Back to Business – Time Savers

Summer of 2015 is sadly in our rear view mirror now. But with fall here, there is much to be excited about. Many people consider the fall season to be more of a new year than January’s actual New Year’s. We have the start of school, the new television season and start of the football season. A crisp excitement washes over New England this time of year, but with it comes the need to hunker down and get back to work.

This month in Tech Edge, we are going to look at post production’s new time savers. These are recent changes in post production that have increased productivity and saved editors hours of time and effort.

The Emergence of Background Tasks.

Background tasks have really emerged in the past five years. Now every major editing platform offers background tasks. Tasks such as importing, transcoding, and even rendering effects. For some of these tasks, you even needed to add a network server. So what has changed? Desktop computers have gotten ridiculously powerful and much more affordable. The other factor is that editing software has gotten better as well. With more powerful computers, the software engineers for non-linear editing software can pack in more functionality and features.

Background tasks can run while you edit. So you can be transcoding clips, rendering a sequence or even importing media can be done while you do other editing tasks. In some cases, you don’t even need the editing software launched at all to have these tasks running. File-based editing saves a lot of time up front, but there is usually a price to pay. You will need to transcode at some point to export, and that usually is a buzzkill to the flow or your editing. Today in 2015 when using the latest builds of editing software, you can do those tasks in the background now.

Automatic Audio and Video Sync.

There was once a time where syncing up camera audio and double system (a.k.a. audio field hard disk) recording in an editing timeline was a nightmare. You would have to sync time code and rely on everyone in your production team to sync everything up during the shoot. When you imported these files into your editing software of choice, you would have to tediously sync up the audio and video manually…and that is given that everyone in your production team got all the timecode correct in the first place.

Today, there are many programs that will automatically sync up all of your double system audio with your video. Programs such as Woowave Woosync and Red Giant’s Plural Eyes have capabilities that will automatically sync up audio and video. All these programs ask you to do is import all of the audio and video clips you want synced together, and then it will sync them up in seconds and then export those clips together as an XML or an AAF file that you can import into your editing software of choice.


Morphing…it’s a word the raises eyebrows. It sounds equal parts dirty and nerdy. But for editors and people watching their content, it shatters reality. There are two tools that do this really well…Avid Media Composer’s Fluid Morph and Adobe Premiere Pro’s recent addition, Morph Cut.

Let’s say you are editing an interview piece and your interviewee has lot’s of long pauses, or even if you want to edit a sentence or two out. Before morphing, you would need to find some b-roll to cut to. What morphing does is eliminate jump cuts in talking head pieces. So any interview can be manipulated to remove any words or pauses. This makes an editor’s job much easier, because you no longer have to rely on b-roll and worry about the pacing of your edit. You can now morph two clips together seamlessly and not worry about jump cuts. The ripple effect of this is whenever you watch an interview piece that someone else produced; you will do so with a grain of salt now.

Searching in the Timeline.

The concept of searching in the timeline seems like it is not that impressive. Doing a search on a computer is something people take for granted now. But imagine you have an hour long piece and you want to jump directly to a certain clip or even a timeline marker with a comment a producer had about your edit. Before timeline searching, you would have to scroll, zoom, scroll, zoom, second guess yourself, scroll again, zoom again. It goes on and on. In the time it took you to read that last sentence, you could have typed a keyword into your timeline search and gotten to your location already. It’s one of the subtle features that looks really impressive in front of clients that don’t know editing like you do. The now defunct Final Cut Pro 7 had Timeline Search and it was a very under appreciated feature. Avid and Adobe both added this feature this past year and it was over due.

There are tons of other ways to save time when working in your creative software…features such as custom interface mappings, menu to keyboard reassignments and other custom keyboard features. Regardless of what software you use, it’s always a best practice to back up your settings. Modern creative software will back up all your settings to a file. Do a Google to search to see where your software saves that file and back it up in case your settings file gets lost or corrupted.

Steve McGrath is a Broadcast Sales Engineer for HB Communications. He has worked with NBC, ABC, CBS, NESN, NECN, Fox, ESPN, Pentagon, Powderhouse and many others. You can reach him at Learn more, visit

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Getting Reacquainted with Boris FX

Everyone who has spent any significant time in an edit bay has come across Boris Continuum Complete (BCC). BCC is a staple in the post production industry and most edit bays are considered incomplete without its presence in your effects pallet. For many editors, their knowledge of Boris’ offerings start and stop at Continuum Complete. This month in Tech Edge, we are going to take a look at the army of offerings Boris has amassed over the past few years.


