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Old March 18th, 2002, 02:49 PM   #1
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The evolving state of the art - I don't want to be a dinosaur

I’ve been in television in one capacity or another since 1971. Our company opened in 1991. Over the past eleven years we have produced for broadcast television, home video, laser disk, DVD, CD-ROM, and the Web. Our work has traditionally stopped with the delivery of a Beta SP or DigiBeta edited master. For clients whose productions are intended for distribution on CD-ROM we have traditionally either have the client separate from our budget the conversion from DigiBeta to QuickTime, or we have added it as a line item to the production budget. In either case we have traditionally sent the edited masters out of house to a specialized house dedicated solely to the compression and creation of QuickTime files.

Lately I’ve noticed an alarming increase in the number of jobs coming into our office that need to be released on CD-ROM and “broadband ready.” Even some of our broadcast clients have come back to have us create CD-ROMs of the material for publicity purposes and there’s talk of converting some of the broadcast material into streaming video. Not only has there been an increase in the number of CD-ROM destined productions but clients are expecting us to do the full job. Since outsourcing the compression process can be a rather pricey line item, it is to our client’s, and our, advantage to keep the entire production in house. Here is where my evolving realization is rooted.

I’m rapidly coming to realize that in order to remain competitive, in fact, in order to stay in the business at all, we need to expand our concept of what “television production” entails. The day is rapidly approaching, if it hasn’t already arrived, when the creation of a polished, color corrected, sound mixed, edited DigiBeta master is not the end of the process. It is at best an interim phase that is good for archiving; at worst, it is an impediment to the process. Why dump a production to tape when it can remain stored on a hard drive or on a DVD? This is where we find ourselves at the moment. Do we develop partnerships with small companies that are dedicated to compressing video and creating QuickTime files (or Real, or MPEG1, whatever)? OR do we bring the necessary hardware, software, and human resources into our company?

I realize there are a million answers to these questions and most can’t really be answered because, well, it “all depends.” What I do know is that I need to get educated. I can’t act unless I know what’s exactly involved in the process. We’ve been making QT files from the MiniDV material we’re currently shooting. This seemingly simple process has proven to be rather problematic simply because, unlike video, there are no technical standards to follow. How does one know when a QT file is bright enough? How do we know how it will look on a PC when we’re creating it on a Mac? How much can we expect Cleaner to accomplish? What software is necessary besides Cleaner?

So, there you have it – a short soliloquy on what I see as the state of the art. Since this is a forum dedicated to DV aficionados, I hope some of you will have some useful suggestions. Thank you for listening.
Ozzie Alfonso
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Old March 18th, 2002, 04:45 PM   #2
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<< Ozzie: "Do we develop partnerships with small companies that are dedicated to compressing video and creating QuickTime files (or Real, or MPEG1, whatever)? OR do we bring the necessary hardware, software, and human resources into our company?" >>

As you likely know your quandry is a classic one that every industry frequently faces. The particulars of video production and delivery are basically immaterial with respect to this business decision.

As the variety of delivery media has swollen, compression technology has become a specialty science in itself. I don't think it would be rational to imagine that production and editing specialists would be able to also serve as compression specialists. This is especially true if you manage your firm's staffing on a project-by-project basis.

Certainly the correct course of action will depend principally on factors such as your strategic plans, your financial position, the forecasts for your business segments and your general appetite for growth and risk. Developing some form of partnership with a well-established specialist would seem to be an attractive path to investigate. Perhaps from a compression house's perspective they'd find it attractive to guarantee a more predictable stream of business from a production house like yours.

Either way, in the wake of your recent compression incident you, or another principal, probably would be well served to learn more about the key issues in that specialty. seems like a good starting point for exposure. They have a conference coming up in April that you might be interested in attending, too.
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Old March 18th, 2002, 06:13 PM   #3
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I can imagine your pain. It can be a true forrest out there. Now
I think the problem can be devided in to two parts:

1. compression to a digital format (quicktime, real, mpeg etc.)
2. offering them streaming.

2 is best left at people who know streaming, who have the
bandwidth to stream away. Now 1 is the truly hard question.
If we lived in a perfect world we would all have loaded up
our color profiles, to calibrate our monitors, printers, scanners
and what else we hang onto our computers.... Color profiles?
Perhaps I should explain a bit. At least on Windows (I have no
clue how the Mac is standing on this, but I assume they have
it too) you can load up color profiles for your equipment (if
they are available). When you have installed all these color
profiles (ICM or ICC files I believe) they should match each
other much more closer.

Unfortunately most people do not even know this exists
and thus have no color profiles loaded. For a lot of equipment
color profiles do not even exist I think. I have never played
much with this (perhaps you where hoping I'd give you a
solution by now -- I'm afraid not), so I don't know how all
of this will work. I've read a bit on it sometime ago and I
believe it was said that this whole color profiling was still
at its inception. Let us hope that things will get better soon.

