Media 100i's graphics overlay capabilities add text and graphics to Web streaming content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media 100i features EventStream technology, which allows users to synchronize HTML, JavaScripts and Flash animations by embedding events into their video timeline.

 

 

 

 

 


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July 11
Analysis: Media 100 i: Delivering the Future, Ahead of Schedule
New product announcement delivers big news for traditional video editing and streaming media creation

by Tim Wilson
Man About Town™

Parsing press releases is one of the most difficult things we do here in the digital press. News breaks fast on products that aren't shipping yet, in an industry whose nature is undergoing fundamental changes. The challenge is to share exciting news without succumbing to hype and without losing our sense of direction.

Media 100's announcement today of their new Media 100 i product line, while bearing some of the marks of traditional marketing enthusiasm, actually understates some of its most dramatic implications for its current and future uses. They've gone well past addressing the challenges posed by Avid at the top of their market and Final Cut Pro and others at the bottom. I believe that Media 100 i delivers the future, years ahead of schedule.

My own perspective here is that of a long-time Media 100 user, having logged more than 4,000 hours "behind the wheel" of Media 100 to create hundreds of hours of broadcast television programming. Although I'm adding some "new media" elements to my production slate, I'm still primarily a TV producer. There's huge news in Media 100's announcement for folks like me and what I do today, but I also saw plenty to excite me about where I want to go from here.

Tools for today's editors
Media 100 has long built itself around its ease of use. What others have seen as feature shortcomings, such as lack of layers or support for a full range of third party plugins, have in fact been part of Media 100's core commitment to keep things simple and, as a result, stable and fast.

Their reasoning was quite direct: Why reinvent compositing in an editing environment when Adobe's After Effects has already gotten compositing so right? A better solution is to provide the tightest possible integration with AE. Indeed, Media 100 does this better than anyone in the business: Selecting "Export to After Effects" sends a Media 100 composition to After Effects as an AE composition, with each clip on a separate layer. Import/export issues are gone, and quality goes up because the clips are rendered in the native version of Media 100's flavor of QuickTime.

I went into this detail on an existing feature to offer some insight into how they're building on this with Media 100 i and BorisFX and Boris RED. Caren Anhder, Media 100 i product manager, shares a few more details than were in Media 100's announcement. Working with Artel, the makers of the Boris FX family of products, Media 100 i will allow the power of Boris to offer unprecedented effects creation in an editing environment.

"This implementation allows a clip to be created in the program video tracks as a 'container' for the composited layers defined in Boris FX or Boris RED," says Anhder. "This composition clip can then be saved in bins and used in other programs and projects. But the key iFX feature with Media 100 i is the ability to access Media 100 bins, with trimmed media, from directly within Boris FX or Boris RED."

Media 100 takes this a step further by allowing composited groups of clips to serve as reusable Media 100 elements. And for effects creation itself, Boris can now read trimmed clips without export from Media 100, taking advantage of Media 100's media management from inside the Boris interface.

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Current Media 100 users in particular will see this a huge improvement over earlier implementations of Media 100's plugin architecture, which only allowed plugin hooks through the mechanism of transitions. That's fine for DVE, but for filtering, keying, credit rolls and other features that plugins like Boris RED could easily provide, required mental gymnastics that many users were unable or unwilling to make. One of my mantras has been that I want my computer to handle this kind of thinking for me, and it looks like Media 100 i will be doing just that.

Affecting effects creation
To get an idea of what it means to have integrated Boris RED with Media 100, take a look at an earlier article I wrote on RED. Among its most exciting features for editors is its advanced title creation, features spun off into a separate product also known as Boris Graffiti. Here are just a handful of those features:

  • Rotate text in 3D space with extrusion, beveled edges & light sources;
  • Format text using word wrap, tabs, kerning, edges and drop shadows;
  • Animate kerning with ease in/ease out keyframing;
  • Apply explosive particles and smooth animated blurs;
  • Auto-create single page rolls, crawls and multi page fades;
  • Break up text for individual animation of every letter;
  • High quality motion blur on title pages.

RED adds to this the ability to use custom EPS documents for creating motion graphic elements, including titles, that scale infinitely, with perfect smoothness.

