track or apply global panning. These have all been issues raised by users in the eight months it's been on release," he says.

"It was already a good, solid, reliable system, but version 2.0 [which is a free upgrade] adds a lot of little features people wanted," he says.

There is also new keyboard-assignable shuttle (using j, k and l as on Avid). 601 can now do single stream uncompressed SDI, but can't mix together uncompressed and MPEG-2 (which ranges from 5 - 50 Mbps dual stream).

Add-on software, 601-Print DVD takes a finished MPEG-2 sequence from 601 and turns it into a DVD file (it includes a DVD authoring package).

FAST-Studio XL adds the ability to do multiple layers and collapse them into a single track (to allow users apply an effect to multiple layers at once - similar to Avid's nesting). Advanced Sync locks any number of tracks together. It also features a stereo waveform display and can bring stereo clips into one track.

Although XL does better than the standard 601 background rendering, the optional 601-InTime card increases the processing power (with six CPUs on a card), and accelerates all functions, so that when the system is rendering a user can still play back any clip.

The long-awaited blue will be able to mix compressed (MPEG and DV) with uncompressed on the same timeline, but it is not shipping this year. Although Mostyn says it is working, it is waiting for SDTI. It will use the same software as 601, including the XL option.

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Station To Station

Sony's main NLE offering is the ES-3 edit station, which uses the FAST-Studio XL software, "except we have manual fader support and they don't," says Stephen Lowenstein, marketing manager picture processing, Sony. The hardware also includes all the video inputs (from 1394 to SDI and QSDI) in the box and is gen-lockable. It is also DV-native, unlike 601.

It can also be fitted with the performance-enhancing InTime card, and uncompressed via SDI will be available next year. "We're now seeing [it] as able to address a much wider segment of the market and a wider range of needs," says Jane Ashton, director product marketing, Sony.

"One of the things that people like about ES-3 is that it has a very easy to use interface and the way that it can be customised depending on how you want to approach it," she adds.

The ES-7 is a stand-alone editor for DVCAM, and was shown with new version 3.0 software at IBC 99, which includes "audio fader learn" which allows users adjust the faders in real-time as the timeline is playing back (or outputting to transmission or tape) and the system will modify the audio to match (as already on the ES-3). There is also a built-in waveform monitor and vectorscope, and it can display timecode and/or mark in and out points on the video output monitor. Multiple clips can be grouped together, with automatic timecode offsets, to create virtual cameras, so that users can cut between camera angles on the fly. It can also offline in DV and then autoconform from tape direct without digitising for higher quality output.

Sony also has two newsroom NLEs, the DNE-1000 and DNE-700, which are integrated with its news servers.

DEC 2000

© 2000 - 2010

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David Fox