Tag Archives: QC

Review: Cinedeck’s CineXtools and CineX-Plugins

By Brady Betzel

Since we are now in the final throes of tape-based deliverables (hopefully), file-based deliverables are now king. However, one of the perks of running tape-based network deliverables was the ability to QC your work for a final time before going to the network for an official QC. With file-based deliverables it gets a little trickier. While you definitely should watch your final QuickTime before sending it to the network, time isn’t always on your side and sometimes you have to just send them after export.

This is where tools from Cinedeck can come in to play. Cinedeck offers hardware and software tools. The hardware consists of the ZX, RX2 and HX1. Each has its own unique offerings that can be read about here. Simply put, the Cinedeck hardware acts like a traditional tape deck (even in Avid Media Composer it will be recognized as a Sony tape deck). You can assemble-edit, insert-edit, re-stripe timecode and much more. What really makes these hardware-based products worth their weight is the ability to insert-edit directly into a variety of codecs quickly and without the need to re-wrap the QuickTime.

Whether it is audio and/or video, you can insert just as smoothly as you would with a tape deck. Best of all you can watch your output in realtime for that last round of QC before shipping off your file. The Cinedeck hardware can work with many codecs, color spaces and bit depths. From ProRes to DNxHR, you can insert-edit into almost anything in realtime.

Cinedeck works its magic with constant bit rate (CBR) QuickTimes. You cannot insert edit into variable bit rate (VBR) QuickTimes. So for those wondering, ProRes is inherently a VBR QuickTime. However, with Cinedeck’s software offerings and plugins you can work the same magic as with the Cinedeck hardware, but from your NLE of choice or CineXtools.

CineXtools is a software-based version of Cinedeck that allows you to insert-edit fixes, re-wrap a QuickTime with a new audio layout, or even create blank insert-edit-ready media. This means that after you export a file and receive QC notes back, you can just export the fixed segments and use cineXtools to insert those sections. There is no re-wrapping or re-exporting necessary, saving you tons and tons of time. You can even mix codecs when inserting, so if you have a ProRes HQ master but a DNxHD fix, you can do the insert easily. Going even further, Cinedeck will mix bit rates and color spaces, although mixing color spaces could get problematic.

Audio versioning

Cinedeck has also released plugins for Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere to allow insert editing into QuickTimes directly from your NLE. This is a huge time saver. I can’t overstate how valuable this plugin is if you deal with fixes, versioning or captioning changes. Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve has a function to output their ProRes QuickTimes as CBR, which helps if you also have CineXtools for your insert-edit fixes.

Keep in mind, if you use ProRes you will have to be running these plugins and apps on a MacOS-based system. Otherwise, you will only get PC-compatible codecs like XDCAM or DNxHD/HR. You can sign up for a free trial and download all of the latest versions of the CineXplugins as well watch tutorials here.

The Cinedeck hardware can get pricey (tens of thousands of dollars) depending on the options that you add. The CineXtools standalone app can range from $1,495 for the first year (and $480 each year for renewal) to $2,295 for the first year (and $804 each year for renewal). The highest price gets you the CineXtools app, as well as all of the supported codecs for insert-editing capabilities, including AVC-I, XAVC, IMX, XDCAM and the standard ProRes, DNxHD, DNxHR and DPX with the following wrappers: MOV, MXF Op1A and MXF OpAtom.

To insert-edit closed captions you will need to purchase that add-on for $2,995 plus $995 a year for renewal in addition to whichever CineXtools you purchase.

You can read about their pricing structures here. There are some additional offerings available like the $99 daily bundle that allows you to get the tools you need on a one-day basis, which can actually be a great way to work with CineXtools. If you don’t need to QC all the time, you can purchase the tools only when you need them, saving hundreds and thousands of dollars. There is also monthly pricing on the different versions, for instance you can purchase just the CineXtools that works with ProRes for just $39 dollars a month.

