CineForm recently announced its new CineDDR product. What exactly is CineDDR? I’m still trying to wrap my head around exactly what all the CineDDR system might bring to a post-house but basically it looks like it is being position as a somewhat “software” based alternative to an HDCAM SR deck. A software based anything alternative to an expensive hardware product will almost always have a substantial cost savings and CineDDR vs. HDCAM SR is no exception.
CineDDR is …. from the CineForm website:
The systems works on an an Intel PC or Mac, in combination with an AJA Xena or Kona card, so this does seem like an HDCAM SR deck only media is recored to hard drive instead of tape. Often when people think of CineForm they think compression which is a lot of what CineForm is, advanced compression technology along the lines of Avid’s DNxHD or Apple’s ProRes … only CineForm came along first so they certainly know a thing or two about efficient compression. But don’t kid yourself as HDCAM SR is also compressed and regular old HDCAM is even more compressed Our HDCAM SR deck is the real workhorse of the facility so to think you could get something similar for a fraction of the cost could be intriguing to a lot of facilities looking to add such a deck but cut costs in the process. Of course a software based solution doesn’t help in creating master tapes for the client or to send to a network for air but an SR deck isn’t always used just as a final mastering format. I would be interested to see how the CineDDR would integrate with something like a DaVinci for color grading. It’s graphical front end sure looks like a tape deck:
Many people these days are wanting to move away from tape based workflows so it might seem silly to emulate a tape deck in software but often that might be required to make that final jump from tape to tapless … a familiar workflow / look and feel that integrates well with existing pipelines. That tape-deck-looking front end makes me wonder though if it is truly non-linear in that you can jump around a large media file with instant access? It would seem to defeat the purpose if you can’t. I may be thinking small but the idea that you could convert all of a Canon 5D shoot from H.264 compressed QuickTimes to CineDDR and have a traditional offline / online workflow seems like a natural fit. You should be able to do that with CineDDR for any format in which you currently use an offline / online workflow. With all of the various camera manufactures and codecs out there, think of CineDDR and the CineForm codec taking the place of other intermediate codecs like DNxHD and ProRes, only at a better bit depth and more compatibility across an entire facility.
As for the quality of CineForm’s codec vs. HDCAM SR – check out the quality analysis (pdf link). It gets pretty technical but from that document, quality looks good. I recently got a copy of CineForm’s NeoScene to use with HDV footage from my Canon HV20 rig. I haven’t started cutting the intended project just yet but as any HDV user knows you really want to get out of the HDV codec as fast as you can. Usually that involves a trip through Apple Compressor to convert to ProRes and extract the 24p media from a 59.94 stream. NeoScene handles this task with a simple interface and smaller files. A 7-second clip is 85 megs converted to ProRes and only 38 megs converted to CineForm. The quality looks identical. But that’s what CineForm mission has been from the start, high-quality and efficient compression. That’s what the CineDDR looks like it is doing too, only on a much higher end scale than HDV.