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Thursday, April 27, 2017

NAB 2017 Cloud Editing and Dante Heaven

And what’s new this year?  Well, at NAB the march of technology continues. 
On the video side, arguably the biggest single item ballyhooed was “cloud editing.”  Yes, all else seems to pale in terms of advancement. 
You may know my feelings on “cloud” anything but from a flexibility standpoint using a cloud for editing makes some sense. 
Generally, you have inexpensive, unlimited storage space for audio, video, metadata and, if you’re paranoid, multiple versions of your resume.  That means keeping every strand of every scene.  No one’s staring over your shoulder as you pull in another disc for storage.  No one has to decide what gets deleted at the end of a session. 
Edit from anywhere.  Want to trim a frame while waiting for a flight?  Go ahead.  Pull down the scene and have at it.  And if you have access to multiple monitors, you can pull down a number of threads.  Yep!  You can sync up all the footage and edit a 4 camera live comedy on the fly.
And lots of folks can participate.  Director, editor(s), sound designer, DP can all get in on post.  Sound staff can work in tandem as the video is being edited,  PA’s can make notes that go directly into metadata and can transcribe and post all audio for reference.  It leads to consensus before you can even hit the “Sleep” key on your machine.
I hear the yabuts.  “Ya, but, Len, what about security?”  Don’t label me a hypocrite despite my earlier blog admonition.  Security has improved but it’s still an issue.  If you found another reel in Abraham Zapruder’s basement, you may not want to put it into cloud storage.  First ask, what’s the security being provided?  Is the cloud hackable?  Software and hardware firewalls?  Long, looooooooong password that change regularly, and every time someone joins or leaves the group?  Then ask, who inside the cloud organization can see your files?  I love it when I call with problems and the “tech” at the other end says, “I can’t help you with that.  I can’t see those files.”  On the other hand, when the cloud help desk says that they see the problem, you have two files with the same name and one running two seconds longer than the other, grab your Maier-Hancock and run.
Speaking of storage, that edit-from-anywhere advantage is great provided “anywhere” is secure, too.  Programming a dissolve over Boingo at McCarren Airport may well be a bigger crap shoot than what’s happening at Caesar’s.  If you’re not paranoid, you may want to consider taking it up.  I did; it’s fun as long as no one's watching.
Then, about that participation thing.  Back in the dark days of coax, I proposed installing links with editing houses so that creative folks could participate in a session without leaving their offices.  Best worst idea I ever had.  Creatives climbing on my desk (worse, my boss’ and his boss’ desk) screaming.  Turns out they don’t want to stay in their offices.  Who’da thunk it. 
What’s worse is that people who shouldn’t be part of the edit get invited.  Notice I left out “writer.”  That poor bloke (or bird) never makes the cut.  But just about everyone else logs on.  And they all chime in.  They have to or why would they have been invited.  So you wind up shaving a frame here, mixing music a little louder there and pretty much wasting time. But, wow, you’re doing it in the cloud.
Think it through before you decide to move.  Maybe those discs aren’t that expensive after all.  And when you’re done, you can find two really secure places, maybe on different continents, to store everything. 

FLASH:  Now, two days later, a number of news sources have announced that Netflix was hacked by an extortionist threatening to release five stolen episodes of the new season of Orange is the New Black unless they receive a ransom payment.  In addition, there is a good possibility that Amazon and others were hacked, too. 
We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog.  Before I leave video, here’s a visual quiz:  Find the actual camera.  Not the lens…the camera.
Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro, 4.6K, 15 stops dynamic range
Now, on to the audio world.  Of everything, I think Audinate’s campaign, “Dante Spoken Here” is fantastic.  If you haven’t run across it, Dante, (Digital Audio Network Through Ethernet) is a relatively mature (11 years old) system of packet delivery of audio. Whether you want to edit and send AM quality mono or 96 tracks1 of a film’s sound track, you can do it.  Simply and with no degradation.  While it’s packeted, it can still be lossless – your choice. 
The “Dante Spoken Here” sign could be seen hanging in just about every audio booth.  They’ve gone beyond foothold and are mainstream.  If you’re not familiar with it, the trial version is free (fully functioning but time limited) at  Licensing is inexpensive and with it, you can encode, transmit and decode great audio to that same anywhere I was talking about for the cloud.
How does it work?  Anything that runs Dante can talk to anything else running the protocol.  It’s transparent in that it flows easily over Cat5 or Cat6 cable and can even operating on existing networks without interfering with current traffic.  That, of course, is provided you have enough bandwidth.  It runs with Windows or Mac to allow distribution, and ingestion. 
Best yet?  No rocket science here.  Easy to set up.  No, wait!  The best-best is that you’d be hard-pressed to hear any latency. There’s always something on the horizon, but Dante seems to be a system that will have a long useful life. 
Other folks raved about other products.  4K is now mainstream and the incandescent lamp has all but disappeared from lighting gear.  Drones are getting larger and smarter and microphones are now dots.  For me, though, the effect of cloud editing on workflow and of Dante on signal flow blew everything else away.

1You can go 512 bidirectional if you want to.  Let’s see, that’d be 24 for the orchestra and 488 for drums.