Now an interesting idea would be if we could embed a color
profile in our movies? So that a player would know how to
calibrate it on the monitor (if it also has a color profile loaded).
I did a quick search on the Apple site and came up with the
following links regarding QuickTime:

Now I've not read these myself, it is 2:13 AM here and I am
still at work trying to get some things finished, sigh. But it
looked like a nice read. Perhaps it contains some usefull
information or directions in which to look.

I hope this all made some sense to you Ozzie.

Good luck with your forrest!

Rob Lohman,
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Old March 18th, 2002, 11:23 PM   #4
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Ozzie, check out the post I made about FlashMX. It has links to Macromedia and Sorenson. Flash is pretty much the standard for web animation and now with FlashMX Web Video will soon follow
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Old March 19th, 2002, 06:08 AM   #5
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My own gut reaction, were I in your position, is to acquire the hardware, software and human resources for producing digital output media in house. You'd ultimately have more control that way. The trick, of course, is hiring someone who really does know what they're doing.

I'm in the middle of such a learning curve myself... my own production and postproduction operations are very small and scaled back; I have only a few regular clients and I prefer to keep it that way. The demand for digital media output among all of them is very high... it's not just VHS anymore. I'm asked for DVD, videoCD, Quicktime, streaming web video, etc.

Finally I have the right gear to do it. My Canopus DVRex RT editing system includes a Pioneer A03 DVD burner, still the industry standard in this rapidly changing world, and the excellent Canopus Web Video Wizard software along with an almost-real-time hardware MPEG encoding module. I've got most of the digital distribution formats covered this way.

Most of my production work is itself becoming tapeless as well. If I record an event such as a dance recital or play and output to DVD, it's highly possible I'll never actually roll one single tape, not even DV, if I'm using FireStore with an external hard drive for on-set video capture during the acquisition phase.

The trick for me is the human resource department. I can't afford to hire an expert in this field, since I'm just a small business, so I've got to become one. Lately I've been relying on and tutorials elsewhere on MPEG encoding settings and the like. As Ozzie points out, the number of variables at this stage is almost overwhelming and it helps in my case to have a small client base. I know exactly what brand of DVD set-top players they have, and who has Windows and who has Macs. Right now I'm thankful that there are only two computer platforms out there among the majority.

In my case I'm outsourcing my duplication... my VHS, DVD and videoCD copies in bulk come from the city... but I can do masters and one-off's right here in the house. These days, if I couldn't do that, I wouldn't have business.

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Old March 19th, 2002, 07:14 AM   #6
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You gentlemen have all come to quorum, I see. Indeed, the nature of video/audio distribution and application is changing in a revolutionary way. Someone once said, "the only thing immutable, is that change never stops". I'm probably paraphrasing. Unfortunately for the small businesses in a hi-technology area, the technology, itself, is evolving at a dramatic pace. The end result is that for a business to stay current and able to meet market demands, large amounts of money have to be spent updating hi-tech equipment that becomes obsolete by the time it hits the commercial marketplace. One year from the purchase of a new audio/video editor, for example, the product has been replaced. The situation is exacerbated when imbedded technologies are scrapped and new ones adopted. The most vivid example is the DV format. Right now, for example, 5:1 compression is the standard for DV format. This level of compression was established on the basis of computer thru-put at the time. As computer technology advances, the next logical step will be to revise the DV standard for better performance. Now, I ask, what will become of all those tape drives, cameras, DV VCR's, etc., etc., that were designed around the old 5:1 compression ratio? OOOps, time to buy new equipment. A small business can hardly afford to upgrade on an annual basis.

A more current example might be the proliferation of set top DVD players. DiVX technology is making a bid to replace DVD with its own set top boxes. Will this technology win out over DVD? Who knows?, but if it does, all those DVD players will be obsolete. The entire process is mind boggling. HDTV vs standard TV is another example. The only thing holding HDTV back is that TV is very deeply imbedded across this country with older TV sets.

Once internet broadband hits most households in this country, and internet streaming video becomes reality, we may well see the day where "hard copy" video no longer exists. Content will be distrubuted and stored sans paper, disk, tape or RAM. TV and computer technology will merge into the bobsey twins and video content will be distributed, not at BLOCKBUSTER, but over broadband digital cable.

I think we're in the midst of quite a significant change. Remember the record player? Who still has one on their stereo(read: hi-fi)? In order to stay viable, a business has to consider cost - efficient purchase of essentially "disposeable" technology.

One more point, before I end my rant. In order to stay competitive, a business has to be on the leading edge of the distribution marketplace. If a business falls behind, the competition from a million "mee-too" startups keeps profit from ever making the business viable. Sounds like we're stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Last edited by Bill Ravens; March 19th, 2002 at 07:32 AM.
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