Twelve Things Every Geek Should Want for Christmas
by Cutter Stevens
I can't believe here we are again for now the fifth edition of our geeky
Christmas list. And what a year it has been, The whole production industry has
been through some really trying times from the writers strike (which we
are still feeling the effects of) to the bank failures, to the impossibility of
getting production and completion insurance, and now a possible SAG strike. What
Well after all this I, for one, have some cause for optimism (it being
the Christmas season helps :). We are about to have a new president whom I
believe can lead us down the road to recovery. Despite Murphy's Law coming
down on Los Angeles like a fat cow from a helicopter, we had a decent summer
movie season and we are slowly seeing at least the most popular shows
returning. Hopefully, more will come along in January to spare us from the
drivel that is 80 percent of so called reality TV. I can't help seeing
brighter times ahead. We shall overcome!
Enough of the cliffs and pitfalls
that was 2008. You're here, dear reader, to find out what we love for the end of the year spending spree I hope you'll will all go on
(one can hope can't one?).
In this 2008 edition of the list I will give 12 Items that I know I
want, maybe you need, but certainly everyone needs to check out.
As well, keeping with tradition, I'm going to start this off with my nice disclaimer from
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 for you.
On the first day of Christmas
Cutter sold to me... Adobe Creative Suite 4 (Gasp!! Yes, it works in 64
Freaking Finally!!! All
of you PC users can now get your editing/effects systems on 64 bit! Yes, I know
we are talking about Vista here, but rest assured I am tirelessly going through
the OS and learning how to turn the more annoying and resource hungry part of
the OS off. All we are waiting for is for the 3rd party 64 bit drivers and
plug-ins to be released and we are good to go. No more splitting up your arrays
into irritating 2TB chunks! No more 3.5GB RAM limitations, no more sending
your frames over to Linux kernels for rendering. This alone was enough to send
waves of relief through me, but guess what? Not only is the CS4 packages ready
for 64 bit, but Adobe actually listened to us and made the software the most "bitchen"
release I have seen since before CS packaging began.
I've only had experience with
the Production Premium bundle, so I'll briefly tell you about the "Wow"
capabilities I encountered during testing.
Firstly, the OpenGL acceleration in both Photoshop and After Effects are
just silly, seriously over the top ridiculous. Granted I did my testing with
an Nvidia Quadro 4800 with 1.5 GB of ram and something like 200 processing
cores, but I've used many high end cards with Adobe in the past and I've
never seen the software react so well. I would have a giant 4K frame in
Photoshop and zoom, spin, rotate, whatever and be smooth a silk. Pixels
updated before my eyes could adjust. I blew through After Effects comps that
were frustrating beyond belief like I was working in wireframe. I can
honestly say that in working with CS4, it really does now matter what graphics
card you work with; it's not just for 3D anymore.
Secondly, no more out of memory errors (or at least not all the freaking
time). I was working with Premiere, After Effects and Photoshop all at the
same time, and I didn't run into any memory errors until I started doing
dynamic links. Even then, it was only until I started pushing the system in a
way no responsible artist would do that the errors occurred. Suffice it to say, Adobe has finally
listened to our memory management, disk caching and multi-proc/core
complaints. Whoo Hoo!!
Finally, yes there a bunch on new capabilities within the suite that
are pretty damn cool.
The coolest is you can now import 3D and Vector based models into AFX
comps. This new little feature is going to bring the titling capabilities of
the suite to truly professional levels. I will add that (on the right system
of course) really crash prone functions such as motion tracking, blurs,
frame rate change and multi-res comps are really improved - and fast!. Really,
really, really fast.
Premiere Pro (with 3rd party plug-in / Capture cards) can now work with
almost any resolution or codec currently used in professional workflows.
Whether you're working with DV, 2k Red code, or uncompressed DPX 4k files,
you're not going to run into problems with play back (I even played back Pro
Res!!!). And if that wasn't enough, the multicam function actually works. Now,
add an internal Waveform/vectorscope - seriously folks this is Premiere I'm
talking about! Finally, the number one most interesting new function: Final
Cut project import. It even reads the XML metadata. I couldn't believe it,
but it works. Why is this important you ask? Try burning a Blu-ray screener
on your Mac Workstation (also provided by DV411 of course).
I can go on and on with new Flash and Photoshop capabilities (believe me
I could), but we have other places to go with this list. Lets just say that
whether you're "a PC or a Mac" (sigh),
the CS4 suite is the first thing you
should purchase or upgrade to for Christmas. I will mention that DV411 will
be working with Adobe and a host of others for the
Adobe Road show in Los
Angeles on February 12th.
Be there or......
