Divergent Media 05/27/12
This week’s Tools Spotlight interview is with Mike Woodworth founder and CEO of Divergent Media. He and Colin McFadden are the creators of ClipWrap and ScopeBox. ClipWrap re-wraps HDV (mts) or AVCHD (mts) footage into QuickTime movies faster than realtime and with no image loss. ScopeBox turns your Mac into the premiere tool for computer based signal monitoring and direct to disk recording.
And be sure to enter our giveaway at the bottom of this page. It’s your chance to win a copy of ClipWrap or ScopeBox!
What is the origin of Divergent Media and the background of the principal people involved?
I started Divergent Media in 2000. Before writing software I did post-production supervision, editorial for documentary tv and film, as well as finish editing and color correction. For much of the time I was also programming small tools for clients as part of my post supervisor duties. I had seen a lot of my friends beginning to transition from rented suites to working on projects on their own equipment – and many of them couldn’t justify buying HD scopes for thousands and thousands of dollars. In 2004 I started focusing on developing tools for a more general audience and Divergent Media was born as a software company. ScopeBox was released a year later.
Colin McFadden and I have been friends since high school. He had worked on video production and deployment in education. I finally convinced him to come work with me full-time in 2011. Together the two of us make up the full time staff of Divergent, with a few other freelance folks helping out from time to time on an as-need basis.
ScopeBox and ClipWrap are your 2 products. Scopebox is a bit of a hybrid app in that it combines old and new ways of visualizing video signals as well as multi-resolution capture and monitoring. What did you feel was missing in the market for Divergent Media to come up with this kind of application?
Version 1.0 of ScopeBox was meant to replace hardware scopes. Final Cut Pro and other apps had commoditized editing. Blackmagic and AJA we’re shipping amazing capture cards, and whole edit systems could be bought for under $5k. All of this was happening at the same time people were making the switch from SD to HD, and the biggest costs of setting up a new suite were the production monitor and wave/vec. Applying the same principles that drove down the cost of editing seemed like a no-brainer. ScopeBox could turn a second mac with a capture card into a full blown set of scopes, for well under then cost of the hardware alternatives.
Over the years, users have surprised us with how they use the app, and we’ve spent a lot of effort keeping up with their needs. Recording was added due to user demand during the beta process for the original version. Since then alerts, 4K, and other additions were all driven by customer demand.
Can you share any interesting Scopebox use cases?
We have customers using ScopeBox in all stages of the pipeline. Shooters in the field are able to travel light with just a laptop instead of a monitor, scopes, and recorder. Editors and colorists love the flexibility of the scopes. It’s used as an ingest station, without the need for external monitoring/ scopes. Some have even used the ability to bring in multiple sources at once to use ScopeBox to turn a large flat screen tv into a multi-plexed monitor replacement.
You recently debuted Scopebox 3 at NAB this year. What new features were added?
One of the things that surprised us most after the original release of ScopeBox was how many people wanted to use the software as a direct-to-disk recorder. One of the biggest updates in ScopeBox 3 is a new capture pipeline we wrote from the ground up. It allows us to transcode the camera native format on the fly to another format, and to log signal level alerts as a timecode list, or markers in FCP XML or other formats. What we’re most proud of is a feature called Fail Safe Capture. Now every quicktime we write out is constantly being flushed to disk in a coherent state, so that no matter what problems befall your computer – crashes, pulled cables, accidental power outages – you can feel confident that you’ll have a valid, playable movie up to that point.
There are tons of other small improvements and additions – a feature we call envelopes draw bounds around traces a bit like the peak hold on a VU meter to make scopes much easier to read. Focus assist recreates old school peaking in camera viewfinders to allow you to better focus the camera with our built in preview monitor. We’ve also added composite waveform filtering, stacked RGB parades, and native monitoring in 8bit, 10bit, YUV and RGB colorspaces.
What feedback have you gotten on this new version and what kind of features could we expect in future versions?
The feedback has been great.
Looking forward, the trend seems to be more and more diversification of the signals users are expecting to work with. From cameras shooting in non-standard gamma curves like S-Log and C-Log, to movies posting in new colorspaces like P3, the tools are going to need to keep up with workflows where there is no one standard in play across the whole production, but rather the goal is to make sure signals look good and are able to be passed to the next stage of the production without degradation. We’re busy trying to find ways to address these issues.
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.
ClipWrap is the only tool with the razor sharp goal – make using AVCHD and HDV footage effortless. We’re able to do this because we wrote our own AVCHD/HDV parser from the ground up. We know everything about the source footage, so you don’t have to make any choices except your destination format. If you choose to rewrap the source file, all we do is place the original samples in a QuickTime mov wrapper. Rewrapping is fast – nearly as fast as a file copy, and gives you a file that you can preview or pass off to other apps to post process. The other destination formats we support all require a transcode. Transcoding allows you to process your AVCHD or HDV footage into production codecs like ProRes, DnXHD, or others to use with your editing software of choice. ClipWrap uses its knowledge of your footage to give you a file that is identical to your original, or when we do have to change something to meet the requirements of a destination format, to do so with the minimum change to your image.
Can you share any interesting ClipWrap use cases?
Because we parse the original .mts or .m2ts , we don’t need the metadata most cameras put in extra files on the memory card. This make us one of the only solutions for people who’ve misplaced the original card structure, or editors who’ve been provided only the stream files.
We also tend to be much quicker to support new cameras than the editing packages. ClipWrap tends to be the first app to support new camera’s PSF modes, or first to parse new metadata.
ClipWrap also works as a command line app, so people have found lots of interesting ways to fit it into their automated workflows.
What feedback have you gotten over the years from users?
People are amazed at just how fast and simple the app is. They’ve gotten used to the giant dialogs of settings other apps force you to wade through. Customers have written to us saying they thought their camera couldn’t be used with some workflow, or in 60P or in PSF because they couldn’t find the right settings in their other apps, they dropped the files in ClipWrap, hit convert and the files just worked. Thats the experience we strive to create for all ClipWrap customers.
Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you want to mention?
ScopeBox and ClipWrap are available for purchase on our site – http://www.divergentmedia.com. ScopeBox is $99.99 and ClipWrap $49.99. Both have free trials so users can test things out before making a purchase.
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