Tag Archives: Avid Media Composer

Review: Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12

This working editor is impressed with the color correction tool’s NLE offerings.

By Brady Betzel

If you’re looking for a nonlinear editor alternative to Adobe Premiere, Apple FCP X or Avid Media Composer you must check out Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 12 Studio. The best part about the continuing evolution of Resolve is that Blackmagic has been adding NLE functionality to its color correction software, instead of building an editor from the ground up.

In terms of editing systems, Avid Media Composer has been in my life from the very first day I started working in television. At school we edited on Final Cut Pro 7 and Adobe Premiere, but once I hit the big time it was all Media Composer all the time. Now, of course, that is changing with Adobe Premiere Pro projects popping up more and more.

Many of today’s editors want to work on an NLE offering the latest and greatest features, such as resolution independence, wide codec support, occasional VFX integration and the all-mighty color correction. So that leaves us with Adobe, Avid and the newest player to the NLE game, Blackmagic and its Resolve product.

Resolve's multicam capabilities.

Resolve’s multicam capabilities.

Adobe realizes how important color is to an editor’s workflow and has added color correction inside of Premiere by incorporating Lumetri Color. In fact, Adobe’s After Effects also features Lumetri Color. But even with these new additions some are still wanting more. This is where Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 12 is making its move into the nonlinear editing world.

Inside Resolve 12
With Version 12, Blackmagic has reinvented its internal NLE environment to catch the eye of any editor looking to make a change from their current editing system. In this review I’m looking at Resolve 12 from an editor’s perspective, not a colorist’s. Some NLEs say you can stay inside of their environment from offline to online, but oftentimes that’s not the case.

I think you will really like what Blackmagic is doing in Resolve 12 Studio — you will also like their visual effects and compositing app Fusion, which recently released its Version 8 public beta.

Blackmagic offers two versions of Resolve: Resolve Studio and Resolve. They also offer the DaVinci Resolve Advanced Panel, which retails for $29,995. Resolve Studio sells for $995, while plain Resolve is free, and you get a lot of horsepower for free. If $30K is too pricey for your budget, remember that a lot of high-end colorists use the Tangent Element coloring panels — they retail for under $3,500. (You can check out my review of the Tangent Element panels here.) Color panels will change the way you look at color correcting. Coloring by mouse or tablet compared to panels is like playing baseball with one arm tied behind your back.

The Resolve Panel

The differences between Resolve Studio and Resolve is Studio’s realtime noise reduction and motion blur parameters using CUDA and OpenGL GPUs and stereoscopic 3D grading. The free version has mastering limitations; very limited GPU and Red Rocket support; lack of collaborative teamwork-based features; lack of remote grading; limitation of proxy generation to the UHD frame size; limit of project frame sizes to UHD; and a lack in ability to render the Sony XAVC codec. But keep in mind that even the free Resolve will support the Tangent Element panel if you have it.

Powering It Up
Technically, you should have a pretty beefy workstation at your disposal to run Resolve, especially if you want to take advantage of the enhanced GPU processing and realtime playback of high-resolution sources. One common debate question is, “Do I transcode to a mezzanine format or stay native?” Personally, I like to transcode to a mezzanine format like DNxHD or ProRes, however with systems becoming the powerhouses they are today that need is slowly dying. Even though Resolve can chew through different native codecs such as AVCHD it will definitely be to your advantage to find a common intraframe codec such as ProRes 4444, Cineform or DNxHD/HR as opposed to an interframe codec such as XDCAM, which is very processor-intensive and can slow your system down during edit.

A very thorough explanation can be found over at Sareesh Sudhakaran’s website: http://wolfcrow.com/blog/intra-frame-vs-inter-frame-compression. The minimum requirements for Resolve on a Mac are OS X 10.10.3 Yosemite and 16GB of system memory, although 8GB is the minimum supported. For a Windows system you need Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit with SP1 with 16GB of system memory, although 8GB is the minimum supported as well.

In addition, you will need up-to-date drivers from your GPU, and if I was you a high-end GPU (or two or three) with as much memory as possible. Many people report a couple prosumer Nvidia 980 Ti cards to be a great value if you aren’t able to jump up to the Quadro family of GPUs. In addition AMD and Intel GPUs are supported.

