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NAB Post-Production Roundup

By Ron Seifried

For the last few years, when entering the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center to attend the NAB convention, it was impossible to avoid being caught in the cross-fire of marketing jargon from the two superpowers of post production, Avid and Apple. Broadcast at high decibel levels, the simultaneously amusing and annoying salvo became a tit-for-tat battle to determine which company could sonically overwhelm the other across their shared aisle. So the pre-NAB news that both Avid and Apple would forgo booths on the show floor was received with some disappointment. The rumor mill was grinding away with stories of buyouts and bankruptcies, but the vacuum that was expected in the world of Post Production dissipated as mid-April approached.

Avid Mojo DX
Avid Mojo DX

Just days before NAB, Avid quietly announced the new DX line. This series of hardware interfaces has improved performance, combining CPU, GPU, and the processors in the new hardware while taking advantage of the faster PCIe bus (10 Gbit throughput) of the host computer, instead of the slower Firewire port. The Mojo DX includes analog, HD-SDI, and HDMI connectors, and will be the HD equivalent to the Mojo SDI—the only remaining standard-definition I/O available from Avid, since the original Mojo has been discontinued. The Nitris DX is Avid's new finishing solution, a 2RU upgrade to the older Nitris, with native HD format support, faster data transfer rates, and up to eight tracks of real-time HD with effects. Nitris DX includes HD-SDI, SD-SDI, HDMI, analog component and composite and four channels of AES/EBU audio. The Nitris DX can play back six streams of DNxHD 145 real-time-finished quality, and DVCPRO HD is now in full resolution with Media Composer. All of this news from Tewksbury was pre-empted with the announcement of aggressive educational pricing, a 50% price cut in Media Composer, and the official end of the Xpress line. Media Composer v.3 will include real-time timecode burn-in effect, improved multi-stream effects capabilities, and will address multiple CPU cores and new XML export features. The release date for Avid's latest offering is tentatively scheduled for this summer.

Apple's non-official appearance was pre-empted by the long-awaited release of Final Cut Server. Originally announced at NAB 2007, Final Cut Server is an asset management tool that catalogs video, audio, stills, and other data, including proxies. Multiple editors can access files, output through Compressor, and receive e-mail notifications when projects have been worked on by other network users. Cross-platform capabilities via the Java-based client program improve the work flow from a shared server, and help improve Final Cut Pro's media management capabilities. Telestream's Pipeline can now ingest media from tape or live sources directly into Final Cut Server, with support for Apple's ProRes 422 codec, and the improved work flow includes the ability to edit while ingesting for Final Cut Pro.

No announcement has been made for Adobe CS4, but the new Adobe Media Player 1.0 has completed beta testing, and is now available as a free download. Based on the Air platform, video streams of 1080p, 720p, and 480i can be played without employing a web browser. Available for Windows or Mac, the Flash-based player can work online or offline, depending on whether you download media or want to stream live from the web. Adobe Media Player, or AMP, will be primarily a competitor or iTunes Hulu and Joost, and the true-HD player won't have the limitations inherent in a YouTube clip. Premiere Pro CS3 now has extended tapeless work flow with no re-wrapping for preserved metadata and XDCAM support.

Matrox MXO2
Matrox MXO2

Matrox has expanded into the word of portable Mac-based editing with the MXO2. Running on field batteries or AC adapter, connections include HD-SDI, HDMI, component, Y/C, composite, Balanced and unbalanced audio, AES/EBU, SDI-embedded audio (up to 6 channels) and HDMI-embedded audio (up to 8 channels). The MXO2 includes support for Apple ProRes 422 HQ, 10-bit uncompressed HD, XDCAM, XDCAM HD, XDCAM EX, and P2 on Final Cut or Adobe Premiere Pro (Mac), and connects via ExpressCard/34 or PCIe for the Mac Pro, all for $1,595.00.

Matrox also announced the RT.X2 LE, a $1095 ¾"-length PCIe card and breakout box with composite, Y/C, HD/SD analog component input and outputs. Utilizing Adobe Premiere CS3 on Windows, the RT.X2 LE can edit native HDV 1080i, HDV 1080p, HDV 720p (JVC ProHD), Panasonic P2 MXF 720p, and MPEG-2 4:2:2 I-frame HD, and combine HD and SD material from analog and digital sources in real time.

