Discreet Strata and Mezzo Unveiled at NAB

The new technology which was rumored to be revealed at NAB this year (Film & Video Magazine) was shown as the last item of the evening on Sunday. The presentation on Sunday was a bit confusing at points and it was the end of a long presentation and and because of that it seems as though some information might have been lost to the users. We’ll try to break down what was shown that evening with what was also shown during the week in special showings in private.

Presentation panel covering Mezzo & Strata at the discreet user group

Basically the software/platform is composed of two parts, code-named Mezzo and Strata. Incidentally, the toxik name wasn’t used during the demo except for a few times by the presenters (probably as habit), as well as the icon shown on the desktop when starting up the app.

From comments by discreet at the users group meeting and the fact that the preview was a “technology demo”, it is obvious that the current products still have a lifetime left within the company. The new product is designed to work together alongside the existing ffi products. VP David Jones mentioned several times that they are already in planning for the next level of releases on the current ffi products — development which begins in 2003 and what will be shown at next years users group. In the last several months, they have also added additional resources to help work on the current products.

Mezzo forms the foundation of the software — software which has been in development at discreet for several years time. Strata is the compositing and effects part of the software — essentially the tools that we would use every day as users.

A graphic attempting to explain Mezzo. Or a re-envisioned Pac-Man.

In the first part of our report, we’ll focus on Mezzo. It deals with media — video i/o, file i/o, browsing of media, and administration type functions. It also includes managment of the infrastructure (ala stone and wire). The heart of Mezzo is a database which keeps track of all this information including image data and what was done to the image data. Images and data are stored on a SAN, allowing all users to access the same media and data.

What does this mean for the end user?

  • The system automatically keeps track of everything that has been done to a clip within the system. Basically, it is the oft-asked for clip history.
  • As you work, the database is continually updated. This means should a crash occur, you can enter the software not having lost a thing. This actually happened several times during the demo and everything was left intact.
  • Interchange of clips with iff systems is taken care of. You can browse a stonefs remotely and bring images into the database. The background task manager keeps you updated on the status of the import so you can keep on working.
  • It includes a java client capabable of doing many different things, and runnable on any computer that supports java. You can run a java application on your notebook which allows you to import/export images, view clips, make quicktimes, archive, modify projects, etc. You could maybe easily check a render from a remote location, making sure everything is going OK. It might also allow clients to log in and view work in progress over the web. All while you can keep working on the main system.
  • A background task manager (inlcuding renderer). Since the “effects” part of toxik (Strata) includes a new software renderer, background renders could be cued and executed. It also allows for the background importing, exporting and archiving of data.

Basically, the foundation is in place which allows the user or administrator to easily deal with all of the day to day drudgery of managing data. For an artist the most important part is obviously the clip history feature. It appears as though when working on a clip, you probably never really have to worry about managing what you’ve done to the clip. A completed clip in a timeline contains all the imformation you need to figure out what was done to create that clip. Of course, it was only a technology demo at this point but it certainly looked promising.

More on the “Strata” part of the software when update time on the floor allows……