Let’s be real, you should either have a sweet X99 system with as much RAM as you can afford or something on the level of an HP z840 or recent Mac Pro to run smoothly. You will also want an SSD boot drive and a RAID (SSD if possible) to get the most out of your editing and color experience with minimal lag, especially when adding Power Windows, motion blur and grain.

The Interface
My immediate reaction to Resolve’s updated interface is that it looks and feels like an amalgamation of FCP X and Adobe Premiere CC 2015. If you like the way Adobe separates out their assembly, color and NLE interfaces then you will be right at home with Resolve’s Media, Edit, Color, and Deliver keys. In the timeline you will see a similar look to FCP X with rounded corners and an otherwise intriguing graphical user interface. I’m not going to lie, it felt a little shiny at first but coming from Media Composer almost every NLE interface will feel shiny and new. So the questions is: will it perform on the same level as a tried and true behemoth like Avid’s Media Composer?

Testing the NLE
There are a few key functions that I test on every NLE I jump into: trimming, multicam editing and media management. For the most part, every NLE can insert edit, assemble edit and replace an edit, but most can’t replicate Avid’s trimming and media management functionality.

Jumping into trim mode there are your standard ripple, overwrite, slip and slide trims. You can perform that multitrack asymmetric trim to pull time between those huge acts and even one type of trim that I really wish Avid would steal — the ability to trim durations of multiple clips simultaneously. The best way I can describe this is when you are building credits and you need to shorten them all by one frame. Typically, you could go in card by card and remove one frame from each card until you are done. In Resolve 12, you can trim multiple clips at the same time and in the same direction, i.e. trim one frame from every credit in a sequence simultaneously. It’s really a remarkable addition to a trim workflow, not to mention a time saver.

Second on my checklist for running an NLE is its ability to work smoothly with multiple camera angles in a grouped set of footage, sometimes referred to as groups. One of my personal pet peeves with Media Composer is the inability to change a group after it has been created (and by pet peeve I mean bane of my existence when I was assistant editor and a 12-hour group was off by one or two frames… but I digress.)

Luckily, Blackmagic has given us a solution inside of Resolve. After a group has been created, you can step “inside” of that group, add angles, add a final mix and even change sync. All of these changes ripple through the edits; it’s very impressive. My two favorite features in Resolve’s new multi group abilities are mixing frame rates within a group and auto syncing of audio and video based on waveforms. If you’ve ever needed Red Giant’s PluralEyes because there was no jam sync timecode on footage you received, then you will feel right at home inside of Resolve’s auto sync. Plus you can adjust the group after it’s been created! I love this… a lot.

Media management

Last on my list is media management. I have pretty high expectations when it comes to media management because I was an assistant editor for a little over four years working on Media Composer, and for the most part that system’s media management works rock solid — if you need to vent about how I am wrong you can tweet me @allbetzroff) — especially when used in conjunction with an Avid Shared Storage product like the Unity or ISIS. What I realize is that while Avid’s way of media organization is a little bit antiquated, it is reliable.

So what I’ve really started to embrace within the last year is metadata and I now recognize just how valuable it is with NLEs like FCP X and now Resolve. Metadata is only valuable, however, if someone actually enters it and enters it correctly.

If in Resolve you have properly kept your metadata game extremely up to date you can quickly and efficiently organize your media using Smart Bins. Smart Bins are incredible if they are set up properly; you can apply certain metadata filtering criteria to different bins such as interview shots, or have shots from a particular date to automatically populate. This is a huge time saver for assistant editors and editors without assistant editors; another feature I really love.

I couldn’t cover everything within Resolve in this space, but believe me when I tell you that the features not covered are just as great as the ones I have covered. In addition to the newly updated audio engine under the hood, there is a command to decompose a nested timeline in place — think of a nested sequence that you want to revisit but you don’t have to find the original and recut it into the sequence — one click and magically your nested sequence is un-nested. There is also compatibility with Open VFX, such as GenArts Sapphire and Boris FX BCC Continuum Complete. There is remote rendering and grading, plus many, many more features. One of my favorite resources is the Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 12 manual written by Alexis Van Hurkman (@Hurkman on Twitter), who also wrote Color Correction Handbook: Professional Techniques for Video and Cinema, a phenomenal book on color correction techniques widely regarded as the manual for color correction.

