Archive for the ‘Adobe Premiere’ category

The Zen of Trim

April 20, 2010

I had an interesting debate with a music editor friend the other day. Frustrated (as we all are) with the hoops you have to jump through to move material back and forth between Media Composer and Pro Tools, he suggested that MC simply start using Pro Tools as its audio engine. And not just the engine — the whole UI. MC just synchronizes with PT. End of story.

I completely agree with the need to move sequences/sessions and media back and forth without conversion. But much as I envy the Pro Tools toolset (as I describe in this post), I don’t want to rely on the PT interface. Why? Because I’d have to give up Trim Mode.

My friend wouldn’t have it. “I can do anything you can do,” he insisted. I tried to explain that he can’t trim while watching picture or listening to sound. He said he didn’t need that — he just drags things around and hits play to check the work. Or he trims using PT’s trim tool. No problem staying in sync.

I wasn’t making any progress, so I finally pulled out the laptop and made a single dialog cut. My point was this: Most of my cuts are overlapped. When I adjust picture, I usually want to adjust sound somewhere else to stay in sync. With MC, I can trim all parts of an overlap while playing and watching any one of them. When I stop, I’m done. The ability to see realtime video while the cut is made, and to observe what’s happening at any part of the cut, audio or video, a-side or b-side, while keeping everything else in sync, is something I can’t get anywhere else. Not to mention the ability to do asymmetrical trimming, or trim two heads or tails, slip or slide, etc., all while watching, or listening to, any portion of the cut.

I had to show it to him three times. Each time he scratched his head, thought for a minute, and said, “well, I can do that, too.” And I kept insisting that he couldn’t. Finally, on the third go-round, came the reply, “Lemme see that again.” And then, finally, “Wow — I guess that IS pretty cool.”

His conclusion? Digi should add a trim mode and then Avid could merge the two UIs. My conclusion? Video and audio editors need different tools.

The discussion also gave me new insight into the other major editing applications, and how difficult it is to explain the power of Avid’s trim model to somebody who’s never really used it. I know, I know — plenty of people have switched from MC to FCP and have never looked back. But for a lot of us, trim mode is the holy grail. If I had to, I could work without it — I just don’t ever want to.

NAB in the Rear View Mirror

April 19, 2010

What a difference a couple of years makes. Avid (and Media Composer 5) picked up several awards at NAB, including a Videography Vidy award, a Pick Hit from Broadcast Engineering, and a Star Award from TV Technology. Not bad for a company that a lot of people thought was moribund a few years ago. Apple, of course, was a no-show at NAB, and the Final Cut community seems to be taking notice. Here’s a quote from the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group forum: “I hope Apple takes this as a wake up call. Because Avid is making FCP seem like the Media Composer of five years ago…”

Oliver Peters offers a great summary of post production-related NAB news on his blog here. I was intrigued to see that some of the new digital cinema cameras generate both raw files and either DNX or ProRes simultaneously. We thought the lab would end up in the editing room. Maybe it’s actually going to end up in the camera. And later this year, it looks like Lightworks is going to have a new life as a free download, with the code released to the open source community. The modern Lightworks has plenty of useful features, not the least of which is background saves. And it can edit both ProRes and DNX without transcoding. Don’t count them out yet. Meanwhile, as I’ve mentioned  previously (here and here), Premiere might be morphing into a legitimate contender.

Not long ago it looked like the editing software wars were nearly over. Today, the playing field is a whole lot more level — and exciting.  This is how it’s supposed to work. Competition drives innovation — in economics, and in evolution. And we, the editors, win.

Conforming on the Desktop

March 12, 2010

NAB is only a few short weeks away, and I’ve heard very little about Adobe’s Mercury technology, slated for a “future release” of Premiere Pro. There’s a video demo and a blog page on the Adobe site (and a couple of other videos here and here), but no word of when the technology will make its appearance in a product you could buy.

I looked at the demo again the other day and despite its over-hyped style, it seems even more impressive the second time through. (My first post on the subject is here.) Will they release it at NAB, as part of Adobe CS5? If so, I think they’re going to make some waves. The demo shows the editing of 9 streams of P2 media —  each carrying a 3D effect. And it shows live multicam editing of 4K native red files. Yes — four streams of 4K Red (though it isn’t clear how much debayering they’re doing, which is critical). All this on a well-equipped PC with a $1400 video card (and what looks like 24 Gigs of RAM). As a little bonus, they demonstrate multi-stream playback of native AVCHD files and the ability to ingest and edit native digital SLR video.

I haven’t edited anything with Premiere. But from the demos I’ve seen the product is a study in contradictions. It can handle all kinds of files in their native state and can transcode and output to other formats in the background. It can directly import After Effects projects. It can do digital dialog transcription. But trimming is badly crippled. It has a cluttered interface that wastes too much space on video controllers and timecode displays. And it seems to have zero film support.

Of course, we won’t know how Mercury shapes up until after it’s released. But even if there are problems, it points toward a world where 4K editing and conforming will become commonplace. Whether we see it at NAB or not, it looks like 4K is coming soon to a desktop near you.

