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Real-Time Collaboration: syncVUE Makes It Easy, Part 2

Skype-based group markup, communications and viewing tool for Mac and Windows By Charlie White

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 was 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 second part of a two-part interview.

DMN: Isnt syncVUE similar to Track Changes in Microsoft Word, except for video?

Buday: Like Track Changes in Word, everybody gets their own ownership to a locator. So anybody can contribute and add comments. While I'm the master, say, you might have already seen the first 10 minutes of this movie, so I'll allow you to go out of sync with the group. You could scrub the movie independently, to any position you wanted, and start marking up that session.

DMN: Can anybody roll the movie so that everyone can see what they're doing?

Buday: Only if I, the moderator, give control in what we call a "free-for-all mode." If I change the session from master/slave, so to speak, to free-for-all, the session changes so that anybody can be master. Anybody can stop or play back, rewind or even change the movie. For example, if it was a free-for-all and you said you wanted to go to a scene that was located on a different media file, everybody's players would then load up that scene, and wherever you scrub, we would be scrubbing. You have to be a bit careful because if you hit Stop right after I hit Play, essentially nothing happens.

DMN: Do you see an indicator if someone else is rolling the tape?

Buday: No, the only status you get is what mode you're in. There's a series of icons which appear next to the people who are in the session, and the solid green icon shaped like a man's torso (see graphic at left) indicates that that person is the master. A hollow green icon indicates that those people are slaved, for the lack of a better term, to the master. If somebody has a red icon, it means they've gone out of synch intentionally. And if they have a red icon with a question mark, that means they don't have the media file everybody else has. But yes, at any time, anybody can break sync. If the session master reverts the session to a free-for-all session, then anybody can control the session at that point. If the master for some reason becomes disconnected from the session, then it automatically reverts to a free-for-all session. 

DMN: Is there a way to point to certain parts of the frame?

Buday: Yes, another feature we have currently is something called a Virtual Laser Pointer, or VLP (see graphic below). At any time during the playback of the movie, anybody can turn on their virtual laser pointer and point to make visual references to anything in the movie. By default, syncVUE assigns a different color to everybody's laser pointer with an icon next to their name indicating who has what color. At any time, if you turn on your virtual laser pointer, I'll see a color next to your name indicating that Charlie has a red pointer, I have a green pointer, John has a cyan pointer and Harry's got a yellow pointer. We can all make references. In the new year, we'll also be introducing a vector-based graphics layer, so that anybody can draw on the movie, on individual frames or across a duration, and then export that as a table in an Excel file with the frame, the timecode, the drawings, any notes, etc. Currently, FYI, we can export all the text locators directly as an XML back to Final Cut or as a comma delimited file, for example to bring it to an Avid, media log, or something like that.

DMN: People take these notes and put in these markers -- you said it works either for Avid or Final Cut Pro. Can these files then be put back into the editing software where those markers will show up on the timeline?

Buday: We do not have a direct export to Avid as of right now, but we do have a comma delimited format which can then be brought into a Media Log-type format with Log Exchange. For Final Cut we have a direct-to-XML export. So what will happen is if you choose a media file that has all these markups, you go to syncVUE and then export to FCP, it then exports an XML file with a URL path to the file that the markup occurred on. If you then go to Final Cut and say, import to XML, it will bring in all the XML locator data, and attach it to that media file that you were working on, and then bring that into your bin. If you double-click that file it will appear in your source viewer with all the markups. The way I work, I've been ganging the source viewer to the original sequence that was the source of that file.

DMN: So you just put it on other track.

Buday: Yes, I just put it on another track, watch the markup and make my changes as required. But the luxury is, I can see the markup, I can see who put the markup in, whether it was the producer or director, and I could see what they want to do. I make my changes, then I export another file and we go through this process each day. That's the way it's working. 

DMN: Is this sold by the seat? Do you sell just one software package and then everybody can use it?

Buday: That's a good question; we came up with what we think is a very innovative way of selling the product. The software itself is free. Anybody can download any number of copies of Windows or Mac versions and install it on any number of CPUs they wish. If an editor wants to have it on his laptop that has FCP or Avid Xpress installed, and on his desktop, we don't care. What we do is we sell it by the number of licenses, i.e., seats. What happens is, when you buy the program, let's say, for example, you're an editor and you have five clients you might be working with at any given time, so you decide to buy five seats. Those licenses that you get can be floated to anybody you want, so say Charlie buys five, as soon as you buy five, you get a message from our system saying, OK, here's your own private login to the syncVUE licensing server. It'll have your name with a log in. Then you would enter the Skype login names of those people you'd like to collaborate with, that you're allowing to use your licenses, and then you put a timeout on that. You could say, ?I want to allow John at CBS to use one of my syncVUE licenses for two weeks, because I'm collaborating with him. Which means I could extend the use of a license without forcing him to buy it. And then, after two weeks or any time I choose, I can retract the license and apply it to somebody else's Skype login name.

DMN: So one editor who works with a parade of people can just accommodate each one without having them buy the software.

Buday: Correct. Now they can buy it if they want, and of course he could collaborate with them if they have a valid license, but if you wanted to provide this as a service, he can just say, ?Look, I'm going to be working with you for two weeks, give me your Skype login name, and if you don't have one, go sign up (as we know it's free and easy and fast), send me your Skype login name, and when I have it, I'll put it in the license server and you'll have access to the program for three weeks. After that, syncVUE will still run on the computer but it will not allow that person to connect to anybody and it will not allow him to export any metadata. 

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Related Keywords:Michael Buday, video editors, application, on-line collaboration, syncVUE, Skype, Intelligent Gadgets, synchronizes media, content creators, real time, interview

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