Archives for October, 2012 | Main

October 12, 2012

Remembering Steve Sabol

One of the jobs I had in “a past life” was doing some technology work and training for NFL Films. I recently saw an article on the passing of Steve Sabol, and needed to take a moment and pause, reflect, and celebrate the life of a man I knew briefly in my career, but who left a lasting impact on me. I doubt he would’ve remembered me, but I definitely remembered him.

If you are a fan of the “mutant rugby” that Americans call Football, you need to thank Steve. The impact he had on promoting this game was unprecedented. He and his organization brought the drama, the conflict of Football, to television in a way that hadn’t been seen before. Some of the best camera operators worked at NFL Films, and week-after-week, they’d shoot plays at crazy frame rates – over 120fps – just to bring those creamy slow-motion shots you’re used to seeing. I still crave owning a high-frame-rate camera because of what I grew up watching from Steve.

Steve introduced the concept of metadata to me. Back in the 90’s, NFL Films was sitting on a HUGE library of film, dating back to something like 1947. He called for the creation of a computerized system to catalog, tag, and digitize this library, and his team created a custom system called SABRE. Using SABRE, an editor could search for all the clips of Green Bay Packers linebackers with cold breath at an away game, and SABRE would deliver a list of clips, with low-res proxie files ready to view. All the asset-management systems of today? Steve’s team had them beat back in 1999. I remember asking one of the production staff about my brother-in-law, who played for the Raiders, and within 5 minutes, he handed me a tape with all his highlights cut together.

Steve was also thinking about the future of broadcasting – the division I worked with was NFL Films Online – a team of people hired to create the next generation of NFL Films. A lot of those early attempts involved extending shows that were broadcast on ESPN or the big 4 networks. We would take a show brand, like Edge NFL Matchup on ESPN, and create original online content. Many of the traditional shows were limited to 24 minutes of on-air time, and couldn’t cover all the games, so our job was to bring the hosts in, let them talk about the games the same way they did on-air, and produce extended content that fans could watch on the web site. And, we had to do it at 1/25 the cost of the on-air version. I have memories of training the production staff how to use a virtual set system we set up in an old film storage room.  One of their virtual set designers was a 16 year old kid who impressed Steve enough to get a job.

One of the last projects I remember working on was a virtual set demo for an NFL Owner’s meeting in Baltimore. I had to tech-direct the demo, showing live internet streaming (with Steve holding a clock as “proof”!) from another part of the building. Steve was presenting his vision for “building the Brand online” and it worked – he convinced the owners to fund the project.

Steve was a class act, and what you saw in all those on-camera intros was what you got off-camera. He was a genuine, personable guy with a vision of what he wanted.

 

October 9, 2012

On CS6 and CinemaDNG

There’s been a big resurgence in the CinemaDNG format because of the new Black Magic Camera. Let me take a moment to explain where Adobe is at with supporting it.

First off, go read Todd Kopriva’s most excellent blog posting here: http://blogs.adobe.com/toddkopriva/2012/09/cinemadng-in-after-effects-cs6-and-elsewhere.html

Let me give you my take on what’s happened with Premiere Pro support.

There was never “official” support for CinemaDNG in past versions of Premiere Pro. There was an experimental plug-in for Premiere Pro CS5 and CS5.5 that was up on the Labs site. CinemaDNG is a HEAVY format to edit directly, and the Premiere Pro engineering group was never really happy with the performance of the experimental plug-in. And, during the CS5/5.5 time frame, there wasn’t a huge interest in the format – only a tiny handful of cameras supported it.

During the CS6 development period, it was decided to not use engineering resources to make a new plug-in for CinemaDNG. The number of downloads of the CS5 and CS5.5 plug-in didn’t justify it. The existing plug-in for After Effects actually shipped with AE, and that support was continued. Also, SpeedGrade was added to CS6, and the SpeedGrade software was actually the first program ever to support CinemaDNG.

The week Adobe announced Premiere Pro CS6 at NAB, Black Magic Design introduced their new camera. They implemented CinemaDNG using the open documentation that’s freely available. It’s an open standard that Adobe gave to the community. Black Magic kept this camera a closely guarded secret, and really surprised the industry – including the Premiere Pro engineering group at Adobe! :-)

So, where does this leave CinemaDNG support in Premiere Pro? Well, today, there isn’t support for CinemaDNG in Premiere Pro, but Adobe Engineering is listening to what people request. Want to see it in a future version? Submit a feature request here: http://www.adobe.com/go/wish

If you currently own Production Premium CS6, and have the sample files of CinemaDNG footage from the Black Magic Camera, make sure your copy of SpeedGrade has the latest updates and try them out there – SpeedGrade works directly on the RAW files, and the playback/performance is VERY impressive. Jon Barrie recently posted a quick side-by-side comparison of a grade done with the BMC footage, and Speedgrade handles playback of the footage in real-time, even with masks, primaries, secondaries, etc, all stacked together. Check out the demo video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=akLQQ1h10WY

So, there’s a lot of misinformation floating out there that somehow “Adobe killed CinemaDNG.” That’s far from the truth! If you see someone saying that, refer ‘em back here! :-)

 

October 1, 2012

Adobe Anywhere for Video

I’ve been quiet about a new technology coming from Adobe, called Anywhere for Video, not because I didn’t have anything to say. Rather, I’ve been trying to keep the excitement to myself until the time was right. Every time I get to play with the technology, I end up giggling hysterically, since my brain keeps trying to tell me what I’m doing shouldn’t be possible.

If you haven’t heard of Adobe Anywhere yet, start by watching this short-but-informative video: http://tv.adobe.com/watch/adobe-anywhere/introducing-adobe-anywhere-for-video/

For a more detailed technical understanding, read this post by John Montgomery from FXGuide: http://www.fxguide.com/featured/new-tech-adobe-anywhere/

I first got the opportunity to work with a VERY EARLY version of this technology back in Feb/March of this year. Keep in mind that this was an early “proof-of-concept” version, so I need to stress that what I played with may not represent the final product. It didn’t even have a name at that time. But what I got to touch was mind-blowing. I sat down at Premiere Pro, and began to edit. This was XDCAMHD 50 422 footage. JKL playback in the Source monitor was super-smooth. Inserting clips onto the timeline was super-smooth. Adding effects and transitions between clips worked just like I expected they would. The kicker? The footage was on a server over 1000 miles away. Quality during playback was nearly indistinguishable with the original media, and if I paused on a frame and blew it up full-screen, it WAS the original frame.

There are very few technologies that make me cackle maniacally, but Anywhere did it. Many Many times.

At NAB 2012, we did the first public-facing demonstration of this early collaborative editing technology. I edited onstage in Las Vegas, and then handed off what I was working on to Dan working up in Seattle. The footage we were editing on was on a server in San Jose, California. And the time to pass an edit back and forth took seconds.

I’ve since showed the technology around Asia-Pacific, and it gets the same reactions that I experienced – this is the way editing remotely should be, and the way collaboration should be. Anyone who has had to download massive files, or waited around for an overnight delivery, can related to the power of Adobe Anywhere.

Anywhere also has fun implications across shorter distances. Doing massive amounts of layers in a multicam edit? Anywhere sends a single “stream” to your local machine, eliminating traditional bandwidth concerns across a facility network. Need 30 students working on the same source media? No need to copy to 30 workstations, when Anywhere can serve up the footage without massive fibre-channel installations.

While Adobe Anywhere has now been officially unveiled, it’s not going to be available until sometime in 2013. The most up-to-date information on pricing or availability will be at the Anywhere site here: http://success.adobe.com/microsites/adobeanywhere.html

It’s gonna be big. :-)

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