Affordable transcoding and monitoring solutions
By Brady Betzel
It’s been almost two years since I first reviewed Divergent Media’s video transcoder EditReady version 1.0.2… and I was thoroughly impressed with the speed and ease of use. The only thing that left me wanting more was the fact it was a Mac-only product.
While Divergent still hasn’t made Windows versions of their apps, I did recently see a tweet from EditReady, ScopeBox and ClipWrap developer Mike Woodworth (@vexed) in early May that made me think it might be on their radar. The tweet said, “Every time a hot, new GPU comes out, I get pushed a tiny bit more toward building a PC.” Because I was so excited at the possibility of it coming out on PC, we reached out to Woodworth, who said this: “As a small company, to date we’ve been focused on making high-quality Mac software. We do occasionally get requests to port ScopeBox to Windows, but we don’t have active plans to do so. Most users build out a standalone system to run ScopeBox, and we’ve worked hard to maximize our performance on entry level Mac hardware such as the Mac Mini. We are taking a close look at demand for Windows and if that begins to grow in a substantive way, we’ll shift our roadmap.” Oh, well (sigh).
For this review — conducted on my old-ish MacBook Pro — I am covering two of Divergent Media’s latest releases: the Mac-based EditReady 1.4 and ScopeBox 3.5. EditReady is a video transcoder and ScopeBox is a software video scope solution. To this day, EditReady has been the fastest media encoder and on a Mac that I have ever used. And, as far as ScopeBox is concerned, I’ve been looking to try this out for a while, and now is the perfect time since EditReady now works with ScopeBox via ScopeLink. You can see the technical results of any compression or LUT you are applying in EditReady through ScopeLink.
Here is a quick tip to get ScopeBox talking to EditReady: in EditReady you need to be previewing your file by hitting Command + 3 or going to the Clip menu and clicking Open Preview. Playing in the EditReady window will not transmit the signal to ScopeBox.
In this latest update to EditReady (v1.4), we get the ability to run our video through ScopeBox via ScopeLink. ScopeLink, which has been around for a bit, allows ScopeBox to process video through apps like Apple FCP X, Adobe’s Premiere Pro, SpeedGrade and After Effects, and now EditReady. What’s cool about this is that if you need to do a quick quality control check of your video, looking for illegal color values, and don’t have time or access to a hardware scope like a Tektronix, ScopeBox will work quickly and easily with EditReady on the same computer.
So now, in addition to using the video scopes, you can batch convert a bunch of clips to an intraframe editing-friendly codec like DNxHR, burn in a LUT and preview it through ScopeBox to see where it hits on your waveform or RGB parade. Keep in mind these are two separate software apps and both need to be purchased for this to work.
If you were in post production about five years ago, you were probably all about the app ClipWrap, especially when it came to incompatible QuickTime wrappers like today’s often incompatible AVCHD. EditReady has adopted the ClipWrap functionality as well as transcoding. As an added bonus, EditReady automatically joins spanned files like GoPro, AVCHD, MXF (camera MXF not Op1a) and HDV.
Something I really love in EditReady is the ability to take high frame rate media and set it to the frame rate you want to edit in. It won’t add or remove frames but it will adjust the speed accordingly. In the past this was a little bit of hassle to get to work right, but now it’s easy with EditReady. Metadata is another strong suit of EditReady. When using clips from cameras like the GoPro, some NLEs won’t properly read the timecode track. Within the metadata browser in EditReady you can assign timecode to each file. This really helps when making proxy files to be used with an offline/online workflow.
If you want some technical speed test results, check out my previous review of EditReady — the same speeds are still present. I transcoded a 6:30-minute ProRes (standard) QuickTime to ProRes proxy in just under realtime. While this might not seem like much, I’m running a MacBook Pro from 2009 with 8GB of RAM and the last model to ship with an Nvidia card, so that’s a great speed for this system. One day I’ll get that new MacBook Pro. Hint, hint Apple. Just kidding… kind of.
If you’ve worked in color correction and have learned and used hardware color scopes you quickly realize how important they are. Unfortunately, scopes like those by Tektronix are not cheap. So what do you do? You could rely on the scopes inside your DaVinci Resolve, Premiere Pro or Avid Media Composer/Symphony, but those can get bogged down quickly. Another solution is to take that old Mac Mini, MacBook or tower and get your signal from your editing/coloring system into the ScopeBox system. This might require not only ScopeBox but also a Thunderbolt capture device like Blackmagic’s UltraStudio Mini https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/ultrastudiothunderbolt — do your research though because there may be some chroma subsampling issues like not getting a signal higher than 4:2:2. But I digress.
In short, you can use an old system as your scope — it’s really a great way to use scopes without bogging down your current system. Nonetheless, you can use the same system you edit/color on if you use apps like FCP X, Premiere Pro, or After Effects. Basically, if the app you use outputs via QuickTime or Adobe Transmit, ScopeBox should work.
ScopeBox contains many of the normal meters such as RGB Parade, YUV Parade, Waveform, Luma Histogram, RGB Histogram and Vectorscope, plus some bonuses like a timecode display and even the HML Balance palette that displays three distinct vectorscopes focusing on Highs, Mids and Lows. It also contains audio and surround meters for audio reference. One measurement tool that ScopeBox does not contain that many people seem love, including myself is the Double Diamond Gamut display, which is copy written by Tektronix, but those scopes also cost a pretty penny.
The Vectorscope does have the ability to zoom but only to 1.875x and 2x strength. In addition you can change graticule style of the vectorscope to Hue Vectors (a style created and popularized by Alexis Van Hurkman, @hurkman on Twitter). In terms of quality control, there are many settings you can set when running video through ScopeBox like Audio Peak and Chroma Excursion; you can even export an FCPX XML of any QC (quality control) flags to add locators to a sequence — pretty awesome!
Not only is ScopeBox literally a scope but it can also capture live video and encode it using codecs like ProRes and DNxHD for later viewing. If you are on set running your picture through ScopeBox you can enable some great functions like Luma, Focus and Chroma Zebra striping, giving you an idea what is overexposed, underexposed, or even out of focus.
Practically speaking, ScopeBox worked great even on my old MacBook Pro. I used it from both EditReady as well as Premiere Pro without problems.
Keep in mind that ScopeBox is a high-level application that is running in parallel with your other high-end applications such as Premiere Pro, so having the best system you can, with tons of memory and a high end graphics card, will be your best bet to run this setup successfully.
In the end, ScopeBox is a great app that many colorists use, and now that it can work cleanly with EditReady you have a great combo of transcoding and monitoring solutions for under $200. From using ScopeBox straight out of Adobe Premiere Pro on the same computer or going outboard to another system, you can color correct and grade with the same confidence as with the high-priced hardware scopes.
I have loved EditReady since the day it came out — if only it would find its way over to the Windows dark side would I truly be content. And, with QuickTime removing its support from Windows, maybe now is Divergent Media’s time to strike. It is consistently the fastest and simplest way to batch transcode GoPro media, MXF, AVCHD, M2T and any other QuickTime MOV file you have.
Separately, EditReady costs $49.99 and ScopeBox costs $99.99. Together you can buy them both for $119.99 — a true steal for the functionality deep inside these apps.
Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff. Brady was recently nominated for an Emmy for his work on Disney’s Unforgettable Christmas Celebration.