Category Archives: NAB

A Sneak Peek: Avid shows its next-gen Media Composer

By Jonathan Moser

On the weekend of NAB and during Avid Connect, I found myself sitting in a large meeting room with some of the most well-known editors and creatives in the business. To my left was Larry Jordan, Steve Audette was across from me, Chris Bovè and Norman Hollyn to my right, and many other luminaries of the post world filled the room. Motion picture, documentary, boutique, commercial and public broadcasting masters were all represented here… as well as sound designers and producers. It was quite humbling for me.

We’d all been asked to an invite-only meeting with the leading product designers and engineers from Avid Technology to see the future of Media Composer… and to do the second thing we editors do best: bitch. We were asked to be as tough, critical and vocal as we could about what we’re about to see. We were asked to give them a thumbs up or thumbs down on their vision and execution of the next generation of Media Composer as they showed us long-needed overhauls and redesigns.

Editors Chris Bové and Avid’s Randy Martens getting ready for the unveil.

What we were shown is the future of the Media Composer, and based on what I saw, its future is bright. You think you’ve heard that before? Maybe, but this time is different. This is not vaporware, smoke and mirrors or empty promises… I assure you, this is the future.

The Avid team, including new Avid CEO Jeff Rosica, was noticeably open and attentive to the assembled audience of seasoned professionals invited to Avid Connect… a far cry from the halcyon days of the ‘90s and 2000s when Media Composer ruled the roost, and sat complacently on its haunches. Too recently, the Avid corporate culture was viewed by many in the post community as arrogant and tone deaf to its users’ criticisms and requests. This meeting was a far cry from that.

What we were shown was a redefined, reenergized and proactive attitude from Avid. Big corporations aren’t ordinarily so open about such big changes, but this one directly addressed decades of users’ concerns and suggestions.

By the way, this presentation was separate from the new NAB announcements of tiered pricing, new feature rollouts and enhanced interoperability for Media Composer. Avid invited us here not for approval, but for appraisal… for our expertise and feedback and to help steer them in the right direction.

As a life-long Avid user who has often questioned the direction of where the company was headed, I need to say this once more: this time is different.

These are real operational changes that we got to see in an open, informed — and often questioned and critiqued — environment. We editors are a tough crowd, but team Avid was ready, listening, considering and feeding back new ideas. It was an amazingly open and frank give and take from a company that once was shut off from such possibilities.

In her preliminary introduction, Kate Ketcham, manager of Media Composer product management, gave the assembled audience a pretty brutal and honest assessment of Media Composer’s past (and oft repeated) failings and weaknesses —a task usually reserved for us editors to tell Avid, but this time it was Avid telling us what we already knew and they had come to realize. Pretty amazing.

The scope of her critique showed us that, despite popular opinion, Avid HAS been listening to us all along: they got it. They acknowledged the problems, warts and all, and based on the two-hour presentation shown through screenshots and demos, they’re intent on correcting their mistakes and are actively doing so.

Addressing User Concerns
Before the main innovations were shared, there was an initial concern from the editors that Avid be careful not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” in its reinvention. Media Composer’s primary strength — as well as one of its most recognized weaknesses among newer editors — has been its consistency of look and feel, as well as its logical operational methodology and dependable media file structural organization. Much was made of one competitor’s historical failure to keep consistency and integrity of the basic and established editing paradigms (such as two-screen layout, track-based editing, reasonably established file structure, etc.) in a new release.

We older editors depend on a certain consistency. Don’t abandon the tried and true, but still “get us into this century” was the refrain from the assembled. The Avid team addressed these concerns clearly and reassuringly — the best, familiar and most trusted elements of Media Composer would stay, but there will now be so much more under the hood. Enough to dynamically attract and compel newer users and adoptees.

The company has spent almost a year doing research, redesign and implementation; this is a true commitment, and they are pledging to do this right. Avid’s difficult and challenging task in reimagining Media Composer was to make the new iteration steadfast, efficient and dependable (something existing users expect), yet innovative, attractive, flexible, workflow-fluid and intuitive enough for the newer users who are used to more contemporary editing and software. It’s a slippery and problematic slope, but one the Avid team seemed to navigate with an understanding of the issues.

As this is still in the development stage, I can’t reveal particulars (I really wish I could because there were a ton), but I can give an overview of the types of implementation they’ve been developing. Also, this initial presentation deals only with one stage of the redesign of Media Composer — the user interface changes — with much more to come within the spectrum of change.

Rebuilding the Engine
I was assured by the Avid design team that most of the decades-old Media Composer code has been completely rewritten, updated and redesigned with current innovations and implementations similar to those of the competition. This is a fully realized redesign.

Flexibility and customization are integrated throughout. There are many UI innovations, tabbed bins, new views and newer and more efficient access to enhanced tools. Media Composer has entirely new windowing and organizational options that goes way beyond mere surface looks and feels, yet it is much different than the competition’s implementations. You can now customize the UI to incredible lengths. There are new ways of viewing and organizing media, source and clip information and new and intuitive (and graphical) ways of creating workspaces that get much more usable information to the editor than before.

The Avid team examined weaknesses of the existing Media Composer environment and workflow: clutter, too many choices onscreen at once; screens that resize mysteriously, which can throw concentration and creative flow off-base; looking at what causes oft-repeated actions and redundant keystrokes or operations that could be minimized or eliminated altogether; finding ways of changing how Media Composer handles screen real estate to let the editor see only what they need to see when they need it.

Gone are the windows covering other windows and other things that might slow users down. Avid showed us how attention was paid to making Media Composer more intuitive to new editors by shrinking the learning curve. The ability for more contextual help (without getting in the way of editing) has been addressed.

There are new uses of dynamic thumbnails, color for immediate recognition of active operations and window activation, different ways of changing modalities — literally changing how we looked at timelines, how we find media. You want tabbed bins? You want hover scrubbing? You want customization of workspaces done quickly and efficiently? Avid looked at what do we need to see and what we don’t. All of these things have been addressed and integrated. They have addressed the difficulties of handling effect layering, effect creation, visualization and effect management with sleek but understandable solutions. Copying complex multilayered effects will now be a breeze.