Summing Up
In the end I can’t begin to touch on the power of Resolve 12 in this relatively small review; it’s constantly being updated! The latest 12.2 update includes compatibility with plug-ins like New Blue Titler from Media Composer via an AAF! I didn’t even get a chance to mention Resolve’s integration of Bezier curve adjustments to transitions and keyframe-able movements.

If you are looking for an upgrade in your color correction experience, you need to download the free version immediately. If you’re an editor and have never taken Resolve for a test drive, now is the time. With features like greatly improved dynamic trimming to the extremely useful and easy to set up Smart Bins to the new 3D tracker and foreground color matching, Resolve is quickly overtaking the color and NLE market in one solid and useful package.

Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously, he was editing The Real World at Bunim-Murray Productions. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.


When video editors need to deliver a CALM-compliant mix

Outpost Worldwide is a Kansas City-based production and post company that creates content for a variety of TV series, network game shows, reality shows, commercials and corporate videos.

Their television work includes shows like Strange: Exorcist, Garden Earth and Project Runway Latin America. Documentaries they have worked on include The Barber’s Diaries, No Shortcuts and Let Freedom Ring: The Lessons Are Priceless. Films include Fight Night, Dogs of Eden and Last Ounce of Courage.

With the passage of the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act by Congress, the responsibility to ensure audio mixes conform to the loudness standard falls not only on audio mixers, but also on video editors for shows that did not budget for a separate audio post session.

For Mark Renz, senior video editor at Outpost Worldwide, the task of delivering compliant mixes directly from his Avid Media Composer system was an extra burden in time and effort that should have been used for creative editing. If a show gets rejected by their Extreme Reach content management and delivery system, then further delays and costs are incurred either to send the show to audio post or have the Extreme Reach system fix the loudness itself.

“While many of our shows have budget for audio post, I frequently will also work on shows that have no separate audio budget, so it’s down to me to make sure audio coming out of my Media Composer system is compliant with the CALM Act,” explains Renz. “Since the majority of my time is spent putting a compelling story together, you can imagine that worrying about loudness is not something I really have a lot of time for.”

This is where iZotope’s RX Loudness Control comes in. “There’s not a whole lot to say, because it just works,” he says. “It’s two mouse clicks, and it’s much faster than realtime. The first click quickly analyzes the audio and displays a graph showing any problem areas. If I have time, I can quickly go in and manually adjust an area if I want; otherwise, clicking ‘Render’ is all that’s required to generate a compliant final mix.”

Mark is first to admit he’s not an “audio guy” so being able to rely on a tool that guarantees a compliant audio mix has been liberating. “I don’t have to worry what someone else might be doing to the audio to force it into compliance,” says Renz.

Mick Audsley: Editing ‘Everest’

This veteran editor walks us through his process

By Randi Altman

Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world and the Holy Grail for many climbers, often is the symbol of a personal struggle to achieve an incredibly difficult task. It also happens to be the subject of a new film from director Baltasar Kormákur that is based on the (sometimes contradictory) true story of two climbers who, in the spring of 1996, got caught in a violent blizzard — and fought to survive.

The goal of the filmmakers behind Universal’s Everest was to tell this story of tragedy and survival and, in doing so, make the audience feel the desperation of the characters on screen, and to tell this story of tragedy and survival. To give us a glimpse into the process, we reached out to Everest’s editor, Mick Audsley, whose work includes Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Twelve Monkeys, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Dangerous Liaisons and many more.

Starting 4th from left: Director Baltasar Kormákur, Glenn Freemantle and Mick Audsley, with the audio post crew.

He acknowledges that, “from a storytelling point, there was a huge responsibility to make a film that worked, but also to be as honest as possible. We wanted to help preserve the legacy of the story for the families and climbers who are still alive.”

Audsley cut the film — shot with the Arri Alexa by DP 
Salvatore Totino — on an Avid Media Composer in DNX36 over 55 weeks, which, amazingly, isn’t the longest edit he’s been involved in. Goblet of Fire takes that award, coming in at 73 weeks.

