Tag Archives: Assimilate

Virtual Reality Roundtable

By Randi Altman

Virtual reality is seemingly everywhere, especially this holiday season. Just one look at your favorite electronics store’s website and you will find VR headsets from the inexpensive, to the affordable, to the “if I win the lottery” ones.

While there are many companies popping up to service all aspects of VR/AR/360 production, for the most part traditional post and production companies are starting to add these services to their menu, learning best practices as they go.

We reached out to a sampling of pros who are working in this area to talk about the problems and evolution of this burgeoning segment of the industry.

Nice Shoes Creative Studio: Creative director Tom Westerlin

What is the biggest issue with VR productions at the moment? Is it lack of standards?
A big misconception is that a VR production is like a standard 2D video/animation commercial production. There are some similarities, but it gets more complicated when we add interaction, different hardware options, realtime data and multiple distribution platforms. It actually takes a lot more time and man hours to create a 360 video or VR experience relative to a 2D video production.

tom

Tom Westerlin

More development time needs to be scheduled for research, user experience and testing. We’re adding more stages to the overall production. None of this should discourage anyone from exploring a concept in virtual reality, but there is a lot of consideration and research that should be done in the early stages of a project. The lack of standards presents some creative challenges for brands and agencies considering a VR project. The hardware and software choices made for distribution can have an impact on the size of the audience you want to reach as well as the approach to build it.

The current landscape provides the following options:
YouTube and Facebook can hit a ton of people with a 360 video, but has limited VR functionality; a WebVR experience, works within certain browsers like Chrome or Firefox, but not others, limiting your audience; a custom app or experimental installation using the Oculus or HTC Vive, allows for experiences with full interactivity, but presents the issue of audience limitations. There is currently no one best way to create a VR experience. It’s still very much a time of discovery and experimentation.

What should clients ask of their production and post teams when embarking on their VR project?
We shouldn’t just apply what we’ve all learned from 2D filmmaking to the creation of a VR experience, so it is crucial to include the production, post and development teams in the design phase of a project.

The current majority of clients are coming from a point of view where many standard constructs within the world of traditional production (quick camera moves or cuts, extreme close-ups) have negative physiological implications (nausea, disorientation, extreme nausea). The impact of seemingly simple creative or design decisions can have huge repercussions on complexity, time, cost and the user experience. It’s important for clients to be open to telling a story in a different manner than they’re used to.

What is the biggest misconception about VR — content, process or anything relating to VR?
The biggest misconception is clients thinking that 360 video and VR are the same. As we’ve started to introduce this technology to our clients, we’ve worked to explain the core differences between these extremely difference experiences: VR is interactive and most of the time a full CG environment, while 360 is video and although immersive, it’s a more passive experience. Each have their own unique challenges and rewards, so as we think about the end user’s experiences, we can determine what will work best.

There’s also the misconception that VR will make you sick. If executed poorly, VR can make a user sick, but the right creative ideas executed with the right equipment can result in an experience that’s quite enjoyable and nausea free.

Nice Shoes’ ‘Mio Garden’ 360 experience.

Another misconception is that VR is capable of anything. While many may confuse VR and 360 and think an experience is limited to passively looking around, there are others who have bought into the hype and inflated promises of a new storytelling medium. That’s why it’s so important to understand the limitations of different devices at the early stages of a concept, so that creative, production and post can all work together to deliver an experience that takes advantage of VR storytelling, rather than falling victims to the limitations of a specific device.

The advent of affordable systems that are capable of interactivity, like the Google Daydream, should lead to more popular apps that show off a higher level of interactivity. Even sharing video of people experiencing VR while interacting with their virtual worlds could have a huge impact on the understanding of the difference between passively watching and truly reaching out and touching.

How do we convince people this isn’t stereo 3D?
In one word: Interactivity. By definition VR is interactive and giving the user the ability to manipulate the world and actually affect it is the magic of virtual reality.

Assimilate: CEO Jeff Edson

What is the biggest issue with VR productions at the moment? Is it lack of standards?
The biggest issue in VR is straightforward workflows — from camera to delivery — and then, of course, delivery to what? Compared to a year ago, shooting 360/VR video today has made big steps in ease of use because more people have experience doing it. But it is a LONG way from point and shoot. As integrated 360/VR video cameras come to market more and more, VR storytelling will become much more straightforward and the creators can focus more on the story.

