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Using the iMac to replace "Big Iron" desktop workstations. A consideration

If you’ve been following along the past few months, you know we’re testing a very nice Dell Workstation as we plan the immediate future of our company and what computers might replace all the Mac Pros we currently run. Since we’re an Adobe / Avid centric shop now, the Dell shows us how we might work in a cross platform world.

But as I have been using an almost 2 year old 27″ iMac in both my Adobe and Avid testing for the past 6 months, the thought dawned on me, why not consider replacing some of the Mac Pros with iMacs? Particularly now that Thunderbolt add ons are becoming more prevalent and giving us the same capabilities as all those internal cards we’ve used through the years. In particular the AJA IoXT which is essentially a Kona 3 in a small box.

I purposely have been testing on the iMacs with an eye towards setting up a cluster of them for our Assistant Editors on upcoming series. But this older one is performing so well, it got me to thinking of even replacing many of our primary edit systems with iMacs too.

While Adobe keeps touting the added advantages of the nVidia CUDA based graphics cards, I have to say their software runs very well on the ATI based iMacs. In fact our entire shop, except the new Dell and the Resolve workstation all run on ATI cards and the entire Adobe Suite runs brilliantly on all of them. We honestly don’t miss the CUDA “extra realtime features” because we’ve never had them.

Avid doesn’t have any sort of CUDA requirements at this time (not sure if they ever will) so I see the same snappy interface operation across the board no matter which machine its running on. Avid is definitely the most efficient software we’ve edited with to date, it runs faster on the iMacs that FCP ever did, even on the Mac Pros.

Now before we move forward, keep in mind my situation with my facility. We have 5 edit suites currently running along with our ProTools / Resolve Theater. We’re set up for 9 total edit suites at the moment and can expand to 18 or more at any time, so we need a bunch of machines whenever we upgrade. So from a business standpoint, I have to look at the most effective way to spend our dollars.

If you are a one man band, a 1 or 2 machine shop, then you really want to buy THE fastest and most powerful system you can afford because you’re asking that machine to do everything for you. Edit, Graphics, Render, Output, etc…. I always recommend to anyone that’s a single or two machine shop to have a powerful desktop system unless you absolutely must have the portability of a laptop for your work. Desktop machines, while much more expensive when configured for video editing, will always give you the fastest performance. So keep in mind that my thoughts here are more about me replacing a series of machines vs. a smaller shop that might only need to replace one or two systems.

So what do I give up by dropping a bunch of Big Iron machines in favor of the iMac? Render speed primarily. Big iron will always render faster than an all-in-one ever will because there’s a lot more room for processors and large power supplies to drive those processors. Not to mention a ton more RAM for the same reasons. But for the type of work we’re doing day in, day out, we don’t need super fast rendering all the time on every single workstation.

For the most part we’re doing documentaries and very soon, reality programming. Projects that are storyteller driven, not fx or even transition heavy. So for my situation and with the amount of machines I need to upgrade, do I really need to have all powerful systems in every single edit suite? Based on the performance of my 2 year old iMac, that answer appears to be”no.” I’m thinking a new strategy will be to outfit every single edit suite with a 27″ iMac and then have one or two “big iron” systems, maybe running Avid Symphony, Autodesk Smoke and the Adobe Creative Suite, which will be the “finishing systems” if you will. We’ll still keep the ProTools system and the Resolve system as stand alone Big Iron as well, so I’ll have four Big Iron systems and a whole cluster of iMacs to do most of the work.

All of the machines will connect directly to our 48TB (soon to be larger) SAN because it’s all ethernet based. Unlike some earlier iMacs that crippled the Ethernet port, Apple finally replaced the ethernet port with a unit that again supports Jumbo frames so we don’t lose that connectivity.

Let’s take a look at how the iMacs compare to several Big Iron systems in terms of cost. I’ve tried to make all of the Big Iron systems similarly spec’d so it’s somewhat of an even comparison. They’re all Dual Processor, 12 Core machines except where noted because when I buy a Big Iron machine, I buy one of the fastest I can afford. Note that the Dell Precision T5500 is the unit we’re testing here in the shop and the HP Z800 was chosen because it’s the machine most recommended to me by my Windows based colleagues to compare to the Mac Pro.