Everything we were shown answered long-tolerated problems we’ve had to accept. There were no gimmicks, no glitz, just honesty. There was method to the madness for every new feature, implementation and execution, but after feedback from us, many things were reconsidered or jettisoned. Interruptions from this critical audience were fast and furious: “Why did you do that?” “What about my workflow?” “Those palette choices don’t work for me.” “Why are those tools buried?” This was a synergy and free-flow of information between company and end-users unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

There was no defensiveness from Avid; they listened to each and every critique. I could see they were actively learning from us and that they understood the problems we were pointing out. They were taking notes, asking more questions and adding to their change lists. Editors made suggestions, and those suggestions were added and actively considered. They didn’t want blind acceptance. We were informing them, and it was really amazing to see.

Again, I wish I could be more specific about details and new implementations — all I can say is that they really have listened to the complaints and are addressing them. And there is much more in the works, from media ingest and compatibility to look and feel and overall user experience.

When Jeff Rosica stopped in to observe, talk and listen to the crowd, he explained that while Avid Technology has many irons in the fire, he believes that Media Composer (and Pro Tools) represent the heart of what the company is all about. In fact, since his tenure began, he has redeployed tremendous resources and financial investment to support and nurture this rebirth of Media Composer.

Rosica promised to make sure Avid would not repeat the mistakes made by others several years ago. He vowed to continue to listen to us and to keep what makes Media Composer the dependable powerhouse that it has been.

As the presentation wound down, a commitment was made by the Avid group to continue to elicit our feedback and keep us in the loop throughout all phases of the redevelopment.

In the end, this tough audience came away optimistic. Yeah, some were still skeptical, but others were elated, expectant and heartened. I know I was.

And I don’t drink Kool-Aid. I hate it in fact.

There is much more in development for MC at Avid in terms of AI integration, facial recognition, media ingest, export functionality and much more. This was just a taste of many more things to come, so stand by.

(Special thanks for access to Marianna Montague, David Colantuoni, Tim Claman, Randy Fayan, and Randy Martens of Avid Technology. If I’ve missed anyone, thank you and apologies.)


Jonathan Moser is a six-time Emmy winning freelance editor/producer based in New York. You can email him at flashcutter@yahoo.com.

VR at NAB 2018: A Parisian’s perspective

By Alexandre Regeffe

Even though my cab driver from the airport to my hotel offered these words of wisdom — “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” — I’ve decided not to listen to him and instead share with you the things that impressed for the VR world at NAB 2018.

Back in September of 2017, I shared with you my thoughts on the VR offerings at the IBC show in Amsterdam. In case you don’t remember my story, I’m a French guy who jumped into the VR stuff three years ago and started a cinematic VR production company called Neotopy with a friend. Three years is like a century in VR. Indeed, this medium is constantly evolving, both technically and financially.

So what has become of VR today? Lots of different things. VR is a big bag where people throw AR, MR, 360, LBE, 180 and 3D. And from all of that, XR (Extended Reality) was born, which means everything.

Insta360 Titan

But if this blurred concept leads to some misunderstanding, is it really good for consumers? Even us pros are finding it difficult to explain what exactly VR is, currently.

While at NAB, I saw a presentation from Nick Bicanic during which he used the term “frameless media.” And, thank you, Nick, because I think that is exactly what‘s in this big bag called VR… or XR. Today, we consume a lot of content through a frame, which is our TV, computer, smartphone or cinema screen. VR allows us to go beyond the frame, and this is a very important shift for cinematographers and content creators.

But enough concepts and ideas, let us start this journey on the NAB show floor! My first stop was the VR pavilion, also called the “immersive storytelling pavilion” this year.

My next stop was to see SGO Mistika. For over a year, the SGO team has been delivering an incredible stitching software with its Mistika VR. In my opinion, there is a “before” and an “after” this tool. Thanks to its optical flow capacities, you can achieve a seamless stitching 99% of the time, even with very difficult shooting situations. The last version of the software provided additional features like stabilization, keyframe capabilities, more cameras presets and easy integration with Kandao and Insta360 camera profiles. VR pros used Mistika’s booth as sort of a base camp, meeting the development team directly.

A few steps from Misitka was Insta360, with a large, yellow booth. This Chinese company is a success story with the consumer product Insta360 One, a small 360 camera for the masses. But I was more interested in the Insta360 Pro, their 8K stereoscopic 3D360 flagship camera used by many content creators.

At the show, Insta360’s big announcement was Titan, a premium version of the Insta360 Pro offering better lenses and sensors. It’s available later this year. Oh, and there was the lightfield camera prototype, the company’s first step into the volumetric capture world.

Another interesting camera manufacturer at the show was Human Eyes Technology, presenting their Vuze+. With this affordable 3D360 camera you can dive into stereoscopic 360 content and learn the basics about this technology. Side note: The Vuze+ was chosen by National Geographic to shoot some stunning sequences in the International Space Station.

Kandao Obsidian

My favorite VR camera company, Kandao, was at NAB showing new features for its Obsidian R and S cameras. One of the best is the 6DoF capabilities. With this technology, you can generate a depth map from the camera directly in Kandao Studio, the stitching software, which comes free when you buy an Obsidian. With the combination of a 360 stitched image and depth map, you can “walk” into your movie. It’s an awesome technique for better immersion. For me this was by far the best innovation in VR technology presented on the show floor

The live capabilities of Obsidian cameras have been improved, with a dedicated Kandao Live software, which allows you to live stream 4K stereoscopic 360 with optical flow stitching on the fly! And, of course, do not forget their new Qoocam camera. With its three-lens-equipped little stick, you can either do VR 180 stereoscopic or 360 monoscopic, while using depth map technology to refocus or replace the background in post — all with a simple click. Thanks to all these innovations, Kandao is now a top player in the cinematic VR industry.