Let’s find out more about Audsley’s process on this film and his philosophy on editing.

How did you give the audience that “you are here” feeling of peril in your edit?
There’s a montage early on, which shows the sorts of dangers they had on the way up, including the altitude, which has a huge impact on your health. There’s a great deal of peril in the sheer physics of it all, but as the story unfolds, we never felt we had to overly dramatize what went wrong, because it’s a series of small, rather human, mistakes and misjudgments with catastrophic consequences. Editorially, we felt it should just relentlessly build up, tightening its grip around the audience’s throat, if possible, in order to engage them.

How did you work with director Baltasar Kormákur, and how early did you get involved in the film?
I began at the start of shooting, although we weren’t together. Balthazar and the crew spent 10 shooting days in Nepal while we were setting up in the the mountains in Northern Italy —basically at a ski resort — where we were for about six to eight weeks doing the photography… with climbers in real snow. We were accessible to everybody and would show the work as it progressed. We then split up, because they built a base camp in Cinecitta Studios in Rome. That was only going to last two weeks, so it made sense to come back to London for the rest of the schedule, which was completed in Pinewood Studios on the big 007 stage.

We were all very busy, and I didn’t see a great deal of Balthazar during shooting, but we would meet. It was a very tough shoot, as you can imagine, and he was kind enough to trust me just to carry on.


When did you get into a room with him?
After they finished shooting and Balt had gone back home to Reykjavik. We were meeting everyday, based at RVX https://www.rvx.is/, his visual effects company’s building in the center of Reykjavik. We then spent the best part of 14 weeks working together in Iceland.

Fourteen weeks, just in Iceland?
It was the director’s cut period, which is normally 10 weeks, but we stayed longer since it worked so well for Balt as he was able to carry on with things and visit my team and I almost every day. We would get together in the afternoon and I would show the work I’d done the day before, discuss it and make the plan for the next day.

Were you given direction in terms of how it was going to be edited? Or where you given free rein?
I was given a large amount of free rein. Balt is extremely trusting of me, and we would just bat ideas around and constantly try to move the film to where we felt it was functioning in the way we needed it to. There were many strands of the story that were shot, which then had to be whittled down or re-balanced or changed or taken out. The editorial process was not just cutting; there was a certain amount of changing of dialogue, rewording things and re-recording things in order to make the narrative move forward in the right way. It was a big job, and we were constantly throwing things at each other.

I obviously had the task of doing the actual editorial work of realizing it, cutting the scenes and putting it all together, but I was given an enormous amount of freedom and could express myself very freely. So it was very much a joint venture.

Everest Film Title: Everest

Can you describe your editing set up?
We had three Avid Media Composers with shared storage. Actually, we had four because my visual effects editor, Keith Mason, joined us in Iceland for that period. We had to turn over material as quickly as we could so the visual effects work could be started and run in parallel with us as the cut progressed.

I had two assistants on Everest because it was a very labor-intensive film. There was a lot of material. On average I was receiving between five and six hours a day from each day’s shooting. So over a period of 16 — 18 weeks that builds up quite a big library of material to be evaluated, understood and cut. It worked very smoothly and efficiently.

Do you typically cut on a Media Composer?
Yes, it’s a very good tool, one that I’ve been using for the last… God knows. What we need is something that’s reliable and fast and allows us the freedom to think and to store the many versions and permutations we need. A lot of the work that we do is keeping a very tidy cutting room in terms of organization of material and the different versions and what we’re doing and where we’re putting our efforts.

How do you work with your assistant editors, specifically on this film?
Pani Ahmadi-Moore is my first assistant, and we’ve worked together for about six years now. But she’s much more than just an assistant editor; she’s a filmmaker in her own right, in the sense of being a collaborator in the project. Although she’s not actually cutting the movie, she’s very much involved in it.

So, all of the prep work, and making things available to me, is handled by Pani and her assistant. They present bins for each scene of material. I keep an absolutely precise log of what comes in and when and what it relates to, which is also presented by Pani. This frees me up to concentrate on cutting the scenes, putting the film together and aiming towards a first cut. We generally present this within two weeks of the end of principal photography.