27″ iMac priced on Apple.com 4/8/2012: $3218.00

3.4GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7; 16GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 4x4GB; 2TB Serial ATA Drive; AMD Radeon HD 6970M 2GB GDDR5; AppleCare 3 year warranty



Mac Pro priced on Apple.com 4/8/2012 – $9958.00*

Two 2.93GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon “Westmere” (12 cores): 48GB (6x8GB) RAM: Two 1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s hard drive: ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB (standard Card): AppleCare 3 year plan. *nVidia Quadro 4000 purchased separately – $810



Dell Precision T5500 Workstation priced on Dell.com 4/8/2012 – $8,268.00*

3.46GHz 6-Core Intel® Xeon® Processor X569: nVidia Quadro 4000 graphics card: 48GB (6x8GB) RAM: Two 1TB Internal SATA drives; Firewire PCIe card: 3 year On Site ProService: *included “instant savings” of $620 according to the website, no BluRay Writer option, single processor, all USB Ports are 2.0 standard.



Dell Precision T7500 Workstation priced on Dell.com 4/8/2012 – $11,348.00

Two – 3.46GHz 6-Core Intel® Xeon® Processor X569 (12 Core) : nVidia Quadro 4000 graphics card: 48GB (6x8GB) RAM: Two 1TB Internal SATA drives; 16X DVD Writer: Firewire PCIe card: 3 year On Site ProService: *included “instant savings” of $615 according to the website, no BluRay Writer option, All USB ports are 2.0 standard.



HP Z800 FF825AV Workstation priced on HP.com 4/8/2012 – $13,667.00

Two 3.46 6-core Intel Xeon X5690 processors (12 cores): nVidia Quadro 4000 graphics card: 48GB (6x8GB) RAM: Two 1TB Internal SATA drives: BluRay Writer; Broadcom 5761 Gigabit PCIe card: Firewire PCIe card: 24×7 On Site response – 3 years. ($239) Note: All USB ports are 2.0 standard. It’s an upgrade to USB 3.0



And because I know someone will ask about the HP All In One workstation, ala iMac, here’s their 27″ configuration….

HP Omni 27 Quad series priced on HP.com 4/8/2012- $2049

Intel(R) Core(R) i7-2600S processor [2.8Ghz, 8MB Shared Cache, DMI 5GT/s]: 8GB RAM: 2TB 7200 rpm SATA hard drive: 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M: Slim Slot Blu-Ray writer: HP Total Care 3 Years: Note: No Thunderbolt or Firewire 800 option.

I just don’t see this in the same class as the iMac for a video workstation. The specs look very underwhelming vs. the 27″ iMac I spec’d out first.



So let’s do the math based on replacing all 5 of my current edit suites. Just what we’ve spec’d here. No software, no add-ons, nothing, just the boxes as I spec’d them above.

5 iMacs: $3218 x 5 = $16,090

5 Mac Pros: $9958 x 5 = $49,490

5 Dell Precision T5500: $8,268 x 5 = $41,340 (note this is a single processor machine)

5 Dell Precision T7500: $11,348 x 5 = $56,740

5 HP Z800: $13,667 x 5 = $68,335

Base cost for the 5 iMacs alone is over $33,000 less than the nearest Tower and over $24,000 less than the nearest Dual Processor machine, though honestly, the odds of me purchasing that particular 12 Core Mac Pro are slim to none. So in reality, I’m over $40,000 cheaper than the lowest cost 12 Core Dual Processor machines I would consider buying.

Now I need to add 5 AJA Io XT boxes to those systems for Video I/O because we still use a ton of tape in our work and they will also feed our Flanders Scientific reference monitors.

5 AJA IoXT: $1,495 x 5 = $7,475

Grand Total now $16,405 + $7,475 = $23,880

I’m still sitting over $32,000 below the 5 Dell T7500s. Or in other words, I can get 5 brand new iMacs with the IoXTs, and get 1 Dell T7500s for our “Big Iron” finishing station and still be about $12,000 ahead. Switch that to the HP and I’m still about $21,000 ahead. But with 6 workstations instead of 5. Heck I can even buy two of the Dell Big Iron systems and still come out ahead.

I already own a slew of 24″ monitors so each iMac can run in dual screen configuration without the need to purchase any new monitors at this time. And as I add more iMacs to the mix, not every single one of them will require the IoXT if they are doing primarily offline work. So that will save me some more money moving forward.