Have you ever found yourself searching for a clip of video based on something someone said in that clip? Do you ever find yourself digging through transcriptions looking for a specific piece of dialogue? Then Soundbite is for you.

Soundbite is a search tool that searches your media phonetically. What that means exactly is Soundbite will index your media by the audio in the clips. This type of functionality is used all of the time in the news where during an interview, the news anchor will say to the subject “You recently mentioned President Obama’s stance on equal marriage.” and then they play the clip. That news show had products that can search their media database phonetically and they had found that clip in less than ten seconds. They didn’t scrub through tape after tape; it was all done with Soundbite.

The phonetic analysis that you get in Soundbite is powered under the hood by Nexidia. Nexidia is the number one company when it comes to phonetics. Nexidia technology has been used in matters of critical national security down to trivial matters such as searching though the audio of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” The media that is indexed by Soundbite is done in seconds and you will be stunned on how quickly you can search for video clips just based on audio dialogue alone. Soundbite is available only on Final Cut X and Adobe Premiere Pro on the Macintosh operating system. Like all Boris products, it comes with a trial version so you can try before you buy.

Mocha Pro

In 2012 a company named Imagineer Systems won a technology Academy Award. In 2014 Boris made a great acquisition by purchasing said company Imagineer Systems. Most people know Mocha Pro as “Those plugins that come with After Effects.” But Mocha Pro is so much more than that.

Mocha pro is planar tracking image engine. What that does for people is tracks screens, graphics and products. It will research your clips for patterns of planes. Once something is defined as a plane, Mocha will let you key under and over that image. A good example of this is imagine you had a clip of video where someone was using their finger on a smart phone. You could key whatever you wanted into the screen of the smart phone, but you also have to have that keyed image you put on the phone allow finger swiping and gesturing that comes with smart phone usage. You have to let fingers go over your keyed screen to make the shot of the smart phone look realistic. Mocha Pro does all this by creating layers for each plane that it sees.

Mocha is compatible Windows, Mac and even Linux. It works as a stand-alone product or within just any editing of compositing software on the market. Best of all, like Soundbite, you can try it for free.

Media 100

Just about everyone in our industry has a friend or knows someone that worked at Media 100. The people of Media 100 were the “other New England-based editing company”. Media 100 was the Marvel to Avid’s DC Comics. It wasn’t a rivalry, but there was a mutual respect and admiration across the two companies and across its employees. Media 100 faced bankruptcy in 2004 and was rescued by Boris FX in 2005. Boris Yamnitsky was one of the founders of Media 100, so this was a project dear to his heart. When people talk about Media 100, they speak fondly about what the product once was. In 2015, people should start talking about what Media 100 is.

Media 100 is starting to pick up steam again mostly because Boris is really making a huge push towards getting Media 100 into people’s hands again. First and foremost, Boris is offering a sixty day trial of Media 100. Another way to get your hands on Media 100 is through a current promotion Boris is having where if you buy Boris Red for After Effects, you get Media 100 for free. Boris has also tried to raise Media 100’s visibility by partnering with MacVideo Promo, a company that hopefully will raise awareness of Media 100. So awareness and availably are both up for Media 100.

So what can Media 100 do that’s new? It now supports XML Transfer so you can send your project out to an After Effects system. It supports all the latest Mac based file formats and you can move XMLs in and out. So the collaboration tools are better than ever. Media 100 also supports most of the popular AJA and Black Magic IO devices so you can push up to 4K out to client monitor. Media 100 only supports Mac OS so Windows users can’t take the trial.

So in the past few years Boris has grown quite a bit. They have a new office in Boston, they have acquired an Academy Award winning company and their core product line of Continuum Complete and Boris RED are still innovative. With free trials throughout the product line, it makes sense to give this Boston-based company another look. If you fell out of touch with the products, it’s the perfect time to get reacquainted.

Steve McGrath is a Broadcast Sales 
Engineer for HB Communications. 
He has worked with NBC, ABC, CBS, NESN, NECN, Fox, ESPN, Pentagon, Powderhouse 
and many others. You can reach him at Learn more, visit

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NAB 2015 – HDR Outshines 4K

It is as stunning as the shift from SD to HD

NAB 2015 has come and gone. There were many expected announcements and as usual, there were a few surprises. There is one concept that really excited me and it was High Dynamic Range in video and film.

