Twelve Things Every Geek Should Want for
by Cutter Stevens
Well now dear readers, clients and friends,
another year has passed and it's time for more Geek wishes. It's hard to
narrow this list down to just twelve things, especially with all the great holiday goodies
on the market right now. I'll do my best.
This last year has revealed a number of major breakthroughs. Some have
been on pricing, taking what was virtually unattainable to very affordable.
Others have simply been changes in the fundamental way we approach problems.
In this 2008 edition of The List, I offer up 12 products that may not blow
your mind, but will certainly make your tail stand on end.
Keeping with tradition, I'm going to start The List off with my nice
disclaimer from years past.
It's the holiday season, so I’m going to
talk about what every Geek should want, and CAN get, on their wish list. By
"Geek" I mean Video/Film Professionals, technical enthusiasts,
etc. So don't be insulted. The term Geek, which I am proud to say I
am, has gotten an unwarranted bad rap. So for all you fellow Geeks, here's
Twelve Days of Christmas goodies.
1. On the First Day of Christmas Cutter
sold to me....An AJA
(Gasp!! Yes it is actually shipping! And more crucially, we have them in
This little unit made a big splash at NAB
this year, launching side by side with Apple Final Cut Studio 2. It is
poised to change the way we deal with the whole production process. Well
your wait is finally over! The units are shipping and DV411 has them in
Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar,
is a portable, everything-in, everything-out, box that can connect to any
professional Macintosh using Apple's ProRes DCT codec. Let me give you a
rundown on how I envision I/O HD in your average HD production:
You're on set, comfy in your directors chair,
with your new DV411 *snicker* configured MacBook Pro connected to your I/O
HD. You're checking focus and lighting in full res on your monitor (HDSDI or
HDMI for you budget conscious producers). You have tri-level sync, timecode
and AES/EBU coming in so you're frame accurate with your audio guy who's sitting
across the room pretending to ignore you. You have today's shot list already
loaded up into Final Cut. Roll Tape...Roll Audio....HIT CAPTURE...Action!
You've wrapped for the day. But wait! It's
so early! Not having to argue with your DP about every little piece of
cinematography really shaves time off. But you miss arguing with him or her,
so you setup a little pow wow in your trailer... hit play...dailies 10
minutes after you wrap, in 10 bit color, right off your bloody laptop. You
mark your keepers, save your code, and get ready for day two.
You've finally finished shooting your
movie, you go back to your trailer and you realize for the most part you
have your takes all picked out and basically have your rough cut already done
(not being lazy, having repeated day one's process for the next two weeks)
and you think wow, I guess I can start some effects previz and titling. You
start up After Effects, Combustion or Motion and suddenly you realize you
have full rastor WYSWIG output right to your monitor. And you think, "Damn!
This looks good!" And away you go for about 10 minutes before you choke your
laptop trying to do a fifty title overlay. Crap...
So you drive on back to the edit suite plug
the I/O HD into your ProEdit MacPro Workstation (purchased and configured by
DV411, hopefully), transfer all your takes onto your local or San
storage...Suddenly the 50 layer composite is no big deal! And it's all
coming out in 10 bit color full raster to your super cool production monitor
(to be discussed later in this list).
The race to your online session never went
so fast! You saved so much time, money, shooting days, money, tape
stock, money...Now you can afford to shove a
in your DV411 configured MacPro Workstation, and some 4gb Fibre
storage (also coming up on this list). So then you rent a deck, re-capture
into uncompressed, and do your online session from the same damn projects you
have been working in since the beginning.
Yep, the I/O HD is the real deal!!! *GASP* And yes, it's actually shipping! If you want one, get on it, there's a lot
of little kids with I/O HD on their holiday lists...stock is going
fast. And unlike Santa, we don't differentiate between naughty and nice.