Jeff Edson

And then delivery to what? There are many online platforms for 360/VR video playback today: Facebook, YouTube 360 and others for mobile headset viewing, and then there is delivery to a PC for non-mobile headset viewing. The viewing perspective is different for all of these, which means extra work to ensure continuity on all the platforms. To cover all possible viewers one needs to publish to all. This is not an optimal business model, which is really the crux of this issue.

Can standards help in this? Standards as we have known in the video world, yes and no. The standards for 360/VR video are happening by default, such as equirectangular and cubic formats, and delivery formats like H.264, Mov and more. Standards would help, but they are not the limiting factor for growth. The market is not waiting on a defined set of formats because demand for VR is quickly moving forward. People are busy creating.

What should clients ask of their production and post teams when embarking on their VR project?
We hear from our customers that the best results will come when the director, DP and post supervisor collaborate on the expectations for look and feel, as well as the possible creative challenges and resolutions. And experience and budget are big contributors. A key issue is, what camera/rig requirements are needed for your targeted platform(s)? For example, how many cameras and what type of cameras (4K, 6K, GoPro, etc.) as well as lighting? When what about sound, which plays a key role in the viewer’s VR experience.

unexpected concert

This Yael Naim mini-concert was posted in Scratch VR by Alex Regeffe at Neotopy.

What is the biggest misconception about VR — content, process or anything relating to VR?
I see two. One: The perception that VR is a flash in the pan, just a fad. What we see today is just the launch pad. The applications for VR are vast within entertainment alone, and then there is the extensive list of other markets like training and learning in such fields as medical, military, online universities, flight, manufacturing and so forth. Two: That VR post production is a difficult process. There are too many steps and tools. This definitely doesn’t need to be the case. Our Scratch VR customers are getting high-quality results within a single, simplified VR workflow

How do we convince people this isn’t stereo 3D?
The main issue with stereo 3D is that it has really never scaled beyond a theater experience. Whereas with VR, it may end up being just the opposite. It’s unclear if VR can be a true theater experience other than classical technologies like domes and simulators. 360/VR video in the near term is, in general, a short-form media play. It’s clear that sooner than later smart phones will be able to shoot 360/VR video as a standard feature and usage will sky rocket overnight. And when that happens, the younger demographic will never shoot anything that is not 360. So the Snapchat/Instagram kinds of platforms will be filled with 360 snippets. VR headsets based upon mobile devices make the pure number of displays significant. The initial tethered devices are not insignificant in numbers, but with the next-generation of higher-resolution and untethered devices, maybe most significantly at a much lower price point, we will see the numbers become massive. None of this was ever the case with stereo 3D film/video.

Pixvana: Executive producer Aaron Rhodes

What is the biggest issue with VR productions at the moment? Is it lack of standards?
There are many issues with VR productions, many of them are just growing pains: not being able to see a live stitch, how to direct without being in the shot, what to do about lighting — but these are all part of the learning curve and evolution of VR as a craft. Resolution and management around big data are the biggest issues I see on the set. Pixvana is all about resolution — it plays a key role in better immersion. Many of the cameras out there only master at 4K and that just doesn’t cut it. But when they do shoot 8K and above, the data management is extreme. Don’t under estimate the responsibility you are giving to your DIT!

aaron rhodes

Aaron Rhodes

The biggest issue is this is early days for VR capture. We’re used to a century of 2D filmmaking and decade of high-definition capture with an assortment of camera gear. All current VR camera rigs have compromises, and will, until technology catches up. It’s too early for standards since we’re still learning and this space is changing rapidly. VR production and post also require different approaches. In some cases we have to unlearn what worked in standard 2D filmmaking.

What should clients ask of their production and post teams when embarking on their VR project?
Give me a schedule, and make it realistic. Stitching takes time, and unless you have a fleet of render nodes at your disposal, rendering your shot locally is going to take time — and everything you need to update or change it will take more time. VR post has lots in common with a non-VR spot, but the magnitude of data and rendering is much greater — make sure you plan for it.

