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    by Stu Maschwitz
Saturday
Apr212007

Color My Impression

Back in October, Apple bought Silicon Color, a small company with a line of products branded FinalTouch. Ranging from a $1000 standard-def solution all the way up to a $25,000 2K system, FinalTouch was a color grading solution composed of software written for the latest breed of Apple’s tower workstations. FinalTouch on a sweet Mac with some add-ons was intended to be competitive with grading stations costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But reports from users were that the systems were anything but real-time, and had some reliability issues that ranged from inconvenient to catastrophic. Still, FinalTouch had (and still has) a devoted and active user base, and earned a reputation of aggressively supporting its customers through these technical glitches.

I, like most people, was excited to see Apple buy FinalTouch. Firstly, I expected the product to become vastly cheaper as a result, enough so that I could get me some without needing to base a business around it. I also expected Apple to bolster the feature-rich product with some much-needed quality assurance engineering.

But as Shake users know better than anyone (expect maybe Rayz users), Apple buying your bread-and-butter can be a mixed blessing. When you buy expensive software from small companies, you effectively become best friends with the development team. You know them by first names and you send them holiday cards. You have a folder full of emails from and to them. Apple, however, mistakenly applies the same strategy of black-box secrecy that works so well for iPods and iPhones to its Pro Apps division as well, cutting off developers from users and vise versa. I have struggled with this enough that my company, The Orphanage, no longer has any special relationship with Apple. It’s just too much of a one-way street. I can’t buy my bread-and-butter tools from someone who can’t conduct an open conversation with me (under NDA of course) about the future of the product.

Nevertheless, I remained excited that Apple was taking over FinalTouch and was hoping that NAB would see the announcement of it’s new incarnation. I was not disappointed. Not only was Color saved for the gracenote of Apple’s Sunday launch event, but it was given proper respect as representing an aspect of film production as important as music and sound. And then Rob Schoeben announced the price: free. It ships in the box with Final Cut Studio 2.

Strangely, this pissed some people off. To understand why, you need to look back to the release of Final Cut Pro, and in fact, to the Mac itself. The Mac, as you will recall, turned everyone into a designer. We endured some truly abysmal church event flyers, and print professionals had to remind their customers that it was their skill and taste that made them worth hiring, not their unique access to proportional fonts. Apple’s Final Cut did the same, lending the world the momentary notion that anyone could be an editor. And again, with time, people realized that it wasn’t the $100,000 investment in an Avid that made you an editor, it was skill, training, and experience.

Colorists have transitionally been a lot like Flame artists—they drive a powerful, expensive, and rare beast, and drive it with skill, speed and unique good taste. I’ve been known to spend more than a grand (of other peoples’ money) for an hour of time with an A-list colorist. Sure, I expect his Da Vinci to run fast and intuitively and grade my shots in HD in real time without a hiccup, but mostly I expect him to live up to his personal reputation for making my footage more than the sum of its parts. When you see these top dudes do their thing it gives you a palpable respect for the power of color. My opportunities to work with these artists have been a huge inspiration to my designs for Colorista and Magic Bullet Looks.

To get to that point, or near it, colorists needed access to the pricey and rare color stations like the Da Vinci. As expensive as it is to own one, it’s twice as expensive to let someone putz around on one when you could be booking a client in that room. So today’s colorists wield skills that are hard-earned and fought-for. They got where they are by unglamorously running tape decks and sneaking in time on the knobs whenever they could. Or, as entrepreneurs, they got where they are with considerable financial investment in a system of their own.

So like Avid editors of only a handful of years ago, colorists are now staring down the barrel of a world full of Final Cut Studio users who may suddenly fancy themselves colorists in their own right. And to them I say, don’t worry. Here’s why.

First, the obvious. They aren’t going to be any good. Color work is hard. The accessibility of violins has not tarnished the reputations of the Paganinis of the world.

Color correcting one shot is fun. Color correcting a dozen shots to look both lovely and consistent is hard work. Even people willing to commit to that work will run up against a phenomenon called metamerism. Without going into too much detail, I’ll suffice it to say that the more color work you do on a shot, the harder it is to stay good at it. Like Riggs in Lethal Weapon, you get too close to the case and loose all objectivity.

Even with Apple’s best efforts at integrating Color into FCP, there’s still a big speed bump between one’s editorial process and Color’s daunting interface. Editors who have trained themselves in enough color work to get by within FCP (possibly using Colorista!) may be perfectly happy with their workflow.

Did I mention that Color’s interface is daunting? Color isn’t Mac-like. When you click over to the Secondaries tab and start working on a secondary correction, nothing happens. You have to manually enable that secondary. Similarly, when you create a mask or vignette for that secondary, it defaults to having no effect. You must manually “attach” it to the secondary. Little gotchas and usability failures lurk behind every corner of this odd app that at a distance looks sexy as hell with its three-dimensional vectorscope, but up close lacks even the common courtesy of an anti-aliased font.

