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Remote editing takes off

2015 trends: One area of production technology which has exploded in 2014 and is set to make further inroads next year is the growing trend towards remote workflows, in all areas of production from television to film and commercials. 

Post companies are certainly reporting an increase in demand for greater flexibility from clients who want to be able to review rushes and be kept abreast of progress on edits wherever they are. Underpinning this development is the availability of more widely available, faster and more reliable connectivity. Plus there are many more systems to choose from, ranging from platforms from major manufacturers such as Avid (Interplay and Interplay Sphere, rebranded as Media Composer Cloud earlier this year) to the availability of specialist web-based logging and previewing systems such as Forscene, used on shows such as Sky’s Got to Dance and Discovery’s Gold Rush. 

Post houses report that producers can really see the benefits of online approvals, online viewing of rushes and reviewing of edits and work in progress. It’s a bit of a no brainer because it’s cheaper, faster and more convenient than sending out bikes with the latest version for review. People can click on a link when they are ready and heads of production like the tracking capabilities which some remote systems offer which tell them who has seen what.

The other big benefit to the producer is that rushes can be logged and rough cuts assembled without setting foot in an expensive edit suite.

The only limitation to the growth of remote workflow technology seems to be where key creative decision making requires a more intimate face-to-face relationship between editor and director. Or where bandwidth limitations make the sending of high resolution files in real time unfeasible.

Another issue is that if high-end displays are needed to review work, then the right kit must be installed at both ends of the link, which needs investment. Because of the requirements for high-end monitoring, you might think that grading and vfx would be one of the last places for remote workflows to take a hold. But you’d be wrong.

The growing international profile of large post and vfx businesses has seen remote workflows beginning to take a hold in grading and vfx. In fact, remote grading workflows are really changing the way in which some of the UK’s best know vfx companies are working.

Many of the UK’s leading post houses now have editing and grading resources spread throughout the world and have invested to make remote grading and vfx workflows a reality.

This means that colourists and vfx designers can collaborate on projects despite being in different countries.

More and more post companies are fitting out rooms in their facilities with the same calibrated high-end displays as are available in their grading suites so that clients can book sessions with colourists anywhere in the world and work with them as though they were in the same room. The benefit for agencies, directors and DPs is that they can handpick the best talent worldwide for the job at hand.

Posted 23 December 2014 by David Wood

When cameras go wrong

Many column inches have been expended on the subject of high tech news rooms which these days feature expensive remote robotic camera systems that do smooth pre-programmed camera moves.

When things run smoothly in the newsroom then nobody wonders if it might be best to return to the good old days when cameras were actually operated by camera operators.

But judging by recent events in the BBC's £1bn Broadcasting House refurb, where the BBC's high tech newsroom is located, things don't always run smoothly.

The internet is being populated with a growing number of clips which you might expect to see on You've Been Framed rather than the newsroom of a public service broadcaster.

But the BBC isn't the only newsroom which has experienced problems with robotic cameras as this clip shows. 

Apparently the BBC's newsroom problems are all down to the occasional hiccups which occur when the BBC's ENPS news management system attempts to communicate with Mosart, the computer programme that controls the cameras.

Potentially the situation could get worse when the BBC introduces its new replacement for ENPS, with two news management systems running side by side for a time before ENPS is retired.

Here the slightly opaque BBC response to what is happening. “The BBC is undertaking a procurement for a Newsroom Computer System under the Public Contracts Regulations (2006), having advertised in the Official Journal of the EU, reference 2013/S 174-300782.

“The BBC is not able to comment further on this procurement until the completion of that process. This is because the BBC must not do anything that might adversely affect that ongoing process, and due to commercial confidentiality.”

Basically “can't tell you... its a secret”.

In the interim we should just reflect that technology might make things cheaper, but it doesn't always make things better.

Posted 12 December 2014 by David Wood

ZLense: cost effective 3D studio effects from Hungary

This 3D depth mapping technology for broadcast passed us by at IBC this year but the other week we had a one-to-one with zLense boss Bruno Gyorgy about his virtual studio system zLense.

