Let me first say as much as some may want to hear it, I am going to abstain from any inkling of the Avid vs. Final Cut Pro debate. Over the years I have been involved in many such discussions and I have learned one undeniable fact, nobody has ever watched a program because of what it was edited with. It would be like debating whether you shoveled your driveway with a aluminum or plastic shovel…isn’t the only thing that really matters is that your upstairs neighbor did it before you got up? That is what I thought.
Having said that I won’t make any secret that I am an editor first, an Avid editor second. For the majority of my time as an editor Avid has been my tool of choice. It is what I know, it is what I like, but it doesn’t mean it is the best tool, just a tool. Tonight I attended the Boston Avid Users Group demo at Avid Headquarters in Burlington, MA, and the following is a recap of the new version of Media Composer and Symphony 6. It isn’t an endorsement or argument for using the software, just my thoughts and info for those that are interested.
The group was lucky enough to run into Bob Russo from Avid giving the first part the presentation, a general overview of Version 6 as well as an more in-depth look into the stereoscopic 3D tools now available. If you haven’t seen Bob present I highly recommend it, of all the software evangelists out there I think he is one of the best. Matt Feury is also very good, but I have yet to get a chance to meet him in person although I have seen many of his presentations.
Last time I ran into Bob Russo I had a lot of questions about the first stereoscopic 3D project I was going to be working on with Cramer. At the time we were shooting with the Panasonic AG-3DA1. The great thing about this camera was that it took all the bulky camera rig setups with beam splitters and parallel rigs and put it into one, more intuitive camera. The camera recorded a left and right eye stream to AVCHD onto two SD cards. After that we used Cineform HD to mux the two streams into a stereoscopic file that was then translated into a side/side stereoscopic image and sent out to a 3D monitor via HDMI.
After many questions answered by Bob Russo about workflow, he said one thing that stuck to me. That if Avid really wanted to take a leap forward they needed to “own” stereoscopic 3D editing. (at this time we were working on 4.0, which had pretty sophisticated 3D tools, but you needed those 3rd party software tools to really make it happen.) Well, after tonight, I can say that Avid must have listened because they have taken a big leap forward in working with stereoscopic material.
Having not worked with the software yet and due to time constraints in the demo I don’t have an in-depth dissertation on the upgrades, but I can tell you the key points. You can mux left and right streams right in Avid. You can adjust and key-frame convergence right in Avid(#awesome!) You can do source material color-correction on one stream in a stereoscopic clip to compensate for color shifts in a two camera beam splitting 3D camera rig. Any and all Avid FX are stereoscopic aware and will compensate the images if you were to do a simple PIP or anything really. AND (this one is really big) there is a built in tool to change legacy 2D footage into 3D. Now, it was somewhat hard to tell how well the 2D to 3D feature worked (we had paper anaglyph glasses) but the fact you could in theory cut in legacy 2D footage onto the same timeline is something that should be pretty appealing. I won’t sit here and think that the end results of 2D acquired material is going to be anything like true stereoscopic 3D, but at least you will get something right out of the box.
So did Avid do what Bob said and “own” stereoscopic 3D editing? Hopefully soon I will be able to test it out and do a comparison to my original project, but lets just say if they don’t already own it with 6.0, they are definitely leasing with an option to buy. (Note: all the above features are in addition to the already built-in stereoscopic tools available since 4.0, being able to pick side/side, over/under, left eye only monitoring, etc.)
I’ll make this brief since I am not totally sold on this concept, but Avid has partnered with Thought Equity and created an in software marketplace to buy stock footage. The over arching concept is genius really, a way to think of it is having an iTunes app right in your editing software, but with video footage instead of music. It integrates right into the Avid and links via AMA with downloaded watermarked comps. After you have done your edit, you can then create a stock footage report that tells you what shots you have used and the ins and outs of your selects. That report can then be sent back to Thought Equity and they then process your order. Sounds great, right? Well, there are some road bumps you have to go over. You may or may not have to deal with a representative on rights usage (depending on the clips you have used) and it isn’t certain how long a clip could take. Basically if you use all royalty free material it is more or less instantaneous, if not, then you may have some red tape on how long it is before you get your footage. The overall great thing here is you can access it right from the Avid software or you can access it through the web if you are a producer. If you want to have all your watermarked footage get replaced automatically, it does appear you have to download the high rez clips on your Avid workstation through the software. All though once you do that, there literally is a button that say “replace all stock footage” so no more match framing re-imports of bought clips. You can also purchase audio packages as well as audio and video plug-ins from the interface.
5.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound
The next great new feature is 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound audio capabilities. They work just like the new stereo tracks feature Avid released in 5.0, just now you can pick either 5.1 or 7.1 if you are given a surround track from say a Pro Tools mix session. You will still need a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker and hardware setup in order to hear it, but the Avid will be able to edit those right into the timeline. If you don’t have a surround setup the Avid will “automagically” play it out in stereo. (“Automagically” may be my new catch phrase. Thanks 3rd presenter who said it, hopefully someone will read this who was there and can tell me your name.) And it isn’t just import, you can actually make 5.1 or 7.1 surround mixes in your Avid edit session. My initial thought on this is why…anytime you were doing a surround mix it would go to a post audio designer 99% of the time, right? But, all the tools and pans and fun surround sound stuff gets transferred in an AAF file to Pro Tools, so I can see the validity in being able to do some of that while in the editing process.
That is it for now, the meeting ran late and I wanted to get all this down before I forgot. I am sure I forgot something and I am sure there are plenty of misspellings and grammar errors but it is late, I’ll get to them tomorrow. Here are some pictures from the Avid headquarters, they got some great hardware there, and yes, I am talking about the Academy Awards and Emmys…(you didn’t think I would write all this and not get one little FCP dig at the end, did you 🙂 )