Maybe the single most important thing for people to understand is that color grading is not onlining. Look at the feature set of Smoke. Onlining is color correction plus a million other things, things you can do very effectively in either Final Cut Pro or After Effects or some combination thereof. For some, a fluid environment in which to meticulously hone only the color aspects of a project will be well worth the workflow hurdles. For many it will not. Some of Colorista’s biggest fans are also paid-in-full Final Touch customers. It’s hard for some editors to give up the easy and pervasive access to all their titling, effects, edits, sound and their color that they’ve been enjoying live in Final Cut. A good analogy is dedicated audio mixing software. I know a hundred FCP users who have never opened Soundtrack Pro.

A couple more safety tips: Color likes the latest Mac hardware with dual displays, won’t run on a laptop (at least not my 15” MacBook Pro), and really isn’t any fun without some expensive external hardware from JL Cooper or Tangent Devices.

And lastly, Color has a dirty little secret. To reveal it, one simply needed to walk up to one of the (presumably fully-pimped) Color demonstration stations at NAB and do something that you didn’t see in any of the on-stage demos: Press play. Color, when doing the kind of stuff that makes it worth using, is not real-time. Which, of course, is totally OK—but what’s not OK is that Color doesn’t render any sort of interactive preview that you can view in the context of a session. To see your work play back smoothly, you must batch render and view the results in Final Cut! There’s no concept of rendering an interactive preview to Color’s own timeline. Color should work just like Final Cut itself, with a bar above the timeline that shows what parts are rendered and available for real-time playback, and which parts have been edited and are therefore in need of a render. Rather than force me to hit render, Color should speculatively render recently edited shots in the background during periods of user inactivity.

I patiently explained all this to the nice former Silicon Color employee at the Apple booth and he actually told me that colorists don’t want this feature. I think maybe his newly-issued black mock turtleneck was cutting off his air supply a little. Trust me dude, they may not know they want it, but they want it. But as much as they latently want it, FCP editors, the new predominant user base of Color, will expect it. And clients will of course demand it.

Am I dissing Color? Quite the opposite. It’s a powerhouse, and an important development for video professionals and DV Rebel filmmakers. Apple has put a (slow) Da Vinci in your living room. Are you going to use it? I think for most folks the answer will be a definite “maybe.” But with a few more features, and a more dynamic link-up between FCP and Motion, Color could become the single most exciting thing for filmmakers since Final Cut itself. If only Apple can find a way to stay connected with the people using it.

Reader Comments (59)

Couldn't agree with you more on the "Be careful what you wish for" sentiment with regards to Apple buying up small and interesting software companies, but at least in this case they've made Color a central part of their flagship suite.

However if Color is unable to play back in real-time without rendering and round-tripping back to FCP then that is a huge own-goal. I can think of nothing more frustrating than grading a shot and not being able to instantly see how its working in context, for what is grading if its not about context. I can only assume that the Apple employee that you spoke to had been tooting on the crack pipe or he knows something that DaVinci, Filmlight, Pandora and Nucoda, who have only supplied, oh lets see now, pretty much every color suite in use today, have somehow overlooked.

I'm the systems engineer in a facility that runs iQ, Nucoda and Scratch, and which evaluated Baselight, and everything about those systems is about fast, faster, fastest feedback when grading. Okay, those are not very DV Rebel systems but the principle when driving them is exactly the same.

Color was one of many products at this years NAB that I got really excited, and the thing that might make me buy a mac after many years on PCs. its going to be fascinating to see if the new wave of truely affordable high-end production technology delivers the goods.

April 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterShannyla

Pity it won't run on a 15" - hopefully they will work it out. Aperture is a great example of how Apple seems to work. Release a great concept in a terrible program and use your version 1 buyers as beta testers (and charge them a premium for the privelage.) Six to Nine months later they release what should have been the gold master in the first place. Same happened with Tiger now that I think about it - took several updates to get it to what should have been the release candidate. At least with Color you are getting it free.

System requirements (cut and paste from Apple - got to laugh that you need a three button mouse, something they refuse to make themselves!):

Color
The standard graphics card in any Mac Pro, 17-inch MacBook Pro, 24-inch iMac with Intel Core Duo, or 2.5GHz or faster Power Mac G5 Quad:
ATI Mobility Radeon X1600
ATI Radeon X1600
NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT, 7600 GT, 7300 GT, 6800 Ultra DDL, 6800 GT DDL, 6600, or Quadro FX 4500
A display with 1680-by-1050 resolution or higher
A three-button mouse for full functionality.