One other expense I would have to explore is re-engineering our shop so the primary controls for everything are in the edit suite and not in the Machine Room as they are now. All of the machines are side by side with video I/O, machine control and everything tied together via patch panels. Now the primary patch panels / machine control will stay in the machine room, but the video I/O devices will be in each suite. So that will require some re-wiring, but not a whole lot.

With numbers like these, and the high quality performance of the iMacs, you can see why I’m strongly considering making the iMacs our primary workstations throughout the facility. And while they might cost a bit more, I think our “Big Iron” systems will be Wintel moving forward. Just too many good options out there vs the limited choices from Apple. And who knows, we just might be running OS X on a PC soon.

So yep, even more for us to consider as we move forward, “Post FCP” in our facility. The options are almost endless and there’s no need to rush into a decision we’ll regret later. Now instead of just putting the fastest most powerful workstation in every single situation, I have more options to put machines more tailored to the task and spend the extra money where I actually need to.

More food for thought……


Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 9, 2012 at 5:55:52 amComments (7) Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid

Because you asked.... More on our Switch to Avid Media Composer 6

Our short and sweet blog post yesterday about switching to Avid MC6 for our broadcast work touched off a flurry of requests for yet more information on our decision. Folks want to know “what specific features did it have that the others didn’t.” “Can you break it down feature by feature, why you made the switch?” ”You seemed so gung-ho about Adobe early on in your switch.”

Honestly I can’t break it down like that. For almost 6 months now we’ve had one edit suite running MC6 and one running Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 pretty much full time in each room. FCP 7 has been used in both rooms as necessary and I’ve also been cutting with Adobe CS 5.5 primarily on smaller projects. So this has been a real solid test. Three rooms cutting real projects with real clients in the room.

In a situation like this, you don’t compare “feature by feature.” You compare, “how does this work with the client looking over my shoulder?” Is the system efficient, can I do everything from FCP, what is the client experience, does the system service all of my needs?

Real world, client over the shoulder experience, Avid’s strength is the performance of the software in our FCP based infrastructure. What that means is my entire facility was designed to support Final Cut Pro. Mac Pros, AJA Kona video I/O boards, Small Tree Ethernet based shared storage system and a slew of third party hardware and applications. When we dropped Avid Media Composer 6 into that infrastructure with the appropriate AJA Kona drivers, the system didn’t miss a beat. We were truly stunned that Avid’s support of our hardware was that good. Tape capture and mastering are more efficient and more accurate than what we ever had with FCP. Overall performance of the Avid MC6 software on the same exact machine as FCP7 is much faster.

In comparison, Adobe Premiere Pro causes all sorts of playback and audio issues on output to our external monitors. This led to less than desirable client experiences in the edit suite. As long as the client wasn’t in the room, we would leave the external monitor turned off, but even there audio playback issues still plagued the system. See when I first started testing and posting about Adobe Premiere Pro, it was all from my 27″ iMac at home, so there was no external monitoring. At first the output seemed to work pretty well, but then things kept getting wonky and we could not get output to ever work consistently across multiple workstation.

And all of us were disappointed, to say the least, that tape capture / tape mastering is abysmal in Premiere Pro CS 5.5 with tape still being a very large part of our day to day workflow. Yes, the world is going digital, but we have a lot of shooters who still shoot tape and we have thousands of hours of tape on our shelves that get used for documentary and news projects. Lack of audio controls in the Source, track assignments and a lot of other small things created stumbling blocks and inefficiency in the workflow. Our overall feeling is that Adobe has got a lot of advanced features that nobody else has, but the basic core editing experience leaves a lot to be desired and at the end of the day, we’re storytellers and need a solid core editing tool. Yes we are aware that Adobe is most likely going to introduce CS6 soon and with any luck some of these issues will begin to be addressed. Premiere Pro will still play a part in our facility on smaller projects and potentially an independent documentary.

But right now, after so many months of using both systems in our core FCP infrastructure, Avid MC6 just performs so much better. It’s actually a more limited toolset when you consider that we purchase the Adobe Production Premium suite that comes with all the other applications, it seems like a waste to spend that money on just one tool. But it makes you appreciate the tool for what it is. One hell of a very fast storytelling machine. Yes there is frustration because we have to “un-learn” a lot of our FCP mindset and re-think our workflow more with Avid than a transition to Adobe Premiere Pro. But that’s just learning which buttons to press.

