London post-house Off the Radar uses high-definition editing platforms to support its growing base of HD clients. Photo courtesy Leitch.
This was a year when the shape of the editing world at NAB2005 changed as much through acquisitions and rebranding as through new technologies. Avid Technology announced its intent to buy Pinnacle Systems for E462 million. Adobe Systems spent E3.4 billion on Macromedia. Media 100 came out as a unit of Optibase. Many of Discreet's products are adopting the name of their parent company, Autodesk. And Thomson announced the revival of the venerable Grass Valley name for many of its post-production products. As far as we know, Constantinople is still called Istanbul, though.
Most of the technology excitement in NLEs revolved around the relatively new HDV format now that both Sony and JVC have brought out camcorders capable of making that long-GOP MPEG-2 format a sophisticated acquisition medium, although Sony records HDV interlaced and JVC in progressive format. Despite that incompatibility, many edit systems stepped up to the challenge of posting both.
Editing is all about timing, and even a frame can make a difference to the pace of a show. Before the NLE, linear editing with composite tape machines gave editors headaches achieving an invisible edit. The math of the color subcarrier phase meant that a seamless edit could only be achieved by matching the field sequence of the A and B rolls. In PAL, the sequence was eight-fields; in NTSC, it was four-fields. Cutting in the middle of the sequence gave a small lateral shift to the picture. As linear editing moved to component video, this issue went away. The advent of the NLE with frame-based coding, usually motion JPEG in the early days, also freed editors from these problems. Video editors could work just like film editors, cutting to the frame.
Professional tape formats used for acquisition have adopted frame-based coding (intra-frame) and have avoided any inter-frame compression. Examples include the many variants of DV, including DVCAM and DVCPRO. One of the advantages of DV is that the compressed signal on the tape (at 25Mb/s) can be transferred directly to the NLE over an IEEE 1394 interface, rather than via a 270Mb/s SDI connection and a video capture card. This one development opened up a whole new world of cost-effective lap-top editing.
Outside acquisition, MPEG-2 encoding has become ubiquitous. By coding a group of pictures, there is a big improvement in compression efficiency, leading to savings in storage and bandwidth requirements. For SD, frame-by-frame encoding (intraframe) for acquisition and encoding groups of pictures (interframe) for distribution of finished programs has become the norm.
The higher data rates of HD has led to a rethink. The DV cassette footprint is very attractive for low-cost camcorders, and the IEEE 1394 interface makes ingest from the camera to the NLE simple without the need for video capture cards.
The solution chosen by the developers of the HDV format is to use long-GOP MPEG compression to squeeze HD signals down to SD DV date rates. By using a data rate of 25Mb/s for the interface, a high specification laptop computer can be used for field editing. The demands on the disk storage are modest, and there is no need for the striped arrays needed for uncompressed HD editing.
The drawback is the GOP. At around 12 frames, that is much longer than the four-frame sequence of PAL. To editors used to cutting to the frame, cutting to the GOP would not be acceptable. The solution is to uncompress the two video streams, mix them together and then re-encode a new legal GOP structure around the edit/transition point, but to leave the remainder in its native format. That way, the hardware platform only has to handle the modest data rates of the 25Mb/s interface. Several NLE vendors have adopted this approach of handling native compression formats rather than using uncompressed video or transcoding to a proprietary format.
For the broadcaster, HDV, along with the new NLE capabilities, means that the low-cost acquisition that became so popular with the DV formats for SD now can be extended to support HD production.
Here's a look at some of the systems shown at NAB2005.
Having been the first to accomplish editing HDV in its native format last year, this time out the SmartEDIT technology in version 6.1 software for Pinnacle System's whole Liquid line of real-time NLEs lets you mix HDV, Panasonic's P2 and Sony XDCAM on the same timeline. The chrome HD option for Liquid supports uncompressed SD and HD through its SD/HDI breakout box, and the DVCPRO50 hardware option can provide multi-speed SDTI background capture as well as handling the format.