High Dynamic Range (known as HDR)made its NAB debut this year, but you had to look really close to find it. Dolby and Sony were both showing HDR monitors on the show floor, but there was no pomp and circumstance for it. The HDR monitors were just subtly there on the show floor. All other showings of HDR were done in closed door
whisper suites. Let’s talk about what HDR is and what it means to you.

Over the past half-decade manufacturers have been in a pixel arms race trying to “out K” each other. One manufacturer has 4K, then another will have 8K and then the next manufacturer will claim they won’t even let pixel count constrain them whatsoever. But all this time, no one has publicly explored the possibility of making the existing pixels more vibrant, lifelike and beautiful. It seems that pixels are now being measured in quality and not quantity.

Support for 4K has turned out to be slow to be accepted. This is because the high bandwidth that 4K will need is expensive to roll out for many post production environments and then there are even less consumers with 4K televisions to even experience what 4K brings. So because people aren’t quickly running out and buying 4K televisions, the post production facilities are in no rush in invest in the technology to bring it to consumers. Consumers are also afraid to have their televisions fall into the two year life cycle that their cell phones now reside in. Consumers are skeptical that they get their 4K television. In just five years in the year 2020, Japanese broadcasters NHK will broadcast the Olympic Games in 8K. So when people hear that 8K is on the horizon, it makes them skeptical to even jump to 4K. All of this television upgrading for differences that most people don’t notice. The shift from SD to HD is much more impressive than the jump from HD to 4K.

You may ask yourself, “Doesn’t my new LED HD TV have this already? The screen looks stunning!” This answer is no. This is because today’s standards are grandfathered from older CRT technology. Even though we have emerged to flat panel HD televisions, CRT limitations have come with them. The displays have become much more elegant and the pixel counts have gone through the roof, but the actual color space has not changed at all.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) screens will raise the level of contrast and color space. It will raise the color levels and constraints that today’s cameras and television screens have to make things look more lifelike and match what your eyes do and not what your acquisition and monitoring hardware does.

This will make televisions look more like windows than screens. No matter how big a current screen is, you know you are looking at a screen. When you see an HDR monitor with a program that was either shot or upgraded to HDR, you can see the difference and it is as stunning as the shift from SD to HD. The brightness is around twenty times the highest limitations of today’s brightness and color space (which is now being referred to as Standard Dynamic Range or “SDR”).

What are the things you will immediately notice when looking at HDR footage and monitors? If you look at footage that is shot indoors and there is a bright window you will see just a wash a white light coming through with no detail at all. This is because current technology can’t handle the luminance coming in through the window. It can ruin your shot or force you to change the shot you are looking to shoot. With HDR footage and monitoring, that phenomenon will become a thing of the past. Conversely, when you look at dark footage, you will see much more detail in the imaging.

The emergence of HDR technology will not eliminate the 4K movement that manufacturers are pushing towards consumers, it just means that they will add the HDR technology to the 4K movement. It’s not to say that there is no value in 4K, and manufacturers will be very careful to not back peddle on what they have been pushing so aggressively. These technologies will just be pushed alongside one another in the future.

Although you will see a difference when you plug into your current cable hardware, the real difference will come when hardware and streaming services formally support HDR technology. Blu-ray players that support HDR will be released later this year, and streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime will support HDR later this year. You will also see movie theaters pushing HDR as well as an incentive to get people back into movie theaters.

Photographers have been using HDR modes in shooting for a couple of years now and the technology is now even trickling down to the cell phone industry. The Samsung S6 features HDR shooting modes on its camera today. It will be great to see this technology come to the people and in motion picture and television industries and most important, be able to experience the beauty that it brings.

The only “gotcha” with HDR today is that there is no standard of what the color space is and it will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. There is no standard that everyone must adhere to like in the older CRT technology that has its hard limitations. All of this is still in its infancy and should be very interesting to watch how it all explodes over the next year.

Steve McGrath is a Broadcast Sales Engineer for HB Communications. He has worked with NBC, ABC, CBS, NESN, NECN, Fox, ESPN, Pentagon, Powderhouse and many others. You can reach him at Steve. Learn more, visit

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2014 Post Production Year in Review

As the year comes to a close and we look forward to 2015, we should look back at 2014 and see what we have learned.  This month in Tech Edge, we are going to look back at 2014 and touch upon the greatest feats in post-production.

The cloud came as advertised.