April 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

In all fairness Stu, didn't they just buy Final Touch? Won't they need time to re-write the code to work with Core Video or FX Plug?

While I would probably use Look more, I think it's awesome to include Color for basically free in FCS2.

Craig

April 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

I haven't come accross anyone real colorists who used final touch and had anyting good to say about it.
I'm hoping that Colour is like Motion 1.0 and in 6 months when it's updated by better programmers (i'm thinking the shake team who fixed aperture) it will be a different beast and actually work.

What do you think of Motion 3 though Stu?

April 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterToby

Man, it's just like Stu said. Apple has put a Da Vinci/Lustre like application in our hands. They are continuing to alter the landscape for the DV Rebels and Indies of the world. It's getting better and better for us all.


I also believe that once they've been under the hood for a while it will get all of the needed fixes so the serious colorist as well as Dv Rebel can use it effectively. For now, they've saved me a ton of cash. I was going to buy Final Touch just last year when Apple snapped them up. I knew what was coming then. They just floored me though by adding it free. And, Motion 3. Its' getting the benefit of Shake technology. I was going to buy Shake for the Optical Flow technology and Smoothcam alone. And, now it's it in Motion. This is a good day!

It's all good in my book!

Is this anything like having Color Finesse in After Effects?

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersean

According to this clip called "Real-Time Professional Grading", Color should at least have some real-time previewing built-in. No need to go back to FCP to preview.

http://www.apple.com/finalcutstudio/color/?movie=grading

They mention that it's possible to preview without rendering but "for optimal performance, you should render each clip when it's ready". Good or bad "news"?

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Everyone wants Apple to make all things working perfect now. Hell look at the updates Apple pulled and compare that to Discreet Systems or Avid. At least Apple keeps pushing. As for no real-time preview, well I bet in 2 years we will have it and it's not like After Effects does it without a RAM render.

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

wow. not even some sort of ram preview? I'd have to see the workflow, but unless you can get the shot back into your FCP timeline with one key command, and with a fast render, i can't see using this a lot. Even Color Finesse (v1) was extremely annoying this way.

My workflow is usually do what you can in FCP, do the rest in AE. Colorista (esp with the Auto Duck translation to AE). Throwing Color into the mix may complicate rather than simplify.... depends if you finish in AE or FCP.

Still, for a 1.0 product, and a free one at that, I'm happy to have it.

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

Also, this from the "FinalTouch Getting Started" manual from a year ago:

"Playback
The timeline can playback movies with color correction in real time. You can
control what portion of movie is played, and whether the playback is forward or
reverse. You can also control whether or not it loops during playback. To start the
player, place the mouse within the FinalTouch timeline area and press the space
bar on the keyboard. The cursor will switch from an arrow to an “X” indicating that
the system is busy (playing back a movie, in this case). Pressing any key terminates
playback and returns FinalTouch to normal operation. "

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I realize that "real time" is one of the marketing claims of Color. While it may be true for simple corrections at SD, all I have to go on is my one-on-one demo with the actual developer standing there. I pressed play, watched the stuttery playback (looked like about 10-15 fps) and asked, "So, is this the dirty little secret of Color?" and his response was a refreshingly honest "Yes." Truth is, I was delighted at his forthrightness. It will only get better--but then we'll just want 16 secondaries instead of eight, and live-link with Motion, and whatnot. So a cached preview mechansim seems like a must whether you're doing simple corrections at SD or using Color on your new 4K Red One feature.

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

1- I believe the SD FT was $999, and FT HD that was around $5k. A minor quibble.

2- I think you have a misconception when it comes to metamerism / not being able to CC well after looking at something too long. Metamerism doesn't apply to that situation... you're looking at eye fatigue or adaptation.

3- As far as Color goes, there is good and bad to it. Some of the things in it I find annoying... the rooms concept makes no sense. A lot of the stuff should be in its own room.

The b-spline tracking really missed the mark- bezier splines (or other spline types) are much faster to draw. B-splines are only good if you need to do detailed roto work... which you won't be doing in a color grading suite (and heck, da vinci 2k can only do circles and rectangles). As well, there's a lot of unnecessary button pushing. I know on the old Silicon Color forum they did talk to end users a lot (a good thing, especially for bug fixes + workflow tips), but it's kind of like they don't get it.

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterglenn

On the other hand... at its price point, there isn't too much out there that's like Color.

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterglenn

Aw, c'mon Stu, I've seen FT running at speed. The whole point of these things is to blast the image to the screen like an editor, and twirl the color around in the GPU. You gotta render for stuff like 4K, and you've got to have enough disk available to support what you're doing (which may have been the demo problem). I'm curious about Colorista, though - hadn't heard anything about it until reading your blodge, and I've been using AE since the year dot.

