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High Definition Video for Independent Filmmakers
A How To Guide for Digital Filmmakers
Welcome all! This is my blog to share my latest research,
thoughts, etc. on utilizing HD for independent filmmaking.
YES, I am available for consulting
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All content copyright 2004-2007 Mike Curtis.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Silicon Color announced that Final Touch HD has shipped at MWSF after being announced at Siggraph. Here are some pictures of the UI (at the end of the page). Unfortunately, my carefully written notes didn't show up on the .Mac page.
It's the most interesting product I've seen at the show so far.
It will do realtime color correction of HD footage with multiple color correction effects,
-it will handle 10 bit footage
-all color correction is done in 32 bit per CHANNEL color space (floating point color correction)
-all color correction is done in RGB
-it can work with proxy files for lower throughput drive systems.
-you can have tracked soft matted color corrections with feathered color vignettes, primary and secondary color correction, and gaussian blur...ALL IN REAL TIME.
This sounds very similar to what Nucoda is doing on the PC side...but this is just $5000 instead of circa $100,000.
How It Works:
I sat down with Roland Wood, president and founder of the company, to hear how it all gets done. If I get any of this wrong, it's my own fault.
Say you've finished your editorial work in Final Cut Pro HD, using DVCPRO HD as an offline codec. You haven't color corrected so far.
Now you're ready for serious color correction.
Recapture from tape (or relink if elsewhere on disk) to your best quality source - 10 bit instead of 8 bit if you can.
Export XML from Final Cut Pro HD.
Go to Final Touch HD, the $5000 piece of software. Hardware requirements are similar to FCP, except you MUST have two monitors (user interface and video preview), and a Radeon 9800 is the minimal graphics card allowed.
You can import the XML file and it drops all your shots, in order from timeline, into Final Touch HD (FTHD henceforth).
FTHD is organized into a series of "rooms" to borrow a term from traditional color correction.
As an aside, this tool was developed by asking a lot of traditional colorists what they wanted, and the tool is mostly organized around that kind of workflow. Now, myself, coming from the complete DIY, Very Digital Boy, Grew Up On Photoshop approach, this room based approach is a little foreign and uncomfortable. After seeing the workflow, at first I felt awkward in it, but it makes more sense as you get used to it.
In each room you do different tasks - basic setup, calibration, primary color correction, secondary color correction, effects, etc.
Once you're done, you render out the final results to new QuickTime files, and have to integrate that back into FCP. How to do that was a bit fuzzy and I want to roll through that with them tomorrow. But it should be able to relink back into FCP with the now corrected shots.
The things I saw them doing on this $5000 piece of software were about 80% of what I saw eFilm showing they were doing on their proprietary DI tools they had shown at NAB last year for the work they did on Van Helsing.
Except for some potent 3D tracking stuff (which you could do in Shake and integrate into this workflow), this solution did ALMOST everything they showed at NAB, and did some things eFilm said they hoped to add by now.
They were defining looks that could be saved and added to groups of shots (for instance, all of the Camera 1 shots in a 2 camera conversation, so all of the "left side" shots could easily get the same treatments but still be individually tweaked).
All of the settings they were creating could be saved, individually or in whole, and added to shots or groups of shots.
Each individual component of a color grade, be it primary or secondary color correction, effects, softening, grain, etc. could be saved to disk, or the whole group saved to disk, and thus reloaded and applied to shots or groups of shots.
If you don't have an X-Serve RAID to work off of, you can import your files and FTHD will generate low res proxies to work with. When playing back footage, the proxies are used, but when you stop on a still, the full res is instantly swapped back in. Very clever, very well scaled solution.
Watching what it is doing, I'm guessing that this is working very similarly to Motion, in that the CPU handles certain tasks and the GPU is doing a lot of the graphics heavy lifting.
I asked Roland about this and his answers were a bit annoyingly cagey...so be it. But he did say that they were using all their resources that were available to them. Um, OK dude. Yeah.
But it works, and it's very impressive how much it can do in real time. Far, FAR beyond what FCP can do on it's own.
Ideally, in a perfect world, I'd love to see these capabilities rolled into an FCP plug-in, but I know that isn't technically possible.
