Arraiy 4.11.19

Category Archives: NAB

Review: Avid Media Composer Symphony 2018 v.12

By Brady Betzel

In February of 2018, we saw a seismic shift in the leadership at Avid. Chief executive officer Louis Hernandez Jr. was removed and subsequently replaced by Jeff Rosica. Once Rosica was installed, I think everyone who was worried Avid was about to be liquidated to the highest bidder breathed a sigh of temporary relief. Still unsure whether new leadership was going to right a tilting ship, I immediately wanted to see a new action plan from Avid, specifically on where Media Composer and Symphony were going.

Media Composer with Symphony

Not long afterward, I was happily reading how Avid was taking lessons from its past transgressions and listening to its clients. I heard Avid was taking tours around the industry and listening to what customers and artists needed from them. Personally, I was asking myself if Media Composer with Symphony would ever be the finishing tool of Avid DS was. I’m happy to say, it’s starting to look that way.

It appears from the outside that Rosica is indeed the breath of fresh air Avid needed. At NAB 2019, Avid teased the next iteration of Media Composer, version 2019, with overhauled interface and improvements, such as a 32-bit float color pipeline workflow complete with ACES color management and a way to deliver IMF packages; a new engine with a distributed processing engine; and a whole new product called Media Composer|Enterprise, all of which will really help sell this new Media Composer. But the 2019 update is coming soon and until then I took a deep dive into Media Composer 2018 v12, which has many features editors, assistants, and even colorists have been asking for: a new Avid Titler, shape-based color correction (with Symphony option), new multicam features and more.

Titling
As an online editor who uses Avid Media Composer with Symphony option about 60% of the time, titling is always a tricky subject. Avid has gone through some rough seas when dealing with how to fix the leaky hole known as the Avid Title Tool. The classic Avid Title Tool was basic but worked. However, if you aligned something in the Title Tool interface to Title Safe zones, it might jump around once you close the Title Tool interface. Fonts wouldn’t always stay the same when working across PC and MacOS platforms. The list goes on, and it is excruciatingly annoying.

Titler

Let’s take a look at some Avid history: In 2002, Avid tried to appease creators and introduced the, at the time, a Windows-only titler: Avid Marquee. While Marquee was well-intentioned, it was extremely difficult to understand if you weren’t interested in 3D lighting, alignment and all sorts of motion graphics stuff that not all editors want to spend time learning. So, most people didn’t use it, and if they did it took a little while for anyone taking over the project to figure out what was done.

In December of 2014, Avid leaned on the New Blue Titler, which would work in projects higher than 1920×1080 resolution. Unfortunately, many editors ran into a very long render at the end, and a lot bailed on it. Most decided to go out of house and create titles in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects. While this all relates to my experience, I assume others feel the same.

In Avid Media Composer 2018, the company has introduced the Avid Titler, which in the Tools menu is labeled: Avid Titler +. It works like an effect rather than a rendered piece of media like in the traditional Avid Title Tool, where an Alpha and a Fill layer worked. This method is similar to how NewBlue or Marquee functioned. However, Avid Titler works by typing directly on the record monitor; adding a title is as easy as marking an in and out point and clicking on the T+ button on the timeline.

You can specify things like kerning, shadow, outlines, underlines, boxes, backgrounds and more. One thing I found peculiar was that under Face, the rotation settings rotate individual letters and not the entire word by default. I reached out to Avid and they are looking into making the entire word rotation option the default in the mini toolbar of Avid Titler. So stay tuned.

Also, you can map your fast forward and rewind buttons to “Go To Next/Previous Event.” This allows you to jump to your next edits in the timeline but also to the next/previous keyframes when in the Effect Editor. Typically, you click on the scrub line in the record window and then you can use those shortcuts to jump to the next keyframe. In the Avid Titler, it would just start typing in the text box. Furthermore, when I wanted to jump out of Effect Editor mode and back into Edit Mode, I usually hit “y,” but that did not get me out of Effects Mode (Avid did mention they are working on updates to the Avid Titler that would solve this issue). The new Avid Titler definitely has some bugs and/or improvements that are needed, and they are being addressed, but it’s a decent start toward a modern title editor.

Shape-based color correction

Color
If you want advanced color correction built into Media Composer, then you are going to want the Symphony option. Media Composer with the Symphony option allows for more detailed color correction using secondary color corrections as well as some of the newer updates, including shape-based color correction. Before Resolve and Baselight became more affordable, Symphony was the gold standard for color correction on a budget (and even not on a budget since it works so well in the same timeline the editors use). But what we are really here for is the 2018 v.12 update of Shapes.

With the Symphony option, you can now draw specific regions on the footage for your color correction to affect. It essentially works similarly to a layer-based system like Adobe Photoshop. You can draw shapes with the same familiar tools you are used to drawing with in the Paint or AniMatte tools and then just apply your brightness, saturation or hue swings in those areas only. On the color correction page you can access all of these tools on the right-hand side, including the softening, alpha view, serial mode and more.

When using the new shape-based tools you must point the drop-down menu to “CC Effect.” From there you can add a bunch of shapes on top of each other and they will play in realtime. If you want to lay a base correction down, you can specify it in the shape-based sidebar, then click shape and you can dial in the specific areas to your or your client’s taste. You can check off the “Serial Mode” box to have all corrections interact with one another or uncheck the box to allow for each color correction to be a little more isolated — a really great option to keep in mind when correcting. Unfortunately, tracking a shape can only be done in the Effect Editor, so you need to kind of jump out of color correction mode, track, and then go back. It’s not the end of the world, but it would be infinitely better if you could track efficiently inside of the color correction window. Avid could even take it further by allowing planar tracking by an app like Mocha Pro.

