Of DVDs and Multiprocessing

I’m working on a PAL project and have been figuring out how to show my work to people here in the states. Turns out that it’s easy to make a great looking NTSC DVD from a PAL project in a Media Composer — provided you know the magical formula and are willing to wait. And therein lies a tale.

It’s a three-step process. Render, export a quicktime, burn a DVD. The render and export steps happen in the MC. Toast handles the burning and will also convert to NTSC.

The problem with this is that the MC is useless while you’re rendering and exporting, and each step can take hours. But even though the MC is dead to the world, the computer itself, in my case a dual G5, has lots of power to spare. During a recent export I was able to listen to a batch of temp music in iTunes and simultaneously surf the web — all while the render continued and without any sense of slowness at all. I was able to do useful work, rather than stare at the screen for an hour or two.

The MC (and for the most part, Final Cut, too) remains mired in the single-tasking, single-processing technology of the 90s, when it took all the power the machine had just to get video on the screen. In a world where two or four processor cores are standard, that is starting to feel downright quaint.

What I wanted to do while I was rendering was watch dailies. I would have happily accepted a slower render in exchange for this ability. In fact, it could have taken all day to do the render, provided I could keep working.

In another example, the slickest and most responsive way to experiment with music against picture is to play your sequence in the MC, and then, while the MC continues to play, switch to iTunes and play your music from there. The fact that the MC can’t do this kind of thing on its own is silly, and it should be downright embarrassing to the folks in Tewksbury.

Being able to do certain things simultaneously is a big productivity enhancer and it’s now well within the capabilities of our hardware. It’s the software that’s lagging. The company that offers us that kind of usability first is going to have a big competitive advantage.

Explore posts in the same categories: Avid, Final Cut

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