Blackmagic buys Ultimatte and Fairlight
Blackmagic has bought two companies who in their own respective fields were landmark innovators, Ultimatte for keying and Fairlight for digital sampling. Each company broke new ground and revolutionized their spaces but in both cases the companies have moved from dominating a new niche to fighting for space in a more generalised world as technology has spread and been more democratised.
Ultimatte is known worldwide for compositing of green screens especially in the area of virtual sets. Ultimatte creates realtime blue and green screen removal hardware that is used in broadcast studios around the world to seamlessly composite reporters, talk show hosts and more into virtual sets. Almost every newscaster and weather reporter stands in front of a green or blue screen while delivering the news and weather. For the past 40 years, Ultimatte has been the industry standard hardware or software responsible for keying these people in front of weather maps, stock charts, and other info graphics. In fact, many of these newscasters are using Ultimatte to place them into completely virtual sets.
Ultimatte uses advanced 4:4:4:4 image processing and provides enhanced matte controls that lets customers accurately separate the subject from the background. Customers also get matte correction features, indirect and direct lighting features, spill suppression tools, edge artifact controls and more, all in realtime.
Ultimatte was founded in 1976 and has won an Emmy for their realtime compositing technology, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as an Oscar.
“Ultimatte’s realtime blue and green screen compositing solutions have been the standard for 40 years,” said Grant Petty, Blackmagic Design CEO. “Ultimatte has been used by virtually every major broadcast network in the world. We are thrilled to bring Ultimatte and Blackmagic Design together, and are excited about continuing to build innovative products for our customers!”
Fairlight has an impressive history starting with the world first true professional sampling machine changed the face of music. Fairlight Live products feature consoles that are designed for the most demanding on-air and live productions, giving customers leading edge audio processing and control surfaces that range from 12 to 60 faders, along with audio I/O interfaces with full redundancy for mission critical work in broadcast facilities, outside broadcast trucks, performing arts venues and houses of worship.
For post production solutions, Fairlight creates everything from compact desktop audio post systems to large format mixing consoles with dedicated controls. Fairlight audio engines can deliver up to 1000 tracks which lets customers create complex productions without premixing, along with a massive 64 channels of monitoring.
Many cameras can shoot in 4K today, but most clients still want HD. Titan from Convergent Design allows you to window on to HD from your preview monitor/recorder.
Titan is the latest option for the Odyssey & Apollo monitor/recorders. Titan uses one 4K camera to create three HD video signals. One frame is a SuperSample of the full image area and two are windows selected from within the original input. All four HD signals can be recorded simultaneously in Apple ProRes with matching timecode and file names.
Shoot a two-subject interview using one camera and Titan and record a Live-Switch of a two-shot plus separate close-ups.
Record a panel presentation with a wide master plus a single on the moderator and another of the panel, all from one camera. The technology is interesting, but perhaps not without some limitations.
They offer the example of covering a Church service with a shot of the clergyman, another of the chorus, and a wide view of all – done with the modest investment of one camera and Titan. They also suggest “with Titan and a single installed camera capture an entire football field from the 50 yard line, plus follow a player as he runs the course of the field”. While the windows can be panned smoothly through the 4K field and the three angles can be Live-Switched, – the Church example is perhaps a more valid suggestion than their football example (above) – where dynamic complex panning of the action would be much better handled in post-production.
But the process does reduce the render time of reframing in post. Multiple separate angles available on set could also be useful for on set monitoring of specialist vfx, allowing for the wide 4K to be recorded and a sub section of the image monitored for say close examination of eye line or subtle effects. It could also be useful for use in web live events or webinars.
Titan accepts 4K video signals over HDMI and SDI (original Odyssey7Q limited to 3G-SDI). Titan also accepts 4K RAW data from the Sony FS5, FS7 & FS700 cameras. Live-Switching is available as cuts and dissolves, and an Edit Decision List is generated as an .EDL file for conforming an edit in post.
Titan is an option for the Odyssey7Q+, Odyssey7Q and Apollo monitor/recorders. Other options (Odyssey RAW Bundle or Apollo) are not required for Titan.
Titan list price is $1295, but Convergent Design is offering the Titan for a limited time at an introductory price of just $995. Titan is expected to be available around the beginning of October.
The company also announced that with an upcoming firmware update for the Odyssey7Q+ and Odyssey7Q monitor/recorders it will support the Panasonic VariCamLT 4K RAW output. When Panasonic unveiled the VariCamLT in February, it announced the 4K RAW output capability for the camera would be added this year. Panasonic has just released this week in Amsterdam a free firmware update to the camera that enables this ability.
Plugin companies consolidate further
Boris FX has signed an agreement to acquire GenArts Inc., developers of premium special effects plug-ins. GenArts are makers of Sapphire one of the most successful plugin companies for high-end visual effects at leading film studios and broadcast facilities around the world. Since 1996, Sapphire effects have been used in at least one of each year’s VFX Oscar-nominated films, and numerous award-winning television shows. Sapphire will continue to be developed and sold in its current form alongside flagship products Boris Continuum Complete (BCC) and mocha Pro.
The acquisition is part of Boris FX founder Boris Yamnitsky’s aggressive growth strategy. Boris FX most recently acquired Imagineer Systems, the UK-based developer of mocha: the Academy Award-winning planar tracking tools.
“We are excited to announce this strategic merger and welcome the Sapphire team to the Boris FX/Imagineer group,” says Yamnitsky. “This acquisition makes Boris FX uniquely positioned to serve editors and effects artists with the industry’s leading tools for motion graphics, broadcast design, visual effects, image restoration, motion tracking and finishing — all under one roof. Sapphire’s exceptional suite of creative plug-ins has been used to design many of the last decades’ most memorable film images. Sapphire perfectly complements BCC and mocha as essential tools for professional VFX and we look forward to serving Sapphire’s extremely accomplished users.”
“Equally impressive is the team behind the technology,” continues Yamnitsky. “Key GenArts staff from engineering, sales, marketing and support will join our Boston office to ensure the smoothest transition for customers. Our shared goal is to serve our combined customer base with useful new tools and the highest quality training and technical support.”
The Sapphire team agrees on the value the merger will bring to the industry. “I’m excited about what a combined Boris FX/Imagineer/GenArts company can create,” states Gary Oberbrunner, Chief Scientist and VP of Engineering at GenArts. “We are impressed with the collaborative integration of mocha technology in the recent BCC 10 release and look forward to exploring similar technology sharing and product improvement opportunities.” Oberbrunner continues, “All of us share a passion for innovation, quality and creativity. Combining resources and knowledge, and working with our amazing customers, will enable us not just to continue the pace of innovation we’ve had separately, but to move even faster, creating entirely new effects, tools and combinations to delight our users.” Oberbrunner will now join the Boris FX senior management team as Chief Technical Officer for the combined group.