Shape-based color correction

The new shape-based corrector also has an alpha view mode identified by the infinity symbol. I love this! I often find myself making mattes in the Paint tool, but it can now be done right in the color correction tool. The Symphony option is an amazing addition to Media Composer if you need to go further than simple color correction but not dive into a full color correction app like Baselight or Resolve. In fact, for many projects you won’t need much more than what Symphony can do. Maybe a +10 on the contrast, +5 on the brightness and +120 on the saturation and BAM a finished masterpiece. Kind of kidding, but wait until you see it work.

Multicam
The final update I want to cover is multicam editing and improvements to editing group clips. I cannot emphasize enough how much time this would have saved me as an assistant editor back in the pre-historic Media Composer days… I mean we had dongles, and I even dabbled in the Meridian box. Literally days of grouping and regrouping could have been avoided with the Edit Group feature. But I did make a living fixing groups that were created incorrectly, so I guess this update is a Catch 22. Anyway, you can now edit groups in Media Composer by creating a group, right-clicking on that group and selecting Edit Group. From there, the group will now open in the Record Monitor as a sequence, and from there you can move, nudge and even add cameras to a previously created group. Once you are finished, you can update the group and refresh any sequences that used that group to update if you wish. One issue is that with mixed frame rate groups, Avid says committing to that sequence might produce undesirable effects.

Editing workspace

Cost of Entry
How much does Media Composer cost these days? While you can still buy it outright, it seems a bit more practical to go monthly since you will automatically get updates, but it can still be a little tricky. Do you need PhraseFind and/or ScriptSync? Do you need the Symphony option? Do you need to access shared storage? There are multiple options depending on your needs. If you want everything, then Media Composer Ultimate for $49 per month is what you want. If you want Media Composer and just one add-on, like Symphony, it will cost $19 per month plus $199 per year for the Symphony option. If you want to test the water before jumping in, you can always try Media Composer First.

For a good breakdown of the Media Composer pricing structure, check out KeyCode Media  page (a certified reseller). Another great link with tons of information organized into easily digestible bites is this. Additionally, www.freddylinks.com is a great resource chock full of everything else Avid, written by Avid technical support specialist Fredrik Liljeblad out of Sweden.

Group editing

Summing Up
In the end, I use and have used Media Composer with Symphony for over 15 years, and it is the most reliable nonlinear editor supporting multiple editors in a shared network environment that I have used. While Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro X and Blackmagic Resolve are offering fancy new features and collaboration modes, Avid seems to always hold stabile when I need it the most. These new improvements and a UI overhaul (set to debut in May), new leadership from Rosica, and the confidence of Rosica’s faithful employees all seem to be paying off and getting Avid back on the track they should have always been on.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

NAB 2019: Storage for M&E workflows

By Tom Coughlin

Storage is a vital element in modern post production, since that’s where the video content lives. Let’s look at trends in media post production storage and products shown at the 2019 NAB show. First let’s look at general post production storage architectures and storage trends.

My company produces the yearly “Digital Storage in Media and Entertainment Report,” so we are keeping an eye on storage all year round. The image to the right is a schematic from our 2018 report — it’s a nonlinear editing station showing  optional connections to shared online (or realtime) storage via a SAN or NAS (or even a cloud-based object storage system) and a host bus adapter (HBA or xGbE card). I hope this gives you some good background for what’s to come.

Our 2018 report also includes data from our annual Digital Storage in Media and Entertainment Professional Survey. The report shows that storage capacity annual demand is expected to be over 110 Exabytes of storage by 2023. In 2018 48% of responding survey participants said that they used cloud-based storage for editing and post production. And 56% also said that they have 1TB or more storage capacity in the cloud. In 2018, Internet distribution was the most popular way to view proxies.

All of this proves that M&E pros will continue to use multiple types of digital storage to enable their workflows, with significant growth in the use of cloud storage for collaborative and field projects. With that in mind, let’s dig into some of the storage offerings that were on display at NAB 2019.

Workflow Storage
Dell Technologies said that significant developments in its work with VMware unlock the value of virtualization for applications and tools to automate many critical M&E workflows and operations. Dell EMC and VMware said that they are about to unveil the recipe book for making virtualization a reality for the M&E industry.

Qumulo announced an expansion of its cloud-native file storage offerings. The company introduced two new products —CloudStudio and CloudContinuity — as well as support for Qumulo’s cloud-native, distributed hybrid file system on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Qumulo has partnered with Google to support Qumulo’s hybrid cloud file system on GCP and on the Google Cloud Platform Marketplace. Enterprises will be able to take advantage of the elastic compute resources, operational agility, and advanced services that Google’s public cloud offers. With the addition of the Google Cloud Platform, Qumulo is able to provide multi-cloud platform support, making it easy for users to store, manage and access their data, workloads and applications in both Amazon Web Services (AWS) and GCP. Qumulo also enables data replication between clouds for migration or multi-copy requirements.

M&E companies of any size can scale production into the public cloud with CloudStudio, which securely moves traditionally on-prem workspaces, including desktops, applications and data, to the public cloud on both the AWS and GCP platforms. Qumulo’s file storage software is the same whether on-prem or in the cloud, making the transition seamless and easy and eliminating the need to reconfigure applications or retrain users.

CloudContinuity enables users to automatically replicate their data from an on-prem Qumulo cluster to a Qumulo instance running in the cloud. Should a primary on-prem storage system experience a catastrophic failure, customers can redirect users and applications to the Qumulo cloud, where they will have access to all of their data immediately. CloudContinuity also enables quick, automated fail-back to an on-prem cluster in disaster recovery scenarios.

