DNXHD-36 Without Adrenaline

I got a demo yesterday of a software-only Media Composer playing DNXHD-36 media. We hooked up an 8-core Mac Pro to a big Pioneer plasma TV that served as our second monitor. In a word, it was fantastic. Seeing material with that kind of clarity at that size in an offline editing room, and being able to play it and work with it quickly, jogging back and forth and dragging through a clip, was downright breathtaking. And it was not just an aesthetic experience, although it was that, for sure. You’re getting more information — for example, you can clearly see facial expressions in wide shots.

Major caveat — all I did was look at a couple of clips a few minutes long. I didn’t try to play huge complex sequences, I didn’t run a big project, I didn’t even have much audio. All I did was use JKL to move around in the video, made a few cuts, tried making a Quicktime and a cut list. In that limited environment, the system was quite responsive.

Special thanks go to Jeremy Dela Rosa at Global Entertainment Partners (GEP) for putting the demo together for me.

The big revelation was that we could do this with a software-only Avid. You don’t need Adrenaline to do HD, and you don’t need huge amounts of storage. DNX-36 uses about 16 GB per hour at 24 fps — just a bit more than DV, and about triple what you’d need for good ol’ 14:1.

So can you really use a software-only system instead of Adrenaline? That depends on what you are trying to do. The first problem is monitoring. We ran the system with two monitors, one of which was the HD TV (the TV has to have a DVI input). That might be a viable way to work — if you had a 30″ monitor for cutting, you could put everything there, bins, composer and timeline. But if you want three monitors, you’re moving to the bleeding edge. You’d install a second graphics card in your Mac, and run your bin monitor from that. We didn’t have that second card, so we weren’t able to try it. Avid doesn’t officially sanction it, but it ought to work.

The second problem is input and output. The software system has only one way of doing this — Firewire. And that severely limits your choices: DV or DVCPRO HD. If you’re working at DNX36 that doesn’t help much.

So a realistic environment for a small show might mean an Adrenaline-based system for the assistant and a software-only system for the editor.

We tried a few other things:

Making an SD Quicktime — something you might have to do for turnover to sound. On the 8-core Mac, creating a 640×480 QT at Motion JPEG-A was very quick — a bit faster than real time.

Playing SD material in the HD project. The only way to do this is to create a separate SD project, load your video there and then drag the bin into the HD project. In the time we had, all we could do was create some color bars at DV resolution. I was not only able to play that in the HD project, I could intercut it with HD. Unfortunately, the MC insisted on treating the SD clip as though it were 16×9, so it looked anamorphically stretched. But adding a reformat effect solved that problem, and the effect played without rendering.

I also tried making a cut list. And, not surprisingly, I ran into some new bugs. FilmScribe is not nearly as stable as it used to be. Lists out of MC used to handily beat those from FCP. I don’t know if that’s true anymore.

I heard about some other problems, too:

In Adrenaline you can output to SD with a pillar-box in real time. But you can’t do it with deck control. In other words, you can’t use digital cut, you can only crash record. That makes creating an SD tape pretty dicey and not particularly useful.

Worse, I was told about a bug in Adrenaline, that puts a delay into video on the client monitor. The result is that you can be in sync on the client, or on the record monitor, but not on both. The delay is four to six frames — not trivial. I didn’t see this myself, but I sure hope Avid engineering is doing whatever they can to fix it — pronto. The good news from my demo is that the problem only occurs with Adrenaline. Software only was in perfect sync.

All in all, an eye-opening couple of hours, and a lot of food for thought.

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14 Comments on “DNXHD-36 Without Adrenaline”

  1. Liam Says:

    U think Avid could be working on a DNXHD-36 card u could buy just to capture. Apple has the pro-res version seems to me it shouldnt be too hard for Avid to do the same. Any indications how much the software only version of Adrenaline will be and is there even a release date?

  2. AndrewK Says:

    Maybe Avid is working on a Mojo HD.

    Liam, the software only Media Composer is out now and is $5k.

  3. editblog Says:

    How did you get the DNxHD media into the software only system? Was it captured on an Adrenaline with the DNxHD board then consolidated over? Moved at the finder level?

