Apple have released OS X 10.8.3, a free upgrade to Mountain Lion that adds Boot Camp support for Windows, improves Mail support for Exchange users and introduces compatibility with NVIDIA’s latest must-have GPU, the Quadro K5000.
As well as practical additions like Boot Camp support for Windows 8 and Macs with 3TB hard drives (whoop!), new features included in the OS X 10.8.3 update include the ability to redeem iTunes gift cards in the App Store using your Mac’s camera, improved reliability for those of us who use our Microsoft Exchange accounts in Apple Mail and more reliable Xsan performance.
Many of the OS X 10.8.3’s bug fixes will put a spring in your IT admin’s step: they’ve fixed issues that caused Active Directory accounts to be locked out after accessing the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences, and one that caused delays when you logged on to Active Directory on a high latency network.
Our resident audio geeks were pleased to hear that Logic Pro should no longer stop responding if you use certain plug-ins, and the strange audio stutter some 2011 iMacs have been experiencing should also be gone. And for those of us who need to be in constant contact with the world, Messages should now appear in order after our Macs wake from sleep mode, and Contacts should now print addresses in the right order and location. Hooray!
Let’s face it, we’d all like to have a bit of a rummage round the competition’s offices. But rather than say, getting arrested while digging through a wheelie bin or paying through the nose for a disturbed Swedish woman to hack into their servers, we’d recommend taking a look at Autodesk’s customer stories.
Because it sometimes seems like the world and his VFX-designing wife are using Autodesk software, it’s always good to get a chance to see what other companies in your industry are doing with theirs, and how they used it to produce that one project you’re really jealous of (come on, there’s always one). On a less vicious note, it’s also a chance to kick back and pat yourself on the back for getting into the industry at a time when so many passionate people are cranking out top notch work.
Telestream have just announced the arrival of Episode 6.4 – a free update to Episode, Episode Pro and Episode Engine v6 encoding solutions. The goal for this latest release? To make it easier for you to integrate Episode Engine into your workflow and handle high volume workflows.
Episode v6.4: the highlights
This latest update is optimised for higher volume workflows, so anyone who’s thinking of upgrading to Pro or Engine from their current Episode setup should definitely give it a look. It adds support for .SCC and H.264 web captions, allowing you to insert closed caption data into MPEG3 and H.264 video streams – you can also add CLAP data to .MOV outputs. A new video rotate filter adds more filters to your inbox, allowing your to rotate source footage 90 degrees or 180 degrees, and flip it horizontally or vertically.
Workflow-wise, the most pleasant addition is the fact that you can now recreate sub-folders scanned via a monitor within the deployment root folder, and automatically mirror folder structures. There are also 20 levels of priority in Episode 6.4 versus three in Episode v6.3, while your workflow history, workflow displays, maximum bandwidth control and API performance have all been given a bit of a spruce.
With Autodesk’s regular update window approaching, we’re recommending everyone gets their renewals, subscriptions and upgrades in order sooner rather than later. Here’s our guide to beating the rumoured price hike and maximise ROI, complete with 0% finance deals, multi-year discounts and subscriptions…
Why go for a 0% finance deal? Well, aside from helping you split the cost of your initial purchase into predictable monthly sums that you can factor into your budget, financing purchases like this can actually help you get a quicker return on investment. Because your initial outlay is far smaller, it’s easier for your team to pick up extra work to make up for the spend as they go – you don’t have to train users on a new system and trying to put out an extra twenty grand’s worth of work at the same time, and it doesn’t take as long for your income to catch up with your lower, incremental outlay.
Save 5% when you buy a 3-year Autodesk Subscription (and do buy one, even if you’re late…)
Also on at the moment is an offer which lets you get 5% off the cost of your Autodesk Subscriptions when you purchase a three year plan instead of a one year one. With the next round of updates due to up the price of a subscription and of individual products, we’re strongly recommending that everyone upgrades their software and renews their subscription for three now for maximum savings (and maximum discount).