Quantum announced its VS-Series, designed for surveillance and industrial IoT applications. The VS-Series is available in a broad range of server choices, suitable for deployments with fewer than 10 cameras up to the largest environments with thousands of cameras. Using the VS-Series, security pros can efficiently record and store surveillance footage and run an entire security infrastructure on a single platform.

Quantum’s VS-Series architecture is based on the Quantum Cloud Storage Platform (CSP), a new software-defined storage platform specifically designed for storing machine and sensor-generated data. Like storage technologies used in the cloud, the Quantum CSP is software-defined and can be deployed on bare metal, as a virtual machine, or as part of a hyperconverged infrastructure.Unlike other software-defined storage technologies, the Quantum CSP was designed specifically for video and other forms of high-resolution content — engineered for extremely low latency, maximizing the streaming performance of large files to storage.

The Quantum Cloud Storage Platform allows high-speed video recording with optimal camera density and can host and run certified VMS management applications, recording servers and other building control servers on a single platform.

Quantum say that the VS-Series product line is being offered in a variety of deployment options, including software-only, mini-tower and 1U, 2U and 4U hyperconverged servers.

Key VS-Series attributes:
– Supports high camera density and software architecture that enables users to run their entire security infrastructure on a single hyperconverged platform.
– Offers a software-defined platform with the broadest range of deployment options. Many appliances can scale out for more cameras or scale up for increased retention.
– Comes pre-installed with certified VMS applications and can be installed and configured in minutes.
– Offers a fault-tolerant design to minimize hardware and software issues, which is meant to virtually eliminate downtime

Quantum was also showing its R-3000 at NAB. This box was designed for in-vehicle data capture for developing driver assistance and autonomous driving systems. This NAS box includes storage modules of 60TB with HDDs and 23TB or 46TB using SSDs. It works off 12 volt power and features two 10 GbE ports.

Arrow Distribution bundled NetApp storage appliances with Axle AI software. The three solutions offered are the VM100, VM200 and VM400 with 100TB, 200TB and 400TB, respectively, with 10GbE network interfaces and NetApp’s FAS architecture. Each configuration also includes an Intel-based application server running a five-user version of Axle AI 2019. The software includes a browser front-end that allows multiple users to tag, catalog and search their media files, as well as a range of AI-driven options for automatically cataloging and discovering specific visual and audio attributes within those files.

Avid Nexis|Cloudspaces

Avid Nexis|Cloudspaces is a storage as a service (SaaS) offering for post, news and sports teams, enabling them to store and park media and projects not currently in production in the cloud, leveraging Microsoft Azure. This frees up local Nexis storage space for production work. The company is offering all Avid Nexis users a limited-time free offer of 2TB of Microsoft Azure storage that is auto-provisioned for easy setup and can scale as needed. Avid Nexis manages these Cloudspaces alongside local workspaces, allowing unified content management.

DDP was showing a rack with hybrid SSD/HDD storage that the company says provides 24/7 365 days of reliable operation with zero interruptions and a transparent failover setup. DDP has redesigned its GUI to provide faster operation and easier use.

Facilis displayed its new Hub shared storage line developed specifically for media production workflows. Built as an entirely new platform, Facilis Hub represents the evolution of the Facilis shared file system with the block-level virtualization and multi-connectivity performance required in shared creative environments. This solution offers both block-mode Fibre Channel and Ethernet connectivity simultaneously, allowing connection through either method with the same permissions, user accounts and desktop appearance.

Facilis’ Object Cloud is an integrated disk-caching system for cloud and LTO backup and archive that includes up to 100TB of cloud storage for one low yearly cost. A native Facilis virtual volume can display cloud, tape and spinning disk data in the same directory structure, on the client desktop. Every Facilis Hub shared storage server comes with unlimited seats of the Facilis FastTracker asset tracking application. The Object Cloud software and storage package is available for most Facilis servers running version 7.2 or higher.

Facilis also had particular product updates. The Facilis 8 has 1GB/s data rates through standard dual-port 10GbE and options for 40GbE and Fibre Channel connectivity with 32TB, 48TB and 64TB capacities. The Facilis Hub 16 model offers 2GB/s speed with 16 HDDs with 64TB, 96TB and 128TB capacities. The company’s Hub Hybrid 16 model and SSD offers SSDs in an integrated high-capacity HDD-based storage system offering performance of 3GB/s and 4GB/s. With two or more Hub 16 or Hub 32 servers attached through 32Gb Fibre Channel controllers, Facilis Hub One configurations can be fully redundant, with multi-server bandwidth aggregated into a single point of network connectivity. The Hub One starts at 128GB and scales to 1PB.

Pixit Media announced the launch of PixStor 5, the latest version of its leading scale-out data-driven storage platform. According to the company, “PixStor 5 is an enterprise-class scale-out NAS platform delivering guaranteed 99% performance for all types of workflow and a single global namespace across multiple storage tiers — from on-prem for the cloud.”

New PixStor 5 highlights include:

PixStor 5

– Secure container services – This new feature offers multi-tenancy from a single storage fabric. PixStor 5 enables creative studios to deploy secure media environments without crippling productivity and creativity and aligns with TPN security accreditation standards to attract A-list clients.
– Cloud workflow flexibility — PixStor 5 expands your workflows cost-effectively into the cloud with fully automated seamless deployment to cloud marketplaces, enabling hybrid workflows for burst render and cloud-first workflows for global collaboration. PixStor 5 will soon be available in the Google Cloud Platform Marketplace, followed shortly by AWS and Azure.
– Enhanced search capabilities — Using machine learning and artificial intelligence cloud-based tools to drive powerful media indexing and search capabilities, users can perform fast, easy and accurate content searches across their entire global namespace.
– Deep granular analytics – With single-pane-of-glass management and user-friendly dashboards, PixStor 5 allows a holistic view of the entire filesystem and delivers business-relevant metrics to reinforce storage strategies.