So there you go, that’s more of our reasoning on taking Avid MC6 to all of our broadcast work, in a nutshell there’s more of a comfort factor bringing the product onboard for broadcast. This was probably the biggest decision I’ve had to make in my career after almost 12 years of keeping Avid OUT of my facility. But Avid truly did listen to what we told them and opened up the software to a world of possibilities by letting me simply drop it into an existing infrastructure.


Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 28, 2012 at 12:09:51 pmComments (12) Avid, Adobe

Atlanta's Post Production User Group, Atlanta Cutters is formed

Hi All!

Very proud to kick off the new Post Production User Group for Atlanta and of course all of the surrounding areas. Too many times these User Groups are application centric and that seems to leave too many folks out. After all in today’s world, an Editor is not just an Editor. Heck a Graphic Artist, a Sound Designer, a Web Designer is just that any longer. Because the tools have gotten so much more accessible all of us are multi-tasking to do whatever it takes to get the job done for the client. So now it’s a rarity to find any Post Production artist who just wears one hat.

In that spirit, we present Atlanta Cutters. Sure we’re gonna spend a lot of time talking about the tools we all use, but moreso, we want to discuss the craft of what we do and how we all interact. So of course you’re going to see a lot of product demonstrations because that’s one way you get to see what’s new and out there. But we will cover a huge range of topics from acquisition to post to storage to archive to sound to graphics to animation and more. But you’re also going to hear from folks on the hows and whys of what they do to hopefully both inspire and motivate all of us to do what we do better. We hope the group will inspire more collaboration by introducing new tools, workflows and even artists to each other.

Most of all, we hope this group is something you look forward to once a month as a fun place to go. Twitter, Facebook and web forums are great for all of us to connect and help each other, but let’s put the voice and face together with the avatar.

So to one and all in the Post Production Community, we say welcome to Atlanta Cutters!

Walter, Kris, Clay and Dan

www.atlantacutters.com

First meeting: July 27th, 6-10pm, Turner Studios


Posted by: walter biscardi on Jul 11, 2011 at 4:35:47 pm Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid

Ethernet SAN - Taking the Next Step Forward

This week we’re finally going to be upgrading our ethernet based SAN, which as most of you know is a Maxx Digital Final Share system. And of course most of you also know is that Small Tree Communications came up with “secret sauce” to make editing HD video via Ethernet a stable reality. So Final Share SAN was really a hybrid between Small Tree technology and Maxx Digital RAIDs.

Unfortunately since we moved into our new building the system has been under-performing. Many tweaks and changes have been made along the way, but nothing seemed to solve the problem of dropped frames across all systems since we got into the new building. The system is over two years old and definitely showing its age.

During the original development of the product, Steve Modica from Small Tree Communications would spend hours connected to our system tweaking, modifying and changing many things about how the system worked. Turned out we were pushing the ethernet SAN pretty much to the breaking point because of the long form work we were playing off (300 hours of material in a documentary) in addition to the multiple weekly series. Through many hours of tweaking and massaging, Steve was able to get more speed out of the system and made it incredibly stable.

So now that the time has come for us to step up to another system as we grow our facility from four workstations in the old space to 7 workstations plus 8 iMacs in the new space, I just feel more confident going back to the guy who started it all. And I’ll be honest, it doesn’t hurt that I’ve already been exposed to the “next thing” coming down the road.

So this weekend Steve and Chris Duffy from are coming down from Minnesota to install a new Small Tree GraniteStore ST RAID II 16 drive, 48TB system which is a 6Gig system paired with a new 10Gig Small Tree Ethernet switch.

“But wait Walt, other folks are releasing 10gig systems already, why go with a slower system?”

As I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s not just about having a very fast pipe, it’s knowing how to intelligently direct data through the pipe. So if your data is flowing efficiently to all the workstations, you can get the same performance from a “slower” pipe. Again, these are the guys who basically created the technology and they have many many tricks up their sleeve.

Including that “next thing” I mentioned. Can’t say anything about it right now, but I can say that as soon as it’s ready for real world testing, we will have it in our shop and we will tell you about it. The growth of this technology is just so exciting. What began as a cheaper alternative to Fibre Channel with some major tradeoffs in speed is maturing into much more.

In the mean time, I’ll have lots of photos and maybe even some video from Steve to explain the system as we install it this weekend.