Other questions to ask, because you really can’t ask enough:
• Why is this project being done as VR?
• Does the client have team members who understand the VR medium?
• If not will they be willing to work with a production team to design and execute with VR in mind?
• Has this project been designed for VR rather than just a 2D project in VR?
• Where will this be distributed? (Headsets? Which ones? YouTube? Facebook? Etc.)
• Will this require an app or will it be distributed to headsets through other channels?
• If it is an app, who will build the app and submit it to the VR stores?
• Do they want to future proof it by finishing greater than 4K?
• Is this to be mono or stereo? (If it’s stereo it better be very good stereo)
• What quality level are they aiming for? (Seamless stitches? Good stereo?)
• Is there time and budget to accomplish the quality they want?
• Is this to have spatialized audio?

What is the biggest misconception about VR — content, process or anything relating to VR?
VR is a narrative component, just like any actor or plot line. It’s not something that should just be done to do it. It should be purposeful to shoot VR. It’s the same with stereo. Don’t shoot stereo just because you can — sure, you can experiment and play (we need to do that always), but don’t without purpose. The medium of VR is not for every situation.
Other misconceptions because there are a lot out there:
• it’s as easy as shooting normal 2D.
• you need to have action going on constantly in 360 degrees.
• everything has to be in stereo.
• there are fixed rules.
• you can simply shoot with a VR camera and it will be interesting, without any idea of specific placement, story or design.
How do we convince people this isn’t stereo 3D?
Education. There are tiers of immersion with VR, and stereo 3D is one of them. I see these tiers starting with the desktop experience and going up in immersion from there, and it’s important to the strengths and weakness of each:
• YouTube/Facebook on the desktop [low immersion]
• Cardboard, GearVR, Daydream 2D/3D low-resolution
• Headset Rift and Vive 2D/3D 6 degrees of freedom [high immersion]
• Computer generated experiences [high immersion]

Maxon US: President/CEO Paul Babb

paul babb

Paul Babb

What is the biggest issue with VR productions at the moment? Is it lack of standards?
Project file size. Huge files. Lots of pixels. Telling a story. How do you get the viewer to look where you want them to look? How do you tell and drive a story in a 360 environment.

What should clients ask of their production and post teams when embarking on their VR project?
I think it’s more that production teams are going to have to ask the questions to focus what clients want out of their VR. Too many companies just want to get into VR (buzz!) without knowing what they want to do, what they should do and what the goal of the piece is.

What is the biggest misconception about VR — content, process or anything relating to VR? How do we convince people this isn’t stereo 3D?
Oh boy. Let me tell you, that’s a tough one. People don’t even know that “3D” is really “stereography.”

Experience 360°: CEO Ryan Moore

What is the biggest issue with VR productions at the moment? Is it lack of standards?
One of the biggest issues plaguing the current VR production landscape is the lack of true professionals that exist in the field. While a vast majority of independent filmmakers are doing their best at adapting their current techniques, they have been unsuccessful in perceiving ryan moorehow films and VR experiences genuinely differ. This apparent lack of virtual understanding generally leads to poor UX creation within finalized VR products.

Given the novelty of virtual reality and 360 video, standards are only just being determined in terms of minimum quality and image specifications. These, however, are constantly changing. In order to keep a finger on the pulse, it is encouraged for VR companies to be plugged into 360 video communities through social media platforms. It is through this essential interaction that VR production technology can continually be reintroduced.

What should clients ask of their production and post teams when embarking on their VR project?
When first embarking on a VR project, it is highly beneficial to walk prospective clients through the entirety of the process, before production actually begins. This allows the client a full understanding of how the workflow is used, while also ensuring client satisfaction with the eventual partnership. It’s vital that production partners convey an ultimate understanding of VR and its use, and explain their tactics in “cutting” VR scenes in post — this can affect the user’s experience in a pronounced way.

‘The Backwoods Tennessee VR Experience’ via Experience 360.

What is the biggest misconception about VR — content, process or anything relating to VR? How do we convince people that this isn’t stereo 3D?
The biggest misconception about VR and 360 video is that it is an offshoot of traditional storytelling, and can be used in ways similar to both cinematic and documentary worlds. The mistake in the VR producer equating this connection is that it can often limit the potential of the user’s experience to that of a voyeur only. Content producers need to think much farther out of this box, and begin to embrace having images paired with interaction and interactivity. It helps to keep in mind that the intended user will feel as if these VR experiences are very personal to them, because they are usually isolated in a HMD when viewing the final product.

