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Published in Point of View magazine

Upscale Video - Multivision

“You don’t just wait for trends to come along - you see if you can invent some along the way.”

“We didn’t set out to build the ‘first Component Digital D 1 editing suite’ in New England,” says Jay Heard, co founder of Boston’s Multivision, “that was not our intent.” But if not by design then by chance that is just what has happened. Come December Multivision will plump up the cushions on the new producer’s chairs, tweek the digital output BVWD75 Betacam SP editing machine, switch on the Sony DVR2100 D 1 mastering machine, the Serial Component Digital video switcher DVS8000C with DME5000 effects unit and Yamaha’s full automation all digital DMC1000 mixing board, adjust the lights, and welcome their first component digital video business. Heard’s partner and co founder, Don O’Sullivan, freely admits that they’re “going out on a limb” with this new editing suite, but sticking their necks out is the way Multivision has successfully conducted business, and prospered, for the past 21 years so gambling is not new for them.

The decision to enter the component digital video domain was not an easy one. Says O’Sullivan, we think this is the way of the future, but you never can be sure.” Adds Heard, “as we see it you can go one of two ways. You can go towards the lower end of the scale the pc desktop environment helping out those folks who want to do more of the work themselves, or you can go the other way and look for the high end business. We’ve always been committed to the latter.”

The way Design Director Frank Verni, tells it the road to the component digital choice started about two years ago when Multivision decided to enhance its graphic suite. “We saw a need to go more towards building for layered-type animation. It didn’t seem good enough to do just single pass animation. We wanted to start combining different forms of animation.” So with that in mind they added more sophisticated equipment to their Master Paint Suite including a second Aurora 280 Paint System, an ADO, an Abekas A 62, a Chyron Scribe Infinit! and two Betacam SP tape machines, all of which are operated by the paint artists themselves thus eliminating the need for an editor during the process of building graphics and/or animation. O’Sullivan believes this arrangement “has substantially cut down on possible mis-communication between artist and editor when building graphics.” Now, two years later the need for even more complex graphics and animation layering is becoming evident, thus the decision to move into the component digital video domain, in a big way.

“People don’t want to hear 'you can’t change this, or it’s going to cost you.' ”

Jack Efromson, Multivision’s Chief Engineer and effects specialist, is responsible for the design and creation of the new D 1 editing suite. He is eloquent on the subject of component digital video: “this format is not subject to the same limitations as analog digital formats things like audio and video tape noise, distortion, generation loss. And although composite digital formats have been available for the past year or so, they are subject to crawling key edges, ringing, echos, smearing and loss of resolution. Component digital formats are not.” The advantages of this new video format are numerous, as Efromson illustrates: “It is now possible for people to go from Betacam camera original footage to a D 1 master with no degradation whatsoever.” More than that, there is still no degradation when either the finished program, or internal footage, is “dubbed” down. Component digital dubs are not even called dubs, but “clones” because they are exact replicas of the original, with no loss of picture quality. You can clone endlessly and your 100th clone will be the same as your first. “A composite digital signal, such as in the D 2 or D 3 formats,ö elaborates OÆSullivan, ôis an approximation of the full information so you’re not even starting with the full picture, and then you’re copying, copying, and copying. With each copy
you get further and further away from the true picture. In the component format you don’t have that problem.”

“...has substantially cut down on possible mis-communication between artist and editor when building graphics...”

The component digital format is clearly ideal for graphics layering and animation. Verni is enthusiastic about the format “because,” he says, “each layer is preserved. This gives you true flexibility in making changes in a complex build.” Such an ability is perfect for Multivision whose philosophy has long been one of flexibility and ease of change. O’Sullivan adds: everything we do is done with an eye to giving you the ability to change your mind. People don’t want to hear “you can’t change this, or it’s going to cost you $20,000 more to change that.” Component digital video allows them to do just that at very little extra cost, and in a very short time frame.”