Posted by: walter biscardi on Jun 2, 2011 at 5:14:00 pm Final Cut Pro, Avid

When did video editors become prima donnas?

Two weeks ago "30 Rock" had a story arc involving the video editors of the show and how scary it was to go down to them. They controlled the video and you didn't want to piss them off or else you might not get your stories cut. Over the top humor that I love about 30 Rock and really made me laugh. And then it made me think, "Editors aren't really prima donnas, are we?"

And then a few days later yet another Final Cut Pro rumor came out including a nugget that Apple might be considering some sort of "super app" that combines Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, Color and DVD Studio Pro into one interface. So this re-ignited some worn out comments about the shortcomings of Final Cut Pro, some of the studio elements and the interfaces. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of legitimate things Apple really needs to get better with FCP and the Studio suite. Their Beta program is numero uno. At one point it was as small as 10 people outside of Apple. Yeah, that's a lot of input for a product with over 1 million registered users. But I digress.

What really gets me are the whiners about having to learn something new. When did Editors become such prima donnas that they can't be bothered to learn anything new? Interface. Software. Hardware. Whatever it is. If it doesn't conform to THEIR workflow or THEIR needs, well then

"Apple/Avid/Adobe/Quantel/Sony/Panasonic/FillInTheBlank better get off their ass and fix it to suit MY needs! Or Else I'm Going To Buy Something Else!!!! Thbbbbbbbbbbbt!"

I love these people. Whiners. Too important to learn. This is my favorite for the folks who use the Apple Studio suite.

"Waaaaaaaahh. Apple Color doesn't have an interface like anything else on Apple. It's too hard. Waaaaaaaah"


Really? Because something looks different, you can't be bothered to learn how to use an interface? Nevermind that Final Touch now Color has an interface that was designed with colorists. Now that it's included in Final Cut Studio suite, Apple MUST bend to the demand of the video editors who say "Make this look like iMovie so I can use it with a single click. I cannot be bothered to learn something new! Waaaaaaaaaaaah"

Maybe there is something about whiny prima donna editors after all. New tools, different interfaces, the video editor of today simply can't be bothered?

How about a quick history lesson?

I know it's hard to believe, but I've been editing video since 1984. I know, I know, you look at my pictures and you say, he can't be that old! I mean he looks like he just got out of college. It's my Italian genes, what can I say. So in 1984, we were using JVC 3/4" VTRs in community college. You edited using two decks, a Player and a Recorder. If I wanted to do a dissolve, wipe or any other "effect" well then I had to learn to use the switcher and do some fancy footwork. I had to set the main recorder into the Edit, then manually roll the B-Roll VTR, turn around to the other side of the room and operate the switcher.

At CNN all the editors did deck to deck editing, but if you wanted to move up to "Post Production" well you had to learn the Grass Valley 300 switcher, Abekas A53 DVE, Sony Audio Mixer, Chyron, BetaSP VTRs, D2 VTRs, and the CMX controller that controlled everything. And guess what? NOTHING had a similar interface or was tailored to the whims of the Editor. If you wanted to be an Editor controlling that room, well you HAD to learn each piece of equipment and how it tied into every other piece of equipment. Then you had to learn the main controller and how you would trigger each piece of equipment to do what you needed at the precise moment you needed it to happen.

So now we have $999 software tools that completely replace the "big iron" editing systems of yesteryear and if something simply doesn't conform to WHAT I ALREADY KNOW well then it must be a piece of crap and therefore Apple/Adobe/Avid/Quantel/InsertManufacturerHere damn well better get off their ass and completely re-write the software SO THAT I AM HAPPY.

In fact, many editors of today want one big super app so they don't have to be bothered "round-tripping" to an external app. Nevermind that these external apps have been designed to do their own tasks very very well, they would rather have every feature under the sun in one app so it does absolutely everything, but can't possibly do everything very well.

Furthermore, many editors want pretty much everything automated because editing takes so darn long. On the Creative Cow alone, people have asked for essentially automated logging so they don't have to watch all the footage. It's called editing people, if you don't want to invest the time to do this correctly, when why are you in this field to begin with?

Or how about these people?

I MUST HAVE BLU-RAY COMPATIBILITY NOW! Apple do you hear me? I MUST have a BluRay solution from Apple NOW!