2. On the second day of Christmas DV411
built for me...a
Pro Edit Compressed HD Laptop
(HP & MAC)
The days of building laptops from scratch
are gone. The labor involved from scratch ends up costing you, (the end-user geek),
too much money. Unless, of course, you need something really special--something
that even I can't think of yet. If that's the case, I'd be happy to give it
a try. But for most people's needs we can configure and supe-up HP
8500 or 8700 series workstations or MacBook Pro laptops to suit most, if
not all of your needs.
And whatever those needs may be....we'll
find the best fit for you workflow. Give us a call about year-end specials
3. On the third day of Christmas Santa
gave to me a way cool Blu-ray
You have to check out the new burners from
Pioneer and Sony. The Sony
BWU-200S and Pioneer BDR-202
can pack up to 50GB per disc,
burning up to 5x. Archiving has never been easier, and with media costs around
$1/GB, cheaper as well. Both of these models are now available for under
$700 and are pretty much plug and play in any PC. Sorry guys, no Apple
support as of yet, but that will sure change in the next year or so.
4. On the fourth day of Christmas Santa
Creative Suite 3 Production Premium
Adobe went bloody gangbusters with their
new video bundles! Not only did they fix almost everything that we were
bitching about in the past two versions, but they added Flash Pro, the
former Serious Magic software, DV Rack (Now OnLocation) and Ultra.
Here's what you get:
• Adobe After Effects® CS3 Professional
• Adobe Premiere® Pro CS3*
• Adobe Photoshop® CS3 Extended
• Adobe Flash CS3 Professional
• Adobe Illustrator® CS3
• Adobe Soundbooth CS3*
• Adobe Encore® CS3*
• Adobe OnLocation CS3†
• Adobe Ultra CS3††
• Adobe Dynamic Link*, Adobe Device Central CS3, and Adobe Bridge CS3
Now let's go over the pieces that get me all excited...
Adobe Premiere Pro - not such a POS anymore. In
the past I have heard grumblings about Premiere (mostly from the 6.5 days).
Now, it's as professional an editor as any on the market with craploads of
hardware support from all the major players,
Bluefish444. Add to that native P2 support, improved rendering (Multicore
support), Clip replacement, improved export engine including Flash and Blu-ray.
And my favorite new improvement; a search tool to easily navigate our stupidly
complex project bins. Another nice addition is that Adobe clip notes
actually works, well better at least!
After Effects - I am not going to go over
everything that has been added to this version, but I'll give you the big boy
Everyone, and I mean everyone, who switched to HD, would call us and
complain about how much of a slow dog old dog After Effects was crashing under these large files.
Even on the fastest machine's there still seemed to be problems. Not
anymore! Adobe completely rewrote their algorithms to take advantage of
today's multicore environments.
And even better, they offer an upsell
version ($1195 or $400 off) that upgrades you from almost any piece of
software Adobe has ever released.
5. On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to
me… (I wish) a bunch of next generation 1TB hard disk drives from Hitachi
I know, know...how boring Cutter! Really!? HDD's for
Christmas??? Well you should be bloody oooing and ahhing over the new 1TBs. Yes,
that's 1000 Gigabytes on a single disk! Both
Seagate have recently
released 1TB drives with 32MB caches and just over 4ms seek times. I just
recently put four of the Hitachis' in a XW8400 using the onboard SATA
controller and clocked a sustained 200MB/s up until 80% capacity. Add to
that a price point of around $400 per drive and you damn well better be oooing
and ahhing!! You can't even imagine the amount
of stuff you can store on your local machine. Buy a workstation from us -- we'll
even move all your old crap over for you!!
6. On the sixth day of Christmas every Geek should
Indigo Mixer from Grass Valley
Finally an HD video mixer that isn't priced into the
For under $17k (rather that $50k) you can mix, switch, upconvert/downcovert in HD and SD. You can switch between almost any video,
audio or computer source as well as simulcast both HD and SD signals. This
unit is a must-have for any kind of live production environment, from night clubs
to churches. And it integrates easily into your digital signage system!
