IBC 2016 – Meeting Old Friends, Making New

September, Amsterdam, and IBC hold a very dear place in my heart. Even though my daily job now is software development, I decided not to skip the event this year. I did limit my attendance to just Saturday and Sunday though.

Even before I went to the show floor, I did go to the party organized by Red Shark News, Audio Networks and Soho Editors. It started slow, but I got to meet and chat with two great folks from Bluefish444, and meet a few of my old acquaintances. In the end, the party was in the full swing, and it looked like everyone was having a great time. Kudos to the organizers, and thanks for letting me in on a short notice.

Over past year I have received multiple requests for comments and review. Since I adopted a rather strict policy of only reviewing products I use or I believe in and can heartily recommend, many of those never materialized on my website. One of those, even despite extensive testing and a few remarks and email exchanges, was the fayIn plugin for After Effects.

FayTeq

FayIn is made by FayTeq, and is positioned as an easier and more effective alternative to Mocha Pro for tracking of planar surfaces and placing 2D cards in the scene. After they first contacted me, and after playing with the initial version for a while, I did not believe they would ever be successful. I am a Mocha user, and for more complex jobs I use SynthEyes. I did not find a justification to spend a considerable amount ($250 at that time) for a one-trick pony that also only worked on Windows. I exchanged a few emails noting my concerns, but that was about it.

It was really great to see the FayTeq team in Amsterdam, doing really well, showcasing the new pricing structure, new and improved cross-platform product that could also extract tracked data for further use. They even got their own session during Supermeet! It looks like their product found a great adoption in advertising agencies and corporate sector. The simplification of the process (as compared with Mocha), combined with a decent tracking algorithm seems to be appealing to a certain target audience. I am tempted to give it another go when I have a chance.

LookAt

You might remember me showcasing LookAt in several of my posts, as I was involved with them at the time of their initial launch. I found a few things appealing, but in the end their pricing structure based on a number of uploaded videos did not work for me. I was doing mostly vfx work, which means a large number of small videos. For those jobs I eventually moved to Frame.io, and my interest in LookAt waned. I still kept receiving their newsletter, and knew they were around.

Turns out they are doing pretty well in this crowded space of video review and approval. Among some pretty stiff competition they managed not only to survive, but to thrive. They published a Premiere Pro/After Effects extension at about the same time as Frame.io, found a lot of interest among creative agencies, and just premiered the new version of their product, which allows you to add comments to still files, documents such as pdf, word, and even whole web pages, as well as 360 VR videos. The same engine powering the original application now serves a wider purpose, and their client base include also companies doing UI/UX design and enterprise clients with high security demands. I wish them well, and I hope their product continues to be successful.

Kinemaster

When I saw Kinemaster booth in the corner of hall 7, showcasing the “Video Solution for Mobile”, my first reaction was to dismiss it as a fad – after all, we have iMovie, Adobe Clip and other solutions that do just that. I was about to go away, but then for some reason I turned around and started inquiring about their product.

They do have a very slick, feature-rich Android app, which you can use to perform edits on the road, and boast more than 10 million downloads worldwide. The demo experience was smooth, though I forgot to ask about system requirements and ability to exchange information with other applications. This still did not satisfy my requirements for “interesting” though, even with the promise of iOS version coming in 2017.

However, what I learned next turned out to be precisely the opposite. Kinemaster is offering to app developers their own SDK, which their mobile app is based on, with all the bells and whistles. This SDK is also going to be ported to iOS, offering a promising cross-platform solution for A/V content creation. And this, dear Readers, is interesting indeed. Because even if some of the functionality is not there yet, it’s possible to add it without waiting for the developer.

BlueFish444

I am going to honestly admit, that I have never used their hardware. They are great people though, and as I already mentioned, we’ve had a tremendous time during Audio Networks event, so I hope you will bear with me for the next paragraph or two.

I’ve heard about BlueFish444 long time ago. They have a great reputation as a rock-solid ingest and monitoring solution, but the pricing has always been beyond my reach. I am also not their primary target group, so I can’t blame them for this. They offer 444 – meaning no chroma subsampling, full RGB – monitoring, used among other places for broadcast graphics. These days perhaps it is not as rare, as it was, say, ten years ago, but they seem to be doing pretty well in their niche.