Blackmagic DeckLink HD Extreme with HDMI
Blackmagic DeckLink HD Extreme with HDMI

Blackmagic unveiled a slew of new products, including the new DeckLink HD Extreme, an updated version of the previous model with 3Gb/s SDI and HDMI capture and editing. The DeckLink HD Extreme can switch easily to full-resolution 2K feature film editing, and includes built-in 3D look-up tables that allow customers to simulate feature film stocks. Connections include SDI, HDMI, and Analog component switches; 16 channels of SDI audio; 8 channels in SD; 2 channels of AES/EBU audio capture and playback with sample rate converter on input; and 2 channels of XLR audio. It's available now for $995.00.

Blackmagic Broadcast Converter
Blackmagic Broadcast Converter

Expanding into the mini-converter market, Blackmagic also announced five new models with 3Gb/s SDI technology, redundant SDI inputs, balanced analog and AES/EBU-switchable audio, standard 1/4-inch jack audio connections, and an international power supply. Each model has one type of conversion feature: SDI-to-Analog, Analog-to-SDI, SDI-to-HDMI, and HDMI-to-SDI, all priced at $495.00. The new Broadcast Converter model combines the aforementioned models into one, allowing simultaneous SDI-to-analog and analog-to-SDI conversion at the same time for $995.00. Blackmagic has also announced a Sync Generator with black burst and tri-sync sync generator for $295.00.

Blackmagic Video Recorders
The Blackmagic Video Recorders come with analog or SDI connectors

The new Blackmagic Video Recorders are compact USB video-capture devices that capture files directly to H.264 files for iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, YouTube, IPTV, Web, or full-resolution archiving. There are two models of Blackmagic Video Recorder, an analog version for consumers, and an SDI edition for professionals, both shipping later this year. The Blackmagic Video Recorder will be available in mid-July for $119.00, and the Blackmagic Video Recorder SDI will retail at $299.00.

Aja announced XENA 3.5, a free update to existing XENA users, available Q3 2008. New features include real-time DVCPRO HD capture and Aja's Machina stand-alone deck-control, playback, and capture application. This comes hot on the heels of the XENA 3.1.1 update, available just before NAB for download, which included support for Adobe Open HD for use with Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, H and V timing adjustment to Photoshop Plug-ins, and several bug fixes. XENA 2K also receives an immediate price drop to $2,990.00 US MSRP.

Red Giant announced five new products to further augment the post-production work flow. Trapcode Horizon ($99.00) assists users looking to generate motion in true 3D space within Adobe After Effects. Instant HD Pro ($399.00) brings high-quality SD-to-HD conversion, offering de-interlacing, de-noising, advanced pan and scan, and resolution-enhancement tools with presets for all HD formats and 2K output. Radium Glow ($99.00) is a set of plug-ins—you guessed it—that can add glowing areas to an image. Magic Bullet Steady ($199.00) is a stabilizing tool for Final Cut Pro 6 and After Effects CS3 (Windows and Mac), that removes camera movement using a 2D translation tool that is almost real time, and also includes video noise and a grain-reduction tool. Finally, there is the latest version of Primatte Keyer Pro 4 ($499.00, $199.00 upgrade). Designed to work with After Effects and Avid, version 4 adds support for Final Cut Pro. New features include auto-setup and the ability to work on the editing timeline. If you're experienced in any type of keying, you will appreciate the new features fix on set issues like uneven lighting, compression artifacts, and subtle shadows. All Red Giant software is slated to ship in the summer, 2008.

Automatic Duck has updated two of their flagship plug-ins. Pro Import 2.04 ($495.00) can now reference movies to Avid DV25, DV50, and DVCProHD media and use Apple-native QuickTime codecs instead of Avid codecs, resulting in vastly improved performance in Final Cut Pro, as well as compatibility with Color. Pro Export FCP 4.0 ($495.00 and $195.00 upgrade) can now convert Final Cut Pro media into Avid media files with 24fps support and FCP effects and parameters into Avid effects, and the ability to export an AAF file linking to external media files.

Digieffects is coming out with Natural Forces: Vapor and Natural Forces: Aqua. Retailing at $99.00 each, the two plug-in packages are a collection of video effects that include the creation of clouds, fog, haze, and smoke within Vapor, and water and weather effects in Aqua. Simulate: Illuma and Simulate: Camera ($99.00 each) add lighting and camera filter effects to your final project.

There is plenty more to cover in the world of Post Production from NAB 2008 that cannot be encapsulated in one article. We will be writing about storage solutions, media management tools, additional plug-ins and more cool stuff in the next Pro Video Newsletter.

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