Tag Archives: ProRes

New codec, workflow options via Red, Nvidia and Adobe

By Mike McCarthy

There were two announcements last week that will impact post production workflows. The first was the launch of Red’s new SDK, which leverages Nvidia’s GPU-accelerated CUDA framework to deliver realtime playback of 8K Red footage. I’ll get to the other news shortly. Nvidia was demonstrating an early version of this technology at Adobe Max in October, and I have been looking forward to this development since I am about to start post on a feature film shot on the Red Monstro camera. This should effectively render the RedRocket accelerator cards obsolete, replacing them with cheaper, multipurpose hardware that can also accelerate other computational tasks.

While accelerating playback of 8K content at full resolution requires a top-end RTX series card from Nvidia (Quadro RTX 6000, Titan RTX or GeForce RTX 2080Ti), the technology is not dependent on RTX’s new architecture (RT and Tensor cores), allowing earlier generation hardware to accelerate smooth playback at smaller frame sizes. Lots of existing Red footage is shot at 4K and 6K, and playback of these files will be accelerated on widely deployed legacy products from previous generations of Nvidia GPU architecture. It will still be a while before this functionality is in the hands of end users, because now Adobe, Apple, Blackmagic and other software vendors have to integrate the new SDK functionality into their individual applications. But hopefully we will see those updates hitting the market soon (targeting late Q1 of 2019).

Encoding ProRes on Windows via Adobe apps
The other significant update, which is already available to users as of this week, is Adobe’s addition of ProRes encoding support on its video apps in Windows. Developed by Apple, ProRes encoding has been available on Mac for a long time, and ProRes decoding and playback has been available on Windows for over 10 years. But creating ProRes files on Windows has always been a challenge. Fixing this was less a technical challenge than a political one, as Apple owns the codec and it is not technically a standard. So while there were some hacks available at various points during that time, Apple has severely restricted the official encoding options available on Windows… until now.

With the 13.0.2 release of Premiere Pro and Media Encoder, as well as the newest update to After Effects, Adobe users on Windows systems can now create ProRes files in whatever flavor they happen to need. This is especially useful since many places require delivery of final products in the ProRes format. In this case, the new export support is obviously a win all the way around.

Adobe Premiere

Now users have yet another codec option for all of their intermediate files, prompting another look at the question: Which codec is best for your workflow? With this release, Adobe users have at least three major options for high-quality intermediate codecs: Cineform, DNxHR and now ProRes. I am limiting the scope to integrated cross-platform codecs supporting 10-bit color depth, variable levels of image compression and customizable frame sizes. Here is a quick overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each option:

ProRes
ProRes was created by Apple over 10 years ago and has become the de-facto standard throughout the industry, regardless of the fact that it is entirely owned by Apple. ProRes is now fully cross-platform compatible, has options for both YUV and RGB color and has six variations, all of which support at least 10-bit color depth. The variable bit rate compression scheme scales well with content complexity, so encoding black or static images doesn’t require as much space as full-motion video. It also supports alpha channels with compression, but only in the 444 variants of the codec.

Recent tests on my Windows 10 workstation resulted in ProRes taking 3x to 5x as much CPU power to playback as similar DNxHR of Cineform files, especially as frame sizes get larger. The codec supports 8K frame sizes but playback will require much more processing power. I can’t even playback UHD files in ProRes 444 at full resolution, while the Cineform and DNxHR files have no problem, even at 444. This is less of concern if you are only working at 1080p.

Multiply those file sizes by four for UHD content (and by 16 for 8K content).

Cineform
Cineform, which has been available since 2004, was acquired by GoPro in 2011. They have licensed the codec to Adobe, (among other vendors) and it is available as “GoPro Cineform” in the AVI or QuickTime sections of the Adobe export window. Cineform is a wavelet compression codec, with 10-bit YUV and 12-bit RGB variants, which like ProRes support compressed alpha channels in the RGB variant. The five levels of encoding quality are selected separately from the format, so higher levels of compression are available for 4444 content compared to the limited options available in the other codecs.

It usually plays back extremely efficiently on Windows, but my recent tests show that encoding to the format is much slower than it used to be. And while it has some level of support outside of Adobe applications, it is not as universally recognized as ProRes or DNxHD.

DNxHD
DNxHD was created by Avid for compressed HD playback and has now been extended to DNxHR (high resolution). It is a fixed bit rate codec, with each variant having a locked multiplier based on resolution and frame rate. This makes it easy to calculate storage needs but wastes space for files that are black or contain a lot of static content. It is available in MXF and Mov wrappers and has five levels of quality. The top option is 444 RGB, and all variants support alpha channels in Mov but uncompressed, which takes a lot of space. For whatever reason, Adobe has greatly optimized DNxHR playback in Premiere Pro, of all variants, in both MXF and Mov wrappers. On my project 6Below, I was able to get 6K 444 files to playback, with lots of effects, without dropping frames. The encodes to and from DNxHR are faster in Adobe apps as well.