The cloud was everywhere in 2014.  People are literally off the leash and free now, with the only exception being charging batteries.  No longer wired, we live in a newly wireless word where no one is tethered to anything and having things instantly is the new expectation.  Via the cloud, we were able to shoot video and push it directly to an editor thousands of miles away.  We were able to back up all our files and free of pesky thumb drives.   A lot of us broke our cell phones (myself included) and got a replacement and had all of our files on our phones magically replaced without a care in the world.  We could do anything anywhere and it was magical.   And then we were hacked…

The biggest counter-argument to using the cloud was the potential stealing of information.  A lot of information and files were stolen in 2014.  We saw that no one was safe.  The government, major motion picture companies and actresses were all affected.  Your seemingly private moments shared with your cell phone can be shared with the world.  Entities that seemed untouchable had all their files stolen.

But the need for people to share information and connect with one another will override the fear.  People can now see into each other’s worlds and help each other out.  Public funding, petitioning, and sharing videos of your plight are all normal now.  It has been easier to gain real-time support for your cause than any other time in history.  There has never been a better time for people to be pioneers and do things themselves.  Programming and content can now be distributed without a television network backing you.

4K came to the edit bay.

Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X has had a great year of native support for 4K formats.  Avid is targeted to get their DNxHR 4K codecs into edit bays before the end of the year.  This will offer people to have more leniencies on the storage being used to edit 4K.   Adobe’s native support is great and offers no quality of image loss, but with that comes huge file sizes which require high bandwidth storage.  Thunderbolt storage made this all pretty easy with plenty of bandwidth.  4K is here and if you aren’t working with it yet, you will soon.

4K cameras and monitors got much more affordable as well.  Professional cameras that were 4K capable were costing well under $10,000 for the first time.   4K monitors can be bought for under $1000 now.  The price is coming down so low, that it’s going to be impossible not get 4K support if you are investing in post-production technology.

The new Mac Pro dazzled us.

Apple released their new Mac Pro which people have dubbed “The Trash Can Mac” as it looks suspiciously like an office trash can.  The new Mac Pro is actually smaller than and as quiet as a trash can.  Every customer that I saw receive one were dazzled by the size, small footprint and silence while it’s running.  It truly is the quietest computer I have ever seen. The reboot speed is unprecedented, it’s much faster than other Macs and processing files such as renders is more than ten times faster than the last generation of Mac Pros.  Everyone I know who touched a Mac Pro this year had nothing but positive things to say about it.

We got our hands on our own drones.

The TV show South Park brilliantly skewered the newfound “drone culture” In the United States. But everything the poked fun at is true.  You can get a drone for $200 on Amazon and there are no laws whatsoever.  If you pay close to $1000 you can get a really nice drone with camera stabilization. This past year, I saw a wedding where the wedding photographers were using drones.  If wedding photographers are getting their hands on drones, then we all can.   The cost for a drone is less than hiring a helicopter to shoot for you, and you get to keep the drone at the end of the day.   Also, you avoid the terror of a helicopter ride.   What is there not to love?

We stuck a GoPro to everything

The best YouTube videos of the year were the ones where people attached a GoPro to something random and it usually generated adorable results.  Your dog loves a stick?  Attach a GoPro to the stick and see your dog’s excitement from the stick’s point of view.  Your kid is riding a bike for the first time?  Attach a GoPro to their handle bars and capture those first moments.  Wonder what happens inside your dishwasher?  Put your GoPro in there and run a cycle!  This year people stuck GoPro to everything and we got some of the most unique camera angles ever captured.  I can’t wait to see what people will attach a GoPro to next year.

2014 was a great year, and 2015 will be even better.  Thank you for reading Imagine!  See you at the Imaginnaire gala.

Steve McGrath is a Broadcast Sales Engineer for HB Communications. He has worked with NBC, ABC, CBS, NESN, NECN, Fox, ESPN, Pentagon, Powderhouse and many others. You can reach him at
Learn more, visit www.HBCo


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Anne Macksoud Old Dog Documentaries Edits in Rustic Vermont By Steve McGrath

People edit video for all sorts of different reasons. Some find it a fun, creative job. Some like the schedule, some are genuine raconteurs who love the new art of storytelling. And then there are some who use the medium of video to attempt to bring change and hopefully make the world a better place. This month in Tech Edge for women’s month, we are going to talk with Anne Macksoud from Old Dog Documentaries. Anne has been bringing change to the world her entire life and her desire to continue to bring change still burns white hot.

Who is Old Dog Documentaries and what do you do?