One Kandao competitor is ZCam. They were there with a couple of new products: the ZCam V1, a 3D360 camera with a tiny form factor. It’s very interesting for shooting scenes where things are very close to the camera. It keeps a good stereoscopy even on nearby objects, which is a major issue with most of VR cameras and rigs. The second one is the small E2 – while it’s not really a VR camera, it can be used as an underwater rig, for example.

ZCam K1 Pro

The ZCam product range is really impressive and completely targeting professionals, from ZCam S1 to ZCam V1 Pro. Important note: take a look at their K1 Pro, a VR 180 camera, if you want to produce high-end content for the Google VR180 ecosystem.

Another VR camera at NAB was Samsung’s Round, offering stereoscopic capabilities. This relatively compact device comes with a proprietary software suite for stitching and viewing 360 shots. Thanks to IP65 normalization, you can use this camera outdoors in difficult weather conditions, like rain, dust or snow. It was great to see the live streaming 4K 3D360 operating on the show floor, using several Round cameras combined with powerful Next Computing hardware.

VR Post
Adobe Creative Cloud 2018 remains the must-have tool to achieve VR post production without losing your mind. Numerous 360-specific functionalities have been added during the last year, after Adobe bought the Mettle Skybox suite. The most impressive feature is that you can now stay in your 360 environment for editing. You just put your Oculus rift headset on and manipulate your Premiere timeline with touch controllers and proceed to edit your shots. Think of it as a Minority Report-style editing interface! I am sure we can expect more amazing VR tools from Adobe this year.

Google’s Lightfield technology

Mettle was at the Dell booth showing their new Adobe CC 360 plugin, called Flux. After an impressive Mantra release last year, Flux is now available for VR artists, allowing them to do 3D volumetric fractals and to create entire futuristic worlds. It was awesome to see the results in a headset!

Distributing VR
So once you have produced your cinematic VR content, how can you distribute it? One option is to use the Liquid Cinema platform. They were at NAB with a major update and some new features, including seamless transitions between a “flat” video and a 360 video. As a content creator you can also manage your 360 movies in a very smart CMS linked to your app and instantly add language versions, thumbnails, geoblocking, etc. Another exciting thing is built-in 6DoF capability right in the editor with a compatible headset — allowing you to walk through your titles, graphics and more!

I can’t leave without mentioning Voysys for live-streaming VR; Kodak PixPro and its new cameras ; Google’s next move into lightfield technology ; Bonsai’s launch of a new version of the Excalibur rig ; and many other great manufacturers, software editors and partners.

See you next time, Sin City.

Cinna 4.13

NAB: Imagine Products and StorageDNA enhance LTO and LTFS

By Jonathan S. Abrams

That’s right. We are still taking NAB. There was a lot to cover!

So, the first appointment I booked for NAB Show 2018, both in terms of my show schedule (10am Monday) and the vendors I was in contact with, was with StorageDNA’s Jeff Krueger, VP of worldwide sales. Weeks later, I found out that StorageDNA was collaborating with Imagine Products on myLTOdna, so I extended my appointment. Doug Hynes, senior director of business development for StorageDNA, and Michelle Maddox, marketing director of Imagine Products, joined me to discuss what they had ready for the show.

The introduction of LTFS during NAB 2010 allowed LTO tape to be accessed as if it was a hard drive. Since LTO tape is linear, executing multiple operations at once and treating it like a hard drive results in performance falling off of a cliff. It also could cause the drive to engage in shoeshining, or shuttling of the tape back-and-forth over the same section.

Imagine Products’ main screen.

Eight years later, these performance and operation issues have been addressed by StorageDNA’s creation of HyperTape, which is their enhanced Linear File Transfer System that is part of Imagine Products’ myLTOdna application. My first question was “Is HyperTape yet another tape format?” Fortunately for myself and other users, the answer is “No.”

What is HyperTape? It is a workflow powered by dnaLTFS. The word “enhanced” in the description of HyperTape as an enhanced Linear File Transfer System refers to a middleware in their myLTOdna application for Mac OS. There are three commands that can be executed to put an LTO drive into either read-only, write-only or training mode. Putting the LTO drive into an “only mode” allows it to achieve up to 300MB/s of throughput. This is where the Hyper in HyperTape comes from. These modes can also be engaged from the command line.

Training mode allows for analyzing the files stored on an LTO tape and then storing that information in a Random Access Database (RAD). The creation of the RAD can be automated using Imagine Products’ PrimeTranscoder. Otherwise, each file on the tape must be opened in order to train myLTOdna and create a RAD.

As for shoeshining, or shuttling of the tape back-and-forth over the same section, this is avoided by intelligently writing files to LTO tape. This intelligence is proprietary and is built into the back-end of the software. The result is that you can load a clip in Avid’s Media Composer, Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve or Adobe’s Premiere Pro and then load a subclip from that content into your project. You still should not load a clip from tape and just press play. Remember, this is LTO tape you are reading from.

The target customer for myLTOdna is a DIT with camera masters who wants to reduce how much time it takes to backup their footage. Previously, DITs would transfer the camera card’s contents to a hard drive using an application such as Imagine Products’ ShotPut Pro. Once the footage had been transferred to a hard drive, it could then be transferred to LTO tape. Using myLTOdna in read-only mode allows a DIT to bypass the hard drive and go straight from the camera card to an LTO tape. Because the target customer is already using ShotPut Pro, the UI for myLTOdna was designed to be comfortable and not difficult to use or understand.

The licensing for dnaLTFS is tied to the serial number of an LTO drive. StorageDNA’s Krueger explained that, “dnaLTFS is the drive license that works with stand alone mac LTO drives today.” Purchasing a license for dnaLTFS allows the user to later upgrade to StorageDNA’s DNAevolution M Series product if they need automation and scheduling features without having to purchase another drive license if the same LTO drive is used.

Krueger went on to say, “We will have (dnaLTFS) integrated into our DNAevolution product in the future.” DNAevolution’s cost of entry is $5,000. A single LTO drive license starts at $1,250. Licensing is perpetual, and updates are available without a support contract. myLTOdna, like ShotPut Pro and PrimeTranscoder, is a one-time purchase (perpetual license). It will phone home on first launch. Remote support is available for $250 per year.