Autodesk intend for people to buy subscriptions at the same time as they buy or upgrade their software, but you can buy for up to 30 days after that for no extra charge, or even later if you don’t mind forking out a late fee. You just need to be aware that your subscription will be back dated to the date you bought the software it goes with, so if you buy a year’s sub six months late, you’ll need to renew it after another six months, because you’ll have had the software a year.
If that sounds like a lot of hassle, remember our top three reasons to love Autodesk Subscriptions. Aside from making sure you’re always current, getting you advanced access to the latest features and putting you at the top of the tech support queue, subscriptions are a great way to push down the total cost of ownership of your Autodesk software. Currently, if you update every three years or more frequently, it’s cheaper to buy a subscription, renew it annually and get your updates for free – something that’s unlikely to change if the 2014 versions of Autodesk products come with the rumoured price hike.
Using Autodesk 2007 ? Time to upgrade
Finally, a quick reminder that Autodesk have simplified their upgrade policy, so now upgrading any licence from up to six versions back will cost you 70% of the price of a full seat. If you’re on earlier software, you’ll have to replace each of your licences with a whole new licence, and if you’re on Autodesk 2007, this is your last change to save. Our recommendation? Upgrade now, and get yourself a subscription so that you don’t have to worry about any of this again next year…
Ableton have just launched Ableton Live 9 and, along with it, their very first controller. Called Push, the controller lets you use pressure and velocity controls to mix, step sequence and navigate loops. The (slightly spooky) demo video makes it look pretty intuitive and pleasingly like something out of Star Trek, both of which win it points with the Jigsaw24 team.
The controller is powered by Ableton Live 9, a recording solution that combines the usual timeline-based view that you find in the likes of Logic and Pro Tools software with a more intuitive, improv-friendly ‘Session View’, which is designed to let you create tracks from scratch without getting caught up in the software (it also helpfully provides you with thousands of loops, synths and instrument packs). If you’re a busy person, you can see a detailed comparison of the different versions of Ableton Live 9 here, or read on for a bit about the new additions.
New to Ableton Live 9 is the ability to record parameter changes and edit automation curves directly in Session View, giving you extra flexibility. You can also move projects between Session View and Arrangement View with a single click, or drag and copy individual instruments from one to the other to switch between improvising and arranging.
Ableton have also included a new browser that makes it easier to find your sounds and share them with any drive – you can store them across multiple drives now too, which is nice to know if your hardware is less than reliable and you don’t want to lose any of your library should a drive go down.
In addition to practical stuff like browsers and simple view switching, Ableton have added new MIDI controls that let you extract music from your samples and build on them. You can take the original musical stems using Harmony-to-MIDI or Drums-to-MIDI, then remix them. Or, if you’re more of a toe-tapping, tune-whistling sort of guy, use Melody-to-MIDI and Drums-to-MIDI to record voices, instruments or sounds and covert them into easily mixable MIDI clips.
As the first quarter of 2013 winds down (where did that go?) we say goodbye to some fantastic offers from Avid. But if you missed out on their massive Symphony 6.5 discount because you weren’t sure Symphony was for you, we’ve got good news: there’s a free trial out.
You can now head over to the Avid site and download a free 30-day trial of Symphony 6.5 or Media Composer 6.5. Okay, so you don’t get access to Symphony’s full complement of Boris Continuum Complete plug-ins, but you can get used to massive timesavers like ScriptSync and PhraseFind, and if you have a Nitrix DX interface you can use the Universal Mastering toolkit to give your projects an extra polish.
As if being approved for journalistic and long form broadcast use by the EBU (albeit with help from an external recorder in the latter case) wasn’t enough, JVC’s GY-HM650 looks set to become the new darling of the BBC News team.