Everest 5

The film was released in 3D stereo and Imax. Can you talk about that?
We didn’t put on 3D glasses, or anything like that, in the cutting room. When we got back to London and we had a cut, we then started sending sections to the 3D house, StereoD, and the stereo process began to run in parallel with us and those scenes would be updated as the cut changed.

It’s a bit like a VFX process in its own right. There are three strands of things going along in parallel on the pictorial side: the cut developing and being shaped and editorializing in the traditional way; the turning over of visual effects within that cut and keeping them up-to-date with the changes editorially; and, similarly, the same process going on for turnovers to Stereo D in Burbank, California.

After the conversions are made, do you get to see the final product?
Yes, we do. In fact, though, in this case, I was so busy with the cut that Balthazar, bless him, took a lion’s share of directing the 3D. We had to divide our labor, as it were, and I was still very busy shaping the content of the film. It comes to a point when it’s “How do we best use our time and what is the best distribution of our time?”

You mentioned VFX, were you working with temp VFX? How did that work?
We did have temp VFX, and we would be given early versions of critical shots. A lot of the summit material, where we had the climbers on the set without the backgrounds, took quite a while for us to get. For me, it was quite hard to judge the impact of some of these shots until they were available in a form where we could see how good they were going to be and how extreme the environment was. It takes time… it’s a slow cooked meal.

Can you talk about the film’s sound?
We had extremely difficult audio. There was a high percentage of ADR and replacement on this film — we had wind machines, we had people on the real mountains with clothes blowing and making noise, so the audio in its early stages was very difficult to hear and use. It wasn’t until we got substantial ADR and tracks back that were clean that we could build it all up again. That was very challenging.

Who worked on the sound?
The sound designer was the wonderful Glenn Freemantle and the dialogue editor was my old friend Nina Heartstone. She did an amazing job scheduling the artists to come back for ADR. They also had to do very physical things — now in a studio environment —in order to get the vocalization and the physicality to sound convincing. The sound is quite extraordinary.
It wasn’t until we had a temp dubbed and temporary visuals that started to feel that the film was being realized how we had intended it to be, and we could start to read it properly.

Is there any one scene or section that you found the most challenging?
I think the whole film was challenging. Obviously, the storm sequence is a visceral experience that you want to have the audience experience — the complexity of what was going on apart from the physical hardship, and the way in which the tragedy unfolded.

We had filmmaking issues to resolve as well. The identification of people was one, actually seeing the climbers’ faces since they were hidden most of the time. There were lots of issues that we had to understand, to decide whether to solve or to accept. For example, the story of what happened with the oxygen is confusing, and nobody really understands exactly what when wrong. In filmmaking terms, that can be tricky to communicate. Whether we got away with that, I don’t know. Everybody was very confused about the oxygen, and that’s how it was.

It goes back to what I was saying at the beginning, Randi, which is this responsibility towards the subjected storytelling for those who survived and the reality of what happened.

What’s next for you?
I was to be making another film for Terry Gilliam (we worked together previously on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus), which is his long-awaited Don Quixote movie, but this has been postponed until the spring..

In the meantime, I’m helping set up a film networking organization here in London. It’s called Sprocket Rocket Soho (@srsoho) It’s an international endeavor aimed at bringing young filmmakers together with older filmmakers, because in the digital world we’re all feeling a bit isolated and people need to get into a room and talk. I’m very pro-education for young filmmakers, and this is part of that incentive.

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad W550s Ultrabook mobile workstation

By Brady Betzel

Over the last few years, I’ve done a lot of workstation reviews, including ones for HP’s z800 and z840, Dell’s mobile workstations and now the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s mobile workstation.

After each workstation review goes live, I’m always asked the same question: Why would anyone pay the extra money for a professional workstation when you can buy something that performs almost as good if not better for half the price? That’s a great question.

What separates workstations from consumer or DIY systems is primarily ISV (Independent Software Vendor) certifications. Many companies, including Lenovo, work directly with software manufacturers like Autodesk and Adobe to ensure that the product you are receiving will work with the software you use, including drivers, displays, keypads, ports (like the mini display port) and so on. So while you are paying a premium to ensure compatibility, you are really paying for the peace of mind that your system will work with the software you use most. The Lenovo W550s has ISV-certified drivers with Autodesk, Dassault, Nemetscheck Vectorworks, PTC and Siemens, all relating to drivers for the Nvidia Quadro K620M graphics card.