Just so you all don't go "Freaky Deeky" on me, I will add that despite CS4
being certified for Vista 64, The apps (save for Photoshop) are in fact
still 32-bit apps, with each app using up to 2GB RAM. Photoshop CS4,
being a native 64-bit app, can use much more RAM.
Back to that Christmas list.
On the second day of Christmas Santa gave to me... Once again DV411's Pro
Edit Compressed HD Laptops: Models vary of course
These days we have stopped building our laptops from scratch. It takes too much labor and costs too much
to you: the end-user geek. That is, unless you need something really special
(something that even I can't think of yet) in which case I would be happy to
give it a try. For just about everyone else, we can configure and sup up any
HP workstation or MacBook Pro laptop (or any laptop for that matter) that will suit most if not all of
New standouts include the HP 8530 and 8730 Laptops featuring
the Quadro 3700M 1GB graphics card, Intel Quad Core processor and dual hard
drives. I say gawdamn! You will never see a faster laptop - until next month
Also, take a look at the new MacBook Pro with its super cool LED
display: super bright with some of the best colors I've seen on a laptop.
By the by, we have a great MacBook Pro special on the website you should all check out!
There are about 80 trillion ways to make this the best production investment
of the New Year from high speed eSATA arrays, to a variety of I/O boxes, to
armored travel cases. We can figure it all out for you. It's "how we do!"
Give us a call about year end specials and
- On the third day of Christmas Santa gave to me. . . an
Intel Solid State system drive:
You've been using the same old technology for hard drives for the past 20
years. Sure they have gotten faster, larger, and most importantly cheaper!
However, they still die constantly! This is my number one support issue with
all of my clients. A hard drive starts clicking, no backup etc. When it comes
to your system drive most of the time it's not the end of the world...but it
is a royal pain in the ass. Intel (and others) have answered my call.
Taking a hint from the camera market, manufactures have introduced nearly
indestructible solid state drives with failure rates in the over 1 million
hour range. No moving parts means it takes some kind of nastiness to take
them down with size ranges up to 250GB and speeds from around 150 to 200
MB/s. Perfection for system drives. Not the highest capacity, but fast
enough for paging files and software - and they will never go down unless you put
it in the microwave. I will add, they are amazing for laptops as they use less
power and generate almost no heat.
- On the fourth day of Christmas I got Sony HVR-Z7U Camcorder!
I freaking LOVE this little
camera! First things first, it records to inexpensive Flash media cards as
well as HDV tape (sequentially or simultaneously). That's right, no
ridiculously expensive P2 cards or XDCAM disks. The only requirements are
133x minimum speeds. This means on a 32 GB card (around $80) you can record around 150
minutes HDV 24/30.
If that isn't enough, it has a 1/3 bayonet lens mount so you really can
use almost any lens with it. The Zeiss lens that comes with it is really
good. There is also an adapter to allow the use of Sony SLR lenses as an
inexpensive (or less so) Prime lens option. Lastly, it can record up to 1080i
in HDV and M2T, and standard def in DVCAM/DV, DVAVI or DVraw so as far as not every piece of
hardware or software will be able to take it in without causing hair loss.
You may think it odd that Sony is embracing all the non-proprietary standards,
because I really do! This type of respect for the low budget filmmaker is
unprecedented from Sony. Keep in mind it's still a sub $7k camera and it won't
replace an F35 or anything, but you can shoot a quality piece with it.
So really all I can say is Bravo!
P.S. I have been
working on a few laptop/camera/monitor all-in-one suitcase
configurations for the "filmmaker on the go" featuring this camera. Check
back on the website soon because we will be offering heavy discounts for
the end of the year!
- On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… (I wish) a
Grass Valley Firecoder Blu card!
I don't know about you,
but I am sooooooooooooo tired of encoding High definition streams for Blu-ray
and HDdvd and the like. Even the fastest of our systems (and our systems
are akin to a Ferrari with a nitrous kit) are still achingly slow when it
comes to H.264. This little $600 card will at least double your
encoding speeds! (They say 2x real-time, but there is a lot of
"depends" in that statement). Believe it, embrace it. When I saw it at
IBC this year my jaw actually dropped. It's not the be all end all:
you are limited to MPEG-2 program and transport streams and H.264 (AVCHD) in
1080i, 720p and 24p formats. This still covers all your Blu-Ray formats as
well as a lot of your web streaming needs. To make things even easier, it
comes with a nifty piece of software that will actually burn your BD-R. And
oh yeah... did I mention that it's 64 bit compatible? Keep it coming Grass
- On the sixth day of Christmas every Editor should want....the JVC
DT-V24L3DU Studio Reference Monitor!
