On February 2, 2005 the newly re-formed Boston Avid User Group held a meeting that was a tremendous hit. Avid showed a demo of their the multicam and the “Fluid Film Effect” – using footage shot just outside of the meeting of snow falling on Moody Street at 30i and at 24p, and Michael Phillips then matched the effect. Avid also used our footage to show how to quickly match different cameras and color balances. Pretty exiting way to start off the reformed Avid User Group!
The BAVUG Meeting was a completely USER-centric event, not a product demo, sales-pitchy event: there were scores of editors from WGBH (American Experience, Nova) and dozens of Avid users from all over New England, anxious to see what Avid is developing – and there was some great stuff.
Michael Phillips, Avid’s Principal Product Designer, showed features in Avid Xpress Pro HD that are of interest to the independent filmmaker as well as a sneak preview of new features coming in the next release. Michael also covered some of the news coming out of the 2005 Sundance Film festival.
Version 5.0 which is currently shipping has added real time multicamera playback of four angles. Unlike multicamera in Meridien based systems., the realtime playback no longer needs to be an “m” resolution. Any resolution supported by Xpress Pro will play back. Mileage may vary when dealing with HD resolutions, but DV25 and DV50 in addition to the offline resolutions of 15:1s will all be real time during playback in multicamera mode.
Also new with v.5.0 is the ability to output NTSC video directly over the FireWire connection with 2:3:2:3 NORMAL pulldown or 2:3:3:2 ADVANCED pulldown in real time with no need for the Mojo accelerator. Effects will also remain in real time during the output. The addition of a Mojo will allow for more real time streams compared to the non-Mojo playback since it relieves the host processor of the encoding process back to DV5. But for 24p DV filmmakers, this is a big feature saving them money in their equipment purchase. A good idea would be to get a quality microphone for production…
Xpress Pro HD v.5 as the name implies supports HD. Xpress will capture natively over FireWire DVCPRO 100 (Panasonic Varicam) at 720p/60 using the native codec. The sneak preview showed support for the 720p/23.976 format which is of more interest to the filmmaker. According to Panasonic, 80% of all use of this format is at the 24fps frame rate. Also with this release is support for capture of 720p/60 in a 23.976p project resulting in a 2.5x slomo. The same has been true in shipping versions of Xpress Pro for 30p where playback creates a smooth 25% slomo. These workflows are for video only capture.
There was some discussion on the DNxHD codecs. Michael had just completed a film-out test of uncompressed split with DNxHD material and viewed on both 35mm and 2K projectors. No one has yet been able to see where the split was done. This is big news for the independent filmmaker as DNxHD is high quality mastering yet small file sizes on disk. For example, DNxHD at the 145Mb/s rate can play back on a laptop and takes up slightly less storage than uncompressed standard definition video. More information on DNxHD can be found here.
HDV is also a hot topic with new cameras being introduced by the major camera companies. Currently there are no real 24p versions although there are rumors of one being introduced at NAB 2005. The Sony version which shoots 1080i @25Mb/s does have a cineframe mode, but the quality in this mode is not good enough for real 24fps production. Essentially it is taking the 60 field signal, creating 30p and then dropping one frame in five. Not good. The user would be far better off working in 1080i then using the FluidFilm effect within Avids editing apps to create 24p.
Native HDV support will be coming to Avid Xpress Pro HD soon. Avid products will be editing the native long GOP MPEG2 files with no need for a transcode. This solution will offer full I, P. and B frame editing, not just I frame editing. User will have the choice to render these files as DNxHD if there are many effects to be created as it is a higher quality render compared to other compressed HD codecs.
The Sundance news was that over 60% of all accepted films were shot on film, a mix of 35mm and super 16. Of the remaining films, only 20% were shot on HD with a majority of the video based submissions being shot on the Panasonic DVX100 camera at 24p.
Michael showed how Xpress Pro can be used for all types of formats allowing the filmmaker to have flexibility in the format choice being used since these are usually based on budget, creative choice or “it’s what I had on hand.” Anne Renmehan from Boris FX demonstrated keyframmable effects using Continuum, and how Boris solutions will work seamlessly with XpressPro HD.
Steve Bayes, now Director of Marketing for Media 100, and author of some very helpful Avid-editing books, spoke about the Boris BCC for AVX DVD. This is a DVD-ROM with over 2.5 hours of hi-res tutorials, over 100 presets, Avid Bins with sequences of complex effects pre-built, and courseware as Adobe .pdf. The video was captured from hi-res computer screens and compressed to 800×600 at 15 fps which shows sharp details of the Boris user interface. It also allows Steve to zoom in on specific operations to show details that would be impossible to see on a standard DVD-Video. It also allows linking graphics to live webpages if you are connected to the Internet and to open the pronted material and launch the installers directly from the DVD interface.
This post was contributed by Howard Phillips