I also envision myLTOdna being useful outside of the DIT market. Indeed, this was the thinking when the collaboration between Imagine Products and StorageDNA began. If you do not mind doing manual work and want to keep your costs low, myLTOdna is for you. If you later need automation and can budget for the efficiencies that you get with it, then DNAevolution is what you can upgrade to.


Jonathan S. Abrams is the Chief Technical Engineer at Nutmeg, a creative marketing, production and post resource, located in New York City.


High-performance flash storage at NAB 2018

By Tom Coughlin

After years of watching the development of flash memory-based storage for media and entertainment applications, especially for post, it finally appears that these products are getting some traction. This is driven by the decreasing cost of flash memory and also the increase in 4K up to 16K workflows with high frame rates and multi-camera video projects. The performance demanded for working storage to support multiple UHD raw video streams makes high performance storage attractive. Examples of 8K workflows were everywhere at the 2018 NAB show.

Flash memory is the clear leader in professional video camera media, increasing from 19% in 2009 to 66% in 2015, 54% in 2016 and 59% in 2017. The 2017 media and entertainment professional survey results are shown below.

Flash memory capacity used in M&E applications is believed to have been about 3.1% in 2016, but will be larger in coming years. Overall, revenues for flash memory in M&E should increase by more than 50% in the next few years as flash prices go down and it becomes a more standard primary storage for many applications.

At the 2018 NAB Show, and the NAB ShowStoppers, there were several products geared for this market and in discussion with vendors it appears that there is some real traction for solid state memory for some post applications, in addition to cameras and content distribution. This includes solid-state storage systems built with SAS, SATA and the newer NVMe interface. Let’s look at some of these products and developments.

Flash-Based Storage Systems
Excelero reports that its NVMe software-defined block storage solution with its low-latency and high-bandwidth improves the interactive editing process and enables customers to stream high-resolution video without dropping frames. Technicolor has said that it achieved 99.8% of local NVMe storage server performance across the network in an initial use of Excelero’s NVMesh. Below is the layout of the Pixit Media Excelero demonstration for 8K+ workflows at the NAB show.

“The IT infrastructure required to feed dozens of workstations of 4K files at 24ps is mindboggling — and that doesn’t even consider what storage demands we’ll face with 8K or even 16K formats,” says Amir Bemanian, engineering director at Technicolor. “It’s imperative that we can scale to future film standards today. Now, with innovations like the shared NVMe storage such as Excelero provides, Technicolor can enjoy a hardware-agnostic approach, enabling flexibility for tomorrow while not sacrificing performance.”

Excelero was showcasing 16K post production workflows with the Quantum StorNext storage and data management platform and Intel on the Technicolor project and at Mellanox with its 100Gb Ethernet switch.

Storbyte, a company based in Washington, DC, was showing its Eco Flash servers at the NAB show. Their product featured hot-swappable and accessible flash storage bays and redundant hot-swappable server controllers. The product features the company’s Hydra Dispersed Algorithmic Modeling (HDAM) that allows them to avoid having a flash transition layer, garbage collection, as well as dirty block management resulting in less performance overhead. Their Data Remapping Accelerator Core (DRACO) is said to offer up to a 4X performance increase over conventional flash architectures that can maintain peak performance even at 100% drive capacity and life and thus eliminates a write cliff and other problems that flash memory is subject to.

DDN was showing its ExaScaler DGX solution that combined a DDN ExaScaler ES14KX high-performance all-flash array integrated with a single Nvidia DGX-1 GPU server (initially announced at the 2018 GPU Technology Conference). Performance of the combination achieved up to 33GB/s of throughput. The company was touting this combination to accelerate machine learning, reducing the load times of large datasets to seconds for faster training. According to DDN, the combination also allows massive ingest rates and cost-effective capacity scaling and achieved more than 250,000 random read 4K IOPS. In addition to HDD-based storage, DDN offers hybrid HDD/SSD as well as all-flash array products. The new DDN SFA200NV all-flash platform product was on display at the 2018 NAB show

Dell EMC was showing its Isilon F800 all-flash scale-out NAS for creative applications. According to the company, the Isilon all-flash array gives visual effects artists and editors the power to work with multiple streams of uncompressed, full-aperture 4K material, enabling collaborative, global post and VFX pipelines for episodic and feature projects.

 

Dell EMC said this allows a true scale-out architecture with high concurrency and super-fast all-flash network-attached storage with low latency for high-throughput and random-access workloads. The company was demonstrating 4K editing of uncompressed DPX files with Adobe Premiere using a shared Isilon F800 all-flash array. They were also showing 4K and UHD workflows with Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve.

NetApp had a focus on solid-state storage for media workflows in their “Lunch and Learn sessions,” co-hosted by Advanced Systerms Group (ASG). The sessions discussed how NVMe and Storage Class Memory (SCM) are reshaping the storage industry. NetApp provides SSD-based E-series products that are used in the media and entertainment industry.

Promise Technology had its own NVMe SSD-based products. The company had data sheets on two NVMe fabric products. One was an HA storage appliance in a 2RU form factor (NVF-9000) with 24 NVMe drive slots and 100GbE ports offering up to 15M IOPS and 40GB/s throughout and many other enterprise features. The company said that its fabric allows servers to connect to a pool of storage nodes as if they had local NVMe SSDs. Promise’s NVMe Intelligent Storage is a 1U appliance (NVF-7000) with multiple 100 GbE connectors offering up to 5M IOPS and 20GB/s throughput. Both products offer RAID redundancy and end-to-end RDMA memory access.

Qumulo was showing its Qumulo P-Series NVMe all-flash solution. The P-series combines Qumulo File Fabric (QF2) software with high-speed NVMe, Intel Skylake SP processors and high-bandwidth Intel SSDs and 100GbE networking. It offers 16GB/s in a minimum four-node configuration (4GB/s per node). The P-series nodes come in 23 and 92TB size. According to Qumulo, QF2 provides realtime visibility and control regardless of the size of the file system, realtime capacity quotas, continuous replication, support for both SMB and NFS protocols, complete programmability with REST API and fast rebuild times. Qumulo says the P-series can run on-premise or in the cloud and can create a data fabric that interconnects every QF2 cluster whether it is all-flash, hybrid SSD/HDD or running on EC2 instances in AWS.