Old Dog Documentaries ( is a non-profit video production company based in Woodstock Vermont and New York City. My partner, John Ankele and I have been producing, directing and editing documentaries since 1987. Before we met, John was in Nairobi, Kenya, involved in the struggle for independence in South Africa, training political activists in the use of media to bring about social change. From 1963-83, I was teaching photography, creative writing and music to high school students in Rye New York. As the “spirit” of the 60s penetrated the walls of even the small Catholic girls’ school where I was teaching, my students and I began putting the three disciplines (photography, music, writing) together to produce multi-projector slide/sound presentations on the social issues of the time – Viet Nam War, Civil Rights, global poverty, etc.

When John Ankele and I got together in 1987, we transitioned from film and A/V production to video. Given our histories of social activism, it is not surprising that we continued making documentaries about social, economic and environmental justice – films focusing especially on how US policy negatively impacts the poorest countries. Most of our films were made for college classrooms and various peace groups or religious groups. We also produced two PBS specials: Grow Old Along with Me, the Poetry of Aging and Life Stories, and a film for ABC/TV: SEARCH FOR SPIRITUALITY, a documentary uncovering the mystical roots beneath the surface of traditional beliefs and practices.

What projects are you working on now?

Right now we are spending all our time and money distributing our most recent film (and what we consider our most important film): THE WISDOM TO SURVIVE, Climate Change, Capitalism and Community.” The title of the film comes from the first line of a Wendell Berry poem, “If we will have the wisdom to survive…” Of the many films about Global Warming that have come out since Al Gore’s INCONVENIENT TRUTH, we think this film is the one that most successfully inspires action, and, at the same time, gives people a real sense of hope – not a hope that everything will be OK, but that they will be OK if they get involved in local action and become part of the growing citizen’s climate movement which is reminiscent of the civil rights movement. We are getting a great deal of feedback that this is true about our film, so we are not looking for a new film project until we have exhausted all the possibilities of getting the film screened in communities around the world. Our efforts are beginning to pay off! The film is increasingly being talked about and reviewed, and the screenings are beginning to multiply.

How is being based in rustic spot like Vermont?

Being a filmmaker in Vermont is great – there is a vibrant film community, some fine festivals and the inspiration of being in a beautiful, progressive state. What’s not great about Vermont, at least where I live out in the sticks, is that if something goes wrong with the edit system, the closest technical support is three states away, and I have had to pay for “home visits” several times. Even if I only need a audio cable, the nearest Radio shack is forty minutes away. Is the inconvenience worth it? Yes! Except when Hurricane Irene wiped out my edit suite and half of my home in 2011 and got me prepared (through painful experience) for the making of the film on Climate Change.

What are you using to shoot edit and how has that changed in the past 5-10 years?

My first documentary was shot in Ghana and Nigera in 1987. We had to lug around (in 105 degree heat) a monstrously bulky camera and ¾ inch (U-matic) VTR. The editing was worse – with dozens (and dozens) of VHS window dubs stacked up next to two VHS players. Since those “primitive” days, the changes have come fast and furious – next came Beta, then Beta SP, then Avid Xpress and Avid Xpress Pro and finally to Media Composer. The best thing for a small operation like Old Dog Documentaries is that we can, with non-linear editing and an HD editing system, do our own final cut, rather than spend half our budget at a fancy on-line edit suite.

How do you feel the post/television industry has been more accomodating to women?

I am very aware of the struggle of American women, especially women of color, to make their way in the film and television industry, or in any industry for that matter. But it is certainly better than when I started out. There were very few organizations that supported women, but because I was not working for anyone and was not trying get my films onto mainstream television, I did not come up against gender barriers…. and it probably helped that I had a male partner.

I see now that there are organizations like Women in Film & Television International (WIFTI) “dedicated to advancing professional development and achievement for women working in all areas of film, video, digital and other screen-based media.” But WIFTI is the first to admit that women are still greatly underrepresented in the industry. And if it is not great for American women, it is worse for women in the poorer countries around the world – in fact it is still true that 70% of the world’s poorest people are women and girls. That should be Old Dog Documentaries next film, now that I think of it!

Having been through the 1960’s, what changes did that decade bring that you still see today? Any long standing influences that you still see today?

Going through the 1960s, when I was in my early 20s, was the best preparation I could have had for what I am doing now. For me, it was a huge wake-up call. Growing up in the 40s and 50s was like being asleep – completely unaware of how things really are in the world. So even if it makes me old now (to have been in my 20s in the 1960s) I think of it as a gift. I think it’s time for another decade like the 1960s before it’s too late.