Beyond ISV driver certifications, the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s is a lightweight powerhouse with the longest battery life I have ever seen in a mobile workstation — all for around $2,500.

Out of the box I noticed two batteries charging when I powered on Windows 8.1 — you can choose Windows 7 (64-bit) or 8.1 (64-bit). One of the best features I have seen in a mobile workstation is the ability to swap batteries without powering down (I guess that’s the old man in me coming out), and Lenovo has found a way to do it without charging an arm and a leg and physically only showing one battery. For $50 (included in the $2,500 price), you can have a three-cell (44Whr) battery in the front and a six-cell (72Whr) battery in the back. I was able to work about three days in a row without charging.

This was intermittent work ranging from sending out tweets with 10 tabs up in Chrome to encoding a 4K H.264 for YouTube in Adobe Media Encoder. It was a very welcome surprise, and if I had a second battery I could swap them out without losing power because of the battery in the front (built-in).

Under the Hood
The battery life is the biggest feature in my opinion, but let’s layout the rest of the specs… Processor: Intel Core i7-5600U (4MB Cache, up to 3.20GHz – I got 2.6); OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64; Display: 15.5-inches 3K (2880×1620), IPS, Multi-touch, with WWAN; Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K620M 2GB; Memory: 16 PC3-12800 DDR3L; Keyboard: backlit with number keypad; Pointing Device: trackpoint (little red joystick looking mouse), Touchpad and Fingerprint Reader; Camera: 720p; Hard Drive: 512GB Serial ATA3, SSD; Battery: three-cell Li-Polymer 44Whr (Front), six-cell Li-ion 72Whr Cyl HC (Rear); Power Cord: 65W AC Adapter; Wireless: Intel 7265 AC/B/G/N dual band wireless plus Bluetooth; Warranty: one-year carry-in (diagnosed by phone first).

The W550s has a bunch of great inputs, like the mini display port, which I got to work instantly with an external monitor; three USB 3.0 ports with one of them always on for charging of devices; a smart card reader, which I used a lot; and even a VGA port.

W550s_Product tour_06 W550s_Product tour_05

In terms of power I received a nice Intel i7-5600U Quad Core CPU running at 2.6GHz or higher. Combined with the Nvidia Quadro K620M and 16GB of DDR3L, the Intel i7-5600U delivered enough power to encode my GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition 4K timelapses quickly using the GoPro software and Adobe Media Encoder.

Encoding and layering effects is what really bogs a video editing system down, so what better way to see what the W550s is made of than by removing the fisheye on my clip with an effect on the image sequence containing about 2,400 stills in Adobe Premiere, speeding up the timelapse by 1,000 percent and sending the sequence to Adobe Media Encoder? In the end, the W550s chewed through the render and spit out a 4K YouTube-compatible H.264 in around 15 minutes. The CUDA cores in the Nvidia Quadro K620M really helped, although this did kick the fans on. I did about six of these timelapses to verify that my tests were conclusive. If you want to see them you can check them out on YouTube.

The Quadro K620M is on the lower end of the mobile Quadro family but boasts 384 CUDA cores that help with the encoding and transcoding of media using the Adobe Creative Suite. In fact, I needed a laptop to use in a presentation I did for the Editors’ Lounge. I wanted to run After Effects CC 2014 along with Video Copilot’s Element 3D V1.6 plug-in, Maxon Cinema 4D Studio R16 and Avid Media Composer 6.5, all while running Camtasia (screen capture software) the entire time. That’s a lot to run at once, and I decided to give the W550s the task.

In terms of processing power the W550s worked great — I even left After Effects running while I was inside of Cinema 4D doing some simple demos of House Builder and MoText work. I have to say I was expecting some lag when switching between the two powerhouse software programs, but I was running Element 3D without a hiccup, even replicating the text particle and adding materials and lighting to them – both a testament to a great plug-in as well as a great machine.