GB Labs launched new software, features and updates to its FastNAS and Space, Echo and Vault ranges at NAB. The Space, Echo and Vault ranges got intelligent new software features, including the Mosaic asset organizer and the latest Analytics Center, along with brand-new Core.4 and Core.4 Lite software. The new Core software is also now included in the FastNAS product range.

GB Labs

Mosaic software, which already features on the FastNAS, range, could be compared to a MAM.  It is an asset organizer that can automatically scour all in-built metadata and integrate with AI tagging systems to give users the power to find what they’re looking for without having to manually enter any metadata.

Analytics Center will give users the visibility into their network so that they can see how they’re using their data, giving them a better understanding of individual or system-wide use, with suggestions on how to optimize their systems much more quickly and at a lower cost.

The new Core.4 software for both ranges builds on GB Labs’ current Core.3 OS offering a high-performance custom OS that is specifically used to serve media files. It allows a stable performance for every user and the best from the least amount of disk, which saves power.

EditShare’s flagship EditShare EFS scale-out storage enterprise scale-out storage solution was on display. It was developed for large-scale media organizations and supports hundreds of users simultaneously, with embedded tools for sharing media and collaborating across departments, across sites and around the world.

EditShare was showcasing advancements in its EFS File Auditing technology, the industry’s only realtime auditing platform designed to manage, monitor and secure your media from inception to delivery. EFS File Auditing keeps track of all digital assets and captures every digital footprint that a file takes throughout its life cycle, including copying, modifying and deleting of any content within a project.

Storbyte introduced its eco-friendly SBJ-496 at the 2019 NAB show. According to the company, this product is a new design in high-capacity disk systems for long-term management of digital media content with enterprise-class availability and data services. Ideal for large archive libraries, the SBJ-496 requires little to no electricity to maintain data, and its environmentally friendly green design allows unrestricted air flow, generates minimal heat and saves on cooling expenses.

Echo Flash

The new EcoFlash SBS-448, for digital content creation and streaming, is an efficient solid-state storage array that can deliver over 20GB of data per second. EcoFlash SBS-448 consumes less than half the electrical power and produces a lot less heat. Its patented design extends its lifespan significantly, resulting in a total operating cost per terabyte that is 300-500% lower.

NGD Systems was showing its computational storage product with several system partners at NAB, including at the Echostreams booth for its 1U platforms. NGD said that its M.2 and upcoming EDSFF form factors can be used in dense and performance-optimized solutions within the EchoStreams 1U server and canister system. In addition to providing data analytics and realtime analysis capture, the combination of NGD Systems products and EchoStreams 1U platforms allow for deployment at the extreme edge for use in onsite video acquisition and post processing at the edge.

OpenDrives was showcasing its Atlas software platform and product family of shared storage solutions. Its NAB demo was built on a single Summit system, including the OmniDrive media accelerator, powered by NVMe, to significantly boosts editorial, transcoding, color grading and visual effects shared workflows. OpenDrives is moving to a 2U form factor in its manufacturing, streamlining systems without sacrificing performance.

iX Systems said that their TrueNAS enterprise storage appliances deliver a perfect range of features and scalability for next-gen M&E workflows. AIC had an exhibit showing several enterprise storage systems, including some with NGD Systems computational storage SSDs. Promise Technology said that its VTrak NAS has been optimized for video application environments. Sony was offering PCIe SSD data storage servers. Other companies showing workflow storage products included Asustor, elements, PAC Storage and Rocstor.

Conclusions
The media and entertainment industry has unique requirements for storage to support modern digital workflows. A number of large and small companies have come up with a variety of local and cloud-based approaches to provide storage for post production applications. The NAB show is one of the world’s largest forums for such products and a great place to learn about what the digital storage and memory industry has to offer media and entertainment professionals.


Tom Coughlin, president of Coughlin Associates, is a digital storage analyst and business/technology consultant. He is active with SMPTE, SNIA, the IEEE — he is president of IEEE-USA and active in the CES, where he is chairman of the Future Directions Committee) and other pro organizations. 

Arraiy 4.11.19

NAB 2019: postPerspective Impact Award winners

postPerspective has announced the winners of our Impact Awards from NAB 2019. Seeking to recognize debut products with real-world applications, the postPerspective Impact Awards are voted on by an anonymous judging body made up of respected industry artists and pros (to whom we are very grateful). It’s working pros who are going to be using these new tools — so we let them make the call.

It was fun watching the user ballots come in and discovering which products most impressed our panel of post and production pros. There are no entrance fees for our awards. All that is needed is the ability to impress our voters with products that have the potential to make their workdays easier and their turnarounds faster.

We are grateful for our panel of judges, which grew even larger this year. NAB is exhausting for all, so their willingness to share their product picks and takeaways from the show isn’t taken for granted. These men and women truly care about our industry and sharing information that helps their fellow pros succeed.

To be successful, you can’t operate in a vacuum. We have found that companies who listen to their users, and make changes/additions accordingly, are the ones who get the respect and business of working pros. They aren’t providing tools they think are needed; they are actively asking for feedback. So, congratulations to our winners and keep listening to what your users are telling you — good or bad — because it makes a difference.