Trim extend

Summing Up
In the end, CineXtools and CineX-Plugins will save you tons of time, which equals money if you do a lot of fixing, revisions or versioning. The only problems I’ve had with CineXtools revolve around trying to insert audio files based on in-points. If you have audio stems that match your QuickTime lengths exactly, CineXtools will work. However, I couldn’t get an insert-edit with audio files to match if I had to mark my own in-time on the audio files and a custom in-time on my destination file. For some reason it would never work. Nonetheless, with simple replacement video shots CineXtools is a lifesaver and worth its weight in gold.

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.

Testronic opens second VR test center

Testronic has opened a dedicated virtual reality test center in its Burbank headquarters. The VR test center is the company’s second, as they also launched one in their Warsaw, Poland, location earlier this year, further expanding their full-service QA testing services.

“Consumer VR is in its infancy, and nobody knows what it will become years from now,” said Jason Gish (pictured right), Testronic’s senior VP for film and television. “As VR evolves, consumer eJason Gish, Testronicsmallxpectations will grow, requiring more exploratory and inventive QC processes. Testing VR content has unique requirements, and the integrity of VR content is crucial to its functionality. It is critical to have an understanding of aspects like head tracking and other core VR functions in order to develop a thorough test approach. Issues in VR can not only take you out of the experience, but can cause simulator sickness. Beyond testing for the usual bugs and functionality imperfections, VR is deeply rooted in user experience, and Testronic’s test approach reflects that understanding.”

Testronic was also an early testing pioneer of user experience design (UX), developing one of the first UX labs in the US.

Media Toaster creates efficient QC, 
post workflow for film, TV

By Mel Lambert

“We have developed a two-tier solution that expedites QC on one end, while enhancing and simplifying asset management and delivery on the other,” describes Michael Meis, chief technology officer at Media Toaster, a recently opened multi-room post facility in Burbank. The studio has developed an innovative business model using proprietary technologies — including QiFile and MonsterFile — to speed up media review, approval, archival and delivery processes.

Meis was joined earlier this year by long-time collaborator Michael DeFusco, who is director of post production. The two met while working at Crest Digital for several years; later DeFusco moved on to Post Logic and then Sony Pictures, where he again worked with Meis.

L-R: Michael Meis and Mike DeFusco

The standard QC (quality control) model is to send a printed report to the client, who then has to either search through a DVD or individual clips in order to make a decision about their material. “The QiFile is a way of enhancing the critical QC process by embedding an entire quality-control report — complete with suggested changes — into a relatively small HD file,” DeFusco explains. “This, in turn, enables the client to make informed decisions in a timely manner. Turnaround times are further improved by setting up a secured, easy-to-use virtual desktop where clients can play and download the QiFile [or other media] directly from our production server to [the client’s] computer or mobile device; the client can then work as efficiently as if they were accessing the file from within our facility.”

“We QC content from a variety of sources, is destined for delivery via a number of outlets and formats,” adds Meis. “Since we only have between 24 and 48 hours to perform our critical quality-control services, this proprietary process has noticeably increased our efficiency and throughput.”

By way of an example, Meis and DeFusco cite ongoing projects with Starz Entertainment. “Our embedded QC reports accompany the media files throughout the process and can be accessed by our operators and remote clients,” says DeFusco. The facility currently handles QC and media delivery for Starz’ Black Sails, Ash vs Evil Dead and other offerings.

What makes the process unique, the collaborators say, is that most archival and delivery workflows are limited by the number of available tracks, but, says DeFusco, “MonsterFile has the capacity to hold an unlimited number of audio and video tracks. Also, repurposing is typically done through various departments and by different operators. With our processes, many tasks — including transcodes, conversions, captions, pitch-correction, audio compliance and final delivery to anywhere in the world — can be quickly completed by one operator who never needs to leave his workstation,” reports Meis. “All of which saves our clients time and money.

Mike DeFusco and Michael Meis1NEW
Media Toaster’s control room and Mike DeFusco and Michael Meis at work.