AIC was at the show with its J2024-04 2U 24-bay NVMe all-flash array using a Broadcom PCIe switch. The product includes dual hot-swap redundant 1.3 KW power supplies. AIC was also showing this AFA product providing a Storage Software Fabric platform with EXTEN smart NICs using Broadcom chips to create a storage software fabric platform, as well as an NVMe JBOF.

Companies such as Luma Forge were showing various hierarchical storage options, including flash memory, as shown in the image below.

Some other solid-state products included the use of two SATA SSDs for performance improvements for the SoftIron HyperDrive Ceph-based object storage appliance. Scale Logic has a hybrid SSD SAN/NAS product called Genesis Unlimited, which can support multiple 4K streams with a combination of HDDs and SSDs. Another NVMe offering was the RAIDIX NVMEXP software RAID engine for building NVMe-based arrays offering 4M IOPS and 30GB/s per 1U and offering RAID levels 5, 6 and 7.3. Nexsan has all-flash versions of its Unity storage products. Pure Storage had a small booth in the back of the South Hall lower showing their flash array products. Spectra Logic was showing new developments in its flash-based Black Pearl product, but we will cover that in another blog.

External Flash Storage Products
Other World Computing (OWC) was showing its solid-state and HDD-based products. They had a line-up of Thunderbolt 3 storage products, including the ThunderBlade and the Envoy Pro EX (VE) with Thunderbolt 3. The ThunderBlade uses a combination of M.2 SSDs to achieve transfer speeds up to 2.8 GB/s read and 2.45 GB/s write (pretty symmetrical R/W) with 1TB to 8TB storage capacity. It is fanless and has a dimmable LED so it won’t interfere with production work. OWC’s mobile bus-powered SSD product, Envoy Pro EX (VE) with Thunderbolt 3 provides sustained data rates up to 2.6 GB/s read and 1.6 GB/s write. This small 1TB to 2TB drive can be carried in a backpack or coat pocket.

Western Digital and Seagate had external SSD drives they were showing. Below is shown the G-Drive Mobile SSD-R, introduced late in 2017.

Memory Cards and SSDs
Samsung was at the NAB showing their EVO 860 2.5-inch. These SATA SSDs provide up to 4TB capacity and 550MB/s sequential read and 520MB/s sequential write speeds for media workstation applications. However, there were also showings of the product used in all-flash arrays as shown below.

ProGrade was showing its line of professional memory cards for high-end digital cameras. These included their SFExpress 1.0 memory card with 1TB capacity and 1.4GB/s read data transfer speed as well as burst write speed greater than 1GB/s. This new Compact Flash standard is a successor to both the C FAST and XQD formats. The product uses two lanes of PCIe and includes NVMe support. The product is interoperable with the XQD form factor. They also announced their V90 premium line of SDXC UHS-II memory cards with sustained read speeds of up to 250MB/s and sustained write speeds up to 200MB/s.

2018 Creative Storage Conference
For those who love storage, the 12th Annual Creative Storage Conference (CS 2018) will be held on June 7 at the Double Tree Hotel West Los Angeles in Culver City. This event brings together digital storage providers, equipment and software manufacturers and professional media and entertainment end users to explore the conference theme: “Enabling Immersive Content: Storage Takes Off.”

Also, my company Coughlin Associate is conducting a survey of digital storage requirements and practices for media and entertainment professionals with results presented at the 2018 Creative Storage Conference. M&E professionals can participate in the survey through this link. Those who complete the survey, with their contact information, will receive a free full pass to the conference.

Our main image: Seagate products in an editing session, including products in a Pelican case for field work. 


Tom Coughlin is president of Coughlin Associates, a digital storage analyst and  technology consultant. He has over 35 years in the data storage industry. He is also the founder of the Annual Storage Visions Conference and the Creative Storage Conference.

 


NAB 2018: My key takeaways

By Twain Richardson

I traveled to NAB this year to check out gear, software, technology and storage. Here are my top takeaways.

Promise Atlas S8+
First up is storage and the Promise Atlas S8+. The Promise Atlas S8+ is a network attached storage solution for small groups that features easy and fast NAS connectivity over Thunderbolt3 and 10GB Ethernet.

The Thunderbolt 3 version of the Atlas S8+ offers two Thunderbolt 3 ports, four 1Gb Ethernet ports, five USB 3.0 ports and one HMDI output. The 10g BaseT version swaps in two 10Gb/s Ethernet ports for the Thunderbolt 3 connections. It can be configured up to 112TB. The unit comes empty, and you will have to buy hard drives for it. The Atlas S8+ will be available later this year.

Lumaforge

Lumaforge Jellyfish Tower
The Jellyfish is designed for one thing and one thing only: collaborative video workflow. That means high bandwidth, low latency and no dropped frames. It features a direct connection, and you don’t need a 10GbE switch.

The great thing about this unit is that it runs quiet, and I mean very quiet. You could place it under your desk and you wouldn’t hear it running. It comes with two 10GbE ports and one 1GbE port. It can be configured for more ports and goes up to 200TB. The unit starts at $27,000 and is available now.

G-Drive Mobile Pro SSD
The G-Drive Mobile Pro SSD is blazing-fast storage with data transfer rates of up to 2800MB/s. It was said that you could transfer as much as a terabyte of media in seven minutes or less. That’s fast. Very fast.

It provides up to three-meter drop protection and comes with a single Thunderbolt 3 port and is bus powered. It also features a 1000lb crush-proof rating, which makes it ideal for being used in the field. It will be available in May with a capacity of 500GB. 1TB and 2TB versions will be available later this year.