So when I suggest to folks that they can purchase Adobe Encore for simple BluRay discs and DoStudio from NetBlender for fully authored discs, the response is usually they can't do that and will wait for Apple, or else. Or in other words, "I don't want to spend any more money so I would rather bitch about Apple not delivering what I really need and it's much much cheaper to just keep whining about it when a perfectly good solution for BluRay authoring on the Mac has been available for over four years now but since it's not from Apple I'm not going to buy it because that would cost me more money and I'm not going to spend anymore money."

The same can be said of so many "issues" we see floating around the internet against just about any Non-Linear Editing system out there. People who want to whine rather than get the proper tools, learn to properly use the tools they already have, and keep whining about how much they have to spend to create quality work. The cheaper and more accessible the tools become, the more whining we seem to get.

Is this really what the non-linear editor of today has become? Looking at the Creative Cow forums, talking to folks offline, perusing Twitter, Facebook and many other websites / forums, the resounding answer is..... well looking like a big Yes. So many editors are too damn lazy to learn anything new, everything has to look and operate exactly the same or they won't touch it. Everything needs to be reduced to a plug-in so I can create that "300 look" with a single click of a mouse.

To all non-linear editors out there. Appreciate the fact that on your PC and Mac, you have more tools and power at your disposal than an entire "big iron" edit suite ever had at a fraction of the cost of those suites. Instead of whining about what you DON'T have, starting using what you DO have creatively. For crying out loud LEARN SOMETHING NEW for a change. If nothing else, it puts you at a competitive advantage over all the other whiners who can't be bothered.


Posted by: walter biscardi on Oct 12, 2010 at 2:34:44 pmComments (10) final cut pro, avid

NAB and the Trade Show: Making a Resurgence?

In 2006, the National Association of Broadcasters Convention had over 108,000 attendees in Las Vegas. That dropped to 82,600 by 2009 amid cries that the big trade show is rendered useless in today's internet connected world. All you ever need to know about your business and “what to buy” and “how to do” can be found on the internet without all the hassles and expense of traveling. In 2010 attendance crept back up to 88,044 for one of the most dynamic shows I have ever experienced.

I have to say, I’ve missed the last three shows myself. The first one by choice, the other two due to the work schedule. This year I made a decision that my schedule would be cleared for the event, particularly with the buzz around 3D. The decision was made even easier when we saw the lowest hotel rates in Vegas we’ve ever seen!

But back to the show. A 6,000 person increase is a modest jump when you consider the size and scope of this event and quite honestly, I was of the mindset that with resources like CreativeCow.net there really was NOT much of a need to get out and attend the show. It’s four (or more) days of a lot of walking, coffee, standing, talking, coffee, more walking, listening, coffee, walking, coffee and coffee. What can I say, there’s Starbucks all over in there and I’m drawn like a moth to flame.

I was reminded this year of just WHY these trade shows truly are still relevant and important to all of us in the production industry. There really is no other way to see everything you want to see, in person, operating at one time. What makes Avid unique from Adobe? What’s the difference between the new Panasonic and Sony small cameras? What kind of microphone can go underwater and still keep working? Are LED lights really any good or do I still need HMI? Why is the Grass Valley booth bathed in green light? (never got the answer to that one)

You’re spending money on equipment, software and you need answers on what will work for you in your budget. You have questions on how to do certain workflows, there are literally thousands of experts in one location. The internet is sweet and it certainly has empowered many of us to make decisions we could not otherwise have made from glossy brochures and sales pitches. But nothing beats the ability to literally compare two, three, ten similar products in the space of a few hours. Watch demo, use the product, ask questions, get answers and then have the ability to go back and ask more questions.

Nor is there any other place where you can stumble on to products and ideas you’ve never heard of. I’m starting two original television series here and I’m interested in some new Panasonic cameras and Canon Lenses. On the way there, I found a whole series of LED lighting setups. Lower power consumption, bright lights and potential HMI replacements. Prices ranged from $250 to thousands of dollars. What’s the difference in the brands? From what I could tell it was really the ruggedness of the frames, the rigs and the electronics. Some felt flimsy and fragile while one brand they literally slammed the lights on the desk to show they’re almost unbreakable.