Steve McGrath is a Broadcast Sales Engineer for HB Communications. He has worked with NBC, ABC, CBS, NESN,
NECN, Fox, ESPN, Pentagon, Powderhouse and many others. You can reach him at Learn more, visit

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Review and Delivery in 2014

We live in the “age of instant.” As a culture, we have gotten so good at getting information instantly, that news teases are now obsolete. For example, if you see a news tease, you will still get curious about the story, but instead of waiting until 11pm, you will just Google that news tease on your phone. Why wait? You have the same access to the information that the news station has. That expectation of instant delivery follows us to work and it is usually your clients who are expecting it.

This month in Tech Edge, we are going to talk to people living in the “age of instant.” But in this age, how do you get your finished work to your client for review and approval? In 2014, if you are providing video content for anyone for any reason, you are expected to be as quick and convenient as YouTube. Your customers see it as, “If some high school student can get video online, clearly these creative video professionals can do it too!”
Aframe out of Burlington, MA provides review and approval services via a web browser. You can securely upload your content, have your client view it in a web browser, provide feedback directly on the timeline and instantly sends it back to you. This is great for a few reasons. One is you always want your client to watch the work you provided for them without you around. They needn’t worry about hurting your feelings if feedback is not face to face. The other is the shear convenience of the type of transaction. No cars, planes, tapes, hard drives, commutes, subway stops, bike couriers….none of that matters now.

Nick Priest, the Senior Creative Consultant from Mass AV has seen many of his clients switching over to Aframe for review and delivery. When asked about how review and delivery has changed over the past five years, he replied “Technology has really given us a chance to turn around samples, revisions, and finals at lightning speed compared to even just five years ago. We’ve been using Aframe for just over a year and it allows us to quickly and easily toss (as I like to say) clips up to the cloud for clients to view without having to download them. In short, Aframe specifically brings the edit room to the client where ever they are and allows for faster project turn around and delivery. “

Nick follows with “We work with clients in two ways in regards to reviews and approvals. The first is the way you’re supposed to use Aframe. We set our clients up with a free account, give them a crash course (though it’s pretty intuitive to use) and set them on their way. Having the ability to let the client time code their notes as they view the clips is a stroke of genius. No longer do we have to worry about if the client’s 2:46 is our 2:46. We just wrapped a large project for a client that had ten deliverables and with Aframe we were able to keep the feedback, notes, and suggestions all organized and easily accessible for reference throughout the process.

I asked Nick if he feels that review and approval has actually changed and become a more collaborative process, he replied, “Absolutely. Now that clients can provide instantaneous feedback, like I mentioned earlier, we’re bringing the edit room to them. We can now have open ‘digital dialogue’ much like we would have if the client came down to our facility and sat in one of our edit suites. Recently we had a broadcast piece for a client who supplied all of the assets for the piece and a fairly detailed script. After our initial edit we were able to have an open, collaborative dialogue about changes and adjustments so that the next revision we delivered was so close to final we were only waiting on the network for final specs.”

The ripple effect of the web based review and approval doesn’t stop at television and ad agencies. It also reaches across to academia. Ron Starr, the Director of the Media Studios for Northeastern University, says that Aframe has changed life on campus. “Students can seamlessly and easily turn in their work via Aframe, which instructors can view on or off campus. Students can also capitalize on the collaborative environment by sharing works-in-progress with partner classmates.

Ron continues: “Another benefit is Aframe’s ability to designate users and accounts. This helps us avoid legal issues. Most students use copyrighted music (and occasionally video), which is allowed under the Education Exemption for class. Also, students rarely have proper release forms from actors, who assume their work will only be for a class project. Aframe allows us to upload media to designated folders with restricted access, thus avoiding legal pratfalls that can come from the use of public sharing sites such as Vimeo or YouTube.”

Now that review and approval has moved to an instantaneous process, there is no conceivably way make this process faster. What delivery professionals will be battling with is as video resolution gets richer with bigger frame sizes and more pixels, we will need higher bandwidths to deliver it. The only speed bump is download speeds. Where in 2014 we scoff at the idea of sending a bike courier with tape, in 2024, we will be scoffing at sending a tiny proxy file.

Steve McGrath is a Broadcast Sales Engineer for HB Communications. He has worked with NBC, ABC, CBS, NESN, NECN, Fox, ESPN, Pentagon, Powderhouse and many others. You can reach him at Learn more, visit


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How Signiant Uses “SaaS” To Change How We Work

The emerging juggernaut of our industry has to be the cloud. The past few years have seen an explosion in cloud based companies offering cloud based services. The largest gains being in client review and approval, and large video file transfers. The cloud makes such a myriad of many things obsolete or irrelevant. Tape, hard drives, bike couriers, delivery services, dub stations, time-consuming traffic jams, All of these things are non-factors when dealing with the cloud. Your only concerns need be security and speed.