Their new products offer both mini SDI and optical inputs and outputs, standard digital SDI signal and optical SDI over IP. The cards work with most major NLEs out there – I saw Avid and Premiere demos showing 4k60 fps playout. In the age of BlackMagic the pricing might not seem that attractive for a freelancer like me, but if you are running a more critical system, at least give them a call.

BlackMagic Design

Speaking of BlackMagic, there was no huge announcement that we got used to from this company, although they did announce two acquisitions: Ultimatte and Fairlight. Since both were very fresh purchases, the only thing that I learnt was that definitely there would be a major price cut for Fairlight products coming soon, and that everyone is excited about having audio expertise in the company. I’m certain that among other things it’s going to translate into better audio capabilities in Resolve.

As far as Fusion is concerned, the porting to MacOS and Linux is almost complete – there are just a few minor touches before the final release. After this, the development efforts are going to finally focus on expanding and improving the available toolset. I think we can safely expect an onslaught of updates in the near future at the level we have seen in Resolve for past few years. I’m already excited.

The details are not known, but my bet is there will be a lot of improvements in the tracking department, including finally a 3D tracker, keying and noise reduction technologies from Resolve, perhaps a lot more GPU acceleration, and colorspace management.

Part of Fusion Studio is the Generation version control, project management and asset review system, that got quite a lot of buzz at the event. It is software agnostic, and file-based. This by itself differentiates it from tools like Shotgun, and makes it extremely easy to setup and manage, though perhaps not that easy for simultaneous collaboration. Rich in features, it’s a very interesting product, right now working only on Windows. If you need Mac or Linux versions, just keep pestering your local resellers and maybe BlackMagic folks as well. I know that they are trying to assess the viability of porting Generation to other platforms.

I wonder, though, given the amount of interest that Generation received, if BlackMagic will not make it a separate product to use without needing to purchase Fusion Studio. It is fully scriptable and extensible, and obviously compatible with Resolve and Fusion, but it looks, like it can be extended to work with other platforms with relative ease.

Adobe

Of course, I could not miss my friends from Adobe. Probably all of you saw the recent reveal videos, showcasing Team Projects and a few other promising features. I decided to inquire about them, and was not disappointed.

Durin Gleaves, Audition Project Manager and one of the nicest persons on Earth, turned something that I had considered a pretty boring addition – Audition step by step tutorials – into something extremely interesting, at least from my point of view. It turns out, that the tutorials have been created as the content of an HTML extension. This in itself is perhaps not that impressive, but the fact that the extensions can now listen to anything that Audition does and respond to user actions in the application itself definitely is. Waiting for playback to start or stop, a certain file to open, a certain effect to be applied – all this can be scripted. You might not share my excitement, but I found it super impressive.

This type of interaction is literally what I am currently looking for in Premiere for a project that I’m working on with a certain British company. Of course, Premiere does not – hopefully yet – have this functionality, and I have to make do without it. But if Audition can do it, why can’t Premiere? Bruce Bullis, are you listening?

Last year Adobe showcased Anywhere which can run without a dedicated rendering server. I have no idea what the uptake on that has been, given the price point, but certainly this year will finally bring us Anywhere collaboration that hopefully anyone will be able to use in the form of Team Projects.

Team Projects is a server-based solution. Metadata – version history and user permissions – about your project files are being stored somewhere in the cloud, and you can access them just by logging into your own Creative Cloud account.

A lot of care has been taken to ensure the ease of usage with local media – every participant can have their own media paths, proxies, etc. The only obvious thing that was missing for me was an ability to set an older version of the project as the current one – you have to import the items from past versions into the currently open project. Other than that, it looks like a very capable system, finally trickling down to be used by (almost) everyone.

The sour part of the news is that it will most likely not be part of your Creative Cloud subscription, but a separate product which price and availability has not yet been set. I expect Team accounts will get it either free of charge or at a steep discount, compared to individuals. So far there has been very little to offer for the price difference between Team and Individual, and I’m guessing Adobe will want to take this opportunity to actually add value to their Team offer. We shall see.