Over the coming year, the Beeb are looking to buy over 500 of the GY-HM650 and distribute them to news crews both in the UK and abroad. John Kelly, JVC’s General Manager for the UK & Ireland, Scandinavia and MEA commented: “We are delighted by the success of the GY-HM650 camcorder. Following on from the recent announcement that the GY-HM600 series camcorders meet EBU requirements for journalism, this provides further confirmation of its suitability for broadcast news production.”
Since Microsoft unveiled Office 365 last year, there’s one feature we think hasn’t had the attention it deserves: their new subscription model. It’s actually great for SMBs or anyone else likely to need Office on multiple devices. You can save your documents to SkyDrive, Microsoft’s online storage service, and then access them from your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone wherever you are, and you now get free Skype minutes thrown in, so it’s easier (and cheaper) to catch up with clients or stay in touch with the office when you’re on the road.
Access files anywhere with Office 365
Office 365 lets each user allowed to install on up to five devices. You can chop and change what these devices are, so for example if you got halfway through your subscription and decided you didn’t need Office 365 on your tablet but did want it on an additional laptop, it’s a simple matter of moving the licence from one to another. You can also stream full versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, Publisher and Lync to any desktop PC using Office on Demand – even if it’s not one of the five devices you’ve registered Office 365 on. As you’re on a subscription, you’ll automatically receive all the latest updates to the software, so you’re always working on the latest version.
Extra features: cloud storage, larger mailboxes, video conferencing and more
With Office 365, you get access to a 25GB mailbox, shared calendar so you can co-ordinate with the rest of the team, scheduling and task-list tools, and 10GB of cloud storage for the organisation, plus an extra 500MB per user. There’s also the facility to host video conferences from within Office 365 using Microsoft’s one-click screen sharing tools and video conferencing abilities – if you have an HD camera, you can even share full HD video, so it’s a great way to showcase work to clients or potential customers.
Most intriguingly, an Office 365 subscription lets you set up, build and maintain a public website for your company, without having to pay any hosting fees. If you’re just beginning to move your business online, this is a great chance to save while you’re getting set up, giving you a platform on which to develop your web presence for less.
How much does this cost?
Microsoft Office 365 prices start from as little as £8.40 per user, per month. A fully scalable solution, it can be tailored to suit any size of business, from Small Business Premium to Enterprise plans. And the best bit is, you can even get a free trial to see how you could benefit from subscriptions. Get in touch on the details below to find out more!
When they decided to roll out 1700 company iPhones in a single day, all with their company app pre-installed, LNT Group knew they would need a formidable Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution. We set them up with the ideal solution for their deployment, and helped them get the best price for their ever- growing number of licences…
Making staff feel like ‘part of the family’
Comprised of five different companies and delivering everything from care homes to race cars, LNT Group have grown from a family company to a firm of almost 2000 employees. “We decided to roll out smartphones now because as our company grows across the UK, we’re finding it harder to make people feel like part of the core business, part of the family here at LNT,” explained Leigh Ellis, LNT Group’s communications and marketing developer. “One of the ways we thought we could do that was to give everyone in the company a mobile device, so that they could be involved in the company remotely.”
Leigh and his team chose iPhones because existing users in the company had fed back that “iPhone was really easy to use, people just seemed to be able to pick them up and use them straight away, without the need for much training.” There was also the feeling that a smartphone would “feel like a present” more than a standard device, and give employees the inclusive morale boost that LNT thought was needed.
Developing an in-house app
As well as handing out iPhones, the company decided to build their own in-house app, iLNT. “Although we could probably have found a solution of apps that worked together to create what we needed, we thought that if we created one app that had it all in one place, it’d be much easier for staff to use,” explained Leigh. “Some of the things that people can use our app to do include receiving the latest news and updates from the group, so that they know what’s going on here at head office and feel like part of the family. We also wanted them to be able to communicate with us, and again that’s another feature of the app. They can send us suggestions, they can send messages direct to the chairman as well.”
