Other Technology to Watch
Kathleen Maher, Graphic Speak
May 28, 2015

Other Technology to Watch

HDR is the current buzzword, as the feature story “It’s an HDR World” in the May/June 2015 of CGW details. Yet, despite the headlines from NAB 2015 and those since the conference, there is more news in the video segment of the market than cameras, monitors, and HDR. Indeed, there is other technology in the space making headlines.

Video Software Updates


Sony has completely revamped its video software line. It has introduced the Catalyst Production Suite, which includes Catalyst Browse, Prepare, and Edit. The company is accommodating a networked workflow – though it is pretty twitchy about anything resembling a cloud-based workflow, and no company has as good a reason for that as Sony after the hacker cataclysm the company has experienced. 

Sony has also updated its more venerable products: Vegas Pro, SoundForge, and Spectra Layers Pro. 

Catalyst adds an important capability to Sony’s software workflow – ingest. Catalyst Prepare provides organizational tools that let video editors set up their content through the editing and post processes. It includes color adjustment and monitoring, and metadata support. Color tools enable the choice of industry-standard color spaces, including: Rec.709, S-Log1, S-Gamut/S-Log2, S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3, or S-Gamut3/S-Log3. Select the grading color space: Rec.709, Log, or ACES.

Catalyst Edit offers basic editing tools so that content can be cut together quickly. Catalyst Edit supports 4K and Sony RAW and XAVC. 

Sony Prepare is available for $199, and the rest of the suite is still being readied. At NAB, we were told the Vegas brand carries on as well, but it looks as if the company’s development work is going to Catalyst and Sony is taking the opportunity to revamp. Vegas has a solid base of professional users, but we believe it’s been dwindling, as the Vegas team has been slow to make major upgrades, and, honestly the Vegas interface is difficult. It works differently and uses different metaphors than competitive products. Catalyst has a nice, clean interface, and maybe it’s necessary to start from scratch in order to server a new generation of professional users. 

Another challenge is likely to come with price. The full-featured Final Cut Pro X is only $299, and Apple has added a nice ingest interface. Vegas costs $599 and needs some upgrading. The Adobe video products are best bought for the $50-per-month all-you-can-eat price. Catalyst is going to have to fight hard to gain a position in this market. It won’t have much trouble coming in under Adobe’s price tag of approximately $600 a year, but then Adobe has a trained community of users. Catalyst has got to be really good and should probably come in closer to Apple’s price tag than Adobe’s.

The new 3D titles feature in Final Cut Pro adds templates and controls to customized 3D titles. (Source: Apple)


NAB is an important show for Apple, and the company is just as a much a presence there as its competitors, even though it doesn’t spend any money for a stand on the show floor these days. It uses NAB as an opportunity to connect with its professional users and to roll out updates for Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Compressor. This year, Apple is upgrading Final Cut to Version 10.2. The company has added support for 3D titles, some improvements to color grading, and new effects tools. It has added support for more camera formats and GPU-accelerated processing of RAW footage from RAW cameras, as well. 

Final Cut Pro X gets a new logo (Source Ajax electronic and paper mache company)

The 3D titles feature is the biggest news and the most readily accepted feature. Apple has enabled easy-to-use 3D titles with materials, environment maps, templates, lighting, and edge features. Titles can be animated, of course – Apple has canned animations that can be dragged and dropped on the timeline. Users can convert 2D text to 3D with one button push. The titles are also supported in Apple’s effects module Motion, so titles can be opened in Motion and further edited with multiple lights, cameras, and tracking.

The company has enabled presets throughout the Final Cut Pro and Motion product line. So, processes created can be saved as presets and instantly applied where desired.

Apple has also revamped its Effects tools. Color correction has become a function in effects with the new version. As a result, users have much more control over color as well as other effects. Final Cut Pro has improved the color correction dashboard so that users can see four Scopes simultaneously and choose which scopes they want to see. The Scopes are graphical views, including waveform, vectorscope, histogram, and RGB parade that give a picture of the luma and chroma so users can better match the color values of scenes. The effects also support the use of draw masks to separate elements for different treatments. Masks can be created using linear, Bezier, or B-spline smoothing. Shapes are supported for every effect. By moving FCP’s color features to effects, Apple has enabled users to choose the order of how they want color-correction effects applied. In addition, Apple says the improvements in effects have enabled improved keyframing. Again, presets can be saved and reused.  

Apple has added support for Panasonic AVC-Ultra codec family, Sony’s XAVC S, XAVC, and XDCAM, JVC h.264 long GOP format, GPU-accelerated Red RAW processing with support for dual GPUs, and support for Red RAW anamorphic formats. 