We might be producing a new fishing series as well and I found a microphone company that was dunking one their products in water and the mic was functioning perfectly AND it was much less than the mics I had been looking at online. They pointed me to another company that had a reasonably priced waterproof transmitter. I never would have found either if I wasn’t walking the show floor. Yes I could have asked about this on the internet and would have gotten some really good advice from pros in the field. But this was nice to see, hear and touch.

So with this uptick in interest in 3D particularly, it seems to be that the Trade Show might be even more relevant in today’s internet world than ever before. We can make reasonably informed decisions based on the information we get from the internet. We can make completely informed decisions based on a combination of information from the internet AND first hand experience at a Trade Show. If I did not attend the show this year I would not have believed that, but it’s just true. Also, I can’t tell you how many people would tell me, “Did you see such and such? No? You have to go check this out in Booth....” We see this all the time with internet forums where one question leads to advice to look at an alternative. At a show like NAB you can not only look at the alternative but make a reasonable decision very quickly whether it’s a good alternative or not.

If you looked at Twitter, CreativeCow.net and many other sites during the 4 day run of NAB this year, those sites were just completely flooded with requests for more information, please test this out, please look at this, is this really as good as they say it is, etc....  People were begging for information that was on display right there on the show floor.   Does it cost money to go to a Trade Show?  Yes.  Is it money well spent?   Again I have to say Yes.   With the incredible changes our industry is going through, you simply can't afford NOT to attend these events at least every other year.

If you did not make NAB this year, plan to come out in 2011 as 3D should be in full swing. If you are in Europe, plan to attend IBC and check out what is on the horizon. At the very least, try to attend one of these Road Shows from the various manufacturers, though I do find them somewhat of a waste of time. You only get the one perspective from those, you really can’t compare and contrast what you’re seeing in the road show vs. another manufacturer.



Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 18, 2010 at 1:21:29 pmComments (3) nab, final cut pro, avid, adobe, trade show

Avid Media Composer 5 looking like a game changer

So I haven't even seen it yet, but just reading the overview of Avid's new Media Composer 5 announced at NAB, this thing sounds like it could be a real game changer in the communication between it and Final Cut Pro. Especially when it comes to color grading projects. See right now when we get projects from Avid that need to be color graded in Apple's Color, we take the DnxHD files and use Media Manager in FCP to convert the files to Apple ProRes for Color. After the grade is done, we reverse the process to send an Avid DnxHD project back to the Avid house.

Now with native Quicktime support in Avid, we could send an Apple ProRes timeline back to Avid and they will be able to open and finish the project right from that codec.

Also, this means we could capture ProRes footage in Final Cut Pro and share the media with an Avid editor with no need to transcode the material. And vice versa, the Avid editor could capture the material in ProRes if they know the project is going to be shared with an FCP editor. So we're finally getting to the point of what I'll call "Universal Codecs" so the platform you capture with doesn't matter, we can start sharing the exact same media across multiple editing tools.

This is just awesome and for the first time since I've owned my own facility, I am seriously considering adding an Avid workstation or two. Primarily for working with Avid facilities that send us color grading project, but now I can hire either an Avid or FCP freelancer and have the tools ready for whatever they want to cut with. We'll use ProRes across all the edit systems, but if you're comfortable in Avid, then edit in Avid, if you're comfortable in FCP, then edit in FCP. I see Shane Ross talking about the trimming features in Avid being so nice to work with, I'll definitely be diving into the Avid interface myself. Funny, I always thought it would be Apple taking the first step to work more closely with Avid since it's a win win for all the editors out there, but here's Avid taking that first step. That earns a lot of respect from this owner / editor and I'm really looking forward to getting and up close and personal look at Media Composer 5.


Posted by: walter biscardi on Apr 11, 2010 at 10:38:11 pmComments (3) avid, final cut pro

Apple follows Avid's lead at NAB 2008?

So first we hear of Avid's pulling off the NAB 2008 Show Floor. During a lively debate in the Business and Marketing Forum, one Cow user noted that Apple had suddenly disappeared from the Show Floor Exhibit Map. I was looking over the Exhibitor List and Apple is not listed there either.

So by all outward appearances, Apple has pulled out of NAB 2008 as well. At least off the main Show Floor. Now Avid has been known to have had cash flow issues over the past few years as Apple's Final Cut Pro has made huge inroads in the Post Production community. So I attributed Avid's decision to leave the Show Floor as purely a financial move meant to better use what resources they have.