A company driving all this forward is Signiant (see IMAGINE cover story August, 2014). With an office in Burlington, MA, Signiant is another Massachusetts company that is setting the tone with how media is managed, moved and shared.

Signiant is already a very trusted partner when it comes to moving content for television and broadcast. With a client list that includes NBC, Fox, BBC, Discovery, A&E, 20th Century Fox, Marvel, PBS, Ubisoft, EA, Apple ITunes, ESPN, NFL and NHL. That is just a fraction of Signiant’s robust client base. So what does Signiant do that makes them so trusted?

Signiant’s flagship offering is Media Shuttle. What Media Shuttle does is moves media using public or private IP at a transfer speed that is up to 200 times faster than FTP services. Media Shuttle also has no restrictions on file size. If you have 100GB video files, Media Shuttle is outfitted to move that file. Should a file transfer fail due to loss of network or internet connectivity, Media Shuttle will reconvene sending the file right where it left off. So if you get 90% done with a transfer and the network goes down, you needn’t worry about having to start at the beginning of your transfer. The newly released Media Shuttle Mobile, can do all this from your Apple mobile device such as IPhone, IPad and even IPod Touch. All of these services are subscription based, so you buy in month by month without a walloping up front cost of a server or software solution.

So the million dollar question here is “How do they do this?” The answer is through a technology Signiant and others in the industry refer to as “SaaS”. SaaS means “Software as a Service.” What SaaS does is uses your web browser to add functionality such as transferring of files. This technology is not exactly new, it’s been around since the 1960s, but it’s really coming to fruition now. It’s only since the dawn of subscription based services in the past five years or so. Before, your option was to buy a software package with annual support upgrades and maintenance fees. SaaS changes the way people add functionality to their businesses. If the software service doesn’t meet your needs, you can get out of it without losing a huge investment.

You have used SaaS technologies before if you have used Google Docs. Google Docs gives their users a set amount of storage space and bandwidth to move your document files. Users can then upload their documents and Google Docs will save the files as well as archive previous versions of the same files. When you share a file with another user, they can download it directly via Google Docs and it’s mostly seamless to the end user. I say mostly because if someone attempts to work offline, they won’t be able to get their files from Google Docs. With services such as Google Docs or Signiant’s Media Shuttle, it’s expected that you are online to access your data in the cloud.

Installation and ease of use of Media Shuttle are very easy to manage. Due to the SaaS architecture, everything works right in a web browser. Media Shuttle works as a web browser plugin, so Media Shuttle installation is just done in a few clicks. Once installation is done, all file sending is done through your web browser. So you don’t have to take a day or work to train everyone on Media Shuttle.

Files sent via Media Shuttle can be accessed one of two ways, through a custom portal(webpage) that can include company branding to create a more inclusive and professional experience for your customers and organization. The other way is just through a simple email link. When you upload a file (or files), your intended recipient will receive an email notification stating the file is ready for download.

But the common sentiment that you get with cloud based services is “When I upload my file to someone else’s server, I no longer have control and fear my intellectual property will be stolen or pirated!” Media Shuttle offers a SaaS hybrid service that will allow you to do all the wonderful things we noted above, only your files upload to your storage server, not Signiant’s. This will provide you with a larger up-front cost, but you will get the security that you need without compromising on security. So it seems that the cloud is maturing getting stronger every year.

Signiant offers free trials of Media Shuttle as well other products we didn’t cover here such as SkyDrop. To try Signiant’s products out, visit their website at

Steve McGrath is a Broadcast Sales Engineer for HB Communications. He has worked with NBC, ABC, CBS, NESN, NECN, Fox, ESPN, Pentagon, Powderhouse and many others. You can reach him at Learn more, visit Unified Communications | Audio Visual Solutions – HB Communications.

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Avid Media Access Frequently Asked Questions

It has been nearly five years since Avid introduced AMA to its editing software. As advertised, it has changed the way people ingest and edit within Avid’s Media Composer editing software. This month in Tech Edge, we are going to look at AMA and answer the most frequently asked questions.

What is AMA?

AMA stands for Avid Media Access. It is a software plug-in that enables editors to ingest media shot by cameras in that camera’s native format. There is no need for transcoding or rendering when working with an AMA plugin. The footage you shot is what you edit with. There is no need to capture or transcode because with AMA, editing is instantaneous.

