4K, File Formats Challenge Editing Workflow

TV stations are forced to deal with the arrival of new file formats at a dizzying pace. Fortunately for TV broadcasters, a number of vendors of broadcast editing systems have been at work on this problem, and some new approaches to grappling with it will be on display at the 2015 NAB Show. This is the latest installment of a special series on emerging tech trends, NAB Hot Topics, that will appear each week leading up to the NAB Show that runs April 11-16 in Las Vegas. The schedule: March 19: The IP Transition; and March 26: Audio. Read the earlier installments here.

Editing news for television may be poised to enter a dystopic future where the number and type of files that people and editing systems must handle choke news production workflow and squeeze out gains achieved by operating in the digital domain.

That’s what EVS VPJames Stellpflug envisions unless serious steps are taken to get a grip on the proliferation of file formats.

“While it’s possible to engineer ways to deal with the files, the dream of getting into a file-based domain that would be better than the videotape domain was really not true,” explains Stellpflug. “What’s happening is they [files] have different form factors for how they come from ENG cameras; they have different methodologies for how they are delivered to the station; and then, quite frankly, broadcasters usually have to go to many different terminals to deal with the content. And they have to know what the format is and go to the right terminal.”

The workflow consequences of file-format overload might not be quite as bad as shuffling tapes around the newsroom, but it’s close.

Fortunately for TV broadcasters, a number of vendors of broadcast editing systems have been at work on this problem, and some new approaches to grappling with it will be on display at the 2015 NAB Show, April 13-16, in Las Vegas.

Beyond the file issue, other developments, including handling 4K, enabling collaborative editing workflows and extending the reach of content and editing resources from the station to reporters in the field, will be front and center in the booths of editing system vendors at the show.


A visit to the electronics retailer or online destination for televisions reveals sub-$1,000 4K TVs, something Charlie Russell, senior segment marketing manager at Avid, says is “one of those things that makes you say ‘Wow, Ultra HD is going to happen.’ ”

Avid Media ComposerThe growing percentage of U.S. 4K TV households, which a Strategy Analytics report released this month says will climb to nearly 50% by 2020, is already beginning to motivate broadcasters to produce some live events in 4K, Russell says.

“That trend for high-res really is something we have a close eye on,” he says. “We are already seeing people trying to dabble in Ultra HD for broadcast as well as for other distribution methods.”

As a consequence, Avid has worked to ensure its Media Composer editing system supports resolution independence, which means SD, HD, 4K Ultra HD and someday even higher resolutions, Russell says.

“That really helps the editor to deal with whatever the needs of the deliverable are and whatever media comes in from newsgathering,” he explains.

At the NAB Show, Avid will highlight DNxHR, a high-resolution codec, which like its DNxHD codec, lets broadcasters work with large media files without pushing network bandwidth beyond the limit, swamping storage and bogging down workflows.

Support for DNxHR, which was introduced in September 2014 at IBC in Amsterdam, has been integrated into Media Composer since December, Russell says. While he declined to offer any specific new product announcements before the NAB Show, Russell says Avid has been working with other production technology vendors to license DNxHR with the goal of making it a “universal platform” for editing.

At the NAB Show, Avid also will be talking to its customers about the concept of Media Composer subscriptions and floating licenses, which are aimed at giving broadcasters a way to deploy seats as an operational expense rather than a CAPEX expenditure, Russell says.

“The great thing about floating licenses is that it lets the capability of Media Composer flow to where it is needed,” he says.

Blackmagic Design
Blackmagic Design's DaVinci ResolveAs Blackmagic Design has expanded its product line into the acquisition market, it only makes sense for the company to offer non-linear editing for stations and others who have acquired Blackmagic cameras, says Bob Caniglia, senior regional manager of eastern North America. DaVinci Resolve does just that.

Since acquiring DaVinci, Blackmagic Design has done a major overhaul of the product and how it is marketed, Caniglia says. On the product development front, DaVinci Resolve not only includes the well-known DaVinci color correction technology, but also a non-linear editor.

On the marketing side of the equation, Blackmagic Design has begun offering a “light” version of the software as a free download.

Together, the strategy has worked to expand the reach of the product into television station promotion departments and newsrooms as an affordable editing solution that is powerful and flexible, he says.