As well as keeping staff up to date with the latest company news and allowing them to send key messages to individuals or sectors within the group, iLNT allows staff to clock in and out, book holidays and perform other HR tasks – all of which helps to encourage staff to use their phones every day and therefore give LNT Group the best return on their investment.
Deploying 1700 devices
The LNT Group’s chairmen felt that making an event of the iPhone launch and giving everyone in the organisation their device on the same day was key to creating a buzz about the scheme and making sure staff were excited by it. However, it meant that LNT Group’s eight-strong IT team would have to roll out 1700 devices at once, register them to the company, install iLNT on each and handle any teething problems – all in a single day.
Leigh immediately began comparing MDM solutions to find one that would ensure the rollout went smoothly. “I compared about 20 different companies in the market. I managed to narrow it down to about five that had all the features that we’d need, and the one that came out on top from an ease of use point of view, as well as many other things, was Absolute Manage. It really seemed to do everything we needed, and not only that but it did everything we’d have liked it to do as well, and it did it in an easy to use package.”
For the initial rollout, the key thing about Absolute was that everything could be automated. The iPhones would be enrolled on the group’s system automatically, and LNT could create their own app store to push out iLNT updates to employees who didn’t have iTunes accounts. “Originally we thought there might be some problems with it taking too long on each individual enrolment,” explained Leigh, “but we went to Absolute support about this and they were very forthcoming in giving us a solution where we could speed it all up and automate the process.”
Since the rollout, Absolute Manage MDM has continued to shine. “We can track all the devices, we can make sure that they’re all safe, and we can make sure that everything that goes out to the phones is secure and restricted,” said Leigh. “And in fact, if anyone’s not using their phone we can see that [using Absolute Manage MDM’s use tracking tools] and go to them and say, ‘what do we need to do to get you using your phone?’ It might just be a case of training, or it might be the case that they need something else on the phone so they can use it better.”
Supporting and maintaining the deployment
“The great thing about Absolute MDM was that we really didn’t need any training – the software just worked exactly how we expected it to and everything was where we needed it to be,” said Leigh. “We have a team of eight IT support staff here, and it’s been so easy that we haven’t even needed all of those to run the support for the phones. It’s down to one person to do it, and they’re managing that very easily. On the couple of occasions when we have needed support, [Absolute’s team] have been very quick.”
The response from staff
“The staff response to the iPhones has been excellent – better than expected, actually,” said Leigh. “When we rolled out this many phones we thought we might get quite a few teething problems, but actually staff have taken to the phones really well, they’re all using them every day, and we can see that from the tracking reports.”
“When I first found out about the iPhone scheme I was quite sceptical to be honest, I didn’t think it would work,” said Matthew Crumpton, LNT Group’s resident videographer, who uses the iLNT app to push out training videos to staff phones. “But now that I’ve seen it happen, it’s really impressive. I thought all the stuff about the new app and the things it can do was quite groundbreaking. It’s kept me in touch with all my work colleagues as I was up and down the country travelling with Ginetta and Ideal Care Homes, and it’s allowed me to do HR tasks – booking holidays, clocking in and clocking out when I’m in different places, it’s revolutionised the way I do my job.
“We can send out messages as often as we want to particular parts of the company, so if you only want to send out a message to construction or people in Ideal Care Homes or people in a particular care home, say in Newark, we can send out a message, and it keeps it feeling like a family business. And as the company’s grown and got bigger and expanded its staff, that we can still keep in touch like that is fantastic.”
Most of the staff have found it easy to get to grips with their phones, and any support issues are usually resolved quickly. “Leigh does receive quite a few calls every day, but they’re usually quick fixes and it’s usually just people who aren’t familiar with using the phones,” says Matthew. “Some of them were quite sceptical about using iPhones at first, but I think as their confidence in the phones grows and they see other staff members benefitting from them, they do start to use them a lot more.”