This year, Apple Computer included editing native HDV in its Mac-based editing software by upgrading it to Final Cut Pro 5 as part of its Final Cut Pro Suite of software modules. That is in part thanks to Apple's release of its new Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” and Quick-Time 7, which incorporates support of the H.264 codec. The other three components of the Final Cut Pro Suite include Soundtrack Pro, offering a nifty waveform editor with flexible Action Layers; Motion 2, for real-time motion graphics accelerated through 32-bit float rendering and an eye-catching MIDI animation control; and DVD Studio Pro 4, which, for the first time, enables burning high-definition DVDs directly from a PowerMac G 5.
A new software-only offering came from Optibase in the form of Media 100 sw, which shares the same interface as its Media 100 HD. Although Mac-based, Media 100 sw is able to open any program created on their Media 100i for Windows, export material as a QuickTime movie, and output via a Media 100i system to tape.
The turnkey Media 100 HD received version 10.1 software, which includes a new Media 100 software codec that lets editors using Adobe After Effects and other third-party packages render out QuickTime movies and drop into a Media 100 HD project.
Gee Broadcast’s Lightworks system includes new Touch Version 2.0 software, which offers a more robust editing engine, DVE and keyframing user interface improvements, stripview enhancements, and After Effects plug-in support.
The new version 9.1 software for VelocityHD from Leitch can edit HDV with the help of its own proprietary transcoder, and now can handle VariCam's “overcranking” and “under-cranking” for off-speed effects. To accompany VelocityQ and VelocityHD, Leitch previewed its new software-only VelocityX NLE. To expand its news editing line, it introduced VelocityXNG designed for journalists to use as a portable news desk in remote locations.
Feature film editors welcomed the fact that Gee Broadcast brought the Lightworks system back to NAB this year with new Touch version 2.0 software, bringing a more robust editing engine, better DVE effects, stripview enhancements, and new plug-ins for Adobe After Effects, Sapphire, Primatte and Boris Continuum. Because the HD output from Lightworks is increasingly being used to prepare audience preview screenings, it also debuted the Lightworks Touch M. E. outboard audio mixer with nine motorized sliders on a Mackie Control Universal Surface console.
With digital intermediate (DI) creation becoming an increasing part of post-production requirements, there were several moves toward handling this large file format. Previously Avid's DS Nitris had been the only mainstream nonlinear system to handle 4K files, although not in real time. This year, however, it received some company.
Digital Video Systems (DVS)
CLIPSTER from DVS can edit, conform, color correct and finish a 2K DI in real time with its new version 2.0 software and then generate a 4K master with hardware assistance at half speed by rendering single frame DPX files. CLIPSTER can record and play out data in any format, any resolution or color space in real time without conversions. When combined with DVS-SAN central DI storage, it has the bandwidth to handle three simultaneous 2K streams.
Avid’s iNEWS Instinct allows journalists to create news stories by combining voiceover narration and video footage in a text-based content creation system.
For desktop editors, Avid unveiled Avid XpressStudio HD built around Avid Xpress Pro HD video editing software, Avid Pro Tools LE audio editing/mixing, Avid 3D, Avid FX and Avid DVD by Sonic. But perhaps one of Avid's most innovative introductions was Avid iNEWS Instinct, a newsroom composition tool that will let journalists create news stories by combining voiceover narration and video footage in a text-based content creation system, and then hand packages off to a more sophisticated craft editor for the inclusion of effects, titles and graphics.
The first to accomplish real-time 4K editing at NAB2005, however, was Film Cutter from Digital Vision using a single standard Windows NTFS workstation. Its Nucoda Digital Intermediate software also is used in Digital Vision's Nucoda Data Dailies and Nucoda Film Master color corrector systems.
To help afford the jump to the highest end of post-production finishing, Quantel presented the “Pay as you Go” concept for its eQ editing/effects/mastering system. With Pay as you Go, facilities can purchase an SD version of eQ and then incrementally turn on its HD (or higher) capabilities by purchasing a special password only for the time during which those features are needed.
L. T. Martin is a post-production consultant.