Key features include:
~Live seamless switching
of video, computer, and audio sources
~Mix digital and analog
multiple video channels between HD and SD
~SD/HD simulcast output
layouts with keyers for picture-in-picture and other effects
~Digital effects with 2D
and 3D transformations, including page turns, ripples, and swirls
chroma video keyers
~Integrated control of
the Grass Valley Turbo™ intelligent digital disc recorder (iDDR) and other
~Stereo analog and AES/EBU
~SDI and DV audio
de-embedding and re-embedding
equalizer and motor-driven audio faders
management for live production lip sync
Just bitchin' to say the least!
7. On the seventh day the Heavens rained down
because Santa gave me a Storage Area Network! Woo hoo hoo hooooo!
You all want it. Your facility needs it. Now is the
time to step up buster, because we can give it to you!
DV411 can give you the SAN that's tailor made for
your facility. Whether you use Avid, Final Cut, Premiere or anything else at
all, we can give you the shared storage that makes your workflow a breeze.
We now offer solutions from Facilis,
Avid, CommandSoft, Rorke,
Apple, and Sanbolic so we know we can find you the right fit
at the right price. Almost as important as the SAN software you choose is
the highest quality storage hardware components to make it work without a
Lets start with the actual arrays. For the last two
years or so G-Technology has been the most impressive in the 4Gb arena. As a
company they have never given me a problem with support and their units are
fast as, well faster than even I need them to be! Because of this the
G-SPEED XL is my San array of choice. They offer both 12 and 16 drive arrays
at a cost WAAAY below $2 per GB. In my testing, (which has been extremely
extensive as of late) they will sustain well over 400MB/s until 80% capacity.
We're not talking weenie burst rate benchmarking here either! I ran these
arrays with actual large HD files Captured from AJA, Matrox, Bluefish and
Blackmagic. Ranging from 16MB to 20GB. So you can be sure when we say it
will play your video, we mean it. DV411 has never believed the hype. Which
is why test everything ourselves.
So you got your arrays, now you need your switches. So Santa gave
us a 4Gb switch from Q-logic. Again, there's
a lot of players in the Fibre switch market, but I've found no need to
experiment. On the low end the
SANbox 1400 gives you an entry level 10 port
switch for around $3k and moving on up to the infinitely expandable,
SANbox 5600Q 16 port switch for around $6k. Both are extremely easy to
configure and have almost no latency problems. At least for me it doesn't pay
to use anything else.
Finally, 4Gb fiber cards from Atto. Weather you need
1,2 or 4 port cards, The Atto Celerity series cards are again the only ones
I feel comfortable using. Yes they are a bit more expensive than some
others, but they're worth it. Let me just say this, in the 2+ years we've been selling 4Gb cards I don't think I have ever had one DOA or
a single card go bad. Not one RMA! You just can't argue with that kind of
Anyway, let me leave you with this thought...SAN SAN
SAN SAN SAN SAN SAN SAN SAN SAN........
8. And on the eighth day of Christmas...New
monitors for systems and production. LCD's have come a long way baby!
In price, quality and functionality!
Let's start on the production side. My
cost/performance monitor of choice is the
JVC DT-V24L1DU. I could
not be more
satisfied with this monitor. It's the first sub $20k LCD monitor that you
could even consider doing color correction on. And by sub $20k, I'm talking
very far under...I'm talking $4200. That's right, $4200 gets 1920x1200
resolution with HDSDI, DVI/HDMI, Component, Composite, Sync and audio. With
all the professional features you expect from blue check to Graphic Audio
level/timecode display to YUV/RGB switch. It's finally time to get rid of
that old CRT SD monitor, it's too heavy.
On the computer side, there are two models
that make me smile. First off is the
LP3065 30" Widescreen LCD Monitor. Aren't you tired of
having two monitors with that bloody bezel right in your face!?! The 30" gives
you all the real estate you need with an incredible 2560x1600 resolution.
Plus it gives you three dual link DVI inputs so you can run three systems with an
inexpensive keyboard mouse KVM. Alex (DV411's President) got one for his office, mounted it on a
swivel VESA mount arm and I have been stupid jealous ever since. It's now
priced under $1500 so cost can no longer be an excuse for not buying one.