"Used to be a stoner.."

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDingbutt

Dingbutt et al., please understand I'm not trying to slander Color. I'm simply reporting on what I saw and what I was told by one of the developers. No one would be happier than me if I turned out to be wrong.

Understand also that I don't mind rendering. I just want to cache what I render. Right now Color is like AE was before it had RAM preview.

Of course, if GPU cards get fast enough that Color doesn't have to render, then that's fine too. But that's not what was being demoed on the floor of NAB, and I only had one secondary on the shot that was bogging.

And Glenn, yes, FT SD was $1K, thanks for the correction—you'll note that I've corrected the post.

April 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

Glenn, I don't get your comment that other spline types are faster to draw than b-splines. B-Spline code is quick and easy - and no slower than any other spline type as really you're just changing values in a basis matrix to alter spline type based upon the control vertices.

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGraeme Nattress

Hi,

As a "beta-tester" (purchased the thing, thought we bought a working system, the usual deal) and interested in film-grading, it was FT's funciton as a DPX-onliner/grader that got my attention. I can't see very much about it now, though, on Apple's site. Is that functionality still in there? Did anyone get to see anything about that? I used FT for several months, but on all occations with client supervised session, it was a disaster. Crashes and bad play-back was the major dificulties. And buggy-interface... all in all, a beta-software..! :) The guys who made it though, were phenomenal. They could turn out a new beta-relese in a day, if there was a specific thing to fix. Really good, and I quite agree to what's been said here already: now that FT is an Apple-product, I doubt that the relationship is going to work as smooth as it once did. Personally I quit my job at the studio running FT, so I don't know if they still use it.
Good reporting, Stu. Enjoyed the read alot.
/ Andreas

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndreas

saw this quick demo vid over on freshdv... to a prev point made in the post, look at the guy's demo hardware setup :) 3 monitors+

http://www.freshdv.com/podpress_trac/web/893/0/nab07_apple_color.mov

cheers, brian

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbrianfb

Last week, I saw with my own eyes and was told by two demo artists (probably the same one's that Stu sat with) and an Apple sales drone: "You never see real-time in Color. You have to share back to FC for real-time playback." Since all the demo footage was 2K resolution, and our workflow is still primarily SD, I asked if Color would playback SD with basic primaries correction in real-time. "No, but as a colorist, when do you ever correct in real-time? Don't you always work on a still frame?" As Stu said, that's where he lost me.

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEric

I can only hope that eventually my investment in FT2K will pay off with some sort of distinction - having spent a great deal of sometimes heartbreaking time with it. There are a few dirty litle secrets, actually. I am waiting with baited breath for the fecal particles to hit the fan when the world at large gets to wrap this racecar around the nearest lamppost. Most plugin color correctors aren't powerful enough to get the average Sunday driver into trouble, but this is a full-featured monster and you now have the power to completely ruin your picture.... or make it into pure magic. Feeling lucky? Go ahead make my day.
The definition of "real-time" means that the colour changes when you move the controls. Knobs/joyballs are better. Like having a steering wheel, throttle and brakes. Try driving a car with a mouse sometime. I suppose it can be done, but you ain't even going to qualify at Indy.

The concept of the "play" button... hmm... yes it would be nice if it played the picture back at the native frame rate. I get more or less the same thing with the jog knob... but not very many people have one of those. Really, its just the change between scenes that we want to see. Actually watching the movie back is a bit of a distraction and a(nother) way to lose objectivity. Haven't heard anyone squawk about "no audio?"...
Nope, doesn't support that either.

But hey, nearly a million FCP users have now been exposed to this app -- a certain percentage of them will assume that, yup, being Bergman, Lucas, Coppola, Murch, Nykvist, Hitchcock, Welles, Scorsese, Storaro, etc., all rolled into one that this is just the tool they need to sidestep all those over-rated and overpaid posers who have been ripping them off for all these years. But does a one-man-band produce as nice a sound as a full symphony where each player knows their instrument? You know who you are by the way you answer this question.

JPO

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I think the reason it won't run on your 15" is due to the screen resolution - it says you need a min. 1680x1050 to run it. If you go out to an external monitor you should be OK, though, since the 15"ers still come with an ATI x1600 graphics card.

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Graeme: By draw, I mean to physically draw the spline with your hand (with a mouse or stylus).

Some programs let you draw freehand and it will make up curves from there- that's the fastest. Or, you can draw bezier splines pretty fast too (see the color grading featurette in LOTR1 extended edition). With this method, you don't end up with an unwieldy # of control points if you need to roto/animate your mask.