Whether the work elements of a project be comprised mostly of graphics, original camera footage, or even old archival film footage, it will be preserved exactly as it arrives in the D 1 suite, and will remain so throughout the whole editing (and cloning) process. Working with film footage, for instance, becomes much more efficient and cost effective because it is no longer necessary to color correct all 20 hours or so of original footage before editing onto a master. With D 1 it’s possible to color correct only the finished master thus saving an inordinate amount of time and money. The computer will save all the information and recall not only the exact settings of the color correction, but what machine the tape was in when corrected. Until now it’s been necessary to correct all footage because you couldn’t be sure what was going to be cut together for the finished product. That process is eliminated with D 1. Also, the same shot can be laid down many times without degradation. This clearly enables change and improvement to a finished program for any number of reasons - the client may not like this shot, or that graphic, or this cut, or that element. Using D-1 it’s no longer the nightmare it’s always been to make changes at the last minute. It has become possible to re enter a graphic build or animation and change one or two of the elements as needed without destroying the whole build.

“...their creative horizons have become even wider...”

For Verni and his staff of designers, the opportunity to work in the component digital domain is as close to thrilling as you get, and their creative horizons have become ever wider. Says Verni, “not only can we now save all the layers, but every successive generation is the same as the first. The new D 1 editing suite will pick up where our Master Paint Suite leaves off.” Until now Verni and his colleagues have been limited to 50 seconds of animation, which is all the Abekas A 62 is designed to hold. The D 1 suite offers them infinite flexibility because of the ability to lay off everything they create onto digital tape and preserve each image in the same format. These images can be used and re used at will without fear of degradation. Not only that, adds Verni, but “the digital tape can handle bandwidth much better and is in the component format so you’re never going to get the chroma crawl on the edges of characters that you always get with analog NTSC or even composite digital video.” The possibilities for layering and animation are literally infinite.

The advantages of component digital video are not restricted to the creative arena but are also significant in engineering. Says O’Sullivan, “in a serial digital environment a lot of problems simply no longer exist. Timing is a good example. In the analog component parallel environment you have to get the three signals timed precisely, and not only once but each time they pass through any of a number of junctures, so your chance for signal error is great. In the serial digital component environment that’s eliminated because you æ re working with a single data stream.”

“We’ve always tried to experiment with ways to accomplish a task.”

While it sounds as if all Multivision’s excitement is focused exclusively on the new editing suite there remains a firm belief in the worth of their “normal” suites, all of which have been upgraded with the new CMX Omni 1000 Edit Controller. Through the use of “Windows” and a much more powerful edit decision list memory, the Omni is able to control not just the video switcher and audio mixer cross points, but The Chyron Infinit character generator, the TBC remotes and color correctors, the ADO, the Abekas, and all other effects devices as well. All the complex settings of everything that goes into an edit such as TBC settings, text page and font, mix levels, EQ’s, and ADO moves, are recalled by the Omni thus making changes far easier than was previously possible. “What a producer might want to do now,” says Verni, “is create some complex elements in D-1, and do the rest of the program in one of the other suites.” This adds yet another dimension of flexibility to Multivision’s already producer friendly environment. Combinin equipment, talent, technology and creativity is a key factor in their continued success. “We’ve always tried to experiment with ways to accomplish a task,” adds Verni, “and you can’t remove the experimental aspect of D 1 but that’s what we’ve always liked at Mulvitision. Our attitude is “let’s see what we can do with it, and not just what it does.” You don’t just wait for trends to come along you see if you can invent some along the way.”

Digital component video is not only here, and reliably so, but it’s affordable maintains Heard. “Up until now a D 1 suite cost somewhere in the range of $500-$1,000 an hour, but we can now offer it for something like $300-$500 an hour, which is what some facilities are currently charging for “edits.” Adds O’Sullivan, “since our philosophy has always been to get clients in and out as fast as possible, the advent of D 1 enables us to streamline this process even more. We can provide excellent quality and speed and efficiency. The throughput of a production is much faster and efficient with D 1, and, of course, this also contributes to price reduction.”

After reviewing all the inherent advantages of component digital video it’s hard to see where the gamble lies in Multivision’s astute decision to enter this domain in so substantial a way.