OWC Thunderblade
Designed to be rugged and dependable as well as blazing fast, the Thunderblade has a rugged and sleek design, and it comes with a custom-fit ballistic hard-shell case. With capacities of up 8TB and data transfer rates of up to 2800MB/s, this unit is ideal for on-set workflows. The unit is not bus powered, but you can connect two ThunderBlades that can reach speeds of up to 3800MB/s. Now that’s fast.

OWC Thunderblade

It starts at $1,199 for the 1TB and is available now for purchase.

OWC Mercury Helios FX External Expansion Chassis
Add the power of a high-performance GPU to your Mac or PC via Thunderbolt 3. Performance is plug-and-play, and upgrades are easy. The unit is quiet and runs cool, making it a great addition to your environment.

It starts at $319 and is available now.

Flanders XM650U
This display is beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

The XM650U is a professional reference monitor designed for color-critical monitoring of 4K, UHD, and HD signals. It features the latest large-format OLED panel technology, offering outstanding black levels and overall picture performance. The monitor also features the ability to provide a realtime downscaled HD resolution output.

The FSI booth was showcasing the display playing HD, UHD, and UHD HDR content, which demonstrates how versatile the device is.

The monitor goes for $12,995 and is available for purchase now.

DaVinci Resolve 15
What could arguably be the biggest update yet to Resolve is version 15. It combines editing, color correction, audio and now visual effects all in one software tool with the addition of Fusion. Other additions include ADR tools in Fairlight and a sound library. The color and edit page has additions such as a LUT browser, shared grades, stacked timelines, closed captioning tools and more.

You can get DR15 for free — yes free — with some restrictions to the software and you can purchase DR15 Studio for $299. It’s available as a beta at the moment.

Those were my top take aways from NAB 2018. It was a great show, and I look forward to NAB 2019.


Twain Richardson is a co-founder of Frame of Reference, a boutique post production company located on the beautiful island of Jamaica. Follow the studio and Twain on Twitter: @forpostprod @twainrichardson


NAB 2018: A closer look at Firefly Cinema’s suite of products

By Molly Hill

Firefly Cinema, a French company that produces a full set of post production tools, premiered Version 7 of its products at NAB 2018. I visited with co-founder Philippe Reinaudo and head of business development Morgan Angove at the Flanders Scientific booth. They were knowledgeable and friendly, and they helped me to better understand their software.

Firefly’s suite includes FirePlay, FireDay, FirePost and the brand-new FireVision. All the products share the same database and Éclair color management, making for a smooth and complete workflow. However, Reinaudo says their programs were designed with specific UI/UXs to better support each product’s purpose.

Here is how they break down:
FirePlay: This is an on-set media player that supports most any format or file. The player is free to use, but there’s a paid option to include live color grading.

FireDay: Firefly Cinema’s dailies software includes a render tree for multiple versions and supports parallel processing.

FirePost: This is Firefly Cinema’s proprietary color grading software. One of its features was a set of “digital filters,” which were effects with adjustable parameters (not just pre-set LUTs). I was also excited to see the inclusion of curve controls similar to Adobe Lightroom’s Vibrance setting, which increases the saturation of just the more muted colors.

FireVision: This new product is a cloud-based review platform, with smooth integration into FirePost. Not only do tags and comments automatically move between FirePost and FireVision, but if you make a grading change in the former and hit render, the version in FireVision automatically updates. While other products such as Frame.io have this feature, Firefly Cinema offers all of these in the same package. The process was simple and impressive.

One of the downsides of their software package is its lack of support for HDR, but Raynaud says that’s a work in progress. I believe this will likely begin with ÉclairColor HDR, as Reinaudo and his co-founder Luc Geunard are both former Éclair employees. It’s also interesting that they have products for every step after shooting except audio and editing, but perhaps given the popularity of Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere and Avid Pro Tools, those are less of a priority for a young company.

Overall, their set of products was professional, comprehensive and smooth to operate, and I look forward to seeing what comes next for Firefly Cinema.


Molly Hill is a motion picture scientist and color nerd, soon-to-be based out of San Francisco. You can follow her on Twitter @mollymh4.


NAB 2018: How Fortium’s MediaSeal protects your content

By Jonathan Abrams

Having previously used Fortium‘s MediaSeal, and seeing it as the best solution for protecting content, I set up a meeting with the company’s CEO, Mathew Gilliat-Smith, at NAB 2018. He talked with me about the product’s history and use cases, and he demonstrated the system in action.

Fortium’s MediaSeal was created at the request of NBCUniversal in 2014, so it was a product born out of need. NBCUniversal did not want any unencrypted files to be in use on sound stages. The solution was to create a product that works on any file residing on any file system and that easily fits existing workflows. The use of encryption on the files would eliminate human error and theft as methods of obtaining usable content.

MediaSeal’s decryptor application works on Mac OS, Linux and Windows (oh my!). The decryptor application runs at the file level of the OS. This is where the objective of easily fitting an existing workflow is achieved. By running on the file level of the OS, any file can be handed off to any application. The application being used to open a file has no idea that the file it is opening has been encrypted.

Authentication is the process of proving who you are to the decryptor application. This can be done three ways. The simplest way is to only use a password. But if this is the only method that is used, anyone with the password can decrypt the file. This is important in terms of protection because nothing prevents the person with the password from sharing both the file and the decryptor password with someone else. “But this is clearly a lot better than having sensitive files sitting unprotected and vulnerable,” explained Gilliat-Smith during my demo.

The second and more secure method of authenticating with the decryptor application is to use an iLok license. Even if a user shares the decryptor password, the user would need an iLok with the appropriate asset attached to their computer in order to decrypt the file.

The third and most secure method of authenticating with the decryptor application is to use a key server. This can be hosted either locally or on Amazon Web Services (AWS). “Authentication on AWS is secure following MPAA guidelines,” said Gilliat-Smith. The key server has an address book of authorized users and allows the content owner to dictate who can access the protected content and when. With the password and the iLok license combined, this gives the person protecting their content great control. A user would need to know the decryption password, have the iLok license and be authorized by the key server in order to access the protected file.