While the power was not a problem for the W550s, I did encounter some interesting problems with the screen resolution. I have to preface this by saying that it is definitely NOT Lenovo’s problem that I am describing, it has to do with Avid Media Composer not being optimized for this high resolution of a screen. Avid Media Composer was almost unusable on the 15.5-inch 3K (2880×1620), IPS, multi-touch screen. The user interface has not been updated for today’s high-resolution screens, including the W550s. It is something to definitely be aware of when purchasing a workstation like this.

I did a few benchmarks for this system using Maxon Cinebench R15 software, which tests the OpenGL and CPU performances as compared to other systems with similar specs. The OpenGL test revealed a score of 35.32fps while the CPU test revealed a score of 265cb. You can download Cinebench R15 here and test your current set-up against my tests of the W550s.

There are a couple of things cosmetically that I am not as fond of on the W550s. When you purchase the larger rear battery, keep in mind that it adds about ¼- to ½-inch lift — it will no longer sit flat. In addition the keyboard is very nice and I found myself really liking the addition of the numeric keypad, especially when typing in exact frames in Premiere, the touchpad has the three buttons on top instead of underneath like I have typically encountered. On one hand I can see how if you retrain yourself to use the three buttons with the left hand while using your right hand on the touch pad it may be more efficient. On the other hand it will get annoying. I like the idea of a touchscreen, in theory — It’s nice to move windows around. But practically speaking, from a video and motion graphics standpoint, it probably isn’t worth the extra money and I would stick to a non-touch screen for a mobile workstation.

The last item to cover is the warranty. Typically, workstations have a pretty good warranty. Lenovo gives you a one-year carry-in warranty with the purchase of the W550s, which to me is short. This really hurts the price of the workstation because to get more than a three-year warranty — one that will actually help you within a business day if a crisis arises – will cost you at least a few hundred dollars more.

Summing Up
In the end, the price and awesome battery life make the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s a lightweight mobile workstation that can crunch through renders quickly. If I was ordering one for myself I would probably max out the memory at 32GB, get rid of the touchscreen (maybe even keep the 1920×1080 resolution version) and keep everything else… oh, I would also upgrade to a better warranty.

Before you leave, take these highlights with you: extreme battery life, lightweight and durable, and powerful enough for multimedia use.

AMD FirePro supports Avid Media Composer 8.4 for HD, 4K workflows

AMD has certified Avid Media Composer 8.4 for HD and 4K broadcast and digital content creation workflows powered by AMD FirePro professional graphics on Microsoft Windows and Mac Pro workstations. The new support for Avid Media Composer enables AMD FirePro professional graphics customers to take advantage of 4K display, media management and editing capabilities throughout the video production process.

Avid Media Composer nonlinear video editing software is used extensively by professional editors in moviemaking, television, broadcast and streaming media. AMD FirePro professional graphics enable Avid Media Composer to support editing of high volumes of disparate file-based media for accelerated high-res and HD workflows, real-time collaboration and well-managed media management.


Behind the Title: Northern Lights editor Chris Carson

NAME: Chris Carson

COMPANY: New York-based Northern Lights (@nlpedit)

My feeling as an editor, and clients have told me they feel the same way, is that it’s pretty nice to walk downstairs and chat with the director, colorist or sound designer, even before a job starts. Northern Lights (which includes Bodega, SuperExploder and Mr. Wonderful) handles everything – concepts and strategy, shooting, editing, graphics, music composition. All the parts can work together or separately depending on the job.

Every day is a little different. It could be digging through footage, creating Foley sound effects or Continue reading

William Goldenberg on editing ‘The Imitation Game’

By Randi Altman

William Goldenberg’s path to editing The Imitation Game was an interesting one. He had never worked with director Morten Tyldum before, but a chance meeting at a party after the BAFTA Awards led to the pairing.

“I didn’t know who he was, and he was loud,” Goldenberg laughs. “This long-haired, Norwegian man came up to me and said he’d love for me to edit this film he was going to direct. His English wasn’t great, and I wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about, but I said, ‘Sure.’”

Goldenberg went on to forget about the meeting until a couple of months later when he received The Imitation Game script, and pieced it all together. Thus began the start of a beautiful Continue reading

Radical/Outpost’s Evan Schechtman talks latest FCP X updates, NLE trends

By Randi Altman

As you might have heard, Apple has updated its Final Cut Pro to version 10.1.4, with what they call “key stability improvements.”