VR is being met with appropriate skepticism, and is widely still considered a ‘“fad” without the media landscape. This is often because the critic has not actually had a chance to try a virtual reality experience firsthand themselves, and does not understand the wide reaching potential of immersive media. At three years in, a majority of the adults in the United States have never had a chance to try VR themselves, relying on what they understand from TV commercials and online reviews. One of the best ways to convince a doubtful viewer is to give them a chance to try a VR headset themselves.

Radeon Technologies Group at AMD: Head of VR James Knight

What is the biggest issue with VR productions at the moment? Is it lack of standards?
The biggest issue for us is (or was) probably stitching and the excessive amount of time it takes, but we’re tacking that head on with Project Loom. We have realtime stitching with Loom. You can already download an early version of it on GPUopen.com. But you’re correct, there is a lack of standards in VR/360 production. It’s mainly because there are no really established common practices. That’s to be expected though when you’re shooting for a new medium. Hollywood and entertainment professionals are showing up to the space in a big way, so I suspect we’ll all be working out lots of the common practices in 2017 on sets.

James Knight

What should clients ask of their production and post teams when embarking on their VR project?
Double check they have experience shooting 360 and ask them for a detailed post production pipeline outline. Occasionally, we hear horror stories of people awarding projects to companies that think they can shoot 360 without having personally explored 360 shooting themselves and making mistakes. You want to use an experienced crew that’s made the mistakes, and mostly is cognizant of what works and what doesn’t. The caveat there though is, again, there’s no established rules necessarily, so people should be willing to try new things… sometimes it takes someone not knowing they shouldn’t do something to discover something great, if that makes sense.

What is the biggest misconception about VR — content, process or anything relating to VR? How do we convince people this isn’t stereo 3D?
That’s a fun question. The overarching misconception for me, honestly, is just as though a cliché politician might, for example, make a fleeting judgment that video games are bad for society, people are often times making assumptions that VR if for kids or 16 year old boys at home in their boxer shorts. It isn’t. This young industry is really starting to build up a decent library of content, and the payoff is huge when you see well produced content! It’s transformative and you can genuinely envision the potential when you first put on a VR headset.

The biggest way to convince them this isn’t 3D is to convince a naysayer put the headset on… let’s agree we all look rather silly with a VR headset on, and once you get over that, you’ll find out what’s inside. It’s magical. I had the CEO of BAFTA LA, Chantal Rickards, tell me upon seeing VR for the first time, “I remember when my father had arrived home on Christmas Eve with a color TV set in the 1960s and the excitement that brought to me and my siblings. The thrill of seeing virtual reality for the first time was like seeing color TV for the first time, but times 100!”

Missing Pieces: Head of AR/VR/360 Catherine Day

Catherine Day

What is the biggest issue with VR productions at the moment?
The biggest issue with VR production today is the fact that everything keeps changing so quickly. Every day there’s a new camera, a new set of tools, a new proprietary technology and new formats to work with. It’s difficult to understand how all of these things work, and even harder to make them work together seamlessly in a deadline-driven production setting. So much of what is happening on the technology side of VR production is evolving very rapidly. Teams often reinvent the wheel from one project to the next as there are endless ways to tell stories in VR, and the workflows can differ wildly depending on the creative vision.

The lack of funding for creative content is also a huge issue. There’s ample funding to create in other mediums, and we need more great VR content to drive consumer adoption.

Is it lack of standards?
In any new medium and any pioneering phase of an industry, it’s dangerous to create standards too early. You don’t want to stifle people from trying new things. As an example, with our recent NBA VR project, we broke all of the conventional rules that exist around VR — there was a linear narrative, fast cut edits, it was over 25 minutes long — yet still was very well received. So it’s not a lack of standards, just a lack of bravery.

What should clients ask of their production and post teams when embarking on their VR project?
Ask to see what kind of work that team has done in the past. They should also delve in and find out exactly who completed the work and how much, if any, of it was outsourced. There is a curtain that often closes between the client and the production/post company and it closes once the work is awarded. Clients need to know who exactly is working on their project, as much of the legwork involved in creating a VR project — stitching, compositing etc. — is outsourced.