Most interesting to consider is the timing of this: the release of Media 100 i is scheduled for the fall, about the same time that RED 2.0 ships with full-blown masking, paint and rotoscoping. I think it's safe to say that no sub-$20,000 editing system on the planet will offer titling, paint, keying, 3D, AE plugin support and more, with anything resembling this integral ease of use.

That's all as a result of integrating Boris RED, of course, but I don't want to miss the colossal news of Media 100 i's own realtime YUV color correction.

The look of the controls will be familiar to advanced Photoshop users: It's based on our old friends the curve and the histogram. Mastery of these tools allows manipulation to be carried out on part of the picture, rather than the whole thing: down to the level of a single pixel, without complicated masking.

The only place that I've seen this level of control for video before is in DigiEffect's remarkable Cinelook. The unique histogram-based color correction tools are in fact what I've used Cinelook for most often, rather than for its titular ability to make video look like film. It does that quite well, but it's not a feature that I need as often as I need strong color controls.

Even with ICE, however, Cinelook's controls are anything but real time, and take place primarily in computer colorspace (RGB). But the colors that computers display are in a different range of the spectrum than that of television (YUV). It's very easy for RGB color corrections to produce illegal broadcast colors. Media 100 takes care of this by keeping the colors in YUV space and does so in real time.

Avid saves this feature for their high-end Symphony series, whose entry level model costs several times more than Media 100 i's top of the line.

Another feature that Media 100 i adds for editors is a resizable preview window.

Because Media 100 assumes that an external monitor is connected to its workstations, they also assumed that a quarter-size preview was all we needed on our computer screens. That might have been true when I was younger, but it ain't now. This is a little touch, but a crucial one that I'm glad to see.

As news we've waited to hear for years, lifting the 2 GB file limit would normally lead an article like this. It's here, thanks, but with all the other news, really doesn't merit mention any higher than this. I can't believe I'm saying that, but there it is.

Finally, the addition of AppleScript to the Media 100 application means all but infinite customizablity in a variety of different directions. At its simplest level, AppleScript will allow users to customize keystrokes, project setup parameters and automate repetitive tasks and other small but significant parts of the editing experience. On a larger scale, scripting will allow training products like the Media 100 Companion, also built on AppleScript, to actually execute behaviors for editors, going beyond "Show me how" training to "Do it for me."

Larger still, ambitious scripters can add capabilities that don't even exist within Media 100 right now, using the power of AppleScript to create hybrid forms of Media 100. Once again, scripting has been built into high-end systems like Nothing Real's Shake on the compositing side, but this is power we've never seen in an editing tool in this price range.

Tools for Tomorrow's Editors Today
I began with some of the enhancements that I see for traditional editors because that's who I am. I was also tremendously pleased, and more than a little relieved, to see that Media 100 is taking care of its existing customer base while pursuing its goal of becoming an industry leader in providing streaming video.

The acquisition of Terran Interactive, the makers of the industry-leading compression tool Media Cleaner Pro, was only the first. Others, including Digital Origin and Wired, suggested that Media 100 would be integrating a variety of these to provide one-stop shopping for acquisition, editing and distribution via video, DVD and the Web.

That's clearly still on tap for the bottom end of the market: The recent announcement of free versions of Edit DV and Media Cleaner, along with the free hosting services of iCanStream.com, mean that, in fact, users can edit and stream video at no cost whatsoever.

At the top, end, though, Media 100 i blows right past that. One of my frustrations as a budding new media producer is that no editing application took advantage of more than a fraction of QuickTime's capabilities as a controlling mechanism. That is, QuickTime does far more than providing a container for viewing movies that are restricted to the plane of the computer screen.

I touched on some of QuickTime's lesser known powers in another article, but they bear repeating in the context of editing, and not just authoring. As you take a gander at that article, note that each of those capabilities is in fact built into Media 100 i.

The place to begin for our purposes is with QT's support for hyperlinks within movies. Step 1 is to create "hot spots," which, when clicked, can trigger any number of responses, including opening a browser window and loading a specific page.

That's still relying on users to do something to elicit a response. In fact, however, QuickTime can itself act as the trigger for opening browser pages, scrolling text, starting Flash animations, and much more.

