Advanced editing tools ease post-production workflows.
Based in London, Pixelfantastic is a boutique facility specialising in colour, conform and file delivery for concerts, documentaries and episodic TV, and has delivered hundreds of show using a variety of mastering formats including tape, AS-11/DPP and 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) files.
Despite this wealth of experience, Barrie Williams, owner of Pixelfantastic, acknowledges the constant challenges involved in delivering files. He notes, for instance, the frequent and regular back and forth exercise between offline and conform/online because information is often not available to validate whether a title, start time or credit is correct to begin with.
Williams explains: "Typically, editors will send me the 'finished' edit for grading, we would finish the grade and send it back for viewing. This is often the point when the decision makers watch the programme with full concentration, and 10 minutes after that, a request would come through to change the credits and opening titles. We also need to take out one of the songs because legal clearance has been refused."
When working on fast turnaround shows, these last-minute changes are unforeseen and uncontrollable, but become a priority during the final viewing of the finished master, he points out. "There will be penalties for late delivery and with the deadline just hours away, there just isn't time to re-export the show."
With Pixelfantastic now operating in file-based workflows, Williams goes on to comment on the fundamental difference between tape and file deliverables. "When there was an issue with a programme, the broadcaster would send the same tape back, and I would simply insert the change," he details. "When we send the same tape back with an inserted fix, the broadcaster would recognise the tape and only re-QC the segment flagged on the changelog."
With files, every change equates to a new export--a brand-new file that Pixelfantastic was required to QC again and re-certify that it passed a long list of technical checks. "We never had that problem with SR tape. If I only changed the credits on tape, we would only need to re-QC that segment, not the entire programme," Williams says.
Enter cineXtools, which has not only eliminated these issues, but has also created for Pixelfantastic a "better and simpler" workflow as compared to tape, according to him. "With cineXtools, whether it's a picture fix, audio insert, metadata change or timecode re-stripe, it's a fast, almost instantaneous process," he adds. "Moreover, and possibly more importantly, the file that I am making the changes to is still the same file."
Being able to make changes to the file that has already been delivered is a time-saving function fundamental to the insert-edit workflow, Williams explains, because it re-introduces the practice of being able to confidently spot-check changes.
And for those working with 4K/UHD deliverables, cineXtools can be an "essential tool", as everything from export to copy takes much longer than HD, and there is scarce time available to address errors.
Williams cites a recent 4K/UHD conform and delivery of a Stevie Wonder concert in London's Hyde Park. "[The concert] was a 4K/UHD ProRes 4444 taking about 1TB in storage space. We had a final master that everyone signed off on and we'd copied the final master to the client's drive, which took several hours," he recalls. "The client wanted to change one of the names of the cameramen and correct a colour shift--literally two tiny changes in this mammoth file."
With cineXtools, Williams and his team were able to make the changes by directly accessing the client's master on their external drive, and then followed suit on their own master. "If we'd had to re-export, then copy over a new file, it would have taken an entire day, but it took literally minutes to make these corrections. cineX-tools is an essential tool for modern mastering. I am so glad that someone decided insert-editing was important enough to resurrect," Williams concludes.
For London-based TVT, a managed media services provider, the recent launch of a full Access Services business unit is designed to strengthen its position as a leading provider of compliance and video editing solutions that address the complexities of the dynamic international market for linear, on-demand and online entertainment, says the company, which is also seeing a trend where editing for compliance is heading to the cloud.
Peter Elvidge, VP technology at TVT, tells APB: "The TV industry has been going through a major technical transition over the past decade with much of it focused around the shift to IP and in recent years, the use of cloud-based technologies.
"Recent developments have focused on the cloud's ability to deliver scalable resources and lower capital expenditure. Examples around transcoding and cloud-based subscriber management are two common areas of initial exploration."
Cloud as a resource for video editing and workflow, however, is less understood but offers "significant benefits", Elvidge suggests. This, he adds, is especially true around content compliance, which can unify a task that often requires multiple people across the process, from legal through to craft editors, many of whom increasingly work in separate parts of the organisation or potentially at a third-party broadcast service provider.
"Compliance and content versioning is a dynamic and cyclic process that involves view, edit, review and approval steps," Elvidge continues. "In the past, for many content creators, this has meant an inefficient process where video needs to travel around an organisation to different stakeholders along with notes and edit instructions in various formats."