The new Final Cut Pro has support for dual GPUs when rendering for Send to Compressor. 

Apple’s improved organization and search tools have enabled the use of Smart Collections at the event and library level, meaning you can create and save search parameters.

Final Cut Pro has a new, consolidated import screen, which puts all the options in one place to improve organization, processing, and consistency. 

Motion 5.2/Compressor 4.2

Apple has also upgraded Motion and Compressor. As mentioned, improvements in 3D title have expanded in Motion, as well. In fact, most of the updates to Motion are around titles, including support for third-party partners that want to develop 3D titles. Apple says 3D templates are coming soon from developers, including Ripple Training, motionVFX, and FxFactory. Motion also has 12 new generator effects and improved keyframing. The improved controls for mask and shape creation have made it into Motion as well as Final Cut Pro. 

Compressor 4.2 has new features to improve the ability to create content to sell on the iTunes store. There are options for movie, trailer, closed captions, and Compressor creates an iTunes Store Package to be submitted to an iTunes Delivery Partner. Compressor has improvements for encoding including GPU rendering and hardware-accelerated multi-pass H.264 encoding.

Final Cut Pro X is priced at $299, while Motion and Compressor cost $49.99 each. 

Compositing News

The Foundry released a major version of Nuke last year with Nuke 9 in three versions: Nuke, Nuke X, and the new Nuke Studio. Nuke Studio combines timeline and compositing controls. Customers have said Nuke Studio enables them to use one program where previously they had to use five. Nuke Studio also adds color grading, effects, particles, 3D camera tracking, and all sorts of goodies. At NAB 2015, The Foundry also talked about the addition of collaborative tools, including ingest with presets. Teams can see and work with iterative versions. They can make annotations. Also, Nuke Studio supports network rendering so multiple machines can get to work under the desk and all around the office.

Nuke Studio is now available with a £5,600 (about $8,500 US) price tag. Its companions in the Nuke tool box are priced at £2,530 ($3,800) for Nuke, £4,800 ($7,300) for Nuke X, and £6,000 ($9,100) for Nuke Collective. With Autodesk’s new pricing, Smoke is a competitive $1,470 a year (or $185 a month) and Flame is still in the “if you have to ask” category. However, Autodesk has made updates to its high-end products over the last 16 months or so. Lustre is included with Flame Premium, and so are Flare and Flame Assist for Macs. 

The really big news coming out of NAB 2015 for the Foundry is the announcement of Nuke non-commercial, a free version of Nuke to let people learn the software. Almost everyone who has watched compositing demos for Nuke has probably wished they could play with software like this. The Foundry says have at it, they’re offering free, non-watermarked versions of Nuke, NukeX, and Nuke Studio to anyone who wants to learn how to use the software.

People using Nuke non-commercial will even have access to The Foundry’s community, where they can ask questions, post work, get tips. There will be a special forum for Nuke non-commercial users. The company is also making training videos available. 

Where’s the catch? 

The non-commercial versions are limited to output resolutions of 1920x1080. Some nodes are disabled, including WriteGeo, Ultimatte, Primatte, BlinkScript, and GenerateLUT. 2D format support is disabled for mpeg4 and h.264. There is limited python scripting.

Users are not allowed to make money using a version of Nuke non-commercial. It cannot be used in an institutional environment or a commercial environment. The free versions can’t be used in a pipeline with paid versions. 

The Foundry has educational pricing, as well. 

The Future of the Foundry

Last year the Foundry owners, the Carlyle Group, put the Foundry up for sale. There hasn’t been much on the news front, though the assumption is that Adobe and Autodesk would be among the bidders. The Telegraph has published a completely sourceless story that says Adobe is thinking over an asking price of £150 million to £200 million ($229 million to $305 million US). 

The Foundry was valued at £75 million in 2011, when the Carlyle Group acquired the Foundry from Advent Venture Partners. Since then, the company has expanded its product line and has acquired the Luxology team and its 3D modeling and animation technology, Modo. That’s a lot of money for a company in the entertainment content creation game, but we’re all pretty sure Adobe would like more 3D technology, and Nuke is an industry standard for compositing. Taken all together, Adobe would significantly enhance its position in the movie industry and for commercials and so forth. We can also be pretty sure Autodesk is at least thinking about it, and tit could do with the leadership of the Foundry’s executive team, assuming those people would be willing to stay at Autodesk after years of fierce competition. 

But, the story is completely unattributed, and anyone who knows the company could manage to come up with the idea that Adobe is mulling over Carlyle’s asking price. The thing is, someone is going to buy the Foundry and someone is going to get a lot of valuable IP and talent. If The Foundry has enough time to build out its base as it is trying to do with Nuke non-commercial, it’s going to be even more valuable.