The barrier for editors like me in creating media with these behaviors is that I had to go into authoring programs like Director and LiveStage, which, while not exactly rocket science, aren't exactly NOT rocket science either. What Media 100 i brings to the party is the ability to do ALL of this from directly within the Media 100 application. No need to decipher yet another timeline metaphor or set of obscure controls: everything is as easily accessible and easily used as any other feature within Media 100.

Media 100 calls these EventStream Commands, and that's really all there is to it: the streams can contain commands. Create the hot spots in your clip in Media 100 i, and go.

Go where? The implications for DVD producers are endless. The user pops a DVD into their computer and plays the movie, which has clickable hot spots, but which can also execute scripted controls on the user's computer.

As someone spoiled by Media 100's image quality, I have to confess that DVDs have never really impressed me. In particular, I hate how graphics get crunched to the point of illegibility.

Media 100 i offers a solution so breathtaking in its simplicity that I can't imagine why we haven't seen it before: the graphics are saved separately from the compressed video, and laid back on top in their pristine state. Again, a single feature that alone would have been worth a parade, but for the magnitude of the other announcements.

Even these, though, are only scratching the surface of what could happen with EventStream Commands. Let's imagine the video that streams to a hard drive with a system like TiVo or Replay. It gets saved as MPEG, one of the formats that Media 100 i can export to. (It can, in fact, export to more different formats than any product I know of, with the click of a button: MPEGs 1 through 4, QT, Real, Qualcomm PureVoice, Qdesign Music, Sorenson Video, WindowsMedia and many more.)

Remember those EventStream commands? They're included as metadata, embedded in the movies themselves. As TiVo and Replay add just another capability or two, imagine being able to script the control of television sets! The folks at Microsoft have been working toward appliance control for years - why not embed that control in your movie's metadata? That's all a little Tomorrowland-ish, but the fact is that for anyone viewing a Media 100 i clip over WebTV, that capability is here right now.

Most important to note for now, though, is that Media 100 i is poised to shatter forever the boundary between video editing and multimedia authoring.

Ahead of Schedule
Because I'm still primarily an "old media" TV guy, I have to confess that I've been underwhelmed by much of Media 100's recent news. I've definitely been one of the "show me" crowd with regards to Media 100's commitment to the top of their customer base, and my feeling is that they've blown the roof off the sucker.

The new media integration is years ahead of the competition. The smart compression of graphics is unprecedented. AppleScripting means that I can add any capabilities that I want to the software. The seamless integration of Boris - Boris's ability to use media directly from M100 bins, and M100's ability to use Boris compositions as Media 100 elements - brings Media 100 the most powerful layering tools in any editing environment. Nobody else is even close anymore.

Now, this is an exceptional amount of enthusiasm from someone who started an article claiming to dismiss hype, and I feel a word or two of explanation is in order. Much of my confidence that they'll actually deliver these things stems from past experience. Media 100 has always been slow to add features that they felt would get in the way of usability, so for them to make this sweeping an announcement of new features suggest to me that THEY have confidence that these features will actually work.

My confidence also comes from seeing Media 100 has made smart choices about leveraging the strengths of their partners, including After Effects, BorisFX, Apple's QuickTime and AppleScript, and Terran Interactive. They're not reinventing any of the core technologies, but putting them together in unexpected ways.

What remains at the base of it all is what Media 100 has always done best: delivering the best possible images with the least amount of effort. That's in fact the key for old media types like me to make it easy enough to actually DO. I understand and am excited by the possiblities of what scripted metadata could provide, but I had no reasonable way to get from here to there, inside an editing workflow. Until Media 100 i.

I could go on at length on every one of those features, and I will soon, but Paul Izbicki, owner of i2i newMedia, and host of the Boston M100 User Group, summed it up nicely: "By redefining their core objectives, and moving to a family of true content creation tools, Media 100 has leapfrogged the competition and created a whole new multi-media environment in this, their latest release. I believe they have shown great foresight in incorporating features that, to my knowledge, no one has even hinted at before."

The response of the online community has been nothing short of stunning already. Even more interesting will be the response of the industry in the days ahead, as many of them will surely be caught flat-footed by these announcements. More interesting still will be the new kinds of works we can create once we get our hands on this thing ourselves.

Tim Wilson, Man About Town™, is the Producer of Plugin Central, as well as the host of User Forums for Media 100 and BorisFX. He is picking up the pieces of his puny expectations at this very moment.

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