Second is the new
24" Widescreen LCD Monitor. This is the ultimate input-everything-you-have-to-it monitor. The basic specs are
standard for a 24
inch monitor; 1920x1200, 1500:1 contrast, 6ms response. What makes it cool
is that it has (bear with me while I list) DVI, D-sub, Component, Composite,
S-video and HDMI. So yes, it can support your system--1080p from your PS3,
your cable box, and all of your SD sources. And oh wait!!! It has full
picture in picture and picture behind picture functionality between all the
inputs. Talk about a well rounded monitor...damn! And under $800 to boot!
9. On the ninth day of Christmas there were
ADVC Converters for all!! (Again)
Canopus owns the ninth day three years in a
row for its converters!
Whatever your I/O needs, Mac, PC or Linux,
HD or SD, Canopus is there for you with a price that can't be beat. Canopus
converters have consistently been one of the most worry free and fastest
moving items that we sell. And for good reason... they work. And if they
don't come broke outta the box (or/by some fluke) chances are they never will.
10. The tenth day of Christmas rolled around
and boy was I tired. But I got a week off and found time to shoot a damn movie on a cinema
camera that everyone can now afford!
First off...the bloody RED camera
is essentially still a phantom. So until it materializes, you can't have one
yet so stop asking me
for it. However, there are two cameras you CAN have RIGHT NOW, and both are just
and....DV411 will give you a package that includes everything you need (and
nothing you don't) to shoot it right.
Option number one is the JVC GY-HD250U. Since it
was released it has remained one of the best priced performance cameras, as
well as one of the most versatile. Not only is it a native 24p camera for
that filmy feel, but it gives you; HD-SDI output, a standard bayonet mount
with working steps for any lens you can think of (even primes!), Genlock,Timecode input and just about every other feature you can imagine in a pro
camera. Add Matte Box and follow focus kits from Chroziel, maybe a Schneider
zoom or wide angle extender, Filter sets from Tiffen or anything else you
can think of and your ready to go.
One step up on the pricing scale (but not
too far up) we find one of the most impressive cameras from NAB, the
Panasonic AG-HPX500. Those
of you who know me probably remember my irritation with the whole P2 chip scenario--too expensive
for not enough recording time. But this camera is priced (14K for the head)
where spending ($1500 per card) still keeps it more than affordable for a
camera of its quality. In fact I consider it cheap when you take into account
its 3x2/3-inch CCD's than scan at a full 1080p 60(or 50). You also get four
P2 slots with approximately one hour of record time (using 16GB cards), HD-SDI
and analog out, Timecode and Genlock etc. It even has 1394 and USB for
uploading. Even though I have never been a huge fan of the VariCam frame rate
functionality, there are a bunch of amazing features that Panasonic brought over from
its high-end counterpart. One is the cine-gama, which gives you that warm
film feel; others are focus assist, chromatic fix and chroma temp/ND settings. To
make it even more attractive Panasonic offers a five year parts and labor
warranty. All these features and a picture quality that can't be matched in
this price range.
Other 2/3 HD camera packages used to range
in the six figure area, but we can put a great package together for half that!
11. The eleventh day of Christmas came about and I was ready to pass
out. But then Santa left me a
DigiDelivery server from Avid!
In these days of telecommunication and
everybody moving to the boonies, getting your dailies/clips/frames/etc. can
be a pain. Not to mention it'll leave you with an enormous Fedex bill.
DigiDelivery is one of the best solutions in this area. Basically you can
send any file of virtually any size to anyone with an e-mail account and
with unhackable security. All you have to do is drag and drop into the
DigiDelivery GUI and send it. No passwords, no FTP addresses and completely
lossless compression. All the files are stored in encrypted form, so even if
you get robbed you won't see your movie in a torrent the next day. There are
no issues with seat licenses, or confirmations. Unlike FTP, if you get
disconnected your down/up load will pick up where it left off. For larger
facilities having one DigiDelivery server at each site will automatically
send the files so no individual workstation or your main server gets tied up
downloading. If you think really broadly, (which I've been earnestly trying to
get into our client's heads) it would be really easy to charge others for
secure encrypted delivery. There is a tight reporting log built in that
would make billing and delivery confirmation as easy as any other part of
We have been pushing this system for quite
some time now and it's still the easiest and best solution that I've seen.