So for most PC Adobe users, DNxHR-LB (low bandwidth) is probably the best codec to use for intermediate work. We are using it to offline my current project, with 2.2K DNxHR-LB, Mov files. People with a heavy Mac interchange may lean toward ProRes, but up your CPU specs for the same level of application performance.


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.

Review: G-Tech’s G-Speed Shuttle using a Windows PC

By Barry Goch

When I was asked to review the G-Technology G-Speed Shuttle SSD drive, I was very excited. I’ve always had great experiences with G-Tech and was eager to try out this product with my MSI 17.3-inch GT73VR Titan PC laptop… and this is where the story gets interesting.

I’ve been a Mac fan for years. I’ve owned Macs going back to the Mac Classic in the ‘90s. But a couple of years ago I reached a tipping point. My 17-inch MacBook Pro didn’t have the horsepower to support VR video, and I was looking to upgrade to a new Mac. But when I started looking deeper, comparing specifications and performance, specifically looking to harness the power of industry-leading GPUs for Adobe Premiere with its VR capabilities, I bought the MSI Titan VR because it shipped with the Nvidia GTX1070 graphics card.

The laptop is a beast and has all the power and portability I needed but couldn’t find in a Mac laptop at the time. I wanted to give you my Mac-to-PC background before we jump in, because to be clear: The G-Speed Shuttle SSD will provide the best performance when used with Thunderbolt 3 Macs. That doesn’t mean it won’t be great on a PC; it just won’t be as good as when used on a Mac.

G-Tech makes the PC configuration software easy to find on their website… and easy to use. I did find, though, that I could only configure the drive NTFS with RAID-5 on the PC. But, I was also able to speed test the G-Speed Shuttle SSD as a Mac-formatted drive on the PC, as well as using MacDrive that enables Mac drive formatting and mounting.

We actually reached out to G-Tech, which is a Western Digital brand, about the Mac vs. PC equation. This is what Matthew Bennion, director of product line management at G-Technology said: “Western Digital is committed to providing high-speed, reliable storage solutions to both PC and Mac power users. G Utilities, formatted for Windows computers, is constantly being added to more of our products, including most recently our G-Speed Shuttle products. The addition of G Utilities makes our full portfolio Windows-friendly.”

Digging In
The packaging of the G-Speed Shuttle SSD is very clean and well laid out. There is a parts box that has the Thunderbolt cable, power cable and instructions. Underneath the perfectly formed plastic box insert, wrapped in a plastic bag, was the drive itself. The drive has a lightweight polycarbonate chassis. I was surprised how light it was when I pulled it out of the box.

There are four drive bays, each with an SSD drive. The first things I noticed was the drive’s weight and sound — it’s very lightweight for so much storage, and it’s very quiet with no spinning disks. SSDs run quieter, cooler and uses less power than traditional spinning disks. I think this would be a perfect companion for a DIT looking for a fast, lightweight and low-power-consumption RAID for doing dailies.

I used the drive with Red RAW files inside of Resolve and RedCine-X. I set up a transcode project to make Avid offline files that the G-Speed Shuttle SSD handled muscularly. I left the laptop running overnight working on the files on more than one occasion and didn’t have any issues with the drive at all.

The main shortcoming of using a PC setup using the G-Shuttle is the lack of ability to create Apple ProRes codec QuickTime files. I’ve become accustomed to working with ProRes files created with my Blackmagic Ursa Mini camera, and PCs read those files fine. If you’re delivering to YouTube or Vimeo, it’s not a big deal. It is a bit of an obstacle if you need to deliver ProRes. For this review, I worked around this by rendering out a DPX sequence to the Mac-formatted G-Speed Shuttle SSD drive in Resolve (I also used Premiere) and made ProRes files using Autodesk Flame on my venerable 17-inch MacBook Pro. The Flame is the clear winner in quality of file delivery. So, yes, not being able to write ProRes is a pain, but there are ways around it. And, again, if you’re delivering just for the Web, it’s no big deal.

The Speed
My main finding involves the speed of the drive on a PC. In their marketing material for the drive, G-Tech advertises a speed of 2880 MB/sec with Thunderbolt 3. Using the AJA speed test, I was able to get 1590MB/sec — a speed more comparable with Thunderbolt 2. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that using the G-Tech PC drive configuration program? I could only set up the drive as RAID-5, and not the faster RAID-0 or RAID-1. I did also run speed tests on the Mac-formatted G-Speed Shuttle SSD and I found similar speeds. I am certain that if I had a newer Thunderbolt 3 Mac, I would have gotten speeds closer to their advertised Mac speed specifications.