It’s also important to work with a very experienced post supervisor — one with a very discerning eye. You want someone who really knows VR that can evaluate every aspect of what a facility will assemble. Everything from stitching, compositing to editorial and color — the level of attention to detail and quality control for VR is paramount. This is key not only for current releases, but as technology evolves — and as new standards and formats are applied — you want your produced content to be as future-proofed as possible so that if it requires a re-render to accommodate a new, higher-res format in the future, it will still hold up and look fantastic.

What is the biggest misconception about VR — content, process or anything relating to VR?
On the consumer level, the biggest misconception is that people think that 360 video on YouTube or Facebook is VR. Another misconception is that regular filmmakers are the creative talents best suited to create VR content. Many of them are great at it, but traditional filmmakers have the luxury of being in control of everything, and in a VR production setting you have no box to work in and you have to think about a billion moving parts at once. So it either requires a creative that is good with improvisation, or a complete control freak with eyes in the back of their head. It’s been said before, but film and theater are as different as film and VR. Another misconception is that you can take any story and tell it in VR — you actually should only embark on telling stories in VR if they can, in some way, be elevated through the medium.

How do we convince people this isn’t stereo 3D?
With stereo 3D, there was no simple, affordable path for consumer adoption. We’re still getting there with VR, but today there are a number of options for consumers and soon enough there will be a demand for room-scale VR and more advanced immersive technologies in the home.

Lucas Wilson on Scratch’s new end-to-end VR workflow

With NAB looming, and chatter pointing to virtual reality being ubiquitous on the show floor, Assimilate has launched its new Scratch VR Suite, an end-to-end virtual reality workflow with an all-inclusive realtime toolset for working within a 360 environment. The Scratch VR Suite includes features from Scratch V8.4 (soon to be Scratch 8.5). Scratch VR also includes Scratch Web and creative tools that are specific to the VR Suite. Scratch Web enables realtime, online collaboration and review via Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR headsets.

We reached out to Lucas Wilson, VR producer at Assimilate to find out more about the product and workflow.

Lucas Wilson on set.

Lucas Wilson on set.

Can you walk us through the workflow of someone shooting VR content and using Scratch VR from on-set to post?
In many ways, Assimilate has kind of just removed “VR” as an issue in a lot of post production, bringing it back to “just production.” Scratch does not do any stitching. So, once material is stitched you take these steps…

1) Publish to Scratch Web and generate review links for clients. 2) Review links can be opened up and played in either “Magic Window” or VR-Cardboard mode, allowing for an effective, real, headset-based review workflow for dailies. 3) VR goes through to editorial. 4) Conform to Scratch 5) Scratch can then grade in a true VR mode — with 360 viewer options on the desktop, to an external monitor, or live to an Oculus Rift DK2. mono or stereo. 6) In addition, grading “respects” 360 mode. Shapes will wrap around in 360 mode, respecting the edges in a lat/long frame, etc. It is real grading and finishing in 360/VR. 7) Publish to YouTube 360 with correctly inserted metadata, or as a normal equi-rectangular video for publishing elsewhere.

What are some common areas of focus that people who are just jumping into VR need to know from the outset?
Best advice I can give is to think through your workflow carefully from the beginning. Planning and pre-production is so important in any VR project, and that can get you into trouble more quickly than with many traditional projects.

You’ve been out on the road shooting VR in real-world situations. What has surprised you the most about this process, and can you talk about some of the tools that were built into the VR suite based on your input?
The biggest surprise was two-fold: the necessity of dealing quickly and effectively with stitching, and then the complete lack of good review and finish tools in VR. Getting anything reviewed by a client was a painful process before Scratch Web. My real-world experience (I think) had a big influence on the VR suite, because in that sense I was kind of a “customer with an inside track.” I was able to feed back my pain quickly and easily to the team, and they listened. Using Scratch and Scratch Web, I can review, conform, color, finish and deliver in VR.

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Assimilate and Wilson will be at NAB offering demos

Talking to Assimilate about new VR dailies/review tool

CEO Jeff Edson and VP of biz dev Lucas Wilson answer our questions

By Randi Altman

As you can tell from our recent Sundance coverage, postPerspective has a little crush on VR. While we know that today’s VR is young and creatives are still figuring out how it will be used — narrative storytelling, gaming, immersive concerts (looking at you Paul McCartney), job training, therapy, etc. — we cannot ignore how established film fests and trade shows are welcoming it, or the tools that are coming out for its production and post.