“Media Toaster uses industry-standard Aspera technology file-transfers and MPAA-sanctioned firewalls to ensure high-speed access across multiple data networks. “We use high-speed Fibre Channel interconnects and a 10GbE intranet,” explains Meis. “Aspera’s software solution lets us move data at maximum speed, regardless of file size, transfer distance or network conditions.”

The facility operates a total of six post/QC suites, with a staff of close to a dozen operators and support staff. Apple Final Cut Pro X is used exclusively for picture editing, with extra support from Adobe Premiere Pro and Avid Media Composer. Staff call on industry-standard Avid Pro Tools for audio deliveries. The in-house server infrastructure uses about 0.5 Petabyte of Promise Technology raw storage, with dual-band fiber-optic wiring and 10 Gbit Ethernet speeds to move data around the facility.

Media Toaster offers a range of services “from new content creation, minor picture and sound tweaks, all the way up to complete overhaul or digital distribution, including 4k/UHD and DCP creation,” says Meis. Other services include picture and sound editorial, color grading, voiceover, music scoring, ADR and Foley.

Marc Vanocur

Marc Vanocur

Video and broadcast material are only a part of Media Toaster’s offerings. For independent film productions, the company provides all the post services for modest-budget motion pictures. For Aristar Entertainment and Incendiary Features’ Dead Awake, directed by Phillip Guzman and written by Jeffrey Reddick (Final Destination), co-executive producer/producer Galen Walker opted to use the Media Toaster for a variety of key post functions. Peter Devaney was the picture editor for this one, while Jussi Tegelman was sound supervisor.

“Marc Vanocur of Shout| Softly has located to our facility providing additional services. Marc brings a production services component with camera, grip and lighting, and a large suite with both color and finishing and full music scoring capabilities. It is a highly collaborative effort that’s saving us time and money; we have shaved maybe six weeks off our post schedule. The QiFile has been the key to our  tracking processes though the film’s completion.

Mel Lambert is principal of Content Creators, an LA-based editorial service. He can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com, and follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.

IBC Blog: QC, loudness and high frame rates

By Simon Ray

There is a different feel to the show this year. Last year it felt like there were a lot of new announcements from all the manufacturers I was visiting, but this year feels more like those new announcements have been developed and fully integrated. Last year all the talk was 4K, this year most products have incorporated it and it is working well.

Nine months of investment, redevelopment and refurbishment at Goldcrest has seen a big move into DI, but there were still some areas of the TV picture workflow that needed further investigation. With that in mind we set off to look at some of the file-based QC platforms that are available.

I had looked at some of these last year at IBC, but the first thing that was obvious was the Continue reading

Dalet purchases AmberFin

Las Vegas — Paris-based Dalet Digital Media Systems, a provider of media asset management (MAM) solutions, software and services for content providers and broadcasters, has signed a definitive agreement with Advent Venture Partners to acquire AmberFin, a UK-based company that specializes in video ingest, complex media manipulation, transcoding and quality control (QC) solutions.

The acquisition broadens the Dalet product offerings, which are built around an open, IT-centric technology framework. It creates an end-to-end solutions that includes comprehensive MAM capabilities along with the latest image processing, media transcoding and distribution.

“This acquisition allows us to offer the industry the most advanced level of workflow options. AmberFin has been at the forefront in mastering media, including transcoding and video quality control. The company has spearheaded many widely adopted industry standards such as MXF and AS-02. Its talent and expertise directly complement Dalet’s strengths in enterprise MAM-driven solutions,” said David Lasry, CEO of Dalet. “By melding our resources and innovative technologies, we can enrich both the Dalet and AmberFin products to offer the most complete and forward-thinking solutions for content providers to optimize their human resources and media assets. From ingest through multi-platform delivery, operators in news, sports and programming will reap tremendous efficiencies and productivity by applying our combined technologies.”

Dalet will continue to develop and support the AmberFin product line from that location. Jeremy Deaner is stepping down as CEO of AmberFin but is serving as a consultant for a period of time to facilitate the transition.