So after spending a day and a half on the floor of NAB 2012 (and a fun night at Media Motion Ball!), here are some of the thoughts I had and things I’m excited about after talking to various companies on the exhibition floor.
ATTO Technology Thunderbolt-to-10Gb Ethernet (link)
I asked the ATTO guys whether anyone had used one of these to connect a laptop or iMac to a Unity, and they said that they were so new there weren’t enough units available to send out for certification to companies like Avid. In theory it should work, and Avid is at the top of the list to receive a test unit, so hopefully we’ll see some results on that either from them or someone else who just gives it a go to see what happens. These would be great in scenarios where you just quickly want to connect a temporary system to your Unity, like for giving access to a trailer editor so they can pull selects from your dailies without taking the time or system off an assistant editor.
Amazon S3 Secure File Delivery (with or without Aspera)
So I wandered into the Aspera booth since independent-level secure file delivery is something I’ve long been interested in solving in a cheap way. Aspera is not cheap, and all of my experience with it has been with big studios or facilities that can afford it, but I saw something about Aspera linked to Amazon S3 and wanted to learn more. Having “Freelance” on my NAB badge made sure that no one from Aspera was interested in talking to me, but the representative from Amazon there was very nice and I chatted him up for a minute.
The rub is this: Aspera is offering so-called “On Demand” service, whereby you use their FASP transfer protocol to get your files quickly up to S3. You then get charged by Amazon for the bandwidth of whoever downloads that file, as well as for the use of the Aspera software. I was hopeful that something called On Demand would be more affordable for indies and people who still need to send very large, secure deliveries but don’t have the money or server infrastructure to have an enterprise-level solution at their disposal. Predictably, this is not the case. In fact, I’m not even sure why they’re calling it On Demand, since they want to charge you a monthly subscription fee of $750.
The upside, though, is that by Aspera effectively ignoring me and Amazon giving me all the time I wanted, I learned a lot about S3 that I didn’t know before. Most importantly, the Amazon guy pointed me in the direction of access control, which eventually got me to run into a page on the Amazon S3 docs titled Signing and Authenticating S3 REST Requests. It’s a mouthful, but down near the bottom what it says is that you can use what they call Query String Authentication to send a expiring link to a private file on S3. With some work in PHP one could pretty easily create an app to send links to private files that expire. It doesn’t seem like Amazon offers the ability to expire a link after it’s been clicked on once, or to provide logging, but for basic large file delivery this should work well enough to start.
Wacom Intuos5 (link)
I’m a huge fan of Wacom and I insist on having an Intuos tablet at my desk wherever I edit. I was a little skeptical of the Intuos5 just because I didn’t see the need for adding touch capability to the tablet when I already use the pen 100% of the time. Having played around with it, it is very nice, though I still don’t think I would use the touchpad much (I’m sure I’ll eat my words later). One problem it would solve, though, is that other people who jump on my system wouldn’t have to fumble around with the pen in order to do a quick task. I will miss the little displays that the Intuos4 had, though. The HUD that pops up on screen when you touch one of the side buttons is annoying and takes too long to display. So I’ll definitely be keeping the Intuos4 I have at home.
I spent part of my second day on the floor talking to the EasyDCP and Doremi people. I have conflicting desires when it comes to DCP generation. On the one hand, free and open source tools already exist to allow you to roll your own DCP, and I oppose paying thousands for something I can do for free. On the other hand, even with the free tools it’s still a pain in the ass to actually do it properly, so paying for the cheaper end of DCP creation software like EasyDCP is possibly worth the time it would save me to figure out all the color space, multiple reel, and subtitling issues that are only the beginning of my problems when testing the open source tools. Additionally, EasyDCP offers a version that allows KDM generation, and they are coming out with a KDM database app to keep track of your server certificates and issued KDMs, and encryption plus KDM management is something the open source tools haven’t gotten to yet.
On the fancier, more expensive end of things is Doremi. They sell a software package to allow you to make your own DCPs (not sure the cost), in addition to selling hardware that can take an HD-SDI input and encode your DCP in real-time. I asked the rep what it would do with a 1080p signal, and he verified that it can upres the 1080p signal to 2k with either a flat or scope preset. This, for me, presents interesting possibilities, since on my last show we made quite a few temp DCPs with cuts played out from Avid, and in order to get the DCPs made we had to record our cut to HDCAM-SR, hand that off to a post house, and wait 24 hours to get a DCP back. If we could’ve rolled our own DCP, not only would we maybe have saved money in the long run, but the turnaround time for the DCP could be much shorter. We would only have to watch the layback of and then QC the DCP, instead of watching the layback of and then QC-ing the tape, running the tape across town, waiting a day, and then QC-ing the DCP. This is definitely something I want to pursue further for production companies or post houses where I anticipate regular work.
File-Based Camera Dailies Prep
At the Sony booth there was a guy demoing YoYo, which seemed very well thought out and potentially very very useful. It handles all the usual backup and transcoding of the master files from the camera, in addition to allowing LUTs and basic color correction, sound syncing including multichannel mixdowns or inclusion of only selected channels, and to top it off it will take advantage of your connected broadcast monitor if you have one. It’s definitely the most full-featured “DIT” app I’ve seen so far. The two things I wish it would do that I don’t think it does currently is maintain a database of all the clips it’s processed (useful as a codebook), and mark the audio it sends to Avid as coming from a film project (even if it isn’t) so that when you get into Avid you can slip sync by perf. The YoYo rep did say that if you have time the software can sync by processing the audio and finding the clap rather than by timecode alone, and that when it does that it would nudge the audio as much as needed on a sub-frame level.
The Arri booth also had the Codex Vault, which I didn’t get much time to check out but could be an interesting alternative, albeit one that doesn’t seem to allow quite so much customization beyond its presets as the YoYo software does. I definitely want to check this one out more before the next show where I need to worry about this.
Streaming Dailies to iPads
I checked out the G-Technology G-Connect, and I’ve also previously looked at the Western Digital version of the same thing. The goal for something like this would be to put your dailies on one of these devices, which then act as a Wi-Fi hotspot and can stream the video stored on them to any connected iPhones or iPads. This would be useful for allowing people on set to view dailies without having to load up each iPad with a copy of the dailies, but since they’re intended more for consumer level use the encryption involved (or lack thereof) becomes a sticking point. There is password protection on the user interface, but the Wi-Fi transmission itself is unencrypted, and no studio would allow dailies to be transmitted over the air like that.
I’m cutting a show shot on Alexa right now, and we initially considered using a field recorder to dual-record DNX media while the Alexa was shooting ProRes 444, but we had to abandon it since the field recorder couldn’t grab the filename the Alexa was using for the ProRes file over the SDI connection it was using as its input. Since then the Alexa introduced exactly what we needed as a native option, but nevertheless it surprised me that this was a problem, since what use is a field recorder for editorial if the names are different from the master files I’ll want to relink to later?
The Sound Devices PIX 240 and 260 do now grab the R3D filename off a RED camera and can name their proxy files accordingly, but don’t yet work with any other cameras. Hopefully this becomes standard across all camera brands, as it would make an editor or DIT’s life a bit easier.
There were a few new cameras to check out at NAB this year. I played around with the Blackmagic one, and I saw the new offerings from Canon and Sony. I don’t really know enough about camera tech to comment knowledgeably, but I do like Blackmagic’s consideration of not creating another proprietary file format, and that’s about all I have to say on that.
And I Still REALLY Want One Of These
Well, that’s it for my initial thoughts from my first ever trip to NAB! Next year I’ll have to try to get more time off!