Best of Tools Spotlight 08/26/12
Starting in September, Splice Vine will begin bringing you content that revolves around a central monthly theme. Our theme for September is post audio.
We’ll have unique information on post audio in the form of:
- daily blog posts
- daily Workflow Whisperer tips
- weekly interviews
- weekly hacks
With the 133rd AES (Audio Engineering Society) convention coming up in October, we thought it would be a good time to explore trending topics in the world of sound.
This single focus, however, brings an end to the often random nature of the Tools Spotlight section. We hope this allows for a deeper and more expansive discussion on our chosen monthly theme.
So, taking a cue from the summer TV rerun season, we bring you the Best of Tools Spotlight. These candid and often funny bits are from interviews we’ve posted over the past five months and highlight some of the most innovative companies in the video industry.
What have been some interesting use cases for Air Display by content creators, particularly video editors?
Well first, some of the most compelling uses have surprised us. People are using it for the kinds of things we had anticipated, like dragging their tool palettes and auxiliary windows on the iPad, drawing in paint apps with a stylus, and operating control surfaces for Logic or other music apps. But they’re also using it in medicine for mirroring the contents of a radiology machine, and in photography for putting a wireless preview screen in a studio, and wiring up weird futuristic car interiors with touch screens that communicate with a Mac mini in the trunk.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face with each new update to Air Display?
The biggest threat we face is changes to the computer operating system. I suppose it’s not likely that Apple and Microsoft strategists are deliberately setting out to sabotage the virtual video drivers in Air Display Connect, but sometimes it seems that way. Apple in particular, frequently introduces bugs into its “Display Wrangler,” which arbitrates multiple display configurations. And lately they haven’t been testing their software very thoroughly with multiple monitors.
And sometimes, Apple deliberately attacks apps. They actually went out of their way to remove one of our apps, Air Dictate, from the App Store after it had been selling briskly for a couple of weeks. Air Dictate allowed you to talk into your iPhone in order to enter text on your Mac. We used the iPhone’s built-in voice-to-text dictation feature. The removal was quite frustrating, because we had worked hard to make Air Dictate a really elegant, beautiful app. As Apple fanboys, we want to highlight exciting new features in Apple’s products, so we were proud of extending what you could do with dictation.
Apple removed Air Dictate, stating that “apps that relate to Siri are not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines as Siri is an Apple product, and therefore covered by our Trademarks and Copyrights guidelines.” Of course this is nonsense; trademark law protects words and images, not concepts. But what could we do? They are the store proprietors, and can decide what to sell in their store. But it still was a sad day when they killed Air Dictate. It wasn’t until later that we found out that they were preparing their own Mac dictation feature in Mountain Lion. That’s probably why they did this, but we’ll never know for certain.
What are some well known companies that use Snapz Pro X? How do they use it?
Well, we have companies such as Apple, Adobe and even federal agencies have used Snapz Pro X 2. Sometimes they use it to capture product shots for tutorials or media kits. We had an interesting letter from a doctor, he works for an NFL team and uses Snapz Pro X 2 to capture images from the X-rays to send the coaches/players. One of the coolest stories we have ever heard was that the crew from South Park actually used Snapz Pro X 2 to capture the in-game footage of World of Warcraft In the episode “Make Love, Not Warcraft,” which was an episode that later went on to win an Emmy!
What kind of feedback have you gotten from non-geek types using iStat?
A large proportion of our users are developers, designers, musicians, video professionals and people who typically push their Macs to the limit. That’s why they need to keep an eye on things. So I’m not sure we have too many non-geek users! Being geeky should be embraced.
It seems like every week we hear about a major online data breach. How does Forbidden Technology protect uploaded content from unauthorized access and also insure against data loss.
Yes – it’s a good headline. With a billion people using cloud services every day, we only hear about one online breach a week. How many of these are not even related to cloud services, like some random virus or worm infecting internet connected PCs? And how many physical security breaches (burglaries) are there a week? The reality is that, just as with physical security, it is impossible to absolutely guarantee protection against data loss on the internet. This applies to every PC, Mac, smartphone and tablet. But we can all take sensible precautions.
