XStoner Software Focus

Xstoner is a product for Discreet advanced effects and editing systems from Light, Inc., designed to make networking, transfer and conversion of images to/from PCs and Discreet Stone systems much faster and simplified. A PC version is currently in release, with a Mac version expected in Q1 2003. We asked the developers to provide us with an overview of the software…their story follows.

Installation is straightforward, and the software uses a client/server model with TCP/IP protocol to perform its tasks. A server daemon is installed on the Discreet SGI machine, and a client program is installed on a PC. Xstoner uses floating licenses, so you can install the client on all the machines on your network, but only simultaneously use as many as you are licensed for. The server provides full security, allowing you to setup users’ profiles: permissions, passwords, expiration date and watermark on any partitions, libraries, desktops, reels and clips. The server also allows you to superimpose a logo bug on images being sent to a PC.

Once you are set up, you simply start the client software on the PC, enter the name or the IP address of your Discreet machine, login password, and you are presented with a list of the available partitions. Make your selection and the screen becomes the familiar Discreet-style library tree browser with proxy images. All pertinent clip information is instantly available, along with selectable proxy modes/sizes. Proxy images are directly scrollable in the tree browser view.

To view a clip, you double click the proxy, and you are presented with a large viewer, which allows you to scrub the clip, mark in/out points, crop and resize. If you are viewing the clip at full-size, the playback speed of the viewing is limited only by your network bandwidth, and the Discreet machine sees no performance hit on the processors. The clip is cached on the PC, and will playback in real-time on subsequent viewings. Resizing of images will be done on the Discreet machine to eliminate network bottlenecks only if you didn’t force the full size transfer in your options panel. This is ideal for a situation where, for example, you have multiple clients connecting to the Discreet machine, all accessing a film-res partition, wanting to make smaller Quicktime previews. Instead of bringing the network to its knees moving large film-res files across and resizing on the PC, more manageable files are sent based on the client’s size requirements. This does take some processing power on the Discreet machine, but the server software is written so that the Discreet application always has priority.

A batch processing list for both import and export can be created, managing several partitions simultaneously, with user-definable start times. Multiple clips can be selected, cropped, resized and converted to a wide variety of frame-sequence and movie-based formats with WAV and AIFF audio. Timecode track generation (visible or not) is available when converting to Quicktime.

When exporting images and video from the client machine to the Discreet machine, some nice workflow features have been incorporated. If you have a master folder for a job that contains many sub-folders, each with an image sequence or movie in it, you can simply drag the master folder to Xstoner, and it will automatically generate a batch export list for you, thanks the powerful Media Sequencer tool. Timecode can also be assigned to any clips being sent to the Discreet machine, which is nice, for instance, if an assistant is doing some offline work in Combustion, and then sends the clip back to the Inferno, with the processed clip’s original timecode ready to be laid off to tape. 32-bit files can be separated out to front and matte clips, and Photoshop files with layers are supported, although they are exported as a flattened image. Future plans for Xstoner (besides the Mac OSX version) include being able to take a multi-layer Photoshop file and easily export it to multiple images with associated matte, and even have an action setup or a DVE setup created for you.

An additional module included with the package is WebStoner, which is a Java-based viewer only version of Xstoner (which does work on Mac). It allows assistants or producers connect to the Discreet machine, fully secure, and access clips over a LAN or the Internet. Clips are only viewable, they can not be downloaded, and there is no upload functionality. Audio is currently not supported for WebStoner. Clips can be scrubbed, and again, after the clip has completely downloaded, it will playback from the cache in real-time.

A 15-day demo version can be downloaded from www.xstoner.com under the support/download section of the site. Have your SGI’s sysid ready to submit, and a license will be generated and emailed to you. For those of you who can’t wait for a Mac-native version to be released, it has been tested and successfully used on a Mac running Virtual PC. Customers who purchase Xstoner to run in this configuration will receive the Mac client when it is released.