Once a file is decrypted, the decryptor application sends access logs to a key server. These log entries include file copy and export/save operations. Can a file be saved out of encryption while it is in a decrypted state? Yes it can. The operation will be logged with the key server. A rogue user will have the content they seek, though the owners of the content will know that the security has been circumvented. There is no such thing as perfect security. This scenario shows the balance between a strong level of security, where the user has to provide up to three authentication levels for access, and usability, where the OS has no idea that an encrypted file is being decrypted for access.

During the demonstration, the iLok with the decryption license was removed from the computer (Windows OS). Within seconds, a yellow window with black text appeared and access to the encrypted asset was revoked. MediaSeal also works with iLok licenses assigned to a machine instead of a physical iLok. This would make transferring the asset more difficult. Each distributed decryptor asset is unique.

For content providers looking to encrypt their assets, the process is as simple as right-clicking a file and selecting encrypt. Those looking to encrypt multiple files can choose to encrypt a folder recursively. If content is added to a watch folder, it is encrypted without user intervention. Encryption can also be nested. This allows the content provider to send a folder of files to
users and allow one set of users access to some files while allowing a second set of users access to additional files. “MediaSeal uses AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption, which is tested by NGS Secure and ISE,” said Gilliat-Smith. He went on to explain that “Fortium has a system for monitoring the relatively easy steps of getting users onboard and helping them out as
needed.”

MediaSeal can also be integrated with Aspera Faspex. The use of MediaSeal would allow a vendor to meet MPAA DS 11.4, which is to encrypt content at rest and in motion using a scalable approach where full file system encryption (such as\ FileVault 2 on Mac OS) is not desirable. Content providers who want their key server on premises can setup an MPAA Approved system with firewalls and two proxy servers. Vendors have a similar setup when the content provider uses a key server.

While there are many use cases for MediaSeal, the one use case we discussed was localization. If a content provider needs multiple language versions of their content, they can distribute the mix-minus language to localization vendors and assign each vendor a unique decryptor key. If the content provider uses all three authentication methods (password, iLok, key server), they can control the duration of the localization vendor’s access.

My own personal experience with MediaSeal was as simple as one could hope for. I downloaded an iLok license to the iLok being used to decrypt the content, and Avid’s Pro Tools worked with the decrypted asset as if it were any other file.

Fortium’s MediaSeal achieves the directive that NBCUniversal issued in 2014 with aplomb. It is my hope that more content providers who trust vendors with their content adopt this system because it allows the work to flow, and that benefits everyone involved in the creative process.


Jonathan S. Abrams is the chief technical engineer at Nutmeg, a New York City-based creative marketing, production and post studio.


Colorfront supports HDR, UHD, partners again with AJA

By Molly Hill

Colorfront released new products and updated current product support as part of NAB 2018, expanding their partnership with AJA. Both companies had demos of the new HDR Image Analyzer for UHD, HDR and WCG analysis. It can handle 4K, HDR and 60fps in realtime and shows information in various view modes including parade, pixel picker, color gamut and audio.

Other software updates include support for new cameras in On-Set Dailies and Express Dailies, as well as the inclusion of HDR analysis tools. QC Player and Transkoder 2018 were also released, with the latter now optimized for HDR and UHD.

Colorfront also demonstrated its tone-mapping capabilities (SDR/HDR) right in the Transkoder software, without the FS-HDR hardware (which is meant more for broadcast). Static (one light) or dynamic (per shot) mapping is available in either direction. Customization is available for different color gamuts, as well as peak brightness on a sliding scale, so it’s not limited to a pre-set LUT. Even just the static mapping for SDR-to-HDR looked great, with mostly faithful color reproduction.

The only issues were some slight hue shifts from blue to green, and clipping in some of the highlights in the HDR version, despite detail being available in the original SDR. Overall, it’s an impressive system that can save time and money for low-budget films when there isn’t the budget to hire a colorist to do a second pass.


Samsung’s 360 Round for 3D video

Samsung showed an enhanced Samsung 360 Round camera solution at NAB, with updates to its live streaming and post production software. The new solution gives professional video creators the tools they need — from capture to post — to tell immersive 360-degree and 3D stories for film and broadcast.

“At Samsung, we’ve been innovating in the VR technology space for many years, including introducing the 360 Round camera with its ruggedized design, superior low light and live streaming capabilities late last year,” says Eric McCarty of Samsung Electronics America.

The Samsung 360 Round offers realtime 3D video to PCs using the 360 Round’s bundled software so video creators can now view live video on their mobile devices using the 360 Round live preview app. In addition, the 360 Round live preview app allows creators to remotely control the camera settings, via Wi-Fi router, from afar. The updated 360 Round PC software now provides dual monitor support, which allows the editor to make adjustments and show the results on a separate monitor dedicated to the director.

Limiting luminance levels to 16-135, noise reduction and sharpness adjustments, as well as a hardware IR filter make it possible to get a clear shot in almost no light. The 360 Round also offers advanced stabilization software and the ability to color-correct on the fly, with an intuitive, easy-to-use histogram. In addition, users can set up profiles for each shot and save the camera settings, cutting down on the time required to prep each shot.

The 360 Round comes with Samsung’s advanced Stitching software, which weaves together video from each of the 360 Round’s 17 lenses. Creators can stitch, preview and broadcast in one step on a PC without the need for additional software. The 360 Round also enables fine-tuning of seamlines during a live production, such as moving them away from objects in realtime and calibrating individual stitchlines to fix misalignments. In addition, a new local warping feature allows for individual seamline calibrations in post, without requiring a global adjustment to all seamlines, giving creators quick and easy, fine-grain control of the final visuals.

The 360 Round delivers realtime 4K x 4K (3D) streaming with minimal latency. SDI capture card support enables live streaming through multiple cameras and broadcasting equipment with no additional encoding/decoding required. The newest update further streamlines the switching workflow for live productions with audio over SDI, giving producers less complex events (one producer managing audio and video switching) and a single switching source as the production transitions from camera to camera.

