Friday, January 27, 2006

CineForm on Tour

CineForm is coming to a city near you by joining the Adobe Production Studio Tour. David Taylor (CineForm, CEO) will be at each of the city locations demonstating a Wafian HR-1 and Aspect HD and Prospect HD post production solutions. This show will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about Adobe/CineForm/Wafian solutions for film and TV acquistion and post. It should be great tour to attend, but unfortunately I'm not able to go. Please add a comment if you make it to one of these events and report your experience.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Canon XL-H1 test shoot

As I wasn't at this particular event so the entry below was written up by David Taylor. It was a great opportunity to really put the Canon's 24F mode to the test (with a film-out planned.) I will update more on this shoot as the data comes in. I hope you enjoy the details below.

- David.N.

David Taylor wrote:

The story starts out with a phone call I received from Robert Margouleff at Mi Casa Multimedia ( who has exceptional expertise in various audio endeavors, including audio remixing for feature films before they are distributed on DVD. Robert's partner is Dan Kavanaugh (Mirage Productions), and together they had plunked down some money on a new Canon XL H1 at Birns and Sawyer in Hollywood. But prior to taking delivery they wanted to run some performance tests in 24F mode while recording from its HD-SDI output, then send the material to I/O Film for a filmout test in order to judge big-screen visual quality. To run the tests, Robert recruited Scott Billups, who has a long resume of successful theatrical production and visual effects credits, and who had been itching to give the XL H1 a run for its money.

Robert had heard of the new Wafian HR-1 direct-to-disk recorder and asked if we'd like to participate. We have a couple Indie films in production that are using the HR-1 with JVC's new HD100U, but we hadn't had a chance to participate in an event like this for the XL H1. So of course we jumped at the chance. So last Thursday (1/12), Jeff from Wafian, plus Thad Huston and me from CineForm tooled up to Hollywood for the test shoot which was held in the new Birns and Sawyer facility near Sunset and Vine.

Jim Martin (left, Birns and Sawyer) and Scott Billups getting ready for the shoot. Two cams were used - one to setup the shot on a local monitor, and the second (with the Prime lens) was recorded.

Scott wanted to perform both indoor and outdoor tests, which included both res chart shots plus people and motion shots. Material was recorded to HDV tape, and was simultaneously recorded from its HD-SDI output to the Wafian HR-1. (Momentary digression - For those of you not familiar, the Wafian HR-1 is a direct-to-disk recorder manufactured by a partner of CineForm called Wafian. More info is here. Wafian has integrated our 10-bit CineForm Intermediate codec plus an HD-SDI card into a D2D recorder with lots of innovative software intended for on-set recording - essentially D5 quality but lots of cool features. One further reference - CineForm Intermediate records files as full-raster 1920 x 1080 with 10-bit precision and YUV 4:2:2 color space, so its spatial and chroma resolution is greater than an F900. Okay, digression off).

Because we were recording using both HDV tape (1440 horizontal resolution and 4:2:0 chroma) and HD-SDI (1920 horizontal resolution and 4:2:2 chroma) we felt this would be an excellent opportunity to compare the quality of both.

After the shoot last Thursday we reviewed the footage briefly on large LCD panels we brought with us, but as time was short we didn't get a chance to do any big-screen projection testing. But Scott was very enthusiastic about the preliminary results, saying the quality looked "simply awesome!" multiple times.

In order to judge whether his euphoria was a momentary lapse based on our lack of food on Thursday, I sent him an email Saturday morning asking whether he remained as enthused as he was on Thursday, to which I received the following email:
"Damn this is good looking footage! I showed it to a couple producers and they want to set up a demo next Thursday for a major distributor. ….

BTW, this footage keys much better than F900 (HDCAM) using both Keylight and Primatte. Once I get back (from Sundance), I'd like to pump some Viper, F950, F900 and XL H1 into the box (Wafian HR-1) and set up a real side-by-side (Digital / Film projection at ETC) for ASC, DGA, 600 and SMPTE. I can get all the cameras so the only question is, how many boxes can we get for the test.

Nice job guys. If I had another hand I'd give ya three thumbs up.

