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Real-Time Collaboration: syncVUE Makes It Easy, Part 1Skype-based group markup, communications and viewing tool for Mac and Windows
Michael Buday is an accomplished video editor with an idea. Collaborating with his colleagues on various projects was just too difficult, and he figured out a way to streamline the process. He rounded up three partners, and they set out to create an application to make on-line collaboration easier for everyone. The result is syncVUE, a Skype-based tool by his company, Intelligent Gadgets, that synchronizes media and lets content creators work with footage together, on line and in real time. Digital Media Net's Charlie White talked with Buday about his application in this two-part interview.
DMN: Tell us about Intelligent Gadgets and syncVUE.
Buday: Intelligent Gadgets is a company I started with three other partners on January 1, 2006 with the idea of creating syncVUE. syncVUE is a product idea I came up with after many years, actually between 1989 and 2005, of commuting back and forth to Los Angeles. I live on the West Coast, in Dana Point, California. It's halfway between L.A. and San Diego.
DMN: That's quite a long drive.
Buday: I was commuting back and forth to L.A. every day, and I decided, nearing 50, I couldn't take the commute any more. It stretched from an hour each way to over 2 1/2 hours each way today, depending on traffic. I worked on a lot of major programs in the L.A. market, and I decided that I either had to move to a smaller market and make my commute more reasonable, or try to find a way to work on products closer to my home, or in my home. Like many of us today, I decided to invest in a small HD suite, and after being an Avid person for so many years I decided on Final Cut because of its open architecture and open hardware that one could buy. I started taking on projects, and one of the problems that ended up ocurring was that I found clients long distance who would work with me, but collaborating with them turned out to be an issue. On a particular long-term project that I'm still working on -- a video game that's going to be released sometime in 2008 -- there was a lot of animation that had to be approved, and a lot of sequences that had to go in front of the director. Lots of various talent was located all over the country. Additionally, we started off by using the traditional method today, posting QuickTime to an FTP or a website with a secure login, so various production personnel could download these files and view them. That worked fine initially, but then we found that when it came time to conference call each other and talk about a particular cut of a sequence, the director would open the QuickTime file at his location, and the producer at his location, and the animators somewhere else, along with me, and it became a disaster because nobody knew where the other was.
DMN: That could be difficult.
Buday: I'm trying to tell the director to cue his QuickTime movie to one hour, four seconds and four frames, and it turns out he's on a different movie. I would be saying "look for the character on the left side of the frame, he should be wearing a red jacket,"
and he didn't know what I was talking about. He actually had the wrong movie loaded anyway. And yes, we could use iChat or some live streaming type of Web client application, but we needed much better quality than those types of applications afford. The idea for syncVUE, which was actually called iMatch initially, popped into my head. What if we could synchronize all these local copies of the same media files amongst a number of people across the Internet? That idea popped into my head back in October of last year, and basically very quickly I found three guys I wanted to do it with me. One of them is in Bulgaria who has a big programming entity out there. By NAB, we showed a prototype. We got a great response, and of course I was beta testing it, using it on projects here. At the end of the day, we released a Mac version in June and a Windows version in September, and we're doing pretty well with it. We're now educating people about what this thing will do.
DMN: Is it a plug-in for Skype? It works along with Skype and uses that as well as its own code, right?
Buday: Correct. What syncVUE is, is a dedicated Mac OS X or Windows XP program that uses Skype as its communication highway. We had two ways we could go when we designed the syncVUE. We could either design our own infrastructure to carry all the transport commands back and forth across the Internet, but that meant that we had to then figure out how to elegantly get through firewalls and it would've taken us much longer to develop. So we looked for a VoIP conferencing software package that ran on multiple platforms and OSs, that had an API that we could write to that would not only allow us to get to market quickly but would allow us to build the VoIP part of it into the application. We approached Skype, and they worked with us on the API. They were very open and helped us tremendously, and we were able to get it working pretty quickly. The benefit is that we have the VoIP part of it so people can not only use syncVUE to tie these movies together, with all the playback, scrubbing, frame location and even down to what movie is being loaded, all handled by the application, but the voice part of it, too.
DMN: Tell us about the general workflow of syncVUE.
Buday: We have other versions coming out in the new year, but in this version, syncVUE follows the typical path one would take using a file that's posted somewhere. Editor, animator, audio mixer -- whomever the artistic talent is -- posts an encoded QuickTime-wrapped movie to some location that the others can get to. So for me, this would be an act or scene or reel that I had encoded, in my case, into H.264 at a reasonable file size, so that the quality is excellent but the file size is reasonable.
Related Keywords:Michael Buday, video editors, application, on-line collaboration, syncVUE, Skype, Intelligent Gadgets, synchronizes media, content creators, real time, interview