At the September 10 meeting...

Tic Tac Toons

Animation Technology at CF Video/Interactive and Fablevision

Bill Churchill, the owner of CF Video, joked that the reason he went into the video production business was because there were so many expensive toys to buy...

He commented that the production process had changed a great deal since CF was founded, back in the days when video was edited on videotape. CF was the first production house in New England to buy a nonlinear editor, and this tool has changed the video-production process radically. Bill commented that the tools have now progressed to the point where they've not only changed the process, but are altering the nature of the end-product itself...

CF has been seeing enormous growth in the multimedia production area, things like interactive CD-ROM's and computer animation. They changed their name to CF Video and Interactive, and started an entirely new division called 'Fablevision' to do animation. And with all this growth came lots of those expensive toys:

CF's new acquisitions include New England's first Jaleo digital compositing system, a Toon Boom Technologies' Tic Tac Toon animation system, a Discreet Logic D-Vision video editing system, and a DVCAM camera and deck.

The Jaleo

The Jaleo is a digital compositing system that can do uncompressed D1 capture/playout with unlimited numbers of layers. CF bought the 'Octane' version, which has realtime dissolves, wipes, keys, DVE's and color correction. It's powered by an SGI Octane dual-processor computer and has one of the handful of delivered high-speed video I/O boards. CF installed it in the room that used to house their analog editing suite, which has now been dismantled. (Gosh, I remember when that was New England's first component suite!)

Tic Tac Toons

The Tic Tac Toon system is in the Fablevision part of the plant. It's a very fast, responsive, vector-based cel-style animation system with multiplane capability, compositing, and full freedom to pan and zoom without pixelization. The networked SGI O2-based system incorporates an all-digital signal path leading to D1 output.

Crowning the system is a Polaroid picture showing the CF team bowing to what appears to be the credit card the system was charged to. ( I want that type of credit line!)

D-Vision OnLINE

The Discreet Logic D-Vision OnLINE 3.0 system is the most sophisticated NT-based nonlinear editor on the market. Aside from 99 video and audio tracks, it includes the ability to do several realtime effects concurrently, realtime grouping/mixing of 24+ audio tracks, and a very flexible, configurable interface. So it's possible to have several timelines open at once, as well as several views on it, etc. While we were there, the CF Video folks were connecting CF's new Sony DTF data recorder (capable of backing up video data at twice real-time speed) to it, but hadn't finished...

DVCAM

Finally, CF showed off their new DVCAM camera/studio deck system. Bill Churchill is a big fan of the DV format and it's professional versions. Bill feels that it's the first format to bridge the gap between video and computers and that it will eventually be the format of choice for many videographers. Primarily, he cites its high quality (close to Betacam), economy (close to Hi-8) and the ability to transfer the signal in lossless digital form to a nonlinear editor using computer (Firewire) technology.

The CF Plant

Many of the production-house people at the meeting commented on the design of the facility, which several hadn't seen before. It's got a very cartoony look, with a pink TV right on the wall next to the reception desk playing the CF reel. The layout also came in for lots of praise, with a very ample client conference/meeting/eating area, all the production rooms arranged around a support core, and the boss on an elevated platform above it all where he can keep an eye on what's going on.

But it's the leading-edge equipment that provoked the most comment: "You sure are defying conventional wisdom!", one production-house owner said, "Like most folks, I've been gradually narrowing my focus into a narrower niche, and you're moving in the opposite direction. Why, you're actually expanding into three different platforms alone, and how come you bought a D-Vision instead of the better-known Avid?"

Bill replied: "Well, we've moved away from 'tool rentals' and into 'media production'. Most of our clients are hiring us to get a project done, and leave the tool-choosing to us. This gives us the freedom to choose the best tools for the job rather than the conventional standards that people normally rent. Of course, it doesn't hurt when clients see the things they can do and then want to rent them..."

Another engineer marveled on the capabilities that all these new computer-based tools are bringing to the production arena. He commented that it's getting very hard to keep on top of the latest developments and that he's definitely going to the next NAB to do a little catching up.

But mostly, everyone socialized, noshed, and enjoyed the demos by the CF folks. It was a great season opener, and we'd like to thank CF for the invite...

CF Video and Interactive is at 44 Pleasant St. in Watertown. They can be reached at (617) 924-3737, www.cfvideo.com. The Fablevision division is at www.fablevision.com


Posted: 1 October, 1997
Robert Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor
lamm@cync.com