After Effects integration with Cinema 4D is very interesting, though at the moment a lot of features that standard AE users are accustomed to are not available in a composition using this renderer, so this is one of those incomplete features that hopefully gets finished at some point. Right now you can extrude shape layers, bend solids in one direction (but not do both at the same time), and use other 3D features at the cost of not being able to use blending modes, track mattes and a few other things.

When I asked about the return of multi-frame rendering, I was told that it is a subject of contention among engineering department, and that there is a prevailing thought that if all processing is moved to GPU the need will disappear. I would love it to be true, but the reality in the field is such that not all plugins are easily convertible to GPUs or are themselves optimized for parallel processing, and it’s enough to have a single outlier, that will mess up the whole processing chain.

On the other hand I do understand additional complexity and problems of processing multiple frames on the GPU simultaneously. Still, it would be great to see CPU usage during rendering not drop to 30%.

Other big news is the visual keyboard shortcuts editor in Premiere. At last! Maybe it doesn’t look that great, but it certainly is useful. It might be enough to make me forget about the obnoxious rounded buttons scattered all over Adobe applications. Well, the UI has never been Adobe’s strong suit, this incoming release included.

The Foundry

I do not have a particular relationship with makers of Nuke, but I still try to keep an eye on things vfx-related. The Foundry has seemingly decided that the Broadcast world holds much less interest for them, and their only presence on the show was the pub event on Saturday, which I decided to attend – unfortunately skipping Colorist Mixer this year – and a conference session about VR. Not much to showcase except their Cara VR stitcher plugin for Nuke, which looks like a pretty mature and solid solution. Interestingly, I was told that there may be something brewing for the future, as The Foundry attempts to more aggressively expand its user base. I have no idea what this means for that company apart from finally sponsoring Supermeet and giving out two pretty expensive packages during raffle.

VR

Oddly enough, there was not that much VR this year on the show floor, though I missed some interesting conference presentations on Monday, and there were a few well-rounded solutions being offered from several companies. This year’s Supermeet keynote was strictly VR as well. One could say that the VR has matured and became part of the landscape, but that seemingly there still is no way to easily monetize the content beyond the PR value and to bring the VR to the masses.

Interestingly, the world of Augmented Reality has not yet arrived to Broadcast. At least not to the extent to be noticeable during events like this.

Supermeet

I keep repeating that IBC would never be complete without Supermeet, but it holds true. This year’s agenda might not have been as strong as within last two years – hard to top having Walter Murch or editors of Star Wars VII – but it didn’t prevent all the people from having a great time. A lot of young people came, you could feel genuine excitement and enthusiasm – a nice change from the more sterile, stiff and corporate mood of the trade show. I wonder what we will see next year, as this is going to be the tenth anniversary for Amsterdam’s event.

Final Cut Pro X

Even though I saw much larger presence of Adobe Premiere, much less of Avid, there was a whole separate event for FCP X editors taking place alongside the show in another building. I did not have time to attend it, but it is undeniable that the new Final Cut is a widely adopted tool, used by a lot of people in various productions. It’s still its own ecosystem, and you still either love it or hate it, but it has come a long way since its release in 2011. Supermeet keynote showcased it as well, and from what I know at least one of the largest Polish TV stations also runs their editorial on FCP X with over 160 licenses. The future seems bright on this front, so if you ignored FCP X so far, you might want to reconsider.

The Undercurrent

Apart from what I did see, there were also things that I did not see, that made me wonder. I did not see Autodesk booth. I did not see a line-up of high-profile Avid demos – in fact, the space where the demos were being held for past years was taken by other solutions offered by the company. I did not see any high-profile presenters in Adobe booth either. Red Giant did not even have a booth during Supermeet. The Foundry was obviously absent for the second year in a row, and in general the show did feel more frugal.

There were very few new announcements in the camera world as well. Most of the larger players seem to be consolidating or close to being feature-complete. Some of the competing companies merge or are bought out. The smaller and innovative players seem to be having a good time though. This is good to see in the world, where we are reading articles about the death of post-production. The time again seems to belong to the smaller, nimbler companies who can adapt more swiftly and bring new solutions to the table.

What will the next year be? We shall see. It certainly looks extremely busy for me.

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