The massive price drop Autodesk introduced on Smoke for Mac 2013 seems to have sparked a trend: GenArts have reduced the price of Sapphire for Smoke, bringing it more in line with Sapphire for Final Cut, After Effects and Nuke.
Sapphire for Smoke lets you supplement Autodesk Smoke for Mac’s own effects library with over 200 additional, highly customisable effects. The latest additions include redesigned versions of Lens Flare and Flare Designer, so you can take full control of the size, spacing, thickness, intensity and colour of each flare element. There’s also a new 3D lens flare that can manipulate flares within your 3D compositing environment for added realism.
Fittingly, Sapphire for Smoke v6 has added six new effects, including Flashbulbs, Caustics, LaserBeam, and MuzzleFlash, along with nine transitions and access to the GenArts FXCentral portal, so you always have access to the latest looks, and can download them without leaving the application.
Floating or locked licence?
It depends how many artists you think you’ll have working simultaneously. A floating licence can be transferred between Autodesk Smoke for Mac seats, so multiple artists can share a single copy of Sapphire for Smoke, provided they don’t have to use it at the same time. A locked licence, like the name suggests, is installed on a single machine, has its serial number registered with GenArts as being on that machine, and won’t work on any other. If you’ve got multiple effects artists who’ll all require access to the Sapphire plug-ins simultaneously, we’d recommend getting them their own locked licences, rather than hoping you can get away with a floating one.
Everyone loves a January sale and it seems Telestream are no exception. From now until January 15th (that’s next Tuesday), you can get 30% off Wirecast Pro or Wirecast Studio.
Why? Well, Telestream are currently celebrating the release of the latest Matrox driver, Matrox 7.2 for Windows, which allows Matrox MXO2 devices and the Matrox Mojito MAX to work with your Wirecast solution. Impressively, the devices will not only capture footage and send a feed to Wirecast for instant streaming, they’ll also create a high quality ISO audio and video recording of the footage, so you can edit it after the event. How efficient is that?
You can download Matrox 7.2 for Windows at the Matrox support page. The new driver also provides beta support “for other third-party software, such as Adobe and Avid editing applications. If you encounter issues using this release with these applications, please report your issues in the Matrox MXO2 User Forum.”
Both Mojo DX and Nitris DX offer top quality I/O, and come with features for every part of your pipeline, from ScriptSync for when you need to find your best takes in a hurry to 4:4:4: HD-RGB support for when you’re finally ready to play out your footage. However, if you need analogue I/O as well as SDI or have to handle S3D footage, you’ll need a Nitris DX. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Nitrix DX can decode and encode DNxHD and AVC-Intra natively using Avid option boards, while if you go for a Mojo DX, you’ll have to rely on your computer’s CPU for these tasks, and that can slow down performance.
One of our favourite reviewers, Jonathan Yi, has just released this slightly naked, slightly sweary, nicely irreverent shootout between Canon’s Cinema Primes and L Series lenses, all shot on a Canon C300. We’re not sure what it says about us as people that we enjoyed this so much…
Sony’s PMW-200 and PMW-150, the latest additions to their XDCAM HD422 50Mbps range, have both met the Tier 2L standards the European Broadcast Union (EBU) recommend for long form production, so if you’re thinking of grabbing one to shoot your latest HD TV project, you can rest easy knowing that your footage will officially pass muster.
Sony tell us that the PMW-200 and PMW-150 were both tested by Alan Roberts in accordance to the EBU camera test guidelines. As you’d expect from descendants of the PMW-EX1R and PMW-EX3, they passed with flying colours. “With an established workflow, flexible recording media options, familiar operation and unique features like the PMW-200’s ½Exmor CMOS sensors, both camcorders enhance broadcast HD production,” Sony’s press release assures us.
Bill Drummond, Strategic Marketing Manager, Sony Professional Solutions, Sony Europe, commented: “We are delighted to see our camcorders are in line with the EBU standards for HD broadcast production. Both these camcorders were built with HD broadcast programme making in mind and I believe this is being recognised by the EBU and other key institutions through these reports.”
Active Storage have extended their mMedia range with mPath, an “intuitive high-speed backplane and data accelerator for the modern media SAN.”
Aimed squarely at post-production SAN users who are starting to panic about the number of platforms they’re supposed to be able to work on, how much space they’re supposed to limit each user to and how often they’re supposed to back up their work, Active describe mPath as “a pair of I/O modules you add to your mRAID systems, giving you a new, high-speed data and asset movement backplane.” The new solution also comes with its own mPath Actions software and API, which you can use to move assets between volumes in your SAN on the backplane, freeing up valuable SAN space (third party digital asset management solutions should also do the trick).
mPath I/O modules
According to Active, “mPath unleashes the multi-core processing power and high-performance architecture of mRAID and leverages the PCI-Express expansion slots built into every mRAID system.” You simply slide the two mPath I/O units into your mRAID, and are instantly rewarded with four ports of high-speed dedicated bandwidth with which to move assets around your SAN. You then simply connect the modules to the mRAID over Fibre Channel and you’re good to go.