Summing Up
Overall, I really liked the G-Speed Shuttle SSD. It looks cool on the desk, it’s lightweight and very quiet. I wish I didn’t have to give it back!

And the cost? It’s 16TB for $7499.95, and 8TB for $4999.95.


Barry Goch is a Finishing Artist at The Foundation and a Post Production Instructor at UCLA Extension. You can follow him on Twitter at @gochya.

AJA intros Ki Pro Ultra for 4K/UHD 60p ProRes, Pak-Adapt-CFast

In response to clients who asked for 4K and Ultra HD 60p ProRes HQ recording support, AJA today introduced the Ki Pro Ultra, a file-based 4K/Ultra HD and 2K/HD video recorder and player with a built-in HD LCD monitor. Ki Pro Ultra can capture edit-ready 4K (4096 x 2160), Ultra HD (3840×2160), 2K (2048×1080) and HD (1920×1080) Apple ProRes files. It also supports video formats and frame rates up to 4K 60p, and offers flexible input and output connectivity – including 3G-SDI, fiber and HDMI – for large-raster and high-frame-rate workflows.

The half-rack-wide, two-rack-unit Ki Pro Ultra suits a variety of production environments and a range of analog and digital audio connectivity via industry-standard 3G-SDI, HDMI, SFP Fiber, XLR audio and more. The device records to AJA’s own Pak SSD-based media. When using two AJA Pak1000 (1TB) SSDs, Ki Pro Ultra enables up to two hours of 4K 60p ProRes HQ recording, with rollover functionality to extend that time even further. Transparent overlays on the integrated monitor offer a menu with on-screen keyboard functionality. Ki Pro Ultra also includes AJAs integrated Web UI for easy and complete control across a LAN from any Web browser. Ki Pro Ultra is available now.

Also in response to user requests, AJA announced Pak-Adapt-CFast, a low-cost media adapter that enables recording to off-the-shelf CFast media for the AJA CION production camera, and Ki Pro Ultra and Ki Pro Quad recording/playback devices.

Pak-Adapt-CFast is a media caddy featuring the same connector and rugged form factor as AJA’s Pak SSD drives, with a top slot for inserting CFast media. The unit is equipped with the same green LED light to indicate that the media is mounted.

The recommended media for use with Pak-Adapt-CFast is SanDisk Extreme Pro CFast 2.0. In addition, AJA will soon release a list of qualified CFast media so that people who want to use Pak-Adapt-CFast can have a better understanding of the performance they can expect.

Pak-Adapt-CFast is coming soon.

Finally, the company released three new models in its range of openGear-compatible video and audio rack-frame cards, supporting single channel SDI-to-Fiber and Fiber-to-SDI conversion. The openGear standard ensures that these AJA cards will be compatible with other openGear products from certified openGear partners.

The hot-swappable OG-Fiber-TR performs both SDI-to-fiber and fiber-to-SDI conversions and supports single-mode fiber cable. The card contains inputs and outputs for both BNC connectors (SDI) and LC connectors (fiber) and reclocks both types of inputs with input jitter tolerance at SDI data rates of 270Mb, 1.5Gb and 3Gb. Both signal paths are independent and can be at different rates.

The OG-Fiber-T SDI-to-fiber converter can extend SDI signals up to 10 kilometers over standard single-mode fiber-optic cable. The SDI input is reclocked with input jitter tolerance, and the card also has a reclocked looping SDI output.

Likewise, the OG-Fiber-R fiber-to-SDI converter can extend SDI signals up to 10 kilometers over standard single-mode fiber and reclock fiber input with input jitter tolerance.

All of the new cards will be available in December.

Crooked Letter Films shoots bike shop spot in ProRes with Cion

Brooklyn Bicycle Co. turned to Crooked Letter Films, a New York City-based one-stop shop, to shoot and post a promo for its website. Showing off the best parts of the New York City borough and highlighting Brooklyn Bicycle Co.’s role in the community, the 90-second spot  follows three local bikers along their daily routes through the city, highlighting landmarks and close-ups of the bikes.

Prior to production, Crooked Letter (@CL_films) founder Gabriel Gomez and DP Benjamin Garst compiled an extensive shot list. While a majority of the shots required a tripod, several of the action shots called for handheld. They chose to shoot the film in ProRes with an AJA Cion production camera.

“We’re in a day and age where anyone with a DSLR can call themselves a filmmaker, so we’ve recently started upping the ante for projects by working in higher resolutions and less-compressed formats, like ProRes,” explains Gomez. “For this project in particular, we wanted to create a branded piece that felt more like a short film, and Cion helped us give the piece that high-end cinematic feel.”