DaVinci Resolve runs in both Mac and Windows environments and offers users a “Swiss Army Knife” of tools to make transcoding, for instance, between DNxHD and ProRes or between different NLE file formats, fast and easy, Caniglia says.

Broadcasters have also been drawn to DaVinci Resolve’s collaborative workflow, which makes it possible for multiple people to edit the same timeline while ensuring the underlying source material is preserved and only one person has ultimate editorial control.

While the company does not announce new products prior to NAB, Caniglia says version 12 of DaVinci Resolve will include several features requested by users, although he declined to identify what they are.

Grass Valley
If there were one window at a TV station that an outsider could use to see just how complex the mix of formats, resolutions and codecs is, news editing would have to be the portal.

Grass Valley EDIUSThat mix is big and getting bigger all of the time. In addition to common formats, such as Sony XDCAM HD and XDCAM HD422 as well as Panasonic P2 DVCPRO-HD and AVC-Intra, editors must increasingly integrate video shot by reporters and the public with smartphones, tablets and other devices.

“Where we have made an impact is in news, and one of the main reasons is EDIUS’ codec support,” says Steve Wise, senior product marketing manager at Grass Valley. “It doesn’t matter what format it is coming at you in. EDIUS can handle it.”

EDIUS traces its support for a wide variety of formats and codecs all the way back to before Canopus was acquired in 2005, says Wise.

“Particularly with the plane story in Asia, many of the best sources of news footage are coming from amateurs now. The use of iPhone video as sources is growing expotentially now and that is playing to our strength.”

At the NAB Show, that format flexibility will drive a “fully featured proxy workflow” that in essence removes the barrier between the newsroom and journalists in the field, enabling what Grass Valley calls “Wide Area News,” Wise says.

This approach to news production in the field lets a reporter edit high-res P2, HDCAM or even iPhone footage captured in the field with proxy footage retrieved from the station and submit an edited story with an edit decision list (EDL) that is conformed at the station.

“It really doesn’t matter where you are so much anymore,” Wise says.

Grass Valley also will show a new GUI for EDIUS, but few details were available. What is known, says Wise, is the new interface will look more modern.

Imagine Communications
Imagine Communications (formerly Harris Broadcast) will emphasize support of third-party editing software, specifically Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro X, at the 2015 NAB Show, says Darby Marriott, the company’s product manager for graphics, branding, editing and newsroom solutions.

Imagine Communications' Nexio NLE gateway integrationWhile Imagine Communications continues to offer its own Velocity non-linear editor and will show a few refinements, including support for the XAVC file format and the ability to work with compressed audio formats with Dolby E, the focus will be on integrating Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple FCP X with the company’s NEXIO shared storage product portfolio.

“We’ve been working very closely with the Adobe and Apple editing platforms to make sure we can get closer and closer to having the same tight integration we enjoy having with our Velocity in our environment,” Marriott says.

For example, Imagine Communications will demonstrate at NAB a new browser panel within Adobe Premiere Pro that will give users more tightly integrated browsing to look for clips that are resident on NEXIO shared storage.

“Another example is that we are using Adobe’s AME [Adobe Media Encoder] technology for doing background rendering,” Marriott says. “We have a new interface that allows us to export directly to an AME instance on a local Adobe Premiere Pro machine.”

This capability will allow Adobe Premiere Pro to render in the background to create the final output, he adds.

Imagine Communications also is looking at ways it can leverage its SelenioFlex line of transcoding engines to make it easier for stations that wish to use their NLEs to prepare video content for delivery to multiple platforms, including digital, online and on-air, says Marriott.

There also will be discussion at the Imagine Communications booth on ways to move branding insertion upstream by placing a triggering mechanism into content with the NLE.

At NAB, EVS will tackle head on what the company’s Stellpflug calls the “nightmare of files” coming at editors from every direction.

“People need a way to manage files coming in from ENG cameras and third-party sources, via FTP and even smartphones in a very easy platform so they can be enabled to enter the edit layer,” he says.

EVS will also introduce a product at NAB called the Ingest Funnel that will let broadcasters ingest random files without regard to what type of files they are and have them automatically prepared for editing and the news production workflow, Stellpflug says.