Scott Billups"

Well, that's pretty much where we leave the story for now. Scott is intending to render the footage out to DPX files and deliver them to I/O Film on Wednesday (1/18) before he heads off to Sundance. Hopefully we'll see film footage soon thereafter. I don't know if there's a full plan yet for how to screen the material to those interested, but I suspect quite a number of people would like to see how this looks on the big screen. When we know more of the logistics we'll let everybody know.

The crew and the cameras! (l to r) Chris Angel (Mi Casa), Scott Billups, Robert Margouleff (Mi Casa), Jeff Youel (Wafian), David Taylor and Thad Huston (CineForm - no we didn't plan for the redundant red shirts and levis), and Jim Martin.

CineForm and the new Premiere Pro 2.0

Already the rumors are flying on so lets sort them out here. Firstly, Aspect HD has been upgraded to support Premiere Pro 2.0 (finalizing its beta testing); the version of Aspect HD needed for this is 4.0 (which will also continue to run on Premiere 1.5.) Adding Aspect HD to Premiere 2.0 is in no way impacted by Adobe's choice to remove the "free" (well it wasn't totally "free" for Adobe) CineForm components from the Premiere release. It should actually make things easier for CineForm (users will no longer confuse the free components with the Aspect HD tools, causing unnecessary technical support issues.) The second issue: now that Adobe has "native" MPEG editing, what does that mean for CineForm. At first we were disappointed in Adobe's discision, for about five minutes, then we realized how much this will benefit CineForm. We already have significant brand recognition thanks to partners like Adobe and Sony. Aspect HD has a good market share, but now the performance gap has increased in Aspect HD's favor -- previously CineForm was completing against it own tools, now it has a clear lead, as it does against any "native" MPEG system.

I want to point out that I believe this makes the CineForm-Adobe relationship stronger. We aren't really in competition, every Aspect HD and Prospect HD sale is a customer using Premiere Pro. CineForm helps Premiere Pro shine in the higher end production and indie film markets, particularly as Prospect HD is one of the standard solutions in Adobe's Open HD initiative. The Adobe sales team are very complementary towards CineForm tools, often using Aspect HD to demonstration Premiere Pro at tradeshows. Having a lot of CineForm components within Premiere did create some tension, as I sure Adobe had hoped we would be make a "free" version of Aspect HD, yet our own pipeline was a faster than theirs and they didn't license that -- we don't get our speed from the codec alone. So I feel there was disappointment on both sides with the 1.5.1 relationship, but now that 2.0 is here, we see an excellent partnership moving forward.

Premiere Pro 2.0 gives us a lot of opportunity to grow, in new features and market share. Adobe continues to provide the best third party plug-in interface of any of NLEs, this is why they have more acceleration options than any other vendor. Now that the rendering engine within Premiere 2.0 has extending beyond 8-bit, Prospect HD has much more room to grow adding great post-production features. We will be shortly be releasing Prospect HD 2.0 to start down the path of expanding the deep color experience -- previous only CineForm filters provided 16-bit color with PHD. Prospect HD 2.0 will be backwards compatible with 1.5.1, allow customers to upgrade there NLE whenever they need.

It is going to be an excellent 2006.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Crazy Test Posts

Sorry for all the test posts here over the last few days. has an error when using email based blogging; I run those tests three days ago (the emails took that long to hit blogspot.) This is all in preparation for me being far away for 2+ weeks (China) where I don't know what level of internet access I will have (so the tests were for email based blogging -- but I don't expect be to doing much CineForm related blogging from China.) While I'm away other CineForm staff will step in the help with forum questions that I usually spend time answering (particularly over at

It has been a quiet time on this blog, as I have been so busy with CineForm projects (jamming things is before my trip.) We didn't close for holidays. Over the time that of company's were holidaying, we did two minor updates to Aspect HD 3.4 (now build 45), and a new beta candidate for Prospect HD 1.2 (coming soon.) We did a new build for Prospect 2K (for the LBS project) and preparing for upcoming Adobe software releases. We have more codec enhancements coming (even more speed) and we are working on real-time compression of HD gaming consoles (more on that soon.) In a recent in-house experiment of the new "stuff" and some very fast PC gear we were encoding 1920x1080 progressive at 88 fps (that is nice full resolution HD overcranking.) All this without mentioning the projects that won't be announced until NAB. Fun stuff.