Gomez and his team often shot out of the back of a van, taking advantage of the camera’s lightweight and accessible top handle to manage “run-and-gun” situations. Using the camera’s PL mount, Gomez and Garst branched used a combination of Cooke 18-100 T3.1 and Cooke 25-250 T3.7 Cine PL lenses. Having set Cion at ISO 320 with extended gamma and flat settings, they captured 700GB of ProRes 444 and ProRes 422 footage. The combination of the Extended 1 Gamma mode with flat color correction in ProRes 444 enabled the team to get a lot of dynamic range, which in turn allowed the team to get a lot out of the color in post.

Using Cion’s AJA Pak doc, Crooked Letter’s team transferred ProRes footage into Adobe Premiere Pro CC for post, which they used to stylize the look of each shot. The team had many layers of color information from Cion to work with, so it could easily adjust the highlights and manipulate the footage without ruining any of the original color information during grading. The available color information proved particularly important for the closing shot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“That last shot is big, wide and closes the piece, so it was crucial we get it right,” Gomez says. “Given the pretty bleak, overcast shooting conditions that day, we thought it might prove a challenge, but Cion provided such an amazing amount of infinite color detail that we were able to turn a gray and blown-out shot in reality into a picturesque sunrise shot with purple and orange washes, and even bring back the clouds.”

Quantel news from NAB 2014

Las Vegas — During NAB 2014, Quantel showed the latest software release for its Pablo Rio color and finishing system. This is the fifth new feature release since IBC 2013.

The update helps Pablo Rio support more file formats, including 4K XAVC export and DCP import as well as the latest Red SDK.

The new software also supports conform of Avid effects. This speeds up the transition from Avid offline to Pablo Rio 4K finishing and color correction. For example if the Avid editor has used a DVE to resize a clip, the metadata for the DVE move comes across to Pablo Rio with the media, so the clip is automatically resized when it is conformed in Pablo Rio using the 4K media.

The Pablo Rio toolset also gets a major boost with Optical Flow slow motion. Optical Flow uses advanced motion estimation techniques to produce smoother, higher quality slow or fast motion.

The new software also features many additional improvements that increase flexibility and performance. These include audio in MLT, AVCHD softmount, tracker homography, better text handling, faster shape creation, wireframe updates and better subtitling tools.

Quantel has also licensed Apple ProRes encoding for its full range of software and turnkey Pablo Rio. ProRes encoding will be part of the forthcoming V2.0 rev8 software update for Pablo Rio and Pablo PA, due to be released at the end of April. The new license covers encoding to ProRes 4444, ProRes 422 (HQ), ProRes 422, ProRes 422 (LT) and ProRes 422 (Proxy).

NAB 2014 was the world debut of Genetic Engineering 2 (GE2), Quantel’s new shared storage solution for post that delivers levels of flexibility, performance and productivity for Quantel Pablo Rio color and finishing system users. GE2 uses COTS hardware and is already transforming the efficiency of post houses in today’s multi-resolution post world.

GE2 optimizes post workflow. It brings total scheduling flexibility to the post process, allowing high-resolution jobs to be instantly switched or shared between suites so post houses can meet tight deadlines or take on short-notice work. Up to four Pablo Rio systems can share the same GenePool storage, with guaranteed realtime performance on every connected system no matter what each is doing — even when working at 4K. GE2 also goes beyond 4K — offering 6K 16-bit operation on multiple clients to cater for the new generation of ultra-high resolution cameras.

New for NAB, the Pablo PA workflow assist station can now be directly connected to the GenePool. This enables conform, prep and workflow tasks to be undertaken on lower cost equipment so that the Pablo Rios can deliver maximum value for client-attended creative sessions.

There is a huge range of potential GE2 configurations, so GE2 systems can be tailored to meet every individual facility’s workflow requirements. For example, GenePool shared storage can range from 18TB to support a two-suite HD production environment to almost 400TB — more than enough for even multiple simultaneous 4K or 6K Red Dragon jobs. Quantel has published a configurator on its website so that customers can dial in different requirements.

Also at the show, Quantel also announced support for the AJA Io XT on its Marco field editor, and Kona 3G video card on its Pablo Rio color and finishing systems.

AJA Io XT will be supported for input and output on Marco in addition to AJA’s T-Tap Thunderbolt adapter, enabling journalists and editors  to easily exchange media with a professional SDI infrastructure — for example satellite or outside broadcast/remote trucks, or for direct recording from HD cameras.

Pablo Rio already supports the AJA Corvid Ultra, which delivers realtime 4K 60p. The addition of support for the AJA Kona 3G gives customers a wider choice of I/O infrastructure and will be particularly attractive to customers who currently require realtime 2K capability. The Kona 3G card is supported on software-only Pablo Rio 2K and 4K systems and 2KO turnkey systems.

 Photo: The Pablo Rio

NAB: Assimilate’s Steve Bannerman talks Scratch 8

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

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

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

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

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