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Cineform Neo4k for the Mac part 2ReMaster and Active Metadata
Cineform neo4k part 1 can be found here
The second part of Cineform Neo4k and NeoHD is what's known as ReMaster; a software utility for batch-process transcoding of media files into the various Cineform formats. But along with batch-processing, ReMaster also provides a variety of functions that extend beyond just encoding into the Cineform wavelet codec. ReMaster has tools for resizing files on encode so it becomes a perfect tool for HD online intermediate workflows from 2k or 4k acquisition sources. Likewise ReMaster is perfect for creating uniformity in projects using mixed formats, not just by standardizing to a single intermediate codec but also but up or down-resing files to a singular uniform resolution.
As a batch processing utility ReMaster is remarkably efficient and reasonably fast at encoding depending on how much scaling is being enacted. Also, showing a level of openness not often seen in proprietary tools, ReMaster allows for files to be encoded to Apple's own ProRes codec if you have need to retain uniformity with other FCP-based projects. ReMaster can also encode to DPX file sequences which are commonly used as masters for scanning back to film or for color grading in particular high-end systems.
Another angle on ReMaster's rescaling tools, ReMaster serves as an extraction point for proxy-editing workflows which Cineform refers to as CF Express. This involves making 1k 10bit 422 Cineform files which are extremely fast to edit and can be swapped out for the full-res files at a later date. This kind of workflow is perfect for laptop editing in the field or for functional cutting on lo-fi equipment. The big advantage the Cineform Express workflow has over many other proxy methods is that the 'mini-me' files are an exact match for colour to their full res siblings. So it's quite feasible to colour correct on the 1k files and have consistent results when matching back to the masters in the 'online' phase. The CF Express files are also fast to encode so for those working with cameras like the RED this forms a great mechanism for viewing and working with viable and visually accurate rushes that can be produced reasonably quickly at the end of a day's shooting. A colleague of mine about to direct a feature on RED in the deserts of South Australia was after just such a solution; a way to be able to take the day's footage back to his hotel room at the end of the shoot without having to have the huge data storage demands of keeping the native 4k R3D files. 1k res Cineform Express files from the 4k R3D's exported from ReMaster may be just the solution he's looking for.
The ReMaster utility rounds out its toolset by also offering parameters for dealing with cadence and frame rate manipulations; a much desired feature for those of us who often must wrestle with 50i, 60i, 24p, 25p, 50p and 60p sources from PAL and NTSC regions. The frame-rate utilities in ReMaster provide a superb quality inverse telecine process doing 24p extraction from 60i NTSC video sources. This is certainly a useful feature for those seeking film-like cadence from older style video cameras or for a more effective uniformity in mixed format productions looking to print back to 35mm film. Similarly for those using tape-based cameras such as the JVC251, which have 60p recording options, the 60p-24p speed reduction allows for high quality slo-mo extractions. ReMaster can perform the gamut of varieties in this regard, including 30p>24p, 25p>24p/23.98 and, in reverse, 23.98>25p, which is perfect for matching PAL broadcast and DVD standards. Similarly, with the rise in popularity of 35mm lens adapters for low-cost digital cameras, such as those from Red Rock and P+S, ReMaster accommodates the image flip these adapters perform, automatically inverting your footage to the right side up on transcode.
What all these features of Cineform point to is two distinct reasons for using an optimized intermediate format based on lossless compression - Uniformity and Performance. No matter what the acquisition format is, or the intended delivery means or even the scale of the production, every post-production coordinator is seeking these two traits - a consistent uniformity of format through the pipeline minimizing conversions wherever possible, and an efficiency of performance playback and manipulation. If you have uniformity and performance then you'll invariably have a post-production workflow that is cheaper simply because there's less time spent with extraneous processes and data wrangling. For the creative team this is of course more time to be creative and less time being technical.