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterglenn

Glenn, I for one am glad that Color uses b-splines rather than beziers. It may take a few more points to make a shape with b-splines, but since every bezier CV is really three points, I find b-splines faster to create. But more importantly, I find b-splines much faster and easier to animate—hence their importance in rotoscoping software. So no complaints from me on the masking in Color.

In fact, those masks paired with tracking may be good enough to be dangerous. I spoke with a colorist at a major film DI house and he said he never wanted to switch fro his Da Vinci (finite quantity of squares and circles) to a Lustre (unlimited spline shapes), because he didn't want to become a roto artist! It's easy to see how one could see that as a slippery slope when looking at Peter Jackson's production diary entry on the grading phase of King Kong:

http://img-nex.kongisking.net/kong/movies/PPD-12WeeksToGo_qt6_high.mov

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

"The definition of "real-time" means that the colour changes when you move the controls. "

Makes sense, but I agree that real-time playback would come in handy once in a while. The movie on the Color website shows a clip playing back and looping, though it stutters quite badly (which suggests it could be resolved with fatter graphics cards (hello nVidia 8800)).

The part I just can't believe is the demo guy saying such a thing, that "real colorists don't want real-time playback". Since when is less choice better (at least in Pro apps where you can expect a certain level of Background Fundamentals)? It sounds a bit apologetic and defensive to me. (If you did get his name, put in a Bug Report on him over at the Apple Developer site ;)

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterOskar Lissheim-Boethius

Hi Oskar,

I think what the Apple dude was saying was not that Final Touch users didn't want realtime playback, but rather that they didn't want integrated, NLE-style rendering. Which one could possibly interpret as "don't render, just gimme real time." Which is fine, except that even this pimped-out system couldn't provide that, leaving batch rendering to FCP as the only option.

Rendering to the timeline could, if done right, provide a very close approximation of perfect real time performance. I have to imagine this is not lost on Apple.

The thing I'm concerned about is this: I render my first pass at color and catch some things that need fixing. I go back to Color and fix three out of 50 shots. Am I now to re-render the whole thing? Or will Color recognize that I've changed only three shots and render only those, dropping them back into my FCP timeline?

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

Hey Stu i don't need real-time CC :),but i wan't to know is Color capable of doing something that new MB can't?

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Each can do plenty the other can't—for example, Color has a timeline! It's a host and we're a plug-in, and to me that looks like a match made in heaven.

April 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

Stu was there any mention if Colour uses a disk cache? I'm no defender of it but even Film Master and Lustre sometimes need a stuttery play through once to get stuff rendered. That being said, all the graphics cards on the list are more than capable of realtime HD playback at least of primaries so it's definitely the code that's at fault.
Hopefully this will all be fixed when I get to buy that next gen mac pro that supports SLI...

April 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterToby

oh and straight from the tec specs page:
Support for 4:4:4 2K as DPX or Cineon files
Optional proxy creation for DPX and Cineon files
Thank God!

April 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterToby

Please excuse my poor english.

I think it is quite funny that you are always pro apple and as soon as a product is a competitioner to your own product you go against it.

Color does not have the main problems you considered with the final cut color correction, does it? (Like for example na change to blue when you change the blacks )

April 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Hi Anonymous,

I think most people who know me would not accuse me of being particularly "pro Apple." But in this case, I hope I communicated that I am thrilled with Apple's release of Color:

"I, like most people, was excited to see Apple buy FinalTouch."

"I remained excited that Apple was taking over FinalTouch and was hoping that NAB would see the announcement of it's new incarnation. I was not disappointed."

"It's a powerhouse, and an important development for video professionals and DV Rebel filmmakers."

The reason I took the time to enumerate my few, but significant complaints about Color is that I want them to make it better.

I don't understand how a plug-in maker could consider an exciting new host app "competition." Feels much more like an opportunity to me.

April 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

There is a definite reason why the Color demos at Vegas were not playing back in realtime and is has very ver little to do with the Software it self or even Apple's hardware per se.

When grading using the video out facilities of either a decklink or AJA card, the play back is hideously slow due to the fact that the signal processing happens indeed in the GPU. Unfortunately this drastically limits the monitoring options in color to either a DVI attachable device or to 8bit video via something like the DVI-Ramp.

Two years ago on a dual 2ghz G5 and an ATI board I was running 1k 10bit DPX files with 8 secondaries in real time through the GPU. The demo artists at NAB were unfortunately unable to turn off the video preview but if they were, you would have seen what the code can actually do.