The Impact Award winners from NAB 2019 are:

• Adobe for Creative Cloud and After Effects
• Arraiy for DeepTrack with The Future Group’s Pixotope
• ARRI for the Alexa Mini LF
• Avid for Media Composer
• Blackmagic Design for DaVinci Resolve 16
• Frame.io
• HP for the Z6/Z8 workstations
• OpenDrives for Apex, Summit, Ridgeview and Atlas

(All winning products reflect the latest version of the product, as shown at NAB.)

Our judges also provided quotes on specific projects and trends that they expect will have an impact on their workflows.

Said one, “I was struck by the predicted impact of 5G. Verizon is planning to have 5G in 30 cities by end of year. The improved performance could reach 20x speeds. This will enable more leverage using cloud technology.

“Also, AI/ML is said to be the single most transformative technology in our lifetime. Impact will be felt across the board, from personal assistants, medical technology, eliminating repetitive tasks, etc. We already employ AI technology in our post production workflow, which has saved tens of thousands of dollars in the last six months alone.”

Another echoed those thoughts on AI and the cloud as well: “AI is growing up faster than anyone can reasonably productize. It will likely be able to do more than first thought. Post in the cloud may actually start to take hold this year.”

We hope that postPerspective’s Impact Awards give those who weren’t at the show, or who were unable to see it all, a starting point for their research into new gear that might be right for their workflows. Another way to catch up? Watch our extensive video coverage of NAB.


Cobalt Digital’s card-based solution for 4K/HDR conversions

Cobalt Digital was at NAB showing with card-based solutions for openGear frames for 4K and HDR workflows. Cobalt’s 9904-UDX-4K up/down/cross converter and image processor offers an economical SDR-to-HDR and HDR-to-SDR conversion for 4K.

John Stevens, director of engineering at Burbank post house The Foundation, calls it “a swiss army knife” for a post facility.

The 9904-UDX-4K upconverts 12G/6G/3G/HD/SD to either UHD1 3840×2160 square division multiplex (SDM) or two-sample interleave (2SI) quad 3G-SDI-based formats, or it can output SMPTE ST 2082 12G-SDI for single-wire 4K transport. With both 12G-SDI and quad 3G-SDI inputs, the 9904-UDX-4K can downconvert 12G and quad UHD. The 9904-UDX-4K provides an HDMI 2.0 output for economical 4K video monitoring and offers numerous options, including SDR-to-HDR conversion and color correction.

The 9904-UDX-4K-IP model offers the same functionality as the 9904-UDX-4K SDI-based model, plus it also provides dual 10GigE ports to support for the emerging uncompressed video/audio/data over IP standards.

The 9904-UDX-4K-DSP model provides the same functionality as the 9904-UDX-4K model, and additionally also offers a DSP-based platform that supports multiple audio DSP options, including Dolby realtime loudness leveling (automatic loudness processing), Dolby E/D/D+ encode/decode and Linear Acoustic Upmax automatic upmixing. Embedded audio and metadata are properly delayed and re-embedded to match any video processing delay, with full adjustment available for audio/video offset.

The product’s high-density openGear design allows for up to five 9904-UDX-4K cards to be installed in one 2RU openGear frame. Card control/monitoring is available via the DashBoard user interface, integrated HTML5 web interface, SNMP or Cobalt’s RESTful-based Reflex protocol.

“I have been looking for a de-embedder that will work with SMPTE ST-2048 raster sizes — specifically 2048×1080 and 4096×2160,” explains Stevens. “The reason this is important is Netflix deliverables require these rasters. We use all embedded audio and I need to de-embed for monitoring. The same Cobalt Digital card will take almost every SDI input from quad link to 12G and output HDMI. There are other converters that will do some of the same things, but I haven’t seen anything that does what this product does.”


NAB 2019: An engineer’s perspective

By John Ferder

Last week I attended my 22nd NAB, and I’ve got the Ross lapel pin to prove it! This was a unique NAB for me. I attended my first 20 NABs with my former employer, and most of those had me setting up the booth visits for the entire contingent of my co-workers and making sure that the vendors knew we were at each booth and were ready to go. Thursday was my “free day” to go wandering and looking at the equipment, cables, connectors, test gear, etc., that I was looking for.

This year, I’m part of a new project, so I went with a shopping list and a rough schedule with the vendors we needed to see. While I didn’t get everywhere I wanted to go, the three days were very full and very rewarding.

Beck Video IP panel

Sessions and Panels
I also got the opportunity to attend the technical sessions on Saturday and Sunday. I spent my time at the BEITC in the North Hall and the SMPTE Future of Cinema Conference in the South Hall. Beck TV gave an interesting presentation on constructing IP-based facilities of the future. While SMPTE ST2110 has been completed and issued, there are still implementation issues, as NMOS is still being developed. Today’s systems are and will for the time being be hybrid facilities. The decision to be made is whether the facility will be built on an IP routing switcher core with gateways to SDI, or on an SDI routing switcher core with gateways to IP.

Although more expensive, building around an IP core would be more efficient and future-proof. Fiber infrastructure design, test equipment and finding engineers who are proficient in both IP and broadcast (the “Purple Squirrels”) are large challenges as well.

A lot of attention was also paid to cloud production and distribution, both in the BEITC and the FoCC. One such presentation, at the FoCC, was on VFX in the cloud with an eye toward the development of 5G. Nathaniel Bonini of BeBop Technology reported that BeBop has a new virtual studio partnership with Avid, and that the cloud allows tasks to be performed in a “massively parallel” way. He expects that 5G mobile technology will facilitate virtualization of the network.