For some, a pure Uncompressed workflow may still seem preferable to a system like Cineform. A virtually off-the-shelf 8core system with a video card such as those from AJA, Matrox or Blackmagic can do uncompressed HD in real-time. But as sure as Moore's Law shows computer speed exponentially rising year over year, so to do our demands on those systems grow as much or more so that Moore's curve. This is where Cineform seems to be staying ahead of that curve - providing a compression system that compares with Uncompressed in every way and yet delivers performance possibilities for 2k and 4k and 444 RGB that will still take some time for Moore's Law to catch-up to.
It's this observable practice of Cineform staying a step a head and ensuring its product is not obsoleted by the speed advance of hardware that can bee seen in the most recent edition to the Cineform arsenal and the third component of its triumvirate offering- Active Metadata.
Active Metadata is Cineform's system, part of NEO4k on the Mac, for bringing a totally lossless RAW color correction mechanism to the NLE environment. Active Metadata can be a complex and perplexing concept for traditional editors but the principles are really quite simple. The idea is that the color control information - white balance, color temperature, ISO, 3D LUT and so on, are contained in a data layer that in effect sits over the top of the media files themselves. When you manipulate this metadata or choose a particular predefined 'look' you can see the results directly on the timeline but the manipulations and alterations are never actually applied to the media file itself. This is the moving image RAW methodology that digital photographers have long taken to heart. Similarly the Active Metadata concept will make perfect sense to Photoshop users where Adjustment Layers perform much the same role. In the case of Photoshop, the adjustment layer is a separate layer that sits on top of the layer you want to control. The adjustment layers can manipulate things like RGB balance and acts like a filter through which you see the layer below but you don't actually manipulate the layer below itself and the adjustment layer can be changed (or removed) at any time. Cineform Active Metadata works in much the same way - a malleable and selectable layer/filter through which you can see the results of the colour selections and 'look' without actually touching or altering the pixels of your media files themselves. Moreover it is a system that can operate right off the NLE timeline and be in operation right through the post-production process.
Cineform still has more work to do on its Active Metadata system, more features to implement and performance optimizations to be enacted, but there is no doubt that the implications for this kind of process are huge, heralding exciting future directions for post-production. The control of metadata on RAW images delivers a level of flexibility and image purity that is previously unknown and Cineform seems to have taken that to the heart of the development of its products.
In many ways Cineform's Neo4k and NeoHD for the Mac are still a few steps short of the sophistication the more mature Cineform Propsect4k delivers in Premiere Pro under Windows. Here Cineform Prospect replaces part of the Premiere Pro engine and delivers a superb performance accelerated workflow where, through direct optimization between the codec and the NLE playback engine, Cineform files achieve levels of real-time performance that must, quite simply, be seen to be believed. Final Cut Pro doesn't offer the same open access for third-party products on the Mac as Premiere Pro does on Windows, but still the release of Neo4k and NeoHD for the Mac delivers an efficient, high quality, lossless intermediate workflow that goes well beyond that offered natively by Apple. Moreover Cineform on the Mac can also provide the same workflows for Mac-based Premiere Pro as well as FCP and we eagerly look forward to see if Cineform can deliver a Prospect 4k for Premiere Pro on the Mac as they have for Premiere on Windows.
As all the major post-production software developers compete for the delivery of the most complete and total application package they can, it's very easy for third-party products to slip under the radar and for editors to become complacent, failing to seek out better solutions believing the box they bought has it all covered. Cineform Neo4k and NeoHD is a clear example of a third-party system that offers such a huge extension to what a humble FCP system can do that it's very hard, once you've had it, to ever consider working without it.
For more information, visit www.cineform.com
Mike Jones is a digital media producer, author, educator from Sydney, Australia. He has a diverse background across all areas of media production including film, video, TV, journalism, photography, music and on-line projects. Mike is the author of three books and more than 200 published essays, articles and reviews covering all aspects of cinematic form, technology and culture. Mike is currently Head of Technological Arts at the International Film School Sydney (www.ifss.edu.au), has an online home at www.mikejones.net and can be found profusely blogging for DMN at www.digitalbasin.net
Related Keywords:post-production , NLE, digital intermediate, codec,