HDTV Editing Tools Big News at SIGGraph '99

Digital TV might have reached only a few couch potatoes so far, but it is the hot ticket for computer-graphics and video-editing professionals, who converged in Los Angeles last week for SIGGraph '99, the annual convention of the Association for Computer Machinery's Special Interest Group for Computer Graphics. All-format editing and design software was among the most newsworthy items on the convention floor.

Discreet, a division of Novato, California-based Autodesk, unveiled Fire and Inferno—yes, they are proper names—two new real-time editing and visual-effects suites that offer input/output in the full 1920x1080 format. Each product can simultaneously convert an HD video stream to PAL, NTSC, film format, or any of the Advanced Television Standards Committee's 18 versions of digital video. This allows editors to make master copies in the highest possible resolution with minimal conversion degradation. As HDTV programming ramps up, studios will be able to "augment their systems to include expanded HD support, allowing them the comfort of investing in what they need only when they need it," according to Mahmoud Al-Daccak, vice president of product development at Discreet.

According to the company, such advanced editing and effects solutions "support the 24p mastering format, including all associated time codes and all frame rates. This provides true resolution independence and enables producers to work at one mastering resolution and output in any format from the same system."

Viewgraphics Inc. announced Windows NT-based HDStore, a system that records and plays real-time, fully uncompressed (1.5 Gbps) digital HDTV video using the QuickTime file format. HDStore is intended for the professional broadcast and post-production market, and it is said to "bridge the gap between the video and computer worlds." HDStore can act as a standalone workstation for production, compositing, and mastering, as well as an I/O server for a network of PCs, Macintoshes, and SGI systems, at "a fraction of the cost of current HD editing systems," the company claims.

A press release claims that, "Captured QuickTime files contain uncompressed video datastreams and can be opened instantly in Adobe After Effects, Puffin Commotion, Digital Fusion, Terran Media Cleaner, or any other QuickTime-compatible tool running on the HDStore or another system (PC, Mac, or SGI) on a network. These QuickTime-compatible applications can also create QuickTime files that can be instantly played on the HDStore."

Austin, Texas-based BOXX Technologies introduced FusionBOXX HD, its first NT-based system for uncompressed HDTV editing and compositing. Mated with BOXX's other NT-based hardware, FusionBOXX HD is said to "create a high-end HDTV production solution that is a fraction of the cost of traditional UNIX-based systems." Like solutions offered by other firms at SIGGraph '99, BOXX's software eliminates the need for up- and/or downconversion during post production.

Todd Bryant, president/CEO of BOXX Technologies Inc., describes the current situation in editing and post production as the "studios taking a giant step forward but a bigger leap backward. Studios working in HD are reverting to the old AB roll editing scheme and tossing aside the nonlinear editing solutions that are favored in standard-definition television." BOXX Technologies wants to "help studios continue to work in the nonlinear and uncompressed modes to which they've grown accustomed, allowing them to realize these benefits while creating HDTV content."