News for September 2006

IBC 2006 – Part 3…

Red Digital Cinema
The much-hyped “Red One” camera was on show, though the words “In Development” were plastered all over the booth. For those who are not familiar with it, the Red One camera body is very aesthetic, looking more like a lamp housing than a traditional camera, but the real advantage is it’s touted 4k image capture (4520×2540 at the sensor level). The other interesting feature is that the sensor is the same size as a piece of 35mm film. that means you can use regular lenses with it (it has a PL lens mount), but should also ensure the same sort of depth of field as regular film cameras. However, notably absent from any of Red’s product materials are any details of the color range the camera is capable of. There will be very little point shooting in 4k if you’re stuck with Rec 709 colour and 1-2 stops of latitude. And of course, it’s largely untested (though there are already a large range of mounting accessories). Also on show was something called “RedCine Telecine Software” but details were sketchy as to what exactly this is. As far as I can tell, it’s for pre-processing the camera’s output, but I’m sure that there’s more to it than that. For now, if you want to shoot digital, you’re far better off with the big ugly Viper.

Matris
The Matris project aims to create a system to allow camera tracking. But in addition to matching the position and orientation of the camera, it also aims to determine the lens focal length, in real-time, via a sensor attached to a regular camera. This opens up an incredible potential for doing some very interesting effects. There’s a caveat however. As part of their workflow, they require the location to be modelled in 3D, which is done by taking lots of pictures of the scene and then computing depth-maps and tracking points. This alone relegates it more to the realms of stadium or studio shoots. Still, it will be interesting to see how this develops. Also, over on the conference side, there was a very interesting paper on “Depth Acquisition Using Trifocal Cameras”, so maybe depth recording will be available to filmmakers before too long.

Finally, I should also point out that I saw an unsually high number of “wearable displays”, such as LCD goggles. I wonder if this is just a passing fad, or if we are in fact on the brink of a new wave of displlay devices.

Posted: September 21st, 2006
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IBC 2006 – Part 2…

Autodesk
Autodesk pretty much updated their entire product line, adding a “2007″ moniker to Lustre, Toxik, Smoke, Flame, Flint and Inferno. The new versions incorporate tweaks and fixes, many of which are the result of customer feedback. There isn’t really anything significant, but suffice to say if you’ve been using any of the above, you’ll find it faster and easier to use, such as the new AAF and FCPXML support (I’m told the really glamourous stuff is coming next year). Development on the Incinerator hardware accelerator continues, but there is no comment as to whether it or something similar will be used on the Linux version of Smoke for example. Regardless, Autodesk are commited to software development rather than hardware development, as Senior Product Marketing Manager Maurice Patel puts it, “Hardware ties you down in terms of creativity”. Meanwhile, Toxik’s feature set has grown a great deal, and it almost seems a shame there is not a standalone version to go head-to-head with Shake, especially considering Shake’s uncertain (I resisted saying “Shaky”) future. Lustre 2007 has a shiny new panel, by far one of the most compact I’ve seen. Interoperability between various Autodesk products has been tightened further, particularly between Maya, MAX and MotionBuilder, but also demonstrated in the ability to submit Flattened timelines from Smoke to Lustre (and vice versa). Speaking of Maya and MAX, it seems that Autodesk are commited to developing each product separately (“like having a range of cars in a showroom”), which should keep their respective users very happy. Finally, subscriptions to the new Autodesk Developer Network are available, allowing facilities or software developers to code specifically for Autodesk products, meaning we may soon start to see some interesting 3rd-party products for Autodesk systems.

NHK
NHK’s exhibit had people queuing for several minutes to get a look at what they’ve dubbed an “Ultra HD” experience: 8k (7680×4320 pixels) video. Their demo was 14 minutes of image, CG, recorded and live video. The display comprised of two 4k projectors linked together, with a 22.2 channel surround (above and below) sound system. It was very impressive, and very video-y. At that resolution, the softness is entirely a factor of the lens used, which meant the CG sections stood out like a sore thumb. I watched it with an open jaw, and one thought: who is going to want this? The answer is probably the Imax audience. No-one wants (yet?!) to shoot films at 8k, but for documentaries and wildlife footage, this technology may be ideal.

Codex Digital
On a similar note, Codex Digital were showing off were showing off ther Codex field recorder, capable of recording anything up to uncompressed 4k data. Featuring removable “DiskPacks” (each with a capacity of 360GB or 720GB) and touchscreen interface, it looks both rugged and elegant, weighing in at around 35-45 kg. A nice twist is that it generates proxies on the fly in various formats for convenient viewing.

Posted: September 18th, 2006
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IBC 2006 – Part 1…

Well, it was yet another 5 days of bits, pixels, and color space. But was there anything more than marketing hype at play this September?

ibc

The real buzz of the show was “4k”. Sure, 4k is old hat in theoretical terms, but there was a real sense of 4k becoming the new trend, rather than just for special occasions. At a talk by E-Film, they annonunced that the number of DI jobs had increased since last year, and the number of 4k jobs had roughly doubled. On the show floor, there was talk of 4k storage, 4k pipelines, real-time 4k, you name it. In fact I don’t think I heard anyone mention 2k. And it didn’t end there of course: Autodesk’s Toxik demo artist made reference to a 16k image he was working with in real-time, and NHK set up an 8k demo theatre experience dubbed “Ultra HD” (in 22.2 multichannel surround sound, no less)…

Apple

Apple was demoing its Final Cut Suite post-production line on their new Mac Pro system, kitted out with impressive offline editing, effects, and audio mixing capabilities. They also demoed version 4.1 of the (now defunct?) Shake visual effects and compositing system, though they cryptically referred to it somewhat as a “plugin” for Final Cut Pro. And speaking of effects, there was an interesting plugin called “chim chim” for Motion for doing smoke-type effects that was shown, though sadly it was third-party with no signs of it being available off-the-shelf.

Sony

Sony updated its Vegas line of editing and DVD Studio software, but the lack of decent input/output via XML renders them both still inferior to Apple’s equivalents.

Abaltat

Very interesting, but perhaps of questionable usefulness, was a new product called Muse from Abaltat. Muse allows the user to generate music tracks based upon patterns and colours of a movie. Undoubtedly a great way to generate royalty-free music very quickly, but if you want something that sounds a bit less synthesized, you’re better off using real music. Still one to watch.

More to follow…

Posted: September 15th, 2006
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