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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.