Seriously... JVC you
say... Seriously?? A decent studio monitor for under $4k? "Hey everyone, check it out, Cutter's smoking
Well, no I'm bloody not. As
many of you know I've been pushing the previous generations of JVC 24
inchers for quite some time simply because you can actually get decent color
and contrast (enough to do decent color correction) and not spend $30,000. Well,
now the 3rd generation ('Verite', yes I know the name makes me want to dress
up like a girl too), with the integrated
- is even better - actually, leaps and bounds better for the
Key features include:
- Native 1920 x 1080 resolution 16:9 Flat Studio
- Status and metering displayed above or below the
active picture area.
- New low-latency circuits (<1 frame)
- HD-SDI / SDI auto-sensing inputs with Time-Code
- Accepts 1080/24psf signals
- Embedded Audio with up to 12 channel Audio Level
- DVI-D (HDMI compatible) for HD-DVD / Blu-Ray Disc
- 1:1 Scaling Mode for pixel-to-pixel 720p display
- Supports wide range of HD and computer scan rates
- Full screen mode for SD 4:3 signals
- 4 way remote controll - RS485, RS232C, Make and
- Intelligent audio-delay management for live
production lip sync
- And now an integrated
Monitor!! It even has a freakin' over level function
which will save the lives of many a client who forget to
white balance their cameras.
Yes....Seriously! You will not find a better
price/performance monitor from anyone. Now on sale for you at DV411 for $900
off retail price! You've got $3800 lying around right?
- On the seventh day Santa gave me Telestream Pipeline network capture
These little boxes have been around for a while and they're great, but I
never paid them much heed since they were only SD. Now they have an HD
model and everything has changed! Essentially this box which comes in three
flavors, single or quad channel SD or Dual channel HD, lives in between your
SAN/NAS and your deck or signal feed. You can log and capture or schedule
live recording from any workstation on your network (Mac or PC) and capture
into almost any pro codec (ProRes,Mpeg2, IMX, DNxHD, DVCpro etc). The
implications are tremendous with workflow solutions from broadcast to the
small independent studio. Whether you're using Avid, Final Cut or CS4 or your
just archiving, this is going to fit into your solution. Add Telestream's Episode
Pro and Flip Factory software apps and you'll really have something unique.
I could get really technical here, but I'll spare you. Telestream has
some really good workflow examples that will better explain what I'm talking
- And on the eighth day of
Christmas we have new System Monitors!
LCD's have come a long way baby! Here are 2 models that get me smiling.
First off is the HP 24'
Dreamcolor. ONE BILLION COLORS! That's right, 1 billion
(1,000,000,000) colors, This unit is even better than the the Eizo medical
monitors we tested a while back (they use those puppies for brain surgery!) it
comes with 2 DVI dual ports, 2 Displayport 1.1, HDMI 1.3,
Component, Composite and S-Video, so there really isn't anything it won't work
with. The one thing that is slightly annoying is that it takes 5 minutes to
warm up... but once it does you'll never see anything more beautiful.
Now in the price performance
category we have the Samsung T240HD. As all of you well know, I have liked
Samsung monitors for general computing for a long time now. They have pretty
much the same specs as everyone else, but have good support (for monitors at
least) and usually put in a few goodies as well. This particular model gives
us the usual DVI, VGA, HDMI, but has a DTV tuner and SPDIF as well. It's
pretty much perfect for a home computer monitor and even better for media
center type applications. And for around $450, it's even affordable.
- On the ninth day of Christmas there were Converters for all!!
owns the ninth day four years in a row for it's
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're not broken by the UPS carriers
delivering them, chances
are they never will.
- On the tenth day of Christmas we got...
Rimage DVD Printing Systems.
I've been working with Hamish and the Rimage crew for about a year now,
and they have a pretty unique range of products - the one draw back was
compatibility with some of the more popular authoring systems.
Recently through tireless work (and some pestering) their product line
has made huge advances in compatibility and work flow with both Sonic
Scenarist and Adobe Encore. The 2 biggies when it comes to Authoring (with
our clients). The great thing about them is they have a solution for
everybody at every level.
From the low end Rimage 2000i desktop series (2 drive 100 disk spindle)
to the Producer series (Blu-ray with robotic arms) you get the same amazing
support and high reliability that I expect for our clients. Their software is amazing when it comes publishing, copy protection,
archiving or anything else that you can imagine. You can burn and print one
copy or 100. Features include automatically printing unique serial numbers, burning in active or
passive copy protection and watermarks, in addition to the highest quality
printing I've seen from Inkjet to Thermal transfer.
No matter what your needs, they have a product that's going to fit your
- The eleventh day of Christmas came about. Santa left me a Digidelivery
Server from Avid.