Now if Apple is truly pulling off the show floor, this is definitely different. Apple is certainly not hurting for money these days with the success of the iPod, iPhone and the resurgence of the Apple Computer products. Apple is one of the hottest nameplates in computers and electronics right now.

So does this tell us that NAB's significance for the Post Production market is slipping? Avid obviously feels it does not get a sufficient return on investment to be on the NAB show floor. Now it appears Apple is saying the same thing. As someone who has worked on the show floor in various vendor booths, I can assure you that putting a booth on the NAB Show Floor is not for the weak in the wallet. It's a very expensive proposition, not to mention hotel and travel fees for the support staff to run that booth. So if Apple truly does skip the show floor, we have to assume that Apple feels they get a much better return on investment by simply selling online and through their Mac centric trade shows like MacWorld and WWDC. And of course there is the large Reseller market and forums such as our own Creative COW Forum.

Of course, what does all of this mean for all the other exhibitors who put a lot of effort and time into this show. Apple and Avid drive a lot of traffic to the show floor and by doing so, they drive the traffic to all those other products we use in our day to day working lives and more we discover for the first time walking by their booth. If there's no Avid or Apple on the show floor, how many people will simply stay away from NAB, thus hurting all of these third party exhibitors. I know for me, it's not as desirable to go visit the show if I can can't get the latest information about Final Cut Studio and test out some of the new features.

On the flip side, if they are not there, that opens up Adobe, Autodesk, Media 100 and others to a lot more visitors they might not normally get. If you can't look at Final Cut Studio or Avid systems, why not look to see what everyone else has to offer? You might be pleasantly surprised by what else is out there.

So if Avid and Apple both say "No" to NAB 2008, who's next? I'm sure the rest of the industry will be watching the "A Team" closely as we approach the show.



Posted by: walter biscardi on Jan 10, 2008 at 2:14:03 pmComments (7) avid, apple, nab

Biscardi NAB 2007 Diary - 4/13/07 4:30pm

We've arrived in Sunny Las Vegas! Checked in to the fabulous Flamingo hotel which we really used to enjoy for the penquins in the outdoor habitat, but they checked out last year so it's not quite the same. Still gotta love staying in the "original" strip hotel that started it all.

As you can see from the photo we're staying in the top of the line penthouse suite with a classic Strip view, only the best for Cow members! Laughing

Tonight will be a little rest and relaxation as we'll be taking in the Jay Leno show at the Mirage and then tomorrow it's straight over to North Hall to get my Speaker Badge.

I'm really looking forward to this show to see what Apple really has to announce for us on Sunday and then see how that stacks up with Adobe's impressive return to the Mac platform. Some things I'm most interested in this year for myself are storage, color correction and special effects / plug-ins. Though I'm going to be quite busy working this year, I hope to be able to at least get out and see what everybody is offering in these areas.

I'll give you guys daily updates (hopefully multiple updates per day) and be sure to watch out for my inaugural "All Things Apple" Podcast on Sunday shortly after Apple's event!

Ta ta for now!




Dumb NAB PR

Ok, it's NAB time and I've been receiving quite a few of those "MUST SEE" emails touting everything from Apple to Avid to everything in between. Today I received what has to be the dumbest PR I've ever gotten from someone who teaches Avid. I'm guessing this person doubles as a Porn Spammer on the side because it has all the qualities of the endless junk email I receive. Well, here, you can judge for yourself.

I guess Avid is going all out this year to woo Final Cut Pro users, I wonder what the "private session" will be like. Swedish massage? Body oils? Lap Dance? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you my Numero Uno for worst NAB PR, and the award goes to Avid!



Posted by: walter biscardi on Mar 30, 2007 at 2:55:54 pmComments (18) avid, television, apple, nab, technology, final cut pro



Professional Video Editor, Producer, Creative Director, Director since 1990.

Credits include multiple Emmys, Tellys, Aurora and CableAce Awards.

Creative Director for Georgia-Pacific and GP Studios, Atlanta. Former Owner / Operator of Biscardi Creative Media. The show you knew us best for was "Good Eats" on the Food Network. I developed the HD Post workflow and we also created all the animations for the series.

Favorite pastime is cooking with pizza on the grill one of my specialties. Each Christmas Eve we serve the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian seafood meal with approx. 30 items on the menu.

If I wasn't in video production I would either own a restaurant or a movie theater.

 




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