Included with the modules is Active’s mPath Actions software, which can be used in conjunction with (or instead of) your current asset management system. It allows you to set up “automated, smart file movement actions for your SAN workflow”. You choose specific folders for the software to monitor, define which file types you want moving or copying and choose a destination, and then mPath Actions will automatically use the mPath backplane to move them to their new location without infringing on your SAN’s bandwidth. Active say that mPath will allow you to move data round the clock, rather than relying on overnight backup windows, so can back up more data, more frequently with less of an impact on your all-important SAN.
Already got an asset management system?
mPath should be able to work with your existing asset management system – axle and Levels Beyond are already on board – so if you don’t fancy learning to use Actions or feel that since you’ve paid for an asset management system you’re damn well going to use it, you can still take advantage of the high-speed backplane. Active have even put together an API so you can adapt mPath to work with any custom software you may be running at your facility.
We’ve not talked much about NVIDIA’s GTC in previous years, as it tended to focus on using NVIDIA GPUs to accelerate supercomputing and scientific calculation. However, recently NVIDIA have made a huge push to bring the latent power of their GPUs to bear in the M&E space, where they can be used to accelerate several types of workflow (simulations, rendering and realtime play back of video content among other things). To reflect that, they now have several M&E industry power houses speaking at GTC, making it a very interesting prospect for those looking to leverage NVIDIA hardware to speed up their workflow.
Topics on the slate so far include:
High frame rate and 4K workflows (presented by no less than VFX pioneer Douglas Trumbull)
Using GPUs to speed up work on pre-viz and dailies
Image processing, physics-based effects and GPU rendering in VFX workflows
Live broadcast graphics and augmented reality
Interested? You can register here, and snag up to $250 off the ticket price if you book before January 20th.
Want to know more about GPUs in your workflow? Give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news follow @Jigsaw24Video on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.
While it may seem steep to fork out for another service along with your software, maintaining an Autodesk Subscription will cost you a fraction of the price of updating your software regularly, and is the ideal way to manage and predict your software costs (the annual subscription fee is 20-35% of the cost of an upgrade, depending on your product, so anyone who updates at least once in three years will save). It also gives you loads of additional support and benefits. We asked our Post-Production Product Manager, Kim, to pick three of the best…
Free software upgrades
“This is the biggie – if you’ve got a valid Autodesk Subscription, you get any upgrades to your software free, even if they’re full new versions. This means you can always be running the most recent version of the software and taking advantage of new tools, even if you’re strapped for cash when it’s actually released. Subscription customers also get first access to Subscription Advantage Pack (SAP) releases, which include bug fixes and additional features – often before they become available to normal users.”
“If you’re an Autodesk Subscription customer, you can choose to use the most recent version of your software, or roll back up to three versions to access legacy projects or work with clients on older systems. You can also install your software on two devices – a work PC and your personal laptop, say – so you can work from any location, although you can’t have the program open on both machines simultaneously. And if you’re really keen on working from anywhere, you’ll be pleased to hear that an Autodesk Subscription also gives you territory rights, so you can use your software outside the country for up to 90 days in each year of your subscription.”
“Your Autodesk Subscription entitles you to technical support direct from Autodesk, so you can get advice from their community forum or submit a case on their online portal. On certain products you’ll also get advanced support, which entitles you to 24 hour phone support from Monday to Friday, remote desktop assistance and API support.”
All your subscription benefits are accessible through Autodesk’s Subscription Centre, an online portal where you can manage your contract, access your benefits and generally keep on top of all things Autodesk.
You might have heard about Apple’s new, 8th generation iMac – the ultra thin one with the trippy seventies screenshots and the much-hyped Fusion drive that’s meant to give you ultra-fast startup times. Well, we’ve just had our first shipment, and we couldn’t pass up the chance to a) compare it to older iMacs and b) peel off that laminated display and take a look inside. If you’re in a hurry, take a gander at the 74 second love-in that is our video review. If you want all the details on the brand new Apple iMac, read on…
The new iMac is really amazingly thin
5mm thick around the edge and not a huge amount more in the middle, the new Apple iMac has shed around 80% of its bulk since generation seven. A lot of this can be accounted for by the screen lamination process, which knocks out the 2mm gap between the glass and the display screen. Our feelings are split about this – on the one hand, the new design looks fantastic, and the fact that the laminated, coated screen is 75% less reflective than its seventh gen counterpart has won support from our creative team, who find it far easier to look at the screen for extended periods of time, and to see their designs in the first place.
Our engineers did have to break out a whole new set of tools to get this iMac open, but happily, it’s easy to add RAM to the 27” model. You just pull out the power cable, press the button underneath it and add up to 32GB RAM into the hatch that opens up. This option isn’t available on the 21.5” model, and the new display’s construction means you won’t be able to service it yourself, but frankly we wouldn’t recommend that anyway. Our Apple support team can be reached on 03332 409 227 if you’d like to know more about your options, though!
