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NAB Special – SpeedGrade revisited

Today at NAB Adobe revealed the next version of their video tools. From my perspective, the most interesting developments happened on the Premiere Pro front, and the next note will deal exactly with that. As of now, let’s take a look at another promising part of the suite – the new SpeedGrade.

SpeedGrade interface in its full glory. Quite a lot of things are going on, and certainly it’s an improvement over the previous version to have these panels all on a single screen.

Courtesy of Adobe development team I had an opportunity to take a sneak peak at the pre-release version. I played with it long enough to see how much of my integration wish list has been adressed, and I have mixed feelings about it:

  1. Monitoring on different hardware – half check. Right now it’s possible to get the output on AJA and Matrox devices, or the second monitor. Bluefish and Blackmagic (which I’m personally the most interested in) support still remains vague.
  2. Control surfaces – half check. Tangent Elements is supported, but Avid Artist not so much. I’ve been considering buying one for some time, so it’s again a mixed blessing. The “virtual trackball” behavior for tablets, most likely an attempt to simulate the behavior of actual trackballs, is something that personally I’d be glad to turn off, and perhaps then it would be easier to actually use the software with Wacom.
  3. Premiere Pro integration – not as of now, but the newest version of Premiere has tightly integrated “Lumetri effect” which allows one to apply a look from SpeedGrade to any clip on the timeline. Will the release version of SpeedGrade be able to read Premiere projects and apply the effect? And then read it back for round-tripping? We shall see.
  4. File support – half check. What might break it all down is the fact that not all file formats that Premiere supports, are supported by SpeedGrade. I use XDCAM EX on a daily basis, and this is not supported. Granted, it’s also not supported by Resolve, so I’d be inclined to do the transcoding.
  5. XML import and export – nope. Hopefully it is amended by feature number 3 at certain point, but on the other hand, implementing it might be a tad easier.
  6. More Adobe-like UI – half-check. A few tweaks to the interface here and there, some unification of the icons, but we’re still in a bit different world. Granted, it’s not that important an issue, UI can be learned, and should be dictated by the needs of the application, and in this regard the flexible layout of SpeedGrade has a distinct advantage over Resolve or other applications.

You can quickly turn on and off the panels, to focus on the actual footage that you intend to grade.

As you can see most of the issues have been addressed in some manner, so there certainly is some progress, although for the seamless integration into the pipeline we will still have to
wait. It is kind of disappointing, especially after seeing how Premiere changed within past year. Certainly the goal of creating the default color grading application for Premiere editors remains unachieved.

Unfortunately as of today, mostly due to the points 1 and 4, the ease of use, and the number of available features, Resolve Lite still remains my software of choice, unless I’d be grading in 2K or higher, which currently I’m not. I wish SpeedGrade team all the best in their efforts, and I shall monitor their progress with interest, waiting for the moment when I can use the software for one of our productions.

There has also been an interesting development for me in terms of SpeedGrade, but right now I am not at liberty to say anything more than I will most likely learn this software much better than I ever wanted to at present moment. Life goes mysterious ways.


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