VFX in the Cloud panel

Ralf Schaefer, of the Fraunhofer Heinrich-Hertz Institute, expressed his belief that all devices will be attached to the cloud via 5G, resulting in no cables and no mobile storage media. 5G for AR/VR distribution will render the scene in the network and transmit it directly to the viewer. Denise Muyco of StratusCore provided a link to a virtual workplace: https://bit.ly/2RW2Vxz. She felt that 5G would assist in the speed of the collaboration process between artist and client, making it nearly “friction-free.” While there are always security concerns, 5G would also help the prosumer creators to provide more content.

Chris Healer of The Molecule stated that 5G should help to compress VFX and production workflows, enable cloud computing to work better and perhaps provide realtime feedback for more perfect scene shots, showing line composites of VR renders to production crews in remote locations.

The Floor
I was very impressed with a number of manufacturers this year. Ross Video demonstrated new capabilities of Inception and OverDrive. Ross also showed its new Furio SkyDolly three-wheel rail camera system. In addition, 12G single-link capability was announced for Acuity, Ultrix and other products.

ARRI AMIRA (Photo by Cotch Diaz)

ARRI showed a cinematic multicam system built using the AMIRA camera with a DTS FCA fiber camera adapter back and a base station controllable by Sony RCP1500 or Skaarhoj RCP. The Sony panel will make broadcast-centric people comfortable, but I was very impressed with the versatility of the Skaarhoj RCP. The system is available using either EF, PL, or B4 mount lenses.

During the show, I learned from one of the manufacturers that one of my favorite OLED evaluation monitors is going to be discontinued. This was bad news for the new project I’ve embarked on. Then we came across the Plura booth in the North Hall. Plura as showing a new OLED monitor, the PRM-224-3G. It is a 24.5-inch diagonal OLED, featuring two 3G/HD/SD-SDI and three analog inputs, built-in waveform monitors and vectorscopes, LKFS audio measurement, PQ and HLG, 10-bit color depth, 608/708 closed caption monitoring, and more for a very attractive price.

Sony showed the new HDC-3100/3500 3xCMOS HD cameras with global shutter. These have an upgrade program to UHD/HDR with and optional processor board and signal format software, and a 12G-SDI extension kit as well. There is an optional single-mode fiber connector kit to extend the maximum distance between camera and CCU to 10 kilometers. The CCUs work with the established 1000/1500 series of remote control panels and master setup units.

Sony’s HDC-3100/3500 3xCMOS HD camera

Canon showed its new line of 4K UHD lenses. One of my favorite lenses has been the HJ14ex4.3B HD wide-angle portable lens, which I have installed in many of the studios I’ve worked in. They showed the CJ14ex4.3B at NAB, and I even more impressed with it. The 96.3-degree horizontal angle of view is stunning, and the minimization of chromatic aberration is carried over and perhaps improved from the HJ version. It features correction data that support the BT.2020 wide color gamut. It works with the existing zoom and focus demand controllers for earlier lenses, so it’s  easily integrated into existing facilities.

Foot Traffic
The official total of registered attendees was 91,460, down from 92,912 in 2018. The Evertz booth was actually easy to walk through at 10a.m. on Monday, which I found surprising given the breadth of new interesting products and technologies. Evertz had to show this year. The South Hall had the big crowds, but Wednesday seemed emptier than usual, almost like a Thursday.

The NAB announced that next year’s exhibition will begin on Sunday and end on Wednesday. That change might boost overall attendance, but I wonder how adversely it will affect the attendance at the conference sessions themselves.

I still enjoy attending NAB every year, seeing the new technologies and meeting with colleagues and former co-workers and clients. I hope that next year’s NAB will be even better than this year’s.

Main Image: Barbie Leung.


John Ferder is the principal engineer at John Ferder Engineer, currently Secretary/Treasurer of SMPTE, an SMPTE Fellow, and a member of IEEE. Contact him at john@johnferderengineer.com.


NAB 2019: A cinematographer’s perspective

By Barbie Leung

As an emerging cinematographer, I always wanted to attend an NAB show, and this year I had my chance. I found that no amount of research can prepare you for the sheer size of the show floor, not to mention the backrooms, panels and after-hours parties. As a camera operator as well as a cinematographer who is invested in the post production and exhibition end of the spectrum, I found it absolutely impossible to see everything I wanted to or catch up with all the colleagues and vendors I wanted to. This show is a massive and draining ride.

Panasonic EV1

There was a lot of buzz in the ether about 5G technology. Fast and accurate, the consensus seems to be that 5G will be the tipping point in implementing a lot of the tech that’s been talked about for years but hasn’t quite taken off yet, including the feasibility of autonomous vehicles and 8K streaming stateside.

It’s hard to deny the arrival of 8K technology while staring at the detail and textures on an 80-inch Sharp 8K professional display. Every roof tile, every wave in the ocean is rendered in rich, stunning detail.

In response to the resolution race, on the image capture end of things, Arri had already announced and started taking orders for the Alexa Mini LF — its long-awaited entry into the large format game — in the week before NAB.

Predictably, at NAB we saw many lens manufacturers highlighting full-frame coverage. Canon introduced its Sumire Prime lenses, while Fujinon announced the Premista 28-100mm T2.9 full-format zoom.

Sumire Prime lenses

Camera folks, including many ASC members, are embracing large format capture for sure, but some insist the appeal lies not so much in the increased resolution, but rather in the depth and overall image quality.