Additional new features:

  • Ability to record, stream and save RAW files simultaneously, making the process of creating dailies and managing live productions easier. Creators can now save the RAW files to make further improvements to live production recordings and create a higher quality post version to distribute as VOD.
  • Live streaming support for HLS over HTTP, which adds another transport streaming protocol in addition to the RTMP and RTSP protocols. HLS over HTTP eliminates the need to modify some restrictive enterprise firewall policies and is a more resilient protocol in unreliable networks.
  • Ability to upload direct (via 360 Round software) to Samsung VR creator account, as well as Facebook and YouTube, once the files are exported.

Blackmagic releases Resolve 15, with integrated VFX and motion graphics

Blackmagic has released Resolve 15, a massive update that fully integrates visual effects and motion graphics, making it the first solution to combine professional offline and online editing, color correction, audio post production, multi-user collaboration and visual effects together in one software tool. Resolve 15 adds an entirely new Fusion page with over 250 tools for compositing, paint, particles, animated titles and more. In addition, the solution includes a major update to Fairlight audio, along with over 100 new features and improvements that professional editors and colorists have asked for.

DaVinci Resolve 15 combines four high-end applications into different pages in one single piece of software. The edit page has all the tools professional editors need for both offline and online editing, the color page features advanced color correction tools, the Fairlight audio page is designed specifically for audio post production and the new Fusion page gives visual effects and motion graphics artists everything they need to create feature film-quality effects and animations. A single click moves the user instantly between editing, color, effects and audio, giving individual users creative flexibility to learn and explore different toolsets. The workflow also enables collaboration, which speeds up post by eliminating the need to import, export or translate projects between different software applications or to conform when changes are made. Everything is in the same software application.

The free version of Resolve 15 can be used for professional work and has more features than most paid applications. Resolve 15 Studio, which adds multi-user collaboration, 3D, VR, additional filters and effects, unlimited network rendering and other advanced features such as temporal and spatial noise reduction, is available to own for $299. There are no annual subscription fees or ongoing licensing costs. Resolve 15 Studio costs less than other cloud-based software subscriptions and does not require an internet connection once the software has been activated. That means users won’t lose work in the middle of a job if there is no internet connection.

“DaVinci Resolve 15 is a huge and exciting leap forward for post production because it’s the world’s first solution to combine editing, color, audio and now visual effects into a single software application,” says Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design. “We’ve listened to the incredible feedback we get from customers and have worked really hard to innovate as quickly as possible. DaVinci Resolve 15 gives customers unlimited creative power to do things they’ve never been able to do before. It’s finally possible to bring teams of editors, colorists, sound engineers and VFX artists together so they can collaborate on the same project at the same time, all in the same software application!”

Resolve 15 Overview

Resolve 15 features an entirely new Fusion page for feature-film-quality visual effects and motion graphics animation. Fusion was previously only available as a standalone application, but it is now built into Resolve 15. The new Fusion page gives customers a true 3D workspace with over 250 tools for compositing, vector paint, particles, keying, rotoscoping, text animation, tracking, stabilization and more. The addition of Fusion to Resolve will be completed over the next 12-18 months, but users can get started using Fusion now to complete nearly all of their visual effects and motion graphics work. The standalone version of Fusion is still available for those who need it.

In addition to bringing Fusion into Resolve 15, Blackmagic has also added support for Apple Metal, multiple GPUs and CUDA acceleration, making Fusion in Resolve faster than ever. To add visual effects or motion graphics, users simply select a clip in the timeline on the Edit page and then click on the Fusion page where they can use Fusion’s dedicated node-based interface, which is optimized for visual effects and motion graphics. Compositions created in the standalone version of Fusion can also be copied and pasted into Resolve 15 projects.

Resolve 15 also features a huge update to the Fairlight audio page. The Fairlight page now has a complete ADR toolset, static and variable audio retiming with pitch correction, audio normalization, 3D panners, audio and video scrollers, a fixed playhead with scrolling timeline, shared sound libraries, support for legacy Fairlight projects and built-in cross platform plugins such as reverb, hum removal, vocal channel and de-esser. With Resolve 15, FairlightFX plugins run natively on Mac, Windows and Linux, so users no longer have to worry about audio plugins when moving between the platforms.

Professional editors will find new features in Resolve 15 specifically designed to make cutting, trimming, organizing and working with large projects even better. Load times have been improved so that large projects with hundreds of timelines and thousands of clips now open instantly. New stacked timelines and timeline tabs let editors see multiple timelines at once, so they can quickly cut, paste, copy and compare scenes between timelines. There are also new markers with on-screen annotations, subtitle and closed captioning tools, auto save with versioning, improved keyboard customization tools, new 2D and 3D Fusion title templates, image stabilization on the Edit page, a floating timecode window, improved organization and metadata tools, Netflix render presets with IMF support and much more.

Colorists get an entirely new LUT browser for quickly previewing and applying LUTs, along with new shared nodes that are linked so when one is changed they all change. Multiple playheads allow users to quickly reference different shots in a program. Expanded HDR support includes GPU accelerated Dolby Vision metadata analysis and native HDR 10+ grading controls. The new ResolveFX lets users quickly patch blemishes or remove unwanted elements in a shot using smart fill technology, and allows for dust and scratch removal, lens and aperture diffraction effects and more.

For the ultimate high-speed workflow, users can add a Resolve Micro Panel, Resolve Mini Panel or a Resolve Advanced Panel. All controls are placed near natural hand positions. Smooth, high-resolution weighted trackballs and precision engineered knobs and dials provide the right amount of resistance to accurately adjust settings. The Resolve control panels give colorists and editors fluid, hands-on control over multiple parameters at the same time, allowing them to create looks that are simply impossible with a standard mouse.

In addition, Blackmagic also introduced new Fairlight audio consoles for audio post production that will be available later this year. The new Fairlight consoles will be available in two-, three- and five- bay configurations.

Availability and Price

The public beta of Resolve 15 is available today as a free download from the Blackmagic website for all current Resolve and Resolve Studio customers. Resolve Studio is available for $299 from Blackmagic resellers.

The Fairlight consoles will be available later this year and with prices starting at $21,995 for the Fairlight 2 Bay console. The Fairlight consoles will be available from Blackmagic resellers.