In these days of telecommunica-tion and everybody moving to the boonies,
getting your dailies, clips, frames etc. to everyone who needs them will end up
giving you quite a Fed-ex bill. Digidelivery is one of the best solutions in
this area. You can send any file of virtually any size to anyone with an
e-mail account with unhackable security. All you have to do is drag and
drop into the Digidelivery GUI and send it - no passwords, FTP addresses and
completely lossless compression. All the files are stored in encrypted
format, 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 workstation or main server gets tied-up
downloading. If you think really broadly (which I've been earnestly trying
to get into our clients heads) it would be really easy to charge others for
secure encrypted delivery. There is a very good reporting log built in
that would make billing and delivery conformation 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. There are 2 configurations available, a
limited sever/LT which has a smaller hard drive and is limited to 20 pending
deliveries at a time (around $4k) and the sever/GT which has a 500GB and is
unlimited in every way (around $10K).
- On the twelfth day of Christmas, there was Digital Signage
systems from X2O Media.
(2 years in a row baby!)
To those of you
who are unfamiliar with digital signage as a term, anytime you walk into a
7-11, hotel, mall, the entire city of Las Vegas or Times square you see video
with informational content all around and over it. This is digital signage.
Again, in the past doing this on any scale was a tremendous investment in
broadcast gear and software. Now days, thank goodness, systems have gotten so
fast and powerful that you can do signage for the cost of your average home
theater. For less than $10K you can set up a turnkey broadcast output system
with customized templates ready made for your company. Whether you running a
retail display, internal corporate channels, real estate, or even sporting events
X2O is the easiest solution I have ever seen. If you have ever made a power
point 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 the turnkey
system to get you started for the holidays.
wouldn't be complete without... stocking stuffers! I don't want to leave you guys with $ signs dancing around your
stress centers. Go over to dv411.com and take a look at:
series from Blackmagic: ( $249 and $349 for the pro version). These little guys
are great for monitoring video to your low cost HDMI HD TV, and a good match
if you have an HDMI consumer camcorder and are having problem with capture
quality over USB.
Red Giant plug-ins: From Film Fix to Magic Bullet, these plug-ins are used buy
everybody in the industry and with prices from $150 to $800 bundles, it's 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).
and HI5 mini converters from
AJA: DV411 will be running a hell of a special
on these items (actually all the AJA products) 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 HDSDI signal and converts
and scales to HDMI and will even demux to stereo RCA if you need it ($490).
Also, because everyone always forgets... you need to order the $40 US power supply or
$65 for the universal version.
Speaking of AJA, they just released the new Kona drivers, all you
Kona (and IOHD) clients should install this update immediately. This one's a
* * *
Once again we’ll be at the
Adobe Road Show so come and say hello, pick my brain and
have a good time. There is going to be a lot of cool new stuff for both HD and
SD fronts. If you won’t be in the LA area, give me a call. I’m happy to
answer all your questions and add to this Christmas list.
Now it's time for my
traditional sentimental closing words, and I'll try and keep the
traditional Cutter sarcasm to a minimum =8)
It's been a hard
year for all of us but we survived (well a lot of us anyway). As I hinted at
in the opening everything that could go wrong did go wrong: industry
strikes, economy in the toilet, banking and insurance company collapses. I
can't think of a time in the last decade when it's been harder to do business.
Things have hit Los Angeles particularly bad. It's been impossible to get a
pilot off the ground. Getting completion insurance or even getting bonded is
akin to torture. Not to mention watching some great clients come close to
losing their homes and studios. Wow that's a depressing paragraph. However,
we survived. The industry for the most part is still here in Los Angeles.
The major studios are still based here, and production is slowly starting up
again. So during this Christmas season I may not be toasting to another
banner year and cashing a huge bonus, but I am thankful to be talking to you
all and for all the lessons we have learned in lean times. It's only
going to make us stronger and more successful next year!
A huge thank you for all our clients who stuck by us and appreciate
how we try and serve you! Huge, Huge Thank You!!!!
And for those of you who haven't heard we have moved our office to a spanking
new location a few miles down the road. We are now located at:
5853 Uplander Way
Culver City CA 90230
As always if any of you find yourselves in L.A
feel free drop on by and check out our swanky new place. We even have a bar
in our conference room, which either bodes well or doom (hard to say right
now). Either way we'll have fun and talk things geeky!
As for me, I happen to be sick as a dog while writing this, but I'm on
the mend a couple of days of rest and I'll be the same old loveable Cutter.
I plan on heading to DC for the inauguration next month which I really
excited about, and seeing my 100 year old grandmother for yet another
holiday (indestructibility runs in the Stevens family).
My hopes for a much much better New Year!
cutters ( @dv411.com )