Priesthood Still Needed

On Friday, we received our first dailies on a show I’m starting, and my assistant began digitizing them. And he rapidly discovered that whatever he did, they came in with a noticeable stutter, reminiscent of what you see if the “A” frame is identified incorrectly in film material.

In this case, we were seeing something subtly different — but the video was certainly stuttering, making it impossible to cut without getting a quick headache. My assistant spent most of the day working with the tech guys from our rental house, trying to suss it out. Sometime after 10 pm the answer finally appeared. It wasn’t the Mac, or the deck (or anything in the semi-incomprehensible deck menus). It wasn’t the Media Composer software (with its many settings) or the Adrenaline boxes, or Unity. It wasn’t the genlock or the cables. It was the little Keyspan USB to Serial adaptor. This allows the MC (or FCP, for that matter) to control a deck. The serial adaptors were brand new. The model our guys are familiar with is the 28X, but that’s now been replaced with the 28XG. There’s a new driver for the XG, but that didn’t solve the problem. The only thing that worked was going back to 28X.

The point here is that much as we wish the technology to be so simple that we can roll our own Avid or FCP systems with no help from dedicated tech support, the reality is that in high-end production, we just ain’t there yet. The “heavy iron” of the first phase of the digital video revolution has gotten considerably lighter. But bullet-proof it isn’t.

Sure, if you’re working at home, with all-digital media, and a software-only system, things might be simpler. But if you’ve got shared storage, tape-based ingest, and a workflow that involves multiple Avids, and you’re sharing work with sound, music and visual effects, things are still a wee bit too complicated to go without a guru near at hand. And even the tech guys often end up scratching their heads.

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7 Comments on “Priesthood Still Needed”

  1. Shane Ross Says:

    VERY good point. A couple production companies that I work for tried to buy their own systems and assembled them on site and edit everything using firewire drives and they had nothing but issues. You need the qualified NLE installers, and you need to run the computers with specific OS and software versions if you want stability. TOO many people still don’t get that.

  2. Grant Says:

    And at 10pm at night, I’m wondering what the 28XG’s fate was? Is it now in 300 pieces smashed under the box containing the Avid Manuals?

  3. Steve Says:

    Just sitting on a desk, actually. But you’re giving me ideas!

  4. Todd Smelser Says:

    Hi Steve, Just wanted to let you know, should you ever get in a jam, have your assistants contact me on Avid’s discussion boards. The handle is BLKDOG. I try to monitor the boards as often as possible.

    We did have a note posted there about the XG keyspans, I think that the issue has been addressed.

  5. Steve Says:

    Thanks Todd. Your comments on the boards are invaluable.

    I was only able to find one past on the XG just now, and it’s a year old (
    Seems like the problem is an old one and it still hasn’t been fixed.

    We did search the boards, but we did so before we knew it was the Keyspan serial port adaptor so we weren’t searching for “keyspan.”

  6. Todd Smelser Says:

    I talked to Keyspan a long time ago. They said it was a problem with the Avid code. Avid does know about it and I will be sure to hammer on SQA in the next round of software.

    Please let me know if I can ever be of assistance.

  7. Steve Says:

    Again, thanks very much.

    I believe the XG is the only model available now, so this represents a real problem on new systems.

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