FORscene has a Java front end, and Java is relatively secure with Oracle patching bugs quickly. Even Windows has timely security patches these days, though users should make sure their Windows / OS X / Linux version is supported and keep up with the latest patches.
Access to the system is password protected, with https used to secure log in. If https is cracked, there will have much bigger problems, as this is the banks use for their online security. These days users are much more aware of the need for secure passwords.
Most users see only proxy quality, with HD essence only accessible to users who need it. To an extent, you have to trust your editors – they could still film the video with a cameraphone – but at least it will only be proxy quality.
Our standard procedure is to make copies of the data at three different physical sites, two on the Internet Backbone for rapid access. If there is a fire at one site, they data is still available elsewhere. Forbidden does tell users to keep copies of any material they need and not to rely on the FORscene system for archive. The typical workflow involves ingesting material from another system for editing, so users just keep the originals. In practice, the use of RAID storage with redundant disks and multiple sites means that a data loss through disk failure is unlikely.
ClipWrap is an app that re-wraps HDV or AVCHD footage into Quicktime movies faster than realtime and with no image loss. It has been very well-received and continues to be a big seller for Divergent Media. What were the options for content creators before this app came along and why is ClipWrap better?
The ecosystem for these apps hasn’t changed much since we launched ClipWrap. Camera manufacturers work together with the editing software providers to offer some means to work with their footage, but it’s neither companies first priority. New cameras are slow to be supported in editing systems, software provided by the camera manufacturers is clunky at best, and sometimes PC only.
What third party tools do exist sport clunky UI, a sea of “features”, and little focus on what the users actually want to do. Much of their time and effort is spent on SEO garbage reviews. You can find a dozen of these with a quick google search. They’re all cheaper than ClipWrap, they all claim they do more, but I know we’re doing the right thing because a huge percentage of our customers have bought one of our competitors before buying ClipWrap.
It seems like every week we hear about a new Cloud based video collaboration
platform. What makes Aframe different?
First up, it’s the core mission that sits behind Aframe. We aren’t just trying to solve the problem
of reviewing and approving proxy files. We started Aframe because we can see that technology
has been dominating the industry, and limiting creativity for too long. That as a creative company,
the requirement of having to put in tens of thousands of dollars of equipment into your office to
manage the content you create, seems crazy. If you ask someone what got them working in TV, Film, Commercials or Corporate, it wasn’t the thought of becoming an IT expert.
What are common map misconceptions?
Many people want to put way too much detail on a map, to the point where it becomes difficult, if not impossible to read. It’s known in the industry as the “LA on a Postage Stamp” problem. Once presented with the facts about how large the map needs to be to accommodate all the info they desire, users can usually reduce the size or detail to fit their project. But if it’s their first time using a map, they need help understanding this.
Another misconception is that a cartographer can easily adjust land areas to fit a small design. For example, many people using world maps object to the amount of area that the oceans take up in the graphic. “Can’t you move Europe closer to North America so the ocean isn’t so big?” is a frequent question. Because the files are editable, it is sort of possible to make that kind of move, but it takes artistry to make it look good.
TRACEY: We had an actual customer who was looking at Render Rocket and looking at adding to their existing farm. They had, I think is it was 7 weeks of animation…yes, a 57 minute animation at 25 frames per second, with a deadline of 7 weeks, and they were estimating 40 servers to go out and get and add to an existing farm.
When it was all said and done, including labor and licensing and everything, it was going to cost them about $170,000 just to do this 7 weeks of animation. On the worst-case scenario on Render Rocket, it was $24,000. So they saved $146,000.
RUBEN: On top of our commercial business, we also sponsor one or two projects per quarter for independent artists. We had one guy, a former Pixar animator, we sponsored his film project and he ended up getting picked up to do it as a feature for DreamWorks.
It’s something that we offer as a contribution back to the community, giving render time to support projects for independent artists.
