Mobile Production with Matrox MXO2 LE MAX

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Bradley Shende is Executive Producer at Connected Life and CEO/Founder of M2O, a digital agency in Vancouver B.C. that specializes in social video marketing, product launches and digital marketing strategy. Shende also enjoys demystifying digital technology as an analyst and commentator on technology and media trends for CTV, Global, CKNW and Discovery's How Stuff Works. He sits on the Advisory Board and Instructs the New Media Design Program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

Shende was producer for six seasons of the award-winning technology show "Dave Chalk's Computer Life," and helped pioneer an interactive mobile content platform acquired by Research in Motion. He has been honored with four Telly Awards for Outstanding Video Direction, two Summit Awards for Outstanding Interactive Creative, and NFS Innovator of the Year (2008).

Demystifying technology is a passion for me. Years before I started my own business, the M2O Digital Agency, I evaluated and identified noteworthy new tech and gadgets for "Dave Chalk's Computer Show," a syndicated TV show about computers and technology. From 1996 to 2006, I produced the show that TV Guide once listed as one of the 50 best things on TV. During that time, I got a chance to examine and learn about all kinds of innovative consumer electronics gadgets. We also experimented with live streaming, one of the first TV shows to do that in North America.

That experience made me realize, even then, more than a decade ago, that content distribution was no longer about the broadcaster, but instead about the CAT5 cable coming out of the computer.

My curiosity for new technology and my interest in communicating what I learn continues to guide my career. I now tell stories to the general public through my "Connected Life" video spots, which are syndicated to Discovery's "How Stuff Works" (powered by YouTube) and distributed as part of the "Shaw Tech Report" through Canada's Global Television morning news across the country.

While creating content for "Connected Life," I came across the Matrox MXO2 LE MAX, a family of HD/SD input/output devices for editing, H.264 encoding, and streaming workflows. These units let users get the most from applications such as Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium, Apple Final Cut Studio and Final Cut Pro X, and the new Avid Media Composer 6. I discovered that with the Matrox MXO2, I could easily and quickly create H.264 files for Blu-ray, the web, and mobile devices as well as stream content from any camera, anywhere. These features made the Matrox MXO2 ideal for the kind of work -- Internet broadcasts of live events -- we do for "Connected Life" videos.

We create "Connected Life" videos on the fly, exploring the space somewhere between professional broadcast productions and amateur YouTube content. In the past, while covering big trade shows, we used a MacBook Pro, cameras, P2 cards and P2 card readers as well as CF card readers, walkie-talkies, and a sweaty intern/runner to get coverage from the floor to the editor and then streamed online.

This process worked, but it could also easily fall apart, and we knew there had to be a smarter way to create content in remote locations. Through online searches, I learned that Matrox was doing good work in the mobile field, so we put the company's MXO2 LE MAX into a portable rig and took it for a test drive at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The previous on-location production methods we used were too inefficient to capture all of the great story ideas and content that CES provided. Record/capture, physical transportation of footage, transferring to the NLE, transcoding, editing, output/render, encoding and uploading....it was a horrendous bottleneck that prevented us from getting the footage we needed from the show floor efficiently.

Adding the Matrox MXO2 LE MAX to the mix instantly changed our workflow. We recorded and mixed live interviews, feeding broadcast SDI signals though a Panasonic AG-HMX100 HD mixer into the Matrox MXO2 LE MAX. In the past, footage from the camera had to be transferred and converted, which takes time, particularly in a multi-camera shoot where it is necessary to coordinate footage from different cameras. The combination of the mixer and the Matrox device allowed us to take the live cut and convert it to Apple ProRes, which meant that our editor could drop live footage directly into a Final Cut Pro timeline, saving tons of time. He was able to edit that footage on the spot, and convert the finished edit back through the Matrox box to H.264 five times faster than the laptop could have encoded it. The H.264 file was backed up on the hard drive and sent to YouTube via an LTE modem.

We put pre-production, production, and post on wheels at one of the world's craziest conventions and from the start of our interviews to streaming them on YouTube, the entire process took less than half an hour. We turned quite a few heads with our rig. We'd had a loose concept of this model years ago, but until now, the requisite gear simply wasn't to be found in a portable and cost-effective package.

Using the MXO2 LE MAX, we've refined our remote multi-camera workflow to the point where the whole production is fed through the I/O box and into the timeline like meat into a sandwich. Intros and billboards on the top, and supers, and motion graphics on the bottom bun. We just trim the video ends, ask the appropriate stakeholder for approval, and then run it back through the Matrox device for high-quality H.264 encoding. Because we can prearrange everything from graphics to B roll video to YouTube tags, we are able to edit and finish a story quickly, wrap up the cart, and move on to do another complete production from the show floor.

Back here in Vancouver, around town, and at our Gastown production studio, we employ a very similar approach. We use the MXO2 LE MAX to cut rendering time and to enable a much more efficient production, post, and delivery workflow for Connected Life, the Shaw Tech Report, and many of our other clients. We have taken advantage of the MXO2's input flexibility, and added Panasonic HPX300 cameras to the system as needed. In the field, our access to the Matrox unit to enable monitoring on a large and affordable LCD screen has been a real boon.

With the ability to support so many applications, the Matrox MXO2 LE MAX is a valuable multipurpose tool that gives us a lot of flexibility at a low cost. I wear a lot of hats, and I need products that can do the same. The Matrox solution is unparalleled and I only wish I'd had one sooner.

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