One of those tools comes from Assimilate, which is expanding its Scratch Web cloud-platform capabilities to offer a professional, web-based dailies/review tool for reviewing headset-based 360-degree VR content, regardless of location.

How does it work? Kind of simply: Users launch this link vr360.sweb.media on an Android phone (Samsung S6 or other) via Chrome, click the goggles in the lower right corner, put it in their Google Cardboard and view immediate headset-based VR. Once users launch the Scratch Web review link for the VR content, they can playback VR imagery, pan around imagery or create a “magic window” so they can move their smart phone around, similar to looking through a window to see the 360-degree content behind it.

The VR content, including metadata, is automatically formatted for 360-degree video headsets, such as Google Cardboard. The reviewer can then make notes and comments on their mobile device to send back to the sender. The company says they will be announcing support for other mobile devices, headsets and browsers in the near future.

On the heels of this news, we decided to reach out to Assimilate CEO Jeff Edson and VP of business development Lucas Wilson to find out more.

Assimilate has been offering tools for VR, but with this new dailies and reviews tool, you’ve taken it to a new level. Can you talk about the evolution of how you service VR and how this newest product came to be?
Jeff Edson: Professional imagery needs professional tools and workflows to succeed. Much like imagery evolutions to date (digital cinema), this is a new way to capture and tell stories and provide experiences. VR provides a whole new way for people to tell stories amongst other experiences.

So regarding the evolution of tools, Scratch has supported the 360 format for a while now. It has allowed people to playback their footage as well as do basic DI — basic functionality to help produce the best output. As the production side of VR continues to evolve, the workflow aligns itself with a more standard process. This means the same toolset for VR as exists for non-VR. Scratch Web-VR is the natural progression to provide VR productions with the ability to review dailies worldwide.

Lucas Wilson: When VR first started appearing as a real deliverable for creative professionals, Assimilate jumped in. Scratch has supported 360 video live to an Oculus Rift for more than a year now. But with the new Scratch Web toolset and the additional tools added in Scratch to make 360 work more easily and be more accessible, it is no longer just a feature added to a product. It is a workflow and process — review and approval for Cardboard via a web link, or via the free Scratch Play tool, along with color and finishing with Scratch.

It seems pretty simple to use, how are you able to do this via the cloud and through a standard browser?
Jeff: The product is very straight forward to use, as there is a very wide range of people who will have access to it, most of whom do not want the technology to get in the way of the solution. We work very hard at the core of all we have developed — interactive performance.

Lucas: Good programmers (smiles)! Seriously though, we looked at what was needed and what was missing in the VR delivery chain and tried to serve those needs. Scratch Web allows users to upload a clip and generate a link that will work in Cardboard. Review and approval is now just clicking a link and putting your phone into a headset.

What’s the price?
Jeff: The same price as Scratch Web — Free-Trial, Basic-$79/month, Extended-$249/month and Enterprise for special requirements.

Prior to this product, how were those working on VR production going about dailies and reviews?
Jeff: In most cases they were doing it by looking at output from several cameras for review. The main process for viewing was to edit and publish. There really was no tool targeted at dailies/review of VR.

Lucas: It has been really difficult. Reviews are typically done on a flat screen and by guessing, or by reverse engineering MilkVR or Oculus Videos in GearVR.

Can you talk about real-world testing of the product? VR productions that used this tool?
Lucas: We have a few large productions doing review and approval right now with Scratch Web. We can’t talk about them yet, but one of them is the first VR project directed by an A-List director. There are also two of the major sports leagues in the US who employed the tool.

Jeff Edson talks about Assimilate Scratch/Kinefinity camera bundle

Last week Assimilate announced a partnership with the Chinese camera company Kinefinity, which, says the company, provides a digital filmmaking path from on-set production to post to the high-growth Chinese marketplace, where Kinefinity has a large foothold.

Assimilate says this collaboration offers Chinese filmmakers an all-in-one solution for 2D/3D productions, from image capture with a high-resolution Kinefinity camera (4K, 6K) — which uses the KineRaw codec — to using Scratch tools for on-set data management and dailies and post, including conform, color grading, versioning, compositing, finishing and mastering. A key component of the partnership is the commitment to provide localized tutorials and technical support to the Chinese market.