Blue Mango Learning Systems
What is ScreenSteps and what is the story of how it developed?
Well the idea for ScreenSteps came from when I used to live in LA and I actually did a lot of IT work in the film music industry. So I was there at a time when a lot of studios were going computer-based and they were switching over to Logic, which Apple later acquired as a recording software, and I just happened to know Logic pretty well.
It was very confusing for a lot of people, so they would hire me to come in and teach it to them. They had this giant user manual that 10% of was still in German and nobody could make any sense of it.
I basically had a job because I would take the time to read the manual and figure it out and I would sit next to the guys and walk them through things. Well I wasn’t always able to be there, and this was back before there was a lot of screen recording software so we were videotaping the screens and we were doing all this stuff and we got really into trying to create this training material and it took a loooong time.
And each time when there was an update that came out, you basically had to throw all your training material away and start from scratch. So later on we got into the business of doing that and started doing stuff beyond the music studios and doing stuff for 3D / 4D ultrasound manufacturers.
People had bought these $100,000 machines and they had sticky notes all over them and the sticky notes had the list of tasks on how they needed to do things: step 1, step 2 and step 3. We were creating this very complicated, very media-rich training material and we realized all they wanted was a sticky note – so let’s make the sticky note better, let’s add pictures to it.
There were already screen capture utilities that were out there, but instead of just taking one picture and pasting it in, we wanted to automate the process of creating how-to documents so you could just take a picture of each step of the process and have essentially what it is that a sticky note does but with a better version of it – with a clearer picture so that it’s crystal clear what you need to do.
Your development priorities took a turn with the release of FCP X. What happened and how have you responded?
I think it says a lot that many of the Apple products I initially built my livelihood upon are dead – Xserve, Xserve RAID, Shake, Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Server. I’m not sure if I should put the Mac Pro in that list or not.
About two years ago I took a look at that long and ever-growing list and realized that it’s dangerous to build your business around a single company’s products, especially when that company has a history of killing products with no warning. I therefore started researching the feasibility of supporting other applications in our Pro Maintenance Tools suite and ensured that Pro Media Tools (which was in development at the time) would be multi-NLE. From that point forward, all future products were planned as multi-NLE.
We had a feeling FCP X was going to be controversial even before it was released so we began work on a multi-NLE version of Pro Maintenance Tools a few months before. We really weren’t sure which NLE the industry was going to rally around so we wanted to cover all bases. In the end it turned out that having one product that supports multiple NLEs was useful because the market was left fragmented without a clear winner.
Early in your extensive book on the subject, you are very candid about the challenges facing companies trying to rollout and maintain DAM initiatives. Often it’s hard to motivate employees who don’t see an immediate benefit from what is a lot of inconvenient and tedious work. Talk more about that…
I often call upon the similarities between DAM and the medical profession because I find them to be plentiful and relevant. To provide some context for your question, I would bring up the concept of a physician trying to teach kids that smoking was bad. To make her case, she would likely call upon the long-term consequences of not smoking. But this isn’t a message that motivates kids who feel strong and invincible.
Media Mismanagement Kills
Conversely, she might try to focus on the benefits of not smoking, but those aren’t terribly powerful motivators to kids either. The fact is, most younger bodies can withstand the negative effects of smoking for many years, so the long-term benefits of not smoking aren’t compelling. The bottom line is that it’s tough to explain to kids why smoking is bad, which is evidenced by the fact that kids the world over start smoking every day.
To put this into an extremely harsh light, the problem with smoking is not that it kills, but that it doesn’t kill fast enough. If people started dropping dead after only a month or two of smoking, this would resonate with all potential smokers, even the 17-year-old ones. But smoker newbies don’t draw a connection between their healthy, young bodies and the weak, frail elderly bodies that have been decimated by smoking throughout the decades.
People dying from COPD know the dangers of smoking. Unfortunately, by the time they can fully appreciate the benefits of not smoking, that opportunity is long gone. Likewise, I’ve never seen an organization pursue DAM because they thought things might get bad. They usually start seeking help only after things have become ridiculous.