  4. Steve Says:

    I don’t know for sure how it was captured, but I assume that it came in via Adrenaline HD and then moved over using the Finder.

  5. Steve Says:

    I took a look at DNX36 playing out of Adrenaline, yesterday. The delay to the client monitor is definitely there, but it’s more subtle than I was told — maybe 2, at most, 3 frames. You can see it easily if you look between the record monitor and the big screen and watch some cuts go by. They don’t line up — you see the cut on the record monitor before you see it on the client. For critical sync, it’s a problem. For casual watching, you don’t really see it.

  6. Steve,

    Was your delay on a monitor connected via DVI from the CPU or was it from an Adrenaline BOB?

    If it was from a BOB, make sure in the video output tool that both cross convert and downconvert are off. There should be no difference between the record and client monitors then.

    Your setup may be requiring the cross convert to be on depending on what the client monitor is and how it is hooked up.

    We have hooked up a system with 3 monitors an no hardware BOB and ran it in full screen mode and it worked great. If you want 8 channels of audio, you can hook up an SDI Mojo and use a disemebedder to convert the 8 channel SDI audio to analog. t doesn’t work on a PowerPC when combined with fibre channel storage or on a PC system. You must use Mac Intel (8 core).

    Of course that is very unsupported!

    Avid is fixing the FilmScribe problem with the next release at the end of August. The problem actually stems form the templates. Avidcan send you new templates which fix the problem.

  7. Steve Says:


    Good to see you here. The delay was with the Adrenaline box (the BOB). Sync seemed perfect when using MC software connected to the client monitor via DVI. I will pass on your suggestions — there are several people I know who are having this problem with the Adrenaline box. Good to know that you can get three monitors working. Maybe that’s the way to do Avid offline HD on the cheap. People are going to flock to this technology at the right price. Seeing images that good is very appealing. You just enjoy working more when you’re looking at a plasma display. And you make better decisions because you can see everything so clearly.


  8. We have 10 films editing in HD now. 9 are using DNx115 and one is using DNx36 and even they have decided that DNx36 just won’t hold up on a full screen for a preview so they will recapture at 115.

    You are absolutely right about what you see. Some clients have noticed focus issues from the Avid and others are screening dailies form their Avid for the DP & director.

    Couple little bugs here & there but everyone is happy so far.

    Happy to help any way I can.

    Patrick Ready
    Pivotal Post

  9. richard Says:

    Hi Steve,

    This is a little off topic, but I was wondering if you have much (apart from what you have outlined above), experience with SD on the software only Composer?

    I have spent half a day trying to find out exactly what one loses in this situation vs. an Adrenaline equipped system. We have one of these already and are looking at adding another without the DNA.



  10. Steve Says:

    The main difference is in I/O. Your input and output options in software-only are limited to whatever the Mac you’re using offers natively. No SDI, no analog video. Just Firewire video and audio. Only two monitors (assuming your Mac supports them) and no client monitor.

  11. richard Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for that. I wasn’t very explicit – I was thinking along the lines of effects acceleration and that sort of thing.

    I have since been told by an Avid support person that aside from what you mention above, there is no noticable difference as far as the editor is concerned, except that you lose realtime playout.

    Reading the blurb at Avid, one gets the impression that the Adrenaline (SD-wise), does more than just I/O. It would appear this is overstated somewhat.



  12. Ryan Says:

    Great post, just one question:

    Which project setting were you working in for this demo? Is it possible to digitize with DNxHD 36 from DVCPRO HD (shot with Varicam) material via firewire in a 720p 23.98 project using the software only MC, or is only possible in a 1080p 23.98 project?



  13. Steve Says:

    This was only a demo and it was a long time ago, now. I don’t remember all the settings, I’m afraid. I would suspect that you can transcode DVCPRO to DNX but only with a real Adrenaline. Software only doesn’t have the ability to create DNX media, just play it.

  14. Peter Says:

    Hey Patrick,

    If you happen to see this, can you recommend an SDI de-embedder? Something that would let me plug into a plain old Mackie 1604 or similar? Thanks.

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