The partnership also includes Kinefinity becoming a global reseller of the Scratch product line. Kinefinity is now offering a Kinefinity-Scratch bundle for new customers… worldwide. If someone buys a KineMini 4K or KineMax 6K camera, they receive one Scratch product license (a one-year subscription) for free. Kinefinity is also offering current Kinefinity camera owners special pricing for the purchase of Scratch.

In addition, Kinefinity is offering all of their camera customers the ability to acquire further Scratch licenses at a discounted price. (Without the discount, the current global pricing for Scratch 8.3 is one-year rental license at $650 US and a permanent license — including first-year maintenance/support — is $3,000 US.)

Jeff Edson, and milkshake

Jeff Edson, and a milkshake.

On the heels of this announcement we reached out to Assimilate CEO Jeff Edson to find out more.

Your announcement about this partnership emphasized the Chinese market, but you also mention these bundles are available worldwide. Are Kinefinity cameras only available in China?
No, the cameras are available worldwide. Kinefinity is building their channels outside of China, and have a reseller in Europe. But  this is clearly important to Assimilate from the standpoint of the Chinese market. For us this is a key partnership for that market: a localization and local support partner, etc.

In what other countries do you expect this bundle to play a big role?
With the number of digital cameras that keep coming to market — each one with their own set of unique offerings — we see more and more people who are camera neutral. Shooters are trying everything new that comes along, all in the name of creating the best images they can. I think that it is key for all cameras to be honest — a workflow that goes along with their cameras.

We see almost all cinema cameras providing some tool to get people from camera to some point in the post workflow. With the rate at which new technology comes to market, to keep this from becoming all about technology and focused on creating great stories, these kinds of bundles are important, in my opinion.

What are the benefits of this particular bundle for filmmakers? Is it only for the high-end or anyone shooting on any camera?
Kinefinity has a 4K Mini as well as their 6K high-end cameras. I talked a bit about the importance of these kinds of bundles with new cameras and, to be honest, the ability to deliver this kind of bundle helps with the deployment/use/success of using new cameras…so I  believe the target is everyone.

Can you walk us through the workflow benefits of this bundle?
It provides the kind of camera-to-dailies controls/workflow that is key to developing on-set looks and then takes it seamlessly to post and finishing, As you know, Scratch is used worldwide in all parts of the workflow, from on-set to finishing and everything in between. This provides filmmakers the ability to shoot with these new cameras and work in ways they are used to, focusing on the imagery as opposed to technology.

Can users expect other types of bundles like this with other camera makers?
Time will tell…there have been these kinds of conversations with camera vendors for years. For example, our relationship with Red started from day one. They did not bundle, but certainly promoted with us closely.

We have done some special promotions regionally with Sony, specifically in Latin America. It is not a bundle, per se, but it is a very aggressive offering with their F55/F65 cameras in that region. This was also done with Sony in the EMEA market.

At the channel level we have done a bundle with AJA Kona4/Io 4K products (via B&H) as well as announced a bundle with Bluefish444 with their 4K Neutron product. I believe that as all parts of the technology move ahead for 4K and beyond, focusing on workflow is more important than the pieces.

Anything I haven’t asked that you would like to add or elaborate on?
As you know from our history, Assimilate has always been on the front edge of technology in our markets, and the same is true with VR now. This is a market that screams for partnerships between the camera world and tools for finishing.

Assimilate’s Scratch 8.3 and Scratch Lab now in one toolset

Scratch 8.3 from Assimilate is a cloud-based ecosystem of digital cinema tools for DITs, DPs, directors, editors, colorists, post artists, and other creative pros. Scratch 8.3 integrates the full Scratch DI workflow and Scratch Lab for on-set and VFX dailies into one toolset for $650 per year. Filmmakers and artists now have an uninterrupted Scratch workflow with a single user interface for consistent color throughout the filmmaking process.

The Scratch 8.3 ecosystem also includes Scratch Web and Scratch Play 8.3 for realtime publishing and sharing of native RAW camera or other media with the entire creative team — in any format and any resolution at any time, anywhere in the world. Unicode is now included to support the high-growth, budget-limited Asian markets.

