Vision Unlimited/LA News

Changing World of NLEs

by on Dec.10, 2009, under High Definition News, Opinion

I ran into some HD presentation issues at Jackson Hole and that prompted me to buy an AJA Io HD box for delivery of live HD playback from a MacBook Pro that travels with it. It is well suited for playing back show elements from a Final Cut Pro timeline. We did just that for Jackson Hole this year, running a two hour awards program from a similar package. It also does a nice job of capturing high quality 10-bit, full HD format video from HD SDI, HDMI or Component sources. And now, Apple has a Windows version of the Pro-Res CoDec for Quicktime for Windows so you can get high quality cross platform video back and forth, without a huge, fast RAID package.

The Jackson Hole presentation issues were caused by bad timing. I got new Macs with the latest operating system (Snow Leopard – 10.6) and Final Cut Studio 3 (FCP7), but the AJA Io HD I/O device didn’t yet have a driver that worked under Snow Leopard. We ended up using an older machine with OS 10.5 and FCP7 and that got us through the show but it was still a bit flaky. The new driver is out now and all seems stable. In software compatibility, timing is everything.

I have been using Final Cut for quite a while, and the biggest headache has been Apple changing the port structure on its laptops. With no ExpressCard slots on most of the new MacBook Pros, disk I/O can be a problem. USB has never been especially stable on Macs and they even took the Firewire port off of the MacBook Pros for a version, until they caught so much hell that they had to put it back on. When i bought the mate to the Io HD, i had to step back in time a year and a half to find a 15″ MacBook Pro with an ExpressCard slot.

I have also been evaluating a copy of Premiere for use with P2 cameras. Adobe is a company that is working to improve its user interface and compatibility but it does not seem to have as much flexibility for the new CoDecs as i had hoped. I think that it is stronger in the integration with the other Adobe apps but not yet a better editing solution than FCP for most of us. Adobe Encore does seem to be the app of choice for authoring BluRay. There are some issues across the board with h.264 encoded BluRays so most people are sticking with MPEG2 and that works really well when encoded with either Apple Compressor or Sorenson Squeeze.

I recently went to an Avid Media Composer 4 demo. Avid is working hard to clean up their image of having a mish-mash of code and hardware. The new version actually seems to deal with most CoDecs natively and at least makes a pretty good attempt to merge clips with different frame rates. I have my doubts about how that will work from an aesthetic standpoint but they have certainly come a long way and they give you several options for dealing with motion conversion of each clip. It also seems to manage metadata better than most other apps and that will become more important as people get used to entering data before shoots and as cameras make it easier to update the data in the field.

On the minus side, if you don’t already have Avid software and a fast PC, expect to put out some change. They also don’t support third party hardware so you will need to buy an Avid I/O device. All-in-all, it’s not a cheap proposition but it looks much better than previous versions.

Some of my news clients are using Edius and they seem to like it. I haven’t had a chance to work with it very much because it is a Windows app, but folks who use it seem satisfied.

The only absolute in the NLE world seems to be that each app is a moving target. Just about the time that i get comfortable with one workflow, some vendor comes out with a new camera, record medium and CoDec, and we go back to the starting gate, needing more processing power and a new approach. And, of course, the third party solutions keep coming along to make life easier, or deal with more metadata, or give us more capability, and there are more toys to spend money on. If you want to keep your productivity high, you will continue to be the gerbil on the exercise wheel.

Ain’t technology fun?



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