That includes the Pro Video Formats 2.0 software update, which provides native support for importing, editing and exporting MXF files with Final Cut Pro X. While the system already supported import of MXF files from video cameras, this update extends the format support to a broader range of files and workflows.

In addition the native MXF support, there is also an option to export AVC-Intra MXF files.  There are fixes for past issues with automatic library backups. It also fixes a problem where clips Continue reading

Rampant Design’s Budget VFX offers 40 HD looks for $29

By Brady Betzel

This week Rampant Design Tools has released its latest offering, Budget VFX, which are multiple collections of ProRes QuickTime overlays that add light leak looks (Beauty Light), Bokeh Effects, Film Clutter and more.

Each Budget VFX (@budgetvfx) collection is priced at $29 and offers 40 HD (1920×1080) QuickTime files that import into any NLE or VFX software; just adjust the Blending/Composite Mode and you are in business. If you are looking for formats larger than 1920×1080 you are going to want to check out the Rampant website, which includes products in 2K, 4K and even 5K resolutions, just not at the $29 price point.

Continue reading

IBC 2014: quite a ride

By Randi Altman

After spending a week in Amsterdam for the IBC show, I am left with these random thoughts: There is no possible way to pack for whatever weather that city decides to throw at you. It’s hot, then it’s cold, then it’s hot — sometimes at the same moment in time. It’s like the menopause of weather.

I’ve also discovered that the Dutch are trying to kill us, or maybe they are just trying to remind us of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory, with uneven pavement, bikes, scooters, trams, cars, pedestrians, all vying for the same space. Oh, and sometimes you’ll happen upon a set of black steps thrown in for good measure just to keep you from being lulled into a false sense of safety — it’s the cement equivalent of black ice.

I’m not even going to get into their staircases — those ever-winding, incredibly steep and not-made-for-human-sized-feet death traps. All that aside, I love that city. Love it. And, It’s a Continue reading

Bluefish444 offers new SDI features for Adobe CC, Media Composer 8, Scratch 8

Over the past week or so, Bluefish444 has made multiple announcements focused on an updated Windows Installer (V5.12.0) for its SDI input/output cards specifically for partner products Assimilate Scratch 8, Adobe Creative Cloud 2014 and Avid’s Media Composer 8.

Bluefish444 has released Windows installer 5.12.0, a Windows 7/8 driver compatible with the Epoch|4K Supernova and Epoch|Supernova S+ cards supporting new high frame rate YUV SDI output from Assimilate Scratch 8 software.

New support includes: 4K SDI output as 4096×2160 at 60fps and a much anticipated 2k/4k at 48fps SDI output.

 Bluefish444’s 5.12.0 Windows 7/8 installer support for Adobe Creative Cloud (2014) includes compatibility with all Create, Epoch and Epoch 4K Supernova video cards.

This free release also provides added functionality for live capture of 4K SDI as 4096×2160 at 60fps from digital cinema cameras using Epoch|4K Supernova and Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2014. 

The 5.12.0 Windows7/8 installer is a major update for Adobe After Effects CC 2014 users, adding 4K/2K/HD/SD RGB/YUV SDI output, full support for Adobe Mercury transmit and audio monitoring through ASIO 64.

“Bluefish444 has lifted the bar for 4K SDI high frame rate workflows with new 4K 60p SDI capture through Adobe Premiere Pro, 4K 60p SDI preview through Adobe After Effects and Assimilate Scratch 8,” says Tom Lithgow, Bluefish444 product specialist. “Bluefish444 is committed to offering our customer base the full gamut of 4K 60p workflow options and our new Windows 7/8 installer extends that support to Bluefish444 Adobe and Assimilate customers.”

Windows Installer 5.12.0 is also compatible with all Bluefish444 Epoch hardware and the Create | 3D Ultra supporting dedicated HD 1080p 30 YUV/RGB SDI I/O for Avid Media Composer 8 and Avid Symphony.

The new installer is freely available for all Bluefish444 Epoch and Create customers from the Bluefish444 homepage and is compatible with the complementary Bluefish444 Symmetry and Bluefish444 Fluid applications: IngeStore and DNxHD IngeStore.