Best,
Chris

--
Chris Noellert
Senior Flame / Digital Post Technical Director / Prima donna

Nordiskfilm Post Production Stockholm
(Formerly Filmteknik/Frithiof Film to Video. AB)
Tulvaktsvagen 2
115 40 Stockholm

Tel: +46 8 450 450 00
Fax: +46 8 450 450 01
Dir: +46 8 450 450 17
Mob: +46 7 024 616 31
AIM: cmnoellert

Reel: http://se.nordiskfilm-postproduction.com/movieviewer.aspx?movie=Video_250018.mov
Web: http://www.nordiskfilm-postproduction.com

April 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Hi Chris

One monitioring solution in this case would be to do what we do with our Nucoda and send the right hand desktop out to an SDI monitor through the FX4500-SDI's dual-link SDI... which would of course require Apple to start supporting the card, I am aware of that fact, but who knows, they use Intel now...

Also, I believe that just about every facility in London with a Baselight uses the DVI out for their monitoring output to a projector, but I'm prepared to be quite wrong about that. Certainly it was the case in the early days of Baselight.

Doug Shannon
Senior Systems Engineer
NFTS
UK

April 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

Hey Chris, thanks for posting that. I had heard something about the connection between proper video monitoring and the lag in realtime performance. Maybe the folks who had seen the zippier playback were only viewing it on the Apple displays.

Seems like all the more reason to support rendering to the Color timeline to some sort of temp codec, presumably the one supported by your video i/o card, so you could have the same render/playback model we enjoy in Final Cut Pro.

April 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

I'm lost.. ;)

ok so if your previewing with an aja kona 3.. it's slower? replace it with DVI> hdlink or on a pc out of a 4500SDi and its faster ?

Why have Apple not sorted the 4500 sdi ?

ahh.. they want Avid so had aja make a box.
sigh.....

April 24, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterflameop

Stu asked: The thing I'm concerned about is this: I render my first pass at color and catch some things that need fixing. I go back to Color and fix three out of 50 shots. Am I now to re-render the whole thing?

Depends on what keystroke you hit. FT will render any shot you place into the Final Print room.

What I do... after I revise each shot I'll do a manual Add for printing. When I'm done revising my 20 or so shots, I render out just those shots.

But - if I mistakenly Select All and add every shot, it doesn't know which shots were changed and which weren't and will render them all out.

And if you don't change the naming of the files, it'll overwrite the previous file and when you re-open your project in FCP the new shot automatically links.

RE: B-Splines... I like them as well. But currently there's a bug that prevents keyframed masks from rendering. I suspect that one will have been squashed in time for the Color release. Also, there aren't any handles on those splines for weighting control points - making it of limited value for roto work.

- patrick
fini.tv

April 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick Inhofer

I understand you now, Glenn. Thanks.

I really like b-splines though as they're so nice and well behaved and don't go "mad" like other spline types.

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGraeme Nattress

Look at it this way, at least you'll get the option to buy the source code in a couple of years :o)

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Stu,

Very good write up of Color, IMO. Lots of post-NAB speculation going around it's great to get some hard info on possibly the most talked about aspect of FCS2. Even though it's not all roses that's fine w/me 'cause 1.) I want to know what's really going on, not just want Apple's PR is putting out and 2.) the entire suite is only $1300 so of course there will draw backs especially w/a "version 1" release of software.

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndrewK

Hi Guys,

Comments inserted:

1st. From Doug:
> One monitioring solution in this case would be to do what we do with our
> Nucoda and send the right hand desktop out to an SDI monitor through the
> FX4500-SDI's dual-link SDI... which would of course require Apple to start
> supporting the card, I am aware of that fact, but who knows, they use Intel
> now...
>
> Also, I believe that just about every facility in London with a Baselight uses
> the DVI out for their monitoring output to a projector, but I'm prepared to be
> quite wrong about that. Certainly it was the case in the early days of
> Baselight.

Hi Doug,

Apple's lack of support for the 4500 SDI is one of those things that I never really quite fathomed and to be honest, when Apple actually starting shipping workstation class machines, I very much took it for granted that 4500 SDI support would wander it's way in as well, which it of course did not.

It's a good match for a company that makes a video editor, and now a colour corrector as almost every other "software" CC manufacturer has found - Discreet, Digital Vision to name a few.

As far as the DVI issue is concerned, dual DVI is in fact 10bit RGB soooo using the new DVI Ramps from Miranda pulling a 10bit signal (in RGB or "YUV") shouldn't be an issue for getting waveforms and vector scopes, and looping through to either a projector or to a Video monitor.

Regarding the Baselight DVI or not to DVI, the combiners that sit on the back of the clustered Baselights (like our Baselight8) have both dual DVI as well as duallink HDSDI outputs which can both be active simultaneously and running seperate 3d cubes (in hardware) for calibrating them differntly in order to show a "like" picture on both, thereby allowing independent calibration of your scopes to the DVI signal feeding the projector which in most cases is not exactly what you would call "standard" or "correct."