Basically zLense looks like a huge matte box on the front of your camera, but inside is a box of tricks from Hungarian tech company Zinemath which promises to revolutionise the world of 3D virtual studio effects and graphics.

Gyorgy describes it as a 3D depth mapping technology for broadcast cameras which will dramatically lowering the cost of 3D effects for live and recorded TV.

zLense is a virtual production platform for film, production, broadcast and gaming which provides the world’s first depth-mapping camera solution that captures 3D data and scenery in real-time and adds a 3D layer.

The zLense virtual production platform combines depth-sensing technology and image-processing in a standalone camera rig that works with most standard broadcast cameras.

The system processes spatial information and allows production teams to create 3D effects and utilise state-of-the-art CGI in live TV or pre-recorded transmissions - with no specialist studio set up.

The zLense depth-sensing technology allows for a full 360 degree freedom of camera movement and gives presenters and anchormen greater liberty of performance.

Directors can combine dolly, jib arm and handheld shots as presenters move within, interact with and control the virtual environment and, in the near future, using only natural gestures and motions.

Gyorgy says the system is poised to shake up the world of virtual studios by putting affordable high-quality real-time CGI into the hands of broadcasters at a fraction of the cost of other virtual studio technologies.

The solution is quick to install, requires just a single operator, and is operable in almost any studio lighting.

“With minimal expense and no special studio modifications, local and regional TV channels can use this technology to enhance their news and weather graphics programmes – unleashing live augmented reality, interactive simulations and visualisations that make the delivery of infographics exciting, enticing and totally immersive for viewers,” says Gyorgy.

The ‘matte box’ sensor unit, which can be mounted on almost any camera rig, removes the need for external tracking devices or markers, while the platform’s built-in rendering engine cuts the cost and complexity of using visual effects in live and pre-recorded TV productions.

The zLense virtual production platform can be used alongside other, pre-exisiting, rendering engines, VR systems and tracking technologies.

The VFX real-time capabilities enabled by the zLense Virtual Production platform include:
•    Volumetric effects
•    Additional motion and depth blur
•    Shadows and reflections to create convincing state-of-the-art visual appearances
•    Dynamic relighting
•    Realistic 3D distortions
•    Creation of a fully interactive virtual environment with interactive physical particle simulation
•    Wide shot and in-depth compositions with full body figures
•    Real-time Z-map and 3D models of the picture

Posted 10 December 2014 by David Wood

Check out the new 4K footage from the Samsung NX1

Samsung, a relative newcomer in professional camera manufacturing, sprung a surprise a few months ago with the launch of a mirrorless camera the NX1 – designed to compete with cameras such as the Canon 7D MKII and Panasonic GH4.

In fact there’s quite a crowded field of good cameras in this market – both DSLR and mirrorless – including the Nikon D7100 and Fujifilm X-T1.

Not only does the Samsung NX1 offer 4K recording at 24fps, UHD at 30fps, and 1080p at 60fps, but in the higher resolutions, it encodes using the new, highly-efficient H.265 codec, a first for a camera of this type.

Last week NoFilmSchool brought to our attention some new footage from Andrew Reid which we think look pretty good for a camera which is £1,300 body only and has plenty of features designed to rival pro DSLR cameras from heavier weight companies such as Canon, Nikon and Panasonic.
Tell us what you think of the film.

Samsung NX1 with Sigma 35mm F1.4 from Andrew Reid on Vimeo.

One of the key features of the NX1 is its APS-C-sized, 28MP CMOS backside illuminated sensor, which allows the sensor to capture more light.

Other key features:
•    Hybrid AF system with 205 phase-detect points covering 90% of the frame
•    15 fps burst shooting with continuous autofocus
•    4K (DCI 4K & UHD) video recording using H.265 codec
•    Can output 4:2:0 8-bit 4K video over HDMI
•    Stripe pattern AF illuminator with 15m range
•    Weather-resistant magnesium alloy body
Context-sensitive adaptive noise reduction
•    3" tilting Super AMOLED touchscreen display
•    2.36M dot OLED EVF with 5ms lag
•    LCD info display on top of camera
•    Built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
•    USB 3.0 interface
•    Optional battery grip

Posted 05 December 2014 by David Wood
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