Meanwhile, back in 35mm sensor land, Panasonic continues its energetic push of the EVA1 camera. Aside from presentations at their booth emphasizing “cinematic” images from this compact 5.7K camera, they’ve done a subtle but not-to-subtle job of disseminating the EVA1 throughout the trade show floor. If you’re at the Atomos booth, you’ll find director/cinematographers like Elle Schneider presenting work shot with Atomos with the EVA1 balanced on a Ronin-S, and if you stop by Tiffen you’ll find an EVA1 being flown next to the Alexa Mini.

I found a ton of motion control at the show. From Shotover’s new compact B1 gyro stabilized camera system to the affable folks at Arizona-based Defy, who showed off their Dactylcam Pro, an addictively smooth-to-operate cable-suspension rig. The Bolt high-speed Cinebot had high-speed robotic arms complete with a spinning hologram.

Garret Brown at the Tiffen booth.

All this new gimbal technology is an ever-evolving game changer. Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown was on hand at the Tiffen booth to show the new M2 sled, which has motors elegantly built into the base. He enthusiastically heralded that camera operators can go faster and more “dangerously” than ever. There was so much motion control that it vied for attention alongside all the talk of 5G, 8K and LED lighting.

Some veterans of the show have expressed that this year’s show felt “less exciting” than shows of the past eight to 10 years. There were fewer big product launch announcements, perhaps due to past years where companies have been unable to fulfill the rush of post-NAB orders for new products for 12 or even 18 months. Vendors have been more conservative with what to hype, more careful with what to promise.

For a new attendee like me, there was more than enough new tech to explore. Above all else, NAB is really about the people you meet. The tech will be new next year, but the relationships you start and build at NAB are meant to last a career.

Main Image: ARRI’s Alexa Mini LF.


Barbie Leung is a New York-based cinematographer and camera operator working in independent film and branded content. Her work has played Sundance, the Tribeca Film Festival and Outfest. You can follow her on Instagram at @barbieleungdp.


Colorfront at NAB with 8K HDR, product updates

Colorfront, which makes on-set dailies and transcoding systems, has rolled out new 8K HDR capabilities and updates across its product lines. The company has also deepened its technology partnership with AJA and entered into a new collaboration with Pomfort to bring more efficient color and HDR management on-set.

Colorfront Transkoder is a post workflow tool for handling UHD, HDR camera, color and editorial/deliverables formats, with recent customers such as Sky, Pixelogic, The Picture Shop and Hulu. With a new HDR GUI, Colorfront’s Transkoder 2019 performs the realtime decompression/de-Bayer/playback of Red and Panavision DXL2 8K R3D material displayed on a Samsung 82-inch Q900R QLED 8K Smart TV in HDR and in full 8K resolution (7680 X 4320). The de-Bayering process is optimized through Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics cards with Turing GPU architecture (also available on Colorfront On-Set Dailies 2019), with 8K video output (up to 60p) using AJA Kona 5 video cards.

“8K TV sets are becoming bigger, as well as more affordable, and people are genuinely awestruck when they see 8K camera footage presented on an 8K HDR display,” said Aron Jaszberenyi, managing director, Colorfront. “We are actively working with several companies around the world originating 8K HDR content. Transkoder’s new 8K capabilities — across on-set, post and mastering — demonstrate that 8K HDR is perfectly accessible to an even wider range of content creators.”

Powered by a re-engineered version of Colorfront Engine and featuring the HDR GUI and 8K HDR workflow, Transkoder 2019 supports camera/editorial formats including Apple ProRes RAW, Blackmagic RAW, ARRI Alexa LF/Alexa Mini LF and Codex HDE (High Density Encoding).

Transkoder 2019’s mastering toolset has been further expanded to support Dolby Vision 4.0 as well as Dolby Atmos for the home with IMF and Immersive Audio Bitstream capabilities. The new Subtitle Engine 2.0 supports CineCanvas and IMSC 1.1 rendering for preservation of content, timing, layout and styling. Transkoder can now also package multiple subtitle language tracks into the timeline of an IMP. Further features support fast and efficient audio QC, including solo/mute of individual tracks on the timeline, and a new render strategy for IMF packages enabling independent audio and video rendering.

Colorfront also showed the latest versions of its On-Set Dailies and Express Dailies products for motion pictures and episodic TV production. On-Set Dailies and Express Dailies both now support ProRes RAW, Blackmagic RAW, ARRI Alexa LF/Alexa Mini LF and Codex HDE. As with Transkoder 2019, the new version of On-Set Dailies supports real-time 8K HDR workflows to support a set-to-post pipeline from HDR playback through QC and rendering of HDR deliverables.

In addition, AJA Video Systems has released v3.0 firmware for its FS-HDR realtime HDR/WCG converter and frame synchronizer. The update introduces enhanced coloring tools together with several other improvements for broadcast, on-set, post and pro AV HDR production developed by Colorfront.

A new, integrated Colorfront Engine Film Mode offers an ACES-based grading and look creation toolset with ASC Color Decision List (CDL) controls, built-in LOOK selection including film emulation looks, and variable Output Mastering Nit Levels for PQ, HLG Extended and P3 colorspace clamp.

Since launching in 2018, FS-HDR has been used on a wide range of TV and live outside broadcast productions, as well as motion pictures including Paramount Pictures’ Top Gun: Maverick, shot by Claudio Miranda, ASC.

Colorfront licensed its HDR Image Analyzer software to AJA for AJA’s HDR Image Analyzer in 2018. A new version of AJA HDR Image Analyzer is set for release during Q3 2019.

Finally, Colorfront and Pomfort have teamed up to integrate their respective HDR-capable on-set systems. This collaboration, harnessing Colorfront Engine, will include live CDL reading in ACES pipelines between Colorfront On-Set/Express Dailies and Pomfort LiveGrade Pro, giving motion picture productions better control of HDR images while simplifying their on-set color workflows and dailies processes.