What this really means is that manufacturers of cameras are now responsible for writing the plugins to get their cameras clips into an Avid editing timeline. This frees camera manufactures of Avid’s release cycle. If Sony comes up with a new camera file format, and Avid isn’t releasing an update for a month, Sony can write their own plugin to get those clips into Media Composer’s timeline today.

This enables editors to work with media created anywhere. It doesn’t matter if it is Final Cut Pro clips, Panasonic clips, Sony clips, a QuickTime exported from Adobe Premiere, none of that matters. They can all play in the same timeline without rendering or transcoding.

What are AMA’s most common “gotchas”?

When Avid releases a software update for Media Composer be sure to check with the manufacturer of your most commonly used AMA plugin, if they have an update as well. There have been many times when a software update for Media Composer has come out, but then one of the major camera manufacturers (Sony, Canon, and Panasonic) did not have a plugin that is compatible with Avid’s update. Editors in this situation then need to back-rev any Avid software updates, find a work around for the non-updated plugin, or in a worst case scenario, be dead in the water unable to edit at all.

The way to avoid putting yourself of your business in that situation is to look before you leap. Make sure there is a compatible AMA plugin for your camera and your Media Composer software version.

How has AMA changed since its inception?

Initially, AMA only supported less than a handful of formats. Now the AMA supports not only clip playback, but delivery formats and cross application transfers. More on that later.

AMA has changed in Media Composer from being completely unruly in borderline unusable, to smooth and dynamic. Avid has added Interplay support for AMA about a year ago. Last week, Avid has added the AMA access tool to and with its latest release of Media Composer 8.1, you can now browse AMA clips in the Media Tool.

Avid has also added AMA export formats that enable you to deliver your entire sequence via AMA. The workflow allows sequences to exported via AS-02, AS-11 or MXD OP1a.

Are AMA plugins still free?

AMA plugins from the major camera manufacturers are free. So if you have a camera from Sony, Panasonic, JVC, RED, Arri, or Canon, you will be able to play your clips in Media Composer with AMA for free. You will just have to get the plugins from your manufacturer of choice.

There is a new blossoming market for AMA plugins that add functionality for transfer and delivery. Those plugins typically have a trial period and then you will have the option to purchase permanently.

What about the AMA plugins that are paid for? What do they add?

There are a few plugins that will augment your workflow beyond putting clips you shot in a timeline. Here are the major ones…

Drastic Media Reactor Plugin – This plugin enables you to put live streaming footage in your Media Composer timeline and edit while the stream continues to broadcast. You just need to ensure that your streaming device is compatible with Media Reactor

Glue Tools – This company makes 2 plugins for AMA on Media Composer, the ARRIRAW AMA plugin and the Phantom Cine AMA plugin. The ARRIRAW AMA plugin will do the importing, playback, debayer, white balance and color correction to an ARRIRAW image sequence. The plugin enables you to play back that image sequence without rendering or transcoding. The Phantom Cine AMA plugin, allows you to work with Phantom Cine RAW “.cine” files in real time. With Phantom Cine RAW, you also get all the flexibility with color that you would have gotten while shooting.

Humburg Pro Media- Humburg makes 2 AMA plugins, MPEG Import and GFX Import. As you can imagine, the MPEG import allows you to access MPEG videos through AMA. So this can get you DVD files on your Avid timeline. The GFX plugin allows you to bring Grass Valley created media into your Avid timeline.

All of the above manufacturers offer trial of their plugins, so see if it helps you and your workflow.

Why do my AMA clips drop frames on playback?

Smooth AMA playback is dependent on you having hard drive storage that can support the bandwidth of your high resolution clips. When you see frames dropping on playback in an Avid editing application, look to the time code track first. If you see blue lines or dots on the time code track where you were dropping frames that is Avid’s way of telling you that your storage could not provide the media for playback fast enough. If you see red lines in the time code track, then it’s a computer processing problem. By all means, check the time code track when dropping frames because it’s not only a time code track, but a handy diagnostic tool

What is this I hear of the AIS AMA Plugin?

With Media Composer 8.1, yet more AMA functionality was introduced. The AIS AMA plugin stands for “Avid Image Sequencer” which allows you take DPX (Digital Picture Exchange) image files and create a sequence instantaneously. Avid plans on supporting more formats in the future.

Steve McGrath is a Broadcast Sales Engineer for HB Communications. He has worked with NBC, ABC, CBS, NESN, NECN, Fox, ESPN, Pentagon, Powderhouse and many others. You can reach him at Learn more, visit Unified Communications | Audio Visual Solutions – HB Communications.


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