A quick health warning: the new design means that if you crack the glass covering your screen you’ll also crack the screen (on the older, wider models you could crack the glass without damaging the screen itself). This means that if you damage your screen your repair may cost more, so try not to rest your iMac on any precarious ledges…
The new width means that the optical disk drive (SuperDrive) has been sacrificed – something that seems to be becoming the norm with Apple products. But with digital delivery and cloud services becoming the dominant forces in the software and storage markets, we don’t think you’ll miss this too much. If you do still have software that needs installing from a disk, or clients who are regularly sending you content on optical disk, you can always invest in one of Apple’s USB SuperDrives.
It’s really well connected
Like the 2011 model, the new iMac includes two Thunderbolt ports, so you can power online storage and a second display at the same time if you need to. These also function as mini DisplayPort connections, so you can hook your iMac up to another machine and use it as a monitor if need be.
It’s also got four USB 3.0 ports – all USB 2.0 compatible – and an SDXC card reader (relocated to the back of the device now that it won’t fit on the edge). There’s also a Gigabit Ethernet port and a stereo minijack, but it looks like Apple are saying goodbye to FireWire – it’s not featured on this iMac or the latest Retina MacBook Pros. However, you can pick up an adaptor for that if you still need a FireWire connection.
It also comes with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n WiFi, which in a pleasing piece of design trickery is housed behind the Apple logo.
It’s still got a great display
Aside from the new, reflection-repellent coating, the iMac’s display stays mostly unchanged. The 21.5” model’s resolution is 1920×1080, with the 27” model boasting 2560×1440 resolution – both include IPS (In-Plane Switching). The viewing angle holds steady at 178 degrees, the colour representation is as realistic and consistent as ever, and the new iMac should work with your existing colour calibration equipment.
Fusion drives give the best of both worlds
Word from our engineers is that the Fusion drive is going to be great for customers who don’t want to compromise on space to gain the benefits of an SSD – though they have asked us to point out that there’s no magical single ‘Fusion drive’ but in fact an SSD, an HDD and some mystical Apple voodoo linking the two. The combination of SSD, HDD and software gives the user high capacity and high speed when and where it is needed. This is established right from startup – your operating system is stored on the high speed Flash memory, so you get blistering boot times from the moment you turn your iMac on. However, the clever part is the way that your iMac manages its space – you can assign apps to be stored on the hard drive or Flash memory manually, but frequently used apps should automatically be moved onto the higher speed storage for easy access, while little used ones are relegated to the slower HDD. Brilliant!
If you’re all about speed, you can opt for a model with 768GB Flash storage and no HDD, while users who are purely after space can choose a 1TB or 3TB hard drive with no Flash capacity. However, we think that most users will benefit from choosing the 1TB or 3TB Fusion option, which pairs a 1TB or 3TB HDD with 128GB of high-speed storage.
It’s great if you’re power conscious and need fast graphics
The new, more efficient NVIDIA Kepler architecture on the graphics chip is not only a godsend for creative users who need to get maximum performance from their GPU, it’s actually more power efficient than its predecessor. This, coupled with the new, more power efficient processor architecture, means that your 2012 iMac should consume far less energy than the 2011 model – great if you’re looking to go green and save some cash.
It’s easy to pick up
Not that we’re saying you should take your iMac for regular walks or anything, but still. Lighter is better. Plus we’re big fans of the new trapezoid box, and the fact that you don’t have to lift your iMac out anymore – it just slides free of the cardboard easily.
Lighter, far slimmer and speedier than we’d hoped, the 2012 iMac looks like a real winner to us. While there isn’t as much scope for customisation on the 21.5” models, anyone looking into moving away from Mac Pro would be wise to take a look at the higher specced 27” version, thanks to its speed, epic-feeling screen and the ability to whack in all the extra RAM you could wish for at the touch of a button. Already had your hands on the brand new Apple iMac? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Sonnet have a shiny new gadget on their stand at NAMM 2013 – the Echo Express II Thunderbolt expansion chassis for PCIe cards. The original Echo Express has been one of our more popular Thunderbolt solutions so far, offering a Thunderbolt-to-PCIe expansion solution for anyone whose Mac doesn’t offer substantial enough PCIe connectivity. (You can see the full list of compatible PCIe devices here.)
The Echo Express II features two PCIe slots, and will allow you to use high-end PCIe cards with any computer that has a Thunderbolt port – even if it’s a notebook. According to the official Sonnet statement, “The Echo Express II was designed for users needing a compact solution to connect two PCIe cards to their computers, and supports the majority of Thunderbolt-compatible PCIe cards. Based on the original Echo Express expansion chassis, the Echo Express II adds a second slot to support two half-length (up to 7.25 inches long), full-height, single-width PCIe 2.0 x16 cards.”
The new model retains the dual Thunderbolt ports of its predecessor, so you can still daisy chain it easily, and it includes three temperature controlled, variable speed fans along with a 100W internal, universal power supply. Sonnet tell us the Echo Express II will power on and off in sync with whatever computer it’s attached to, which should help you save power.
“Feedback from our customers on the Echo Express line has been overwhelmingly positive. These products have been integrated into the workflows of many creative professionals, with users discovering new applications every day,” said Robert Farnsworth, CEO of Sonnet Technologies. “Similar to the Echo Express Pro, the Echo Express II was designed to accommodate the needs of users requiring two slots for expansion cards, but not the extra length afforded by the Echo Express Pro’s longer design.”