“The EVS Ingest Funnel is a manager to help expedite the business process management and workflow we put in place to use the right steps that make it easy for the user to see the files and get their hands on a file for editing,” he says.

Another major news editing focus at the EVS NAB booth will be on collaborative editing, Stellpflug says.

“People both at the broadcast site and offsite need to work together on the same piece of content many times,” he explains. “They need content solutions to find assets, access them and not work independently.”

Stellpflug says the EVS IP Director enables collaboration by providing a content management platform that delivers the search engine, database of record and the content management search tools required.

The company also will demonstrate its own end-to-end news solution that leverages the EVS XedioClean Edit non-linear editor operating off shared storage as well as best-of-breed approaches that integrate established editors from Avid and Adobe.

At the NAB Show, the focus of news editing at the Quantel booth will be on Enterprise sQ, the company’s enterprise-wide server system and editing software.

Quantel will unveil a new series of servers upon which Enterprise sQ is built. The new sQ 1000 Series of servers provides three times the storage capacity in two-thirds of the space of the existing Enterprise sQ servers, says Roger Thornton, Quantel head of publicity.

“The new sQ 1000 Series of servers, depending upon how they are configured, reduce the price of an Enterprise sQ news production system by about 40%,” he says.

The lower price in particular should make the news production system more attractive to a larger pool of broadcasters, Thornton says.

Quantel QTube EditThe company also will introduce QTube Edit, which enables field editing with every bit of the capabilities available from the Enterprise sQ news production system, he says.

QTube Edit allows a journalist in the field to edit high-resolution footage shot on the scene of a story with footage that resides on the station’s sQ Enterprise server, Thornton says.

In practice, the reporter in the field can retrieve low bitrate versions of footage on the server, edit it into the story timeline with the high-res field footage and send the completed story with both sets of footage back to the station where the low bitrate material is conformed using the high-res source media stored on the server.

“There’s a double benefit for journalists. It keeps them up to date with what is happening and being brought back into the central server,” Thornton explains. “That could be today’s news from somewhere else in the world or it could be a piece of content from a few weeks ago.”

“It also means rendering is being handled back in the central sQ system, which translates into minimal traffic across the Internet.”

Mum is the word at Adobe about Premiere Pro developments to expect at the NAB Show until a pre-NAB video news conference scheduled for April 1, according to an Adobe spokesperson.

(Editor’s note: Next week’s NAB preview focuses on the impact of IP on broadcast production and signal routing as well as developments to expect in that regard at the NAB Show. Adobe has agreed to offer its insights on that topic. TVNewsCheck also will cover Adobe Premiere Pro developments announced at the April 1 press conference in our Playout blog.)

A notable part of the broadcast editing landscape that once again will be absent on the NAB exhibition floor is Apple and its Final Cut Pro NLE software.

It’s been about eight years since the massive crowds in and around the Apple NAB booth appeared as if they were attending their own mini convention.

But just because Apple won’t be exhibiting on the floor doesn’t mean Final Cut Pro won’t be making its presence felt.

NAB’s Post|Production training event, now in its 11th year, will give Apple aficionados plenty of opportunity to dive into Final Cut Pro X.

The event, organized in partnership with Future Media Concepts, runs from Saturday, April 11, through Wednesday, April 15. Its schedule calls for Final Cut Pro X training ranging from a beginner’s introduction to sound editing and color correction.

Ben Kozuch, FMC president and co-founder, conferences, points out that there also will be substantial training opportunities for editors interested in Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Avid Media Composer.

There are even two-day classes designed to give attendees a deep dive into Final Cut Pro X and other applications in preparation for a certification test they can take at NAB at the end of the training, he says.

Kozuch adds that most people attending Post|Production training sessions come from the broadcast, cable and corporate video industries, not Hollywood.

Post|Production also will offer training on a wide variety of non-editing topics, like hands-on class on how to fly drones and time-lapse video acquisition.

“The idea is to reflect the state of an industry in which people do not thrive on one craft anymore,” he says. “Editors need to know compression, and Web designers need to know editing.”

This is the latest installment of a special series on emerging tech trends, NAB Hot Topics, that will appear each week leading up to the NAB Show that runs April 11-16 in Las Vegas. The schedule: March 19: The IP Transition; and March 26: Audio. Read the earlier installments here.

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