Really it's a no brainer. There are two configurations available, a limited
Serv/LT which has a smaller hard drive and is limited to 20 pending deliveries at a time (around $4k) and
Serv/GT which has a 500GB and is unlimited in every way (around $10K).
12. And finally, on the twelfth day of
Christmas, the ultimate goodie... Digital Signage systems from
To those of you who are unfamiliar with digital signage as a term:
Anytime you walk into a 7-11, mall, or the entire cities of Las Vegas, Hong
Kong and New York, and you see video with informational content all over it
- that's digital signage.
"Digital signage is a form of out-of-home advertising in which content
and messages displayed on an electronic screen, or digital sign, can be
changed without modification to the physical sign, typically with the goal
of delivering targeted messages to specific locations at specific times."
In the past, doing this on any scale was a tremendous investment in
broadcast gear and software. Nowadays, thank goodness, systems have gotten
so fast and powerful that you can do signage for the cost of your average
home theater. For under $20K you can set up a turnkey broadcast output
system with customized templates ready-made for your company. Whether you
are running a retail display, internal corporate channels, real estate,
cable TV programming, or even sporting events. X2O is the easiest
solution I have ever seen. If you've ever used power point to make a presentation, you can
set up an X2O channel. This is because the X2O software works directly
inside power point to build the channels allowing you to easily add video,
graphics, live data streams etc. without needing to learn a proprietary
graphics package. It's hard to cover every aspect of what the software can
do, so I urge you to check out
X2Omedia.com for all the various data sheets, add on modules and server
options. Then call us for the turnkey system to get you started for the
But wait, it's not over yet...Stocking Stuffers!
Since it is Christmas time, I'm in the mood for a couple of low cost
stocking stuffer items. So here's some fun stuff to take a look at:
The Intensity series from
Blackmagic. These little guys are great for monitoring
video to your low cost HDMI HD TV and a good match if you have a HDMI
consumer camcorder and are having problems with capture quality over USB.
Pricing is $249
Intensity and $349
Red Giant plug-ins.
From Film Fix to Magic
Bullet, these plug-ins are used by everybody in the industry, and the
prices from $99 to $800 make it hard to say no. The best sellers to look at are
the Magic Bullet Suite ($799),
Primatte Keyer ($699),
Film Fix ($799) and
Instant HD ($99).
The GEN10 and
HI5 mini converters from
DV411 will be running a hell of a special on these items (see our newsletter
for details) in December. The GEN10 is the only sync generator you'll ever
need; tri-synch, blackburst, color bars and AES-11 tone (390). The HI5 takes
your single link HD-SDI signal and converts and scales to HDMI and will even
demux to stereo RCA if you need it. Pricing is $490 for the HI5 and
$390 for the GEN10. And because everyone always forgets....
you'll need to order the $40 US power supply or $65 for the universal version.
Now it's time for my traditional
sentimental closing words. I'll try and keep the traditional Cutter
sarcasm to a minimum =8)
This has been one of the most successful
years ever at DV411. This is all thanks to our glorious clients who keep pushing us
to the next level of technology, not to mention keeping my ass employed for
yet another year. I would especially like to thank Kurt from Unified
Pictures (unifiedpictures.com), Randy from Intel, Robert
from 24Frame, Mac from
The Tonight Show
with Jay Leno, and all the boys from Digital Sports Video (DSV).
You guys rock!!
As always, if any of you find you find
yourselves in LA, please drop on by! We'll have a beer and dwell on
things past... Or maybe things future. Whatever we do we'll have some fun. As for me, I am looking forward
to a holiday season filled with vintage bottles of cabernet, perhaps a few
new good books, and if I'm very lucky my girl will give me a massage. Now
that's what I call a Christmas!