Considering that a system with the same power would have cost at least $200,000 until recently, Blackmagic Design's unveiling of a Mac OSX version of its DaVinci Resolve colour correction software for less than $1,000 is one of the greatest price reductions in broadcast history, writes David Fox.
The software is due to ship by the end of this month, and Blackmagic has been showing a late stage beta version at roadshow events in Berlin, Munich, Paris and London that has "been very well behaved," according to Simon Westland (pictured), Blackmagic's Director of Sales, EMEA.
"I think what most people have been impressed by that we've shown is that we managed to recreate Resolve on the Mac in an identical application for £665." There is no feature loss or restrictions on what it will do. "It is the same thing."
There is, of course, a differentiator: performance. "The Mac systems are capable of realtime performance in uncompressed HD," with about eight nodes (layers). "This has never been seen before on a Mac. It's just simply not possible with any other application." However, the Linux version, which costs £13,345, adds realtime 2K, 4K and stereoscopic 3D. It also allows further scaling of the hardware with parallel processing.
From a strategic point of view, having Resolve on the Mac will mean that operators will be able to learn on a low-cost system and go straight into a Linux suite and start grading, which he believes will create a new breed of colourists using the system.
Although not essential, the Resolve control surface allows you to control every part of the image, from resizing (pan, tilt, zoom and rotate) to lift, gamma and gain using a ‘heads up’ controller. "Everything is done by touch and feel. A good colourist is able to operate without looking at buttons, like a concert pianist," he said.
The control surface works with both Mac and Linux systems, and costs almost £20,000, including the Mac software, however, Mac users will also be able to operate with the "very popular" Tangent Wave panel, which costs about £1,000.
"The reaction has been just amazing," with a "significant number of pre-orders" for the Mac system, plus further sales of Linux systems to high-end facilities that will be using the Macs for conform suites, so that they don't tie up their high-end system for menial tasks like preparing their work. "Strategically, the Mac is a good fit in those areas too."
The Mac version also has full ProRes support, as well as the QuickTime and DPX support the Linux systems have. "Clearly, ProRes has been adopted widely as a codec, with the Arri Alexa recording in ProRes, and the AJA Ki Pro, so the ability to bring that footage back and use straight in Resolve is fantastic," he said.
The DaVinci code
Blackmagic's acquisition of DaVinci last September surprised many in the industry. "Many people saw us as a manufacturer of high volume and low cost, buying a manufacturer of low volume and high cost, and didn't see the relationship," said Westland.
In fact, Blackmagic is primarily a post production manufacturer and its cards are used in almost every post facility worldwide. "We understand post and therefore have an affinity for the customer that is, to some degree, unparalleled," he claimed.
DaVinci had been an industry standard for some 25 years, with Emmy awards for its technology, "but it had not necessarily kept pace with developments and change in the market. The days of £200,000 colour correction systems are gone. Clients these days are not booking edit suites by name in the way that they used to [asking for Flame or Quantel EQ, etc.]. Clients are now coming in with a budget and saying 'this is what I need to do for £10,000', and not what system it needs to be done on." With applications like Smoke on the Mac, Nuke and now Resolve there are many more ways to do high-end finishing at lower-end prices.
For Westland, grading is where the magic happens, and DaVinci was long regarded as the pinnacle of colour correction systems. Now, in Blackmagic's hands, he feels there is an opportunity "to restore DaVinci to being the number one colour correction tool."
There had been a lack of development before Blackmagic took over, and there has since been "a huge amount of investment committed to it." Part of that was to make sure they could come to NAB with something that would reassure customers that Resolve had a future. "In order to achieve that deadline, the number of people, the speed of development, the amount of resources within the DaVinci product area has been immense. Apple Color has done a tremendous job of introducing colour correction to a large market of users and what Resolve does is now give those users realtime capabilities that they've not seen before," says Westland.
Blackmagic has about a dozen other new products coming out this summer. One notable theme is its quick adoption of the new USB 3.0 interface standard, where it claims to be first to market with video capture and playback devices.
It's new UltraStudio Pro, "the most attractive product we've ever made," is a £595 video i/o unit with a theoretical transfer speed of 4.8Gbps and is certainly fast enough to capture uncompressed HD. The Pocket UltraScope is a tiny £395 box that takes HD-SDI and outputs USB 3.0, which will mean that users can take full scopes on location as portable test equipment on a laptop (with HP and Dell both offering USB 3.0 notebook PCs). Its Intensity Shuttle offers HDMI, analogue and USB 3.0 i/o for £135.
It is also bringing out 3D systems. Its Decklink HD Extreme, which he claims is the world's most popular video capture card, is now 3D with no increase in price (£665), and can either capture two incoming streams as dual streams or in interleaved format (combining left and right eye images into the same file). To go with that there is the HDLink Pro 3D DisplayPort (£335), to take two incoming SDI inputs and output via HDMI 1.4 to a 3D TV for monitoring on set on in post.