From Stu
> Hey Chris, thanks for posting that. I had heard something about the connection
> between proper video monitoring and the lag in realtime performance. Maybe the
> folks who had seen the zippier playback were only viewing it on the Apple
> displays.
>
> Seems like all the more reason to support rendering to the Color timeline to
> some sort of temp codec, presumably the one supported by your video i/o card,
> so you could have the same render/playback model we enjoy in Final Cut Pro.

Hi Stu,

The issue basically in a nut shell is that the frames are read directly from disk into the GPU for processing. No problem there. As someone pointed out modern Nvidia and ATI GPUs are very very powerful and someone who can write clever low level GPU code can get those things dancing. The issues becomes pushing that frame back out of the GPU, back up the bus to be processed again by the Video board.

Ironically this is the same issues that Flame has always had, and the only way to solve it is to have some form of hack into the graphics pipe to generate the video preview.

Dumping from the GPU to disk was something that Andy was working on when I was demo-ing the kit so that essentially the workflow was that once you played through the shot you could bake the GPU down to disk or send it right to a slave machine (which also had a GPU) which would then render the shot and dump it to your disk. Of course the GPU to disk dump suffers from the same problem as the video preview traveling back up the bus to the raid controller which is why they opted for a slave machine or machines to push and pull in the background.

It comes down to trade offs. All forms of image processing software/ hardware face the same dilemmas and almost all of them solved the issues in different ways but always being bound by the triangle of Speed, Quality and Price.

...and from Flameop
> I'm lost.. ;)
>
> ok so if your previewing with an aja kona 3.. it's slower? replace it with
> DVI> hdlink or on a pc out of a 4500SDi and its faster ?

Exactly and not just a little... But a lot faster. I remember playing back these 1k dpx files on my old G5 dual proc and scrubbing the oval vignette from left to right of a looping scene. The machine never dropped a frame in playback and the vignette jammed left to right with a fluidity I had never ever seen on our DaVinci2k or Pandora systems. No back tracking through the PCIe bus makes a lot more things possible.

> Why have Apple not sorted the 4500 sdi ?

Wish I knew.

> ahh.. they want Avid so had aja make a box.
> sigh.....
> --

That's less strange. There's a common misconception that hardware is a bad thing and that in this day and age of open standards that hardware is dated conceptually. The raw fact of the matter is that dedicated hardware can allow for some amazing increases in productivity over commodity for given tasks. A point in fact might be the Luster which is now finally able to playout 2k to an HD deck with realtime pan and scan transformations applied - something which the iQ for example has been able to do in hardware for 4/5 years. The iQ can even do 4k now as well, which will take commodity years.

DNA is a good exmaple of why the most demanding editing still happens on Avid. It's not the complexity of what needs to happen but more the speed and rate of feedback that keeps people firmly planted in Avid land... That of course and a toolset that they're used to using for like 20 years.

The AJA box could flop hard but I think that most skeptics will embrace it when they see the simple stuff start to fly.

Best to all,
Chris

Chris Noellert
Senior Flame / Digital Post Technical Director / Prima donna

Nordiskfilm Post Production Stockholm
(Formerly Filmteknik/Frithiof Film to Video. AB)
Tulvaktsvagen 2
115 40 Stockholm

Tel: +46 8 450 450 00
Fax: +46 8 450 450 01
Dir: +46 8 450 450 17
Mob: +46 7 024 616 31
AIM: cmnoellert

Reel: http://se.nordiskfilm-postproduction.com/movieviewer.aspx?movie=Video_250018.mov
Web: http://www.nordiskfilm-postproduction.com

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

A very even-handed look at Color I think.

(BTW, thanks for including a link to my color correction book at the bottom of the article.)

I am finishing another color correction book at the moment and the basis of it was that I took FinalTouch around the US to a dozen different colorists who are all basically da Vinci colorists. They were able to grade quite well with it with almost no training at all. They definitely all had "issues" with certain tools that they were used to on da Vinci and other bugginess, but by and large, the group was very impressed with FinalTouch. (The book should be out in August on Focal Press.)

I think Apple will be able to make it into a very powerful tool. I think it has a ways to go at the moment, but Apple only had it for three months before it revealed it. I have faith in the development team. The strides they took in only three months were quite impressive.

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Hullfish

Chris,

The AJA box will NOT flop. It was loudly applauded at the Apple preview and I will be ordering one before it drops in July. Wow, what would make you think that? 10-bit 4:2:2 realtime with ProRes codec built-in? Portable? HD editing on a laptop? AJA support?

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

Hi Craig,

Any product can flop. Markets are fickle and minds change and evolve from literally one day to another. Do I think their board will flop? Probably not... like I said in my previous post.

