Friday, October 13, 2006

Take Two Aspirin and Call… Avid

by Harry B. Miller III, A.C.E.

After posting a review here of the Avid Interplay presentation at Keycode Media, I got a call from Avid wondering if they could explain it better. And after an hour on the phone with Lesley Glorioso (senior product manager) and Michael Phillips (principle product designer), Interplay made more sense.

What seems most important conceptually is that Interplay can be scaled / configured to many different post production scenarios. One can pick and choose the pieces that work in a specific production. And as was pointed out in my discussion with Avid, it takes discipline to use it well. Not everyone can have access to everything, for example.

Interplay is a combination of hardware and software. The hardware is a computer server, which is connected to your media storage. The software allows you to 1) manage media between many connected workstations, including editors, assistants, producers, VFX, and sound, 2) automate different workflows, e.g. transcode media in the background, export OMF or MXF files, and 3) add secure access to media.

One possible post scenario for Interplay would be a reality TV show. As the editors cut, producers can be given viewing access to the media, as assistants continue logging and organizing new material, and while graphics people construct title sequences to be integrated into a picture cut.

Interplay offers some features that could work well in our cutting rooms. As an editor on a TV series, I could for example have immediate access to every bin on the entire system, for every show and every season. I could search across the entire system for stock shots or sound effects. Or, I can hide specific folders so that no one can see it.

If a post facility had Interplay, they could digitize dailies in HD, transcode them to a smaller file type, and move those clips over the internet to the cutting room. And once a show is locked, the sequence could be instantly linked back to the original HD media.

Or, a large VFX company could manage several shows with Interplay. And edit rooms could log on and download the latest effects for that particular show.

One large problem with Interplay I felt was this: who is in charge. Who has the ‘keys’. If it is picture media it should be the picture assistants. But if it is managing additional graphics, VFX, sound, budgets, memos, etc., what assistant would want the added burden? This gets back to discipline: it would be possible to have a main administrator who simply assigns appropriate access or rights to certain material, while a ‘sub-administrator’ has complete access to specific areas. So a picture assistant could be assigned the full control over the traditional editing room material, while someone else could fully administer office communications.

Interplay has some fascinating features. I’m one inclined to embrace new technology. And it could work in situations with massive amounts of media to manage. But it strikes me that this sort of inter-connectivity could turn our workplace on its head. Certainly our industry labor agreements are unlikely to keep up. What past ACE Equipment Surveys tell me is that we aren’t always able to choose the tools we want.

Avid stressed to me that what is important is how you configure Interplay for your workflow. I stressed to Avid that what is important in describing Interplay is knowing who your audience is… and what might induce a coronary.


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