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Avid Announces Interplay Workflow System, Media Composer 2.5

Also intros software-only Media Composer 2.5, Media Composer Adrenaline for Mac OS X By Charlie White

At NAB 2006 in Las Vegas, Avid announced Interplay, a product the company called the world's first nonlinear workflow engine for managing assets, workflow and security. Avid also announced an upgrade to its Media Composer line, now version 2.5. In addition, the company will also offer a Mac version of the hardware-accelerated Media Composer Adrenaline system as well as an update to its Mojo hardware, giving it SDI input and output capability.

The most important part of Avid's announcement was its introduction of the Interplay Nonlinear Workflow Engine. Starting at $18,000 for a basic five-seat system, Interplay is a PC server that works over a 100 base-T or Gigabit Ethernet network, with asset management and security software on board. It's able to run on top of an Avid Unity Media Network, and gives users enhanced workflow capabilities. The basic $18,000 product consists of the Interplay Engine, which is a PC server at the back end, and five client licenses for Interplay access. It works with any Avid workstation where the Interplay software is installed, and then it enables that workstation to interact with the Interplay server. Beyond five seats, individual licenses can also be purchased to add on to the network.

When Avid decided to develop Interplay, the company set out to enable easier collaboration between the various content creators working together on a production, but wanted to eliminate all the chaos. Observing workgroup situations, Avid noticed that there was a lot of time spent away from the creative process, with a lot of effort wasted directing traffic and dealing with various versions of content. Said Avid's David Schleifer, VP, Broadcast and Workgroups, "Any time you have teams collaborating, there's all this non-creative stuff that goes around. It pulls people away from the creative process. We needed to take that out of the equation, so that any size team could be productive. We came up with this idea of a nonlinear workflow engine." Interplay functions as an integrated asset management tool, linking together data and Avid editing systems in a workgroup.

Interplay is able to recognize and keep track of over a hundred different types of files, and the system is capable of handling virtually any type of file. Interplay will allow users to keep track of those files, manage versions, manage revisions, and roll back to previous versions. The company calls its technique used in Interplay "transparent and invisible asset management." Said Schleifer, "An editor who's in the context of editing doesn't need to go into some other application and dig around, so we built the ability for editors, for example, to just reach right in and use assets that are right in there, without having to go into some foreign environment, and that we build other tools around it that let you work seamlessly with the assets that you have within Interplay." 

How does Avid interplay work with the company's Unity Media Network, and what is the difference between these two products? Avid's Dana Rusicka said, "With Unity, it's really a collaborative media network, so it's a typical storage where all of your video and audio assets reside. You can have editors using different content creation clients attached to it and collaborating with those assets. Interplay takes it to the next level by adding asset management and all of the other automated workflow tools and security on top of that. It's a layer that sits on top of Unity."

Added Avid's Schleifer, "Unity will hold the files and will give you a place to put them, and will serve them to an incredible number of people at the same time. It really does that brute-force lifting underneath that lets you tie in large numbers of users efficiently." Interplay is able to control how an asset is used. Said Schleifer, "What Interplay does is manage who can see it, where they see it, what they do with it, the relationship of every object on there and so forth. It's really tackling all of those issues, taking over the busywork. It's having a 60TB hard drive out there and being able to search it, navigate it, find it, use it and collaborate on that drive."

In addition to video files, using this asset management system, Interplay is able to keep any other files that are related to a production organized as well, such as scripts, or even spreadsheets that are associated with certain episodes in a production. At its simplest, the $18,000 version of Interplay allows users to access all those files from within the application. For example, users could open and close Photoshop files directly from Interplay. Other file types on the desktop can be dragged and dropped into Interplay.

Another feature of Interplay is its workflow automation. Avid emphasized the way Interplay is designed to facilitate parallel workflows rather than serial workflows. The product's designers reason that a production team working on numerous elements of a production at the same time will be much more efficient than individuals who must wait for other parts to be finished before they can begin their work. "That just reduces production time and costs, there's just no two ways around that," Schleifer said. With Interplay's workflow automation, Avid intends to eliminate the collisions that happen when teams work together.

The third core element of Interplay is its security and control capabilities. This is done with its centralized user and access management system. "A lot of workflow comes from defining who can see what, and when they can see it in the process. All of that is something that we can manage centrally within Interplay. There's a lot of flexibility over the roles, the access, and the preferences the users have," Rusicka said. There are also health monitoring systems where system administrators can keep an eye on the status of all the components involved, where they will be aware of something is not functioning properly. 

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Related Keywords:NAB 2006, Avid Interplay, nonlinear workflow engine, managing assets, workflow, security, Media Composer Adrenaline 2.5, Mojo SDI, Mac OS X

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