Constantly expanding the scheme
“With every member of staff here at LNT receiving a new phone, and new care homes opening every month, we’re constantly rolling out new phones to staff, and every time we do we’re constantly learning a bit more about how to roll out and get the best out of these phones,” said Leigh, who also makes sure that the iLNT app is regularly updated with new features. “For anyone looking to roll out mobile devices at the minute, I really would suggest Absolute as the main product to use. It’s really taken away a lot of time from our workload, and because it’s invisible to the end user, they don’t even need to know how to use it, it just works.”
“I think the success of the scheme here at LNT proves that it can be such a success at any company,” agreed Matthew. “We were new to it when we started, we threw ourselves in at the deep end and we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, but it’s proved an amazing success and I’d definitely recommend it to other companies.”
If you want your students to make a splash in the creative industries, you need to get them using professional standard software as soon as possible – it’s all about embedding those key creative skills early on! Unless you have someone on staff who’s familiar with one video package over the others and so can teach more confidently and comprehensively on that system, it can be difficult to work out which of the big three editors (Apple Final Cut Pro X, Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere Pro) is best for you.
Luckily, our Media & Entertainment team can help. We’ve supplied solutions to schools, colleges, universities and the creative industries over the years, so whether you just want to prepare students for more rigorous training later on or are set on getting them straight into an industry standard workflow, we can help. As well as advising on software that’ll support your teaching style, we can also talk you through hardware, I/O and storage options that will let you organise, store and share work in a way that means you can always access the files you need, but don’t get bogged down in dealing with complicated technical workflows. For starters, here’s their advice on the most popular editing software…
The all-rounder (perfect for embedding creative skills in the curriculum)
Over the past decade, we’ve seen Apple’s Final Cut Pro take off across all levels of education, and the latest version, FCP X, is no exception – in fact, we reckon its similarity to iMovie means that it’s the ideal editing package for schools that are new to video editing and don’t necessarily have anyone with experience of professional programs on staff. The interface is simple, uncluttered, and features a magnetic timeline that makes it easy to trim and reorder clips without losing track of any of your footage.
This is still a relatively new program, but the features Apple are adding are making it ever-easier to use. New addition Unified Import means your students can import footage from different sources in one, easily manageable window, saving valuable class time.
The professional (perfect for getting your music and media departments working together)
Avid’s Media Composer is the original non-linear editor, and is an established industry staple. Like all Avid solutions, Media Composer can be integrated with Avid’s own qualified hardware, giving you professional standard I/O and media storage (much of which comes with education discounts and regular, hefty price cuts), or hooked up to solutions from third parties like AJA or Blackmagic Design.
Investing in hardware of this quality is quite a commitment, but if the creative skillset is a focus for your school, it’s well worth it, as you’ll get a more reliable system in which files can be moved easily from machine to machine or program to program – if your music department uses Pro Tools, this can be integrated with Media Composer to help both groups develop their sound for picture skills. Having an end-to-end Avid workflow like this also means you’re closely mirroring the workflow students will encounter out in the real world, so you’re giving them a huge head start with potential employers.
The one you already have (perfect for teaching transferable creative skills)
Adobe Premiere Pro is part of Adobe’s Creative Suite range – if your school has Master Collection licences, you already have it. Although video editing and image editing are very different disciplines, students who have used programs like Photoshop and are familiar with how Adobe programs behave will probably find Premiere Pro the easiest editor to get to grips with, and will be able to use skills they’ve developed in other programs to enhance their videos. For example, you can create titles and graphics in Photoshop, then import them to Premiere Pro to include in their video projects.
Capable of handling all different formats and resolutions in one project timeline, Premiere Pro removes the need to waste time transcoding footage or waiting for projects to transfer – you can spend all your lesson time teaching. And as for developing planning skills and documenting evidence for assessment, look no further than Adobe Story, an ITV-approved app that’s available free online and handles all your pre- production tasks, allowing students to plan shoots and write and edit scripts, all where you can see and record it.