I for one like hardware and while I haven't ordered the card in question, everything is worth checking out and inevitably almost everything has a place.

What I can easily say is that 10bit 422 compressed is not exactly something I can or will use in our daily production pipeline, regardless of pixel resolution. Not to sit here and be a resolution snob, but it's pretty much 1080p 10bit RGB 444 that's the lowest level format we work in, with the vast majority of work being completed in 2k or 4k. Ironically, even the minute amount of SD work we complete is still transferred in 444 to DDRs and grabbed from there with only digi station dubs, masters and dvcam editing dubs going out in 422.

So the AJA/ProRes codec would serve more an offline format, or something that I send to a client for comments, but far from the desired working spec. It doesn't make it useless for me - far from it - like I said everything has a place.

Weren't we talking about FT/Color?

Best,
Chris

--
Chris Noellert
Senior Flame / Digital Post Technical Director / Prima donna

Nordiskfilm Post Production Stockholm
(Formerly Filmteknik/Frithiof Film to Video. AB)
Tulvaktsvagen 2
115 40 Stockholm

Tel: +46 8 450 450 00
Fax: +46 8 450 450 01
Dir: +46 8 450 450 17
Mob: +46 7 024 616 31
AIM: cmnoellert

Reel: http://se.nordiskfilm-postproduction.com/movieviewer.aspx?movie=Video_250018.mov
Web: http://www.nordiskfilm-postproduction.com

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Craig..
I'm with you about the AJA IO HD. It looks great. But something worries me about it. People are saying it is portable but it still requires a power cord, correct? How does that work on the field... are we talking generator then?

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered Commentertajjackson03

Check out the realtime video clip on Colors website.

It shows realtime playback, adjusting framerate for smooth playback, rendering in Color, and green/red bars inidcating rendered and unrendered clips.

http://www.apple.com/finalcutstudio/color/?movie=grading

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

"realtime playback, adjusting framerate for smooth playback..."

Seems like if you really had the former you wouldn't need the latter.

At any rate, seems like we've established that systems with additional video output, such as the ones at NAB, can't play back as schoove as ones without.

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

Chris:

Ironically, in the context of Colour and its new masters, we're talking about the company that's pushing the "hardware bad" mantra stronger than most in Apple. The irony of course is that the present limitations of commodity hardware are most strongly shown up when you start pushing many layers of processing on dpx scans of any significant resolution and colour depth. That'll be the reason that both you and I have an iQ in their machine rooms, because let's be honest, in many ways iQ 3.5 makes the first release of Fire look good... But it can surely push pixels in the way that only unrestrained bandwidth can.

Saying that, there can be no doubt that in this application that GPU is king, unless you're called Filmlight and instead you just parallise the process as far as you wallet and your aircon can take... At least with the GPU there are untold numbers of video gamers supporting the R&D. The same cannot be said for Filmlight's video combiner, which I accept is a superb piece of engineering and a brilliant piece of lateral thinking. Have they built Truelight into the combiner hardware, as I assume from what you were saying about running multiple cubes?

Flameop:

The same scenario happens on Nucoda systems, basically the system can't blat graded frames in real time from the gpu to the video i/o board (Bluefish444 or DVS in the case of Nucoda), which in our case means we use the Quadro FX4500's SDI output to display the right hand side desktop to a calibrated Sony HD CRT. Indeed it's exactly what discreet kit has always done, both on older octane and onyx systems with SGI video subsystems, and nowadays using the Miranda DVI ramp as Chris described previously.

Stu:

Great blog, only discovered it recently and something of a distinguished crowd in tonight...

Doug Shannon
Systems Botherer
NFTS
UK

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Shannon

Hey Chris,

You are right. Anything can flop... if it doesn't work. If this box works it will be successful. But hey your on that big ol flame, what do you care about some $3K box? That's why I don't understand the beat down on Color. Apple is giving us little guys a taste of what you probably take for granted. I'm not hating on you. I would probably be a little snobby too if money were no issue.

Here's to Color and MB Look.

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

"Seems like if you really had the former you wouldn't need the latter."

I would imagine this is to compesate for the fact that not all hardware has the same capability.

An 8 core Mac Pro may be able to playback full framerate, but an older G5 may may need a lower framerate for smooth playback.

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Of course you are correct anonymous. But, if you'll indulge my redundancy, any one of those machines could do realtime playback easily if Color supported rendering to the timeline for previews.

Even the most current machine will certainly choke on eight masked secondaries plus a colorfx. My point is that the app should acknowledge that the user will create grades complex enough to outpace their GPU and allow rendering in exactly the way FCP does.

Expect for the added bitchin' innovation of speculatively filling the render cache with new frames in the background, like Nucleo Pro does for After Effects and like Fusion does out of the box.

April 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu
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