Support for Apple ProRes and more customisable workspaces are among the hallmarks of the latest round of video editing system updates, writes David Davies.
‘Evolution, not revolution’ would be a fair description of the objective underpinning the latest versions of most market-leading non-linear editing (NLE) systems. In general, vendors have been focusing on bringing additional flexibility to editors’ workflows through support for extra formats and more customisable user interfaces – in the process acknowledging that no two editors’ preferred ways of working are ever truly identical.
Inevitably, the issue of making remote collaboration as seamless as possible has also remained prominent during Covid-19, although most vendors had already made significant progress in that department some time before the crisis. For instance, Raymond Thompson, Avid director of media solutions – broadcast and media, remarks that “a lot of the capabilities that enable remote working to happen were already in place, such as virtualising the working environment.” Instead, it is more a case of current events “opening eyeballs in terms of what can be done [remotely] – people are realising that it can be very effective and can also deliver business continuity.”
But if those crucial provisions were already in place, there is always more to be done to streamline workflow flexibility and efficiency, as well as support a future in which “a more collapsed” working process seems increasingly likely, with more editing taking place in parallel with shooting.
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‘Under the hood’ tools
In lieu of a customary NAB show, the last few months have witnessed a number of announcements concerning Media Composer, with the latest updates being revealed today (June 8). Above all, Thompson pinpoints the “complete redesign of the ‘under the hood’ tools that manage media for Media Composer” – not least a next generation Universal Media Engine that allows users to “accelerate their workflows by reducing the reliance on Quick Time to deliver better media importing, playback, editing and editing performance.”
Among other features, the revised Media Engine increases processing speed of high-resolution HDR media and provides native support for a wider range of formats, including direct media access and Open EXR for OTT services such as Netflix. There is also increased support for the rapid creation of content for mobile platforms and social media with the inclusion of 9x16 and 1:1 Mask Margins and FrameFlex framing pre-sets.
Thompson also draws attention to the ongoing desire to “enable work to take place in different formats”, with Windows users now able – as Mac users already had been – to create, edit, collaborate and export Apple ProRes media natively with encoding supported on Windows machines for media creation and exporting to .MOV export, MXF OP1a and MXF OP-Atom workflows. There is also support for the use of Media Composer on Apple’s latest operating system, Catalina.
Elsewhere, many of the other latest changes indicate an emphasis on “making it easier for users to modify their workspaces and customise them to their own specific requirements”. These include improvements to the panelled user interface to allow faster editing, and a Blank Panel that unclutters the UI and prevents panels from resizing. There is also a new Timeline Sequence Map that lets creators navigate the entire sequence on which they are working without taking up the whole screen.
Completing what are “likely to be the main changes to Avid Composer in this present year” are some enhanced finishing capabilities, such as the ability to fine-tune colour with greater precision and make more granular gain value adjustments when working in ACES (Academy Colour Encoding System) spaces.
Stock audio availability
Adobe has also been working to add support for additional file formats in the latest iteration of its video editing system, Adobe Premiere Pro version 14.3, introduced last month. Apple ProRes has been a priority here too, with users now able to implement the Apple Afterburner card with Premiere Pro to decode ProRes 422 and ProRes 4444 media (decoding in hardware instead of software).
The new release also heralds enhanced bitrate controls for exporting in JPEG 2000 MXF, as well as support for the importing of files from three specific named cameras: the Canon EOS R5, Canon EOS-1D Mark III, and RED’s Komodo.
But perhaps the most notable development is the ability to utilise the newly created Adobe Stock content category of audio, which means that “music tracks are available for license,” says the company. “And you can now search, download and license royalty-free audio soundtracks from Adobe Stock via the Essential Sound panel in Premiere Pro.”
Faster editing options
Like Avid, Blackmagic Design has also been giving further thought to the acceleration of editing workflows in the latest version of its DaVinci Resolve solution, V16, for editing, colour correction, VFX and audio post-production. Craig Heffernan, technical sales director of Blackmagic Design EMEA, says that “in the past couple of years, we have invested heavily in the development of DaVinci Resolve to implement a fully-fledged, industry-leading non-linear editing toolset. However, for those editors who do a lot of quick turnaround work, all of that capability and granular control can sometimes get in the way of speed.”
Hence the introduction of a fresh Cut Page in DaVinci Resolve 16 that supports “a new culture [of editing] – one that needs to move quickly around timelines, review media and make immediate decisions before delivering multiple videos, perhaps for online delivery, straight from the Cut Page.” But although some features that “might otherwise slow down the Cut page” have been left out, the company has added “some innovative yet familiar concepts such as source tape mode and an A/B trim tool – two modern features that are rooted in the past.”
While quicker editing is available in the Cut Page, “a more comprehensive and familiar toolset [continues to exist] in the Edit Page to craft and build your sequences. They can even work together, as you can review clips and make initial decisions on the Cut Page as a kind of rough cut. [You can then] finesse and develop your story in the Edit Page as the two are linked, so all changes update simultaneously in the project.”
Meanwhile, other developments in V16 include a new Neural Engine that uses machine learning and AI to solve complex and repetitive tasks, including the automatic sorting of clips and the creation of bins based upon face detection of people in the shots. The Neural Engine also powers Speed Warp Retiming, super-scale for upscaling footage, auto-colour and colour matching, as well as the new object removal tool.
Heffernan also highlights the capability for tape-style audio scrubbing with pitch correction – making dialogue easier to understand as you quickly assemble sequences or scenes – and integration with video review and collaborative software Frame.io: “This improves remote collaboration between Resolve users and their creative teams for sharing ideas and tracking progress, and then onwards to their clients for approvals.”
With the impact of Covid-19 likely to be felt on broadcast and movie production for a long time to come, the intricacies of remote working will remain a hot topic. But towards the end of our conversation, Avid’s Ray Thompson provides another clue to the future of editing, indicating that “as well as highlighting the capabilities of remote scenarios, I think that people will have become more aware that they can undertake more tasks in parallel. Hence I think you will see tasks like transcoding taking place on set or at home [before the content ever gets to the editing process per se] in such a way that the whole process of production can be sped up.”
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