News for April 2010

Highlights from NAB 2010…

There were a few interesting things to see at NAB this year. Not as varied as previous years have been, perhaps due in part to an absence of many of the prominent companies, but good all the same.

First up, Adobe. Of course they launched CS5, upgrading their entire product line. In total, there are dozens of improvements across the line, but one, seemingly innocuous new bit of technology dubbed “content-aware”. This was first demonstrated to me in the form of a “roto brush” in After Effects. The idea being that you draw a loose selection around a foreground object, and After Effects then determines exactly what it is you are trying to isolate. After a few seconds delay, it automatically redefines your selection to create a very convincing roto matte. And best of all, it does it for all frames in the sequence, not just the current one. There are also controls for fine-tuning, such as to account for soft edges, motion blur and so on. Not sure how feasible this would be for feature visual effects work, but certainly for everyone else it will be a real time-saver.

The most jaw-dropping moment of NAB for me was the demonstration of the content-aware deletion in Photoshop. There was in image of a horse in a field. A selection was drawn around the horse, and the content-aware deletion was applied. The horse was removed from the scene. Let me back that up a bit. The horse was deleted precisely, which is kind of impressive. But more amazing is that rather than leaving an empty space in the image, the “hole” was filled in by interpolating the content (not just the pixels) of the image. By which I mean the fence behind the horse was automatically generated. Even as I think about it now, I still think it must have been some kind of trick. Wow.

Another talking point has been BlackMagicDesign (who recently acquired DaVinci) porting the Resolve grading system for the Mac, and then practically giving it away for under $1000 (although if you want the control surface, that will still cost you an additional $30,000 or so). The technology looks a little dated when compared to some of the heavy-hitters out there, but come on, at this price it’s competing with Apple’s (almost unusable) Color.

Arri was showing off its new Alexa camera, which seems to be taking on the Red One, although at a higher price point (and I’ll skip comparing the picture quality of the two to more knowledgeable people, personally I think they produced quite similar results when all is said and done). And speaking of Red, there were a few glimpses of the new Epic camera at some of the events.

The FCP user group, although a fun night out, was desperately lacking any talk of Final Cut Pro (with more time devoted to talking about Avid than Apple!), however there was an interesting concept presented, which was the notion of using the iPad as a control surface for grading (or anything really), which I completely agree is an excellent application (of an otherwise questionable product).

Finally I want to thank everyone I spoke to about Synaesthesia. Based on those conversations, I’ve got a couple of new short-term plans for new features. I’m not going to reveal too much now, but one area I will be focussing on is methods for verifying data transfer, and the other is to do with different workflows. Demoing the software on a rusty old laptop also revealed that I need to spend some time looking at speeding up certain processes, so there will be a big push on that too.

Posted: April 16th, 2010
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Synaesthesia Beta 3 Released…

It’s NAB, so of course that means new releases. We’re no exception, and so a new version is now available for everyone on the beta programme. The latest version includes only one major new feature, but it’s a really good one: you can now import clip data from Final Cut Pro XML files.

With this latest addition, Final Cut Pro becomes another, extremely convenient source for capturing metadata and linking it into Synaesthesia. For example, you can shoot some footage, ingest it into FCP, and then save off the XML file. You can then import this XML file into Synaesthesia, which will then create reels, clips and attach their linked files for you. You then have all your footage inside Synaesthesia to use in the usual way, and if you make any changes, you can always export the clips as FCPXML and load that back into Final Cut.

The other bit of news is that we’re extending the beta programme, to include a greater number of users. Anyone interested in downloading the new beta version can do so for free at

There’s been a lot of talk about shooting 3D at NAB this year. Let me jump on that bandwagon too. Synaesthesia can be used 3D productions, by setting up two recorders- one for the left eye and one for the right eye. You can then use shooting mode as you would normally.

As always, if you’ve already been accepted into the beta programme, you will receive an email soon with the download link.

Posted: April 12th, 2010
Categories: Synaesthesia
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