The rumors that I've been hearing about the next version of Shake is that Motion was just a practice run for what they're going to do with the next big upgrade. Talking to Jean-Luc from Apple who works with Shake, I made it clear that Apple should get better Final Cut Pro HD/Shake integration, and he vigorously nodded his head without saying anything. Apple is aware of this desire and is presumably working on it.
Therefore, as cool as Final Touch HD is, I'd be very curious to see what happens with Shake and FCP before I committed to a $5000 software purchase, and perhaps a $3000 and up control surface.
That said, now that I think about it, even if Shake and FCP handshake beautifully, I'd be EXTREMELY surprised if the color correction tools in Shake were NEARLY as sophisticated as what FTHD is offering in terms of ease of use, organization, and especially speed. This is SUCH a focused tool, oriented around clean, organized workflow and a colorists specific needs. I just don't see how Shake, as a general purpose (but high end) compositing tool would ever have tools this focused outside it's core competency. While you can color correct, and well, within Shake (and do log, which FTHD doesn't), it's not organized around that as a driving principle and primary focus. The workflow and organizational tools aren't there.
Final Touch HD is enough of a breakthrough product that you could base a business on it. A very focused business, but a high quality one.
With Apple's G5 Macs, Final Cut Pro HD, BlackMagic or AJA HD-SDI capture products, X-Serve RAIDs, Xsan, and Final Touch HD, you could compete feature for feature, quality for quality with suites and studios costing more than ten times as much. AND be more flexible in your workflow, and still work at high speed.
And that's the kind of thing revolutions are built upon.
Mandatory - click on "Comments" link immediately below this for more info from the developer explaining some key points I got wrong in the above write-up.
Thanks for your thoughtful and quick review. You had very thoughtful and knowledgeable questions (and plenty of them) about color and the video workflow.
I hope you will appreciate the lack of time a tradeshow affords to have an in depth discussion on product features & benefits. Especially difficult is explaining our use of processors and disk I/O and the like. Let me just say that we are one of the few if not the only company that has successfully saturated the capacitiy of the dual CPUs; the GPU, the AGP bus; the PCI bus; the Fibre Channel Xserve RAIDs to date. ATI has just introduced the X800 XT for the Mac, and we can already use 100% of its capability. So, cagey or not, we use it all, and we really have to. When you start reading what other users of FinalTouch HD are saying about the technology...then it makes sense that we use every available cycle that any piece of silicon offers to us.
Thanks for visiting us and listening to our lengthly explanations. We'll get better with time in answering the tough questions.
Silicon Color, Inc.
What frame sizes is it capable of handling?
Thanks for the awesome review! I have answers to a few of the questions brought up in your review.
>>>Once you're done, you render out the final results to new QuickTime files, and have to integrate that back into FCP. How to do that was a bit fuzzy and I want to roll through that with them tomorrow.<<<
You simply export a new XML file from FinalTouch and import that into FinalCut. The new XML file is, essentially, identical to the one exported from FinalCut, except that it now "points" to the color correct media.
>>>and do log, which FTHD doesn't<<<
FinalTouch HD is based on our high-end film product, FinalTouch 2K. FinalTouch 2K was specifically written to work natively with log files (DPX and Cineon). That being said, there is no reason FTHD could not work with log-encoded QuickTime media. FTHD supports custom 3D look up tables, so you could create a log-lin LUT and use that to prefilter your log-encoded movies. As an aside, both versions of FinalTouch use the same color processing engine, which works in log space.
>>>What frame sizes is it capable of handling?<<<
FinalTouch HD can handle any frame size up to 1920 x 1080.
CTO and Founder
Silicon Color, Inc.
I assume that the Final touch system will output to my Sony color production CRT monitor via the BlackMagic HD card, and not just to my computer monitor. Is this correct?
I know it's rated for an X-serve or SCSI RAID, but will it work with my SATA RAID which gets 500 MB/sec and which I use for HD capture and playback all the time? I see no reason why it wouldn't.
Also, can all forms of HD work, including 12 bit 4:4:4?
When Final Touch 2K came out, I thought it was great, but it was too pricey for me. Final Touch HD looks to be the solution. I'm psyched!
- Jeremiah Black, email@example.com
There you will find an online forum and your questions will be read and answered by the Silicon Color staff, who wrote and designed this amazing new software.
2k & HD Colorist
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