AWS at NAB with a variety of partners, cloud workflows

During NAB 2019, Amazon Web Services (AWS) showcased advances for content creation, media supply chains and content distribution that improve agility and enhance quality across video workflows. Demonstrations included enhanced live and on-demand video workflows, such as next-gen transcoding, studio in the cloud, content protection, low latency and personalization. The company also highlighted cloud-based machine learning capabilities for content redaction, highlight creation, video clipping, live subtitling and metadata extraction.

AWS was joined by 12 technology partners in showing solutions that help users create, protect, distribute and monetize streaming video content. More than 60 Amazon Partner members across the show floor demonstrated media solutions built on AWS and interoperable with AWS services to deliver scalable video workflows.

Here are some workflows highlighted:
• Studio in the cloud – Users can deploy a creative studio in the cloud for visual effects, animation and editing workloads. They can scale rendering, virtual workstations and data storage globally with AWS Thinkbox Deadline, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances and AWS Cloud storage options such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon FSx and more.
• Next-generation transcoding – AWS Elemental MediaConvert spotlighted advanced features for file-based video processing. Support for IMF inputs and CMAF output simplifies video delivery, and integrated Quality-Defined Variable Bitrate (QVBR) rate control enables high-quality video while lowering bitrates, storage and bandwidth requirements.
• Cloud DVR services – AWS Elemental MediaPackage enables an end-to-end cloud DVR workflow that lets content providers deliver DVR-like experiences, such as catch-up and start-over functionality for viewing on mobile and other over-the-top (OTT) devices.

AWS also highlighted intelligent workflows and automated capabilities:
• Media-to-cloud migration – Media asset management tools integrate with AWS Elemental MediaConvert, Amazon S3 and Amazon CloudFront to accelerate migration of large-scale video archives into the cloud. Built-in metadata tools improve search and management for massive media archives.
• Smart language workflows – AWS Elemental Media Services and Amazon Machine Learning work together to automate realtime transcription, caption creation and multi-language subtitling and dubbing, as well as creation of video clips based on caption text.
• Deep media archive – The new Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive storage class is a low-cost cloud storage offering that enables customers to eliminate digital tape from their media infrastructures. It is ideally suited to cold media archives and to second copy and disaster recovery needs.


Quantum offers new F-Series NVMe storage arrays

During the NAB show, Quantum introduced its new F-Series NVMe storage arrays designed for performance, availability and reliability. Using non-volatile memory express (NVMe) Flash drives for ultra-fast reads and writes, the series supports massive parallel processing and is intended for studio editing, rendering and other performance-intensive workloads using large unstructured datasets.

Incorporating the latest Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) networking technology, the F-Series provides direct access between workstations and the NVMe storage devices, resulting in predictable and fast network performance. By combining these hardware features with the new Quantum Cloud Storage Platform and the StorNext file system, the F-Series offers end-to-end storage capabilities for post houses, broadcasters and others working in rich media environments, such as visual effects rendering.

The first product in the F-Series is the Quantum F2000, a 2U dual-node server with two hot-swappable compute canisters and up to 24 dual-ported NVMe drives. Each compute canister can access all 24 NVMe drives and includes processing power, memory and connectivity specifically designed for high performance and availability.

The F-Series is based on the Quantum Cloud Storage Platform, a software-defined block storage stack tuned specifically for video and video-like data. The platform eliminates data services unrelated to video while enhancing data protection, offering networking flexibility and providing block interfaces.

According to Quantum, the F-Series is as much as five times faster than traditional Flash storage/networking, delivering extremely low latency and hundreds of thousands of IOPs per chassis. The series allows users to reduce infrastructure costs by moving from Fiber Channel to Ethernet IP-based infrastructures. Additionally, users leveraging a large number of HDDs or SSDs to meet their performance requirements can gain back racks of data center space.

The F-Series is the first product line based on the Quantum Cloud Storage Platform.

HP shows off new HP Z6 and Z8 G4 workstations at NAB

HP was at NAB demoing their new HP Z6 and Z8 G4 workstations, which feature Intel Xeon scalable processors and Intel Optane DC persistent memory technology to eliminate the barrier between memory and storage for compute-intensive workflows, including machine learning, multimedia and VFX. The new workstations offer accelerated performance with a processor-architecture that allows users to work faster and more efficiently.

Intel Optane DC allows users to improve system performance by moving large datasets closer to the CPU so it can be assessed, processed and analyzed in realtime and in a more affordable way. This will allow for no data loss after a power cycle or application closure. Once applications are written to take advantage of this new technology, users will benefit from accelerated workflows and little or no downtime.

Targeting 8K video editing in realtime and for rendering workflows, the HP Z6 G4 workstation is equipped with two next-generation Intel Xeon processors providing up to 48 total processor cores in one system, Nvidia and AMD graphics and 384GB of memory. Users can install professional-grade storage hardware without using standard PCIe slots, offering the ability to upgrade over time.

Powered by up to 56 processing cores and up to 3TB of high-speed memory, the HP Z8 G4 workstation can run complex 3D simulations, supporting VFX workflows and handling advanced machine learning algorithms. They are certified for some of the most-used software apps, including Autodesk Flame and DaVinci Resolve.

HP’s Remote Graphics Software (RGS), included with all HP Z workstations, enables remote workstation access from any Windows, Linux or Mac device.

Avid is collaborating with HP to test RGS with Media Composer|Cloud VM.

The HP Z6 G4 workstation with new Intel Xeon processors is available now for the base price of $2,372. The HP Z8 G4 workstation starts at $2,981.