A cloud-based process, alternatively, makes this a lot simpler by having the proxy video, edit decision list (EDL) and compliance notes all within a unified workflow where every person--whether a compliance expert, craft editor or editorial director --can all access the same source irrespective of where they are based, says Elvidge.
TVT is also an advocate of a hybrid cloud model, which the company manifests in its ContentSelect cloud-based media management platform, which was built in 2010 to help process content for clients such as A+E, UKTV and Discovery. "We built it out of necessity as, although public clouds such as Amazon and Azure are perfect for certain types of workloads, ContentSelect is in essence a hybrid private cloud, as our mezzanine formats are held on our local data centre storage while only proxies are shared in the cloud," Elvidge explains.
This approach thus avoids the band-width requirements for ingress and charges imposed by public clouds for data egress. Moving large video files between public clouds can be a "cumbersome process", and has little value if edits need to take place at local suites, he adds, while suggesting that by using ContentSelect and the cloud, even 4K/UHD and 8K workflows can be easily managed, because there is no impact on the uploaded proxies required for compliance and other workflow activities.
"For us, the cloud and ContentSelect result in a simpler and more efficient process for editors charged with ensuring that content adheres to both legal compliance and editorial requirements," says Elvidge. "Where cloud can really assist is in managing the workflow and ensuring that all the relevant metadata and approvals are handled in a consistent and easy-to-manage fashion."
One editing system that promises to offer a "complete revolution" in post production is Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve, now available in version 14. Described by Blackmagic Design as "the biggest release in the history of the product", DaVinci Resolve 14 includes features such as up to 10x performance improvement, a whole new audio post-production suite with Fairlight audio built-in, and collaboration tools that allow multiple users to edit, colour and mix from multiple systems, all in the same project at the same time.
Richard Lim, director, Blackmagic Design Asia, elaborates: "DaVinci Resolve has always been known for its professional colouring capabilities. In DaVinci Resolve 14, editing and sound mastering tools are now available. What this means is that all facets of production can be handled in one software, thus eliminating time wasted trying to sync files when they pass from the editor to the colourist and to the audio engineer.
"And the new collaboration feature in Davinci Resolve 14 means that you could have multiple users working at the same time for editing, colour and audio. There is also an in-software chat feature that allows communication among its users, and safety features on the projects being worked on would be safe.
"As such, it essentially means that, for the first time, all post-production aspects of editing, colour and audio can be done within a software, which will increase efficiency and thus allow more time and space for enhanced creativity."
According to Lim, DaVinci Resolve is currently the software that supports the most codecs that are used in the industry, and across different resolutions. One such user is freelance colourist Ravit Sripantawanusorn, who started his journey with DaVinci Resolve 8. "As a freelance colourist, I prefer using Resolve as it gives me the best image quality because of the 32-bit float YRGB. I colour TVC, short films and more using the advance resolve panels and the mini panel. Once you use the balls to dial on Resolve panels, you can't go backbecause you will miss it too much if you switch to anything else."
Having begun to edit his work on DaVinci Resolve 14, Sripantawanusorn is excited about tools such as Fairlight audio, which he believes will add more value to the post-production process. "I am still learning the ropes of sound editing, but I'm very excited to have these tools," he adds.
For Singapore's Little Red Ants Creative Studio, its mantra reads as: 'We believe good ideas and great people create the best works.' Constantly seeking new ways to deliver top visual content, the studio has been using DaVinci Resolve since 2010 to grade its TVCs, corporate videos, music videos and short films, its director, Darren Tan, reveals.
He says: "We needed a professional programme that could meet our demands for fast turnaround, and provide an easy-to-understand interface while still offering professional tools. With the emergence of digital cameras and varying formats and codecs, it is also imperative that whatever programme we were using supported these new formats and codecs.
"Blackmagic has been quick in implementing and pushing out new updates to reflect their support for these new formats and codecs. DaVinci Resolve also offers a very powerful set of professional tools for colour grading that allows us very precise changes to be made."
Since version 12, Little Red Ants Creative Studio has also been exploring DaVinci Resolve as its main editing programme, and is currently trialling a number of projects to test the feasibility of migrating from Adobe Premiere Pro to DaVinci Resolve.
Tan concludes: "We see quite a few benefits that DaVinci Resolve offers, namely, speed in moving from edit to colour grade, cost of ownership, and ease-of-use. With the promised improvements in speed and audio editing, we believe DaVinci Resolve is ready to take on the big boys!"