Using the GPU

February 11, 2010

As some of you may know, Adobe has been working on a new player engine for Premiere that aims at full utilization of all your CPU cores and tight integration with your graphics card. Shown at IBC last year,  information about the technology, code-named “Mercury,” seems limited to a few breathless blog posts and a recently-posted video. But the demo, available here (Sneak Peek: Adobe Mercury Playback Engine) is very impressive. They’re able to show multi-stream native editing of 4K Red footage — with just a high-end Nvidia card on a 64-bit PC. Yes, you read that right — 4K on a stock PC. According to this post, the technology will initially be limited to Nvidia’s “Cuda” architecture.

When Mercury might appear in a product you could buy isn’t clear (Adobe CS5 is slated for delivery in April). What is clear is that the price of high-end video performance is being driven relentlessly downward by the video game market, which in turn is driving the capabilities of modern GPUs (the chip in your graphics card).

A lot of editors are just getting used to the idea of working in HD. That may seem pretty tame a lot sooner than you think.

Is the Suite Sweet?

June 16, 2008

One big question for the next phase of digital post production is whether developers ought to focus on building a suite, or whether an all-in-one application makes more sense. And the more I think about this subject, the less I understand it. Yes, there’s an obvious distinction between a big all-in-one program and a group of smaller, separate aps that do the same thing. But if you look at it more closely the edges blur.

Microsoft popularized the suite with Office, but even there it has rolled together functions that others deal with separately. Entourage integrates all the functionality of Apple’s separate Mail, Calendar and Address Book programs, and Word includes more and more desktop publishing functionality that used to be handled exclusively by Quark or Pagemaker. If you expand the definition enough, every application on your computer could be seen as part of a suite that is hosted by the operating system.

When it comes to digital media, Avid began life trying to roll as many functions as possible into a single app. Editing, visual effects and sound were all included. Final Cut started with that model, too. But now Apple offers Final Cut Suite, and Adobe offers CS3, with Audio, DVD and VFX tools. Avid now includes AvidFX, Sorenson Squeeze, SonicFire Pro and Avid DVD, though the last two only work on Windows. (For more about the Avid suite see Frank Capria’s recent post on the Source/Record blog.)

So is a suite better than a powerful all-in-one environment? The more I think about it the more this looks like the wrong question. The real issue is integration — how the different modules, whatever you call them, work together to produce a consistent, responsive environment that best supports the editor’s creativity.

Case in point: I just finished a show with Media Composer and did the titles with Apple Motion (details in this post). I enjoyed using Motion and loved all the things it let me do. But I had to do deal with two sets of media and two separate timelines, I had to do way too much importing and exporting, and I had to manage two different projects.

That’s a key issue — if the elements of your suite are working on the same data then they should all be accessible from the same timeline. Importing and exporting should be instantaneous and invisible.

Another key issue is look-and-feel. AvidFX looks like a much-improved way to do titles, and it works on MC data nicely. But it doesn’t look like the MC.

This points to one big advantage of a suite — not for editors but for software developers. It’s easier to create because you can buy the separate apps, put them in one box, and advertise a long list of capabilities. The key question for editors comes down not to what’s in the box, but how well the parts fit together.

However you package the tools, what I want in an editing environment is the same. I want a powerful editing application with great trimming tools (ie. MC) and great segment tools (ie. FCP), I want integrated titling and vfx in the main timeline with minimal rendering. I want professional 5.1 mixing and sound editing — again, in the same timeline. And I want the ability to make a basic DVD without creating a separate project to do so. I don’t want to have to conform sound elements to my own picture changes. And I don’t want to have to export and import to create titles or effects or simple DVDs.

Each of the three companies has succeeded with parts of this, but nobody does it all — yet.

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Too Suite?

September 25, 2007

Adobe and Apple are pushing suites of applications in their quest to dominate retail post production. You make a single purchase and get a studio in a box, a studio that’s supposed to, by itself, serve the needs a diverse group of editors. That’s the competitive environment that Avid finds itself in, and it looks like there’s no going back to the old world of high prices and neatly defined market segments. However, just how these suites should function is still up for grabs.

Working with Final Cut, you end up creating separate projects in each application, and this can be problematic. Getting data between them is quirky and inconsistent. Dealing with an underlying Final Cut sequence that keeps changing isn’t easy. Hooks to make it easy to conform your work outside the suite don’t necessarily work. And not all the applications are consistent in terms of look and feel.

It’s arguably easier for software engineers to add functionality via the suite, but it’s not at all clear that we editors want so many separate applications. Take a look at Microsoft Office. Yes, they’ve kept spreadsheet and word processing separate. But Word now includes all kinds of desktop publishing features, and HTML and graphics are included via modules. Double click on an image and your toolset changes — but you stay inside Word.

One of the key questions application designers now face is how much functionality to put in the main ap and how much goes into the suite. Personally, I skew toward putting more power in the central program where I can get at it easily. I don’t particularly want to learn Pro Tools to do temp mixes — I want more power in Media Composer. But when the time comes to do full-bore final mixing, I sure want to know that everything I do is going to move over to the big sound ap, easily, transparently and intact.

There’s no magic to this — some things are better done in the editing application and some are better done via the suite. Figuring out which is which might turn out to be a big part of what separates the winners from the losers in the next round of post production competition.

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