All current Scratch and Scratch Lab customers on subscription or active support receive an upgrade to Scratch 8.3 at no charge, as well as a Scratch Web channel to publish RAW and other media data for collaboration and review.

Quick Chat: Assimilate’s Lucas Wilson talks about Scratch Web

Recently, Assimilate launched Scratch Web, a cloud-based multi-user collaboration tool that offers individual clip, timeline or timeline plus version sharing (known as Scratch Construct) as well as native support for industry-standard RAW camera formats.

It’s actually already in use at Santa Monica’s Local Hero Post, where founder and supervising colorist Leandro Marini has made it a part of his everyday workflow. Actually, keep an eye on this space in the future for a Scratch Web review from Marini.

To find out more about the product itself, we picked the brain of Assimilate’s VP of business Continue reading

Quick Chat: Assimilate’s Steve Bannerman on updates to Scratch line

Assimilate has updated its dailies and DI tools, Scratch and Scratch Lab, to Version 8.2, offering expanded metadata support. Also new is Live View, which allows DPs and DITs the ability to capture metadata from live camera feeds, grade live and then create looks. There is more, including Scratch Web, but we decided to let Assimilate’s Steve Bannerman get into the details.

What are the biggest updates for V.8.2 of Scratch and Scratch Lab, and why are they so important to workflow?
In a nutshell: Scratch and Scratch Lab — along with Scratch Web — now offer more features and functions that enable an end-to-end, intuitive, realtime workflow. From DITs grading live metadata on set to and creating looks with the DPs to optimal encoding with Vanguard’s H.264 encoder to VR support with Oculus Rift, all while using the same file CONstructs in Continue reading

Scratch Play V.8.2 offers support for Oculus Rift, new formats, cameras

Assimilate’s Scratch Play V.8.2, a free media player for pro and web formats, has added support for native realtime playback of cinematic content created for Oculus Rift – 360 virtual reality viewing.

Scratch Play v8.2, which is available immediately as a free download at www.assimilateinc.com, also supports several new cameras and formats, including the Blackmagic Pocket Camera, Magic Lantern support for Canon DSLRs, Panasonic RAW (vrw) and a performance boost for XAVC 4K.

Scratch Play also supports Cylindrical, Equirectangular and Cube formats for output to a secondary monitor or an Oculus Rift DKI or DKII. With a Rift connected, these formats are mapped in realtime to Rift output, with full head-tracking support.

Scratch Play will output in 360 mode with just a normal secondary display/monitor acting as a window into the virtual world, with realtime ability to pan, track and tilt around the sphere. This means that developers creating cinematic content for the Rift now have a playback tool that allows them to instantly review VR shots in realtime — whether or not they have a Rift headset.

“Scratch Play has increased my productivity when comparing footage and speeding up iterations for Cinematic VR,” says Greg Downing, CTO of xRez Studio in Santa Monica. “Being able to do A/B comparisons quickly, live in the Rift headset, is an effective way to rapidly evaluate your work and decide if you are going in the right direction.

“Another feature I really like that speeds up the workflow is the ability to read frame sequences rather than having to go through the additional steps of encoding a video,” he says. “Short-cutting the video encoding step when working with CGI, at this resolution, is a big time saver.”

Scratch Play Premium, the ad-free version of Play, is available with annual subscription of $5 per year.

NAB: Assimilate’s Steve Bannerman talks Scratch 8

Las Vegas — Assimilate was at NAB 2014 sharing the newest features of  Scratch 8.

In addition to their annual BBQ, they had products on a number of booths throughout the Las Vegas Convention Center.

One of the key features Assimilate’s Steve Bannerman talked about is how they acquired a license from Apple to deliver ProRes encoding in the Windows version of Scratch. Bannerman also discussed some new relationships with North American resellers.

For more details watch our interview from the postPerspective booth at NAB 2014.

Continue reading

New Scratch 8 supports native ProRes encoding on Windows, cloud workflows

Santa Clara, California — Assimilate has three bits of news for users today, but let’s start off with this: Scratch and Scratch Lab customers can encode Apple ProRes files on Microsoft Windows 7/8-based PCs.

So that means Windows users get native ProRes 442, HQ, LT, proxy and 4444 encoding; Continue reading