Solar's Road to HD
"Finally, in the Spring of 2007, Matrox Axio LE was introduced to us by the Danish Matrox dealer MCI Mediatronic A/S, who claimed it would solve all our problems. And true enough, it has! The combination of Matrox Axio LE and Adobe CS3 with Sony XDCAM HD fixed our issues - as if by magic!"
The journey to HD video production was fraught with detours for Denmark's largest electrical appliance and plumbing materials wholesaler, Solar A/S. Ebbe Wendelboe, who has been in charge of Solar's video production since 1983, is no stranger to technological change. He has seen the company smoothly through transitions from U-matic to 1" tape machines to Betacam and then to DVCAM but the leap to HD was by far the most difficult switch.
He elaborates, "In early 2006 we realized we needed to move to 16:9 production because that had become the prevailing format. Since we had to invest in new gear, we wanted to take the opportunity to future-proof with HD. We initially decided to make Thompson's Infinity camera the cornerstone of our facility but a long delivery delay caused us to rethink our choice and we went with Sony XDCAM HD instead. Unfortunately, our Adobe Premiere Pro and Blackmagic-based editing system did not support the native format of XDCAM so transfers from the XDCAM discs to the computer were slow and the quality was unsatisfactory. We then tried Sony Vegas, thinking that Sony would naturally support its own format, but our Blackmagic card could not display the Vegas video output on our HD monitor; so we were back to square one. At that point we invested in a pure Avid solution with Media Composer and the Mojo breakout box but once again, we encountered unforeseen problems. The Avid could not export Windows Media files directly - we had to use a workaround exporting to QuickTime then doing an extra conversion using the Sorensen encoder that had accompanied the Avid. This doubled the amount of conversion work, which was already a slow affair. We've been using the internet for video distribution since 2000 and here Windows Media is the predominant format, so all the time wasted on extra encoding was unacceptable."
"Finally, in the Spring of 2007, Matrox Axio LE was introduced to us by the Danish Matrox dealer MCI Medi-atronic A/S, who claimed it would solve all our problems. And true enough, it has! The combination of Matrox Axio LE and Adobe CS3 with Sony XDCAM HD fixed our issues - as if by magic!"
I'm pleased with Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 - it's rock solid. The user interface works well for me, and it interacts easily with quite a number of Adobe's other media programs - After Effects for compositing, Photoshop for picture editing, and Soundbooth for sound editing. We can do anything with the Adobe CS3 software."
"XDCAM HD allows purely file-based workflow and the XDCAM discs are inexpensive enough that we use them for archiving original recordings, just as we did when we recorded on tape. There was no need to in-vest in a comprehensive hard-disk solution with tape backup - in fact we get along fine with a homemade RAID system with four 500 GB SATA discs, which works just perfectly."
"Axio LE ties the whole system together. It enables the file-based XDCAM workflow; it has a connection to an HD monitor; and it has all of the analogue and digital connections to both picture and sound - HD SDI, AES/EBU, FireWire, component and balanced audio. It lets us work with all formats on the same timeline, which is a great advantage during the period of transition to HD. Axio LE also generates high-quality MPEG-2 files so we get much nicer streaming, with the same bit rate, in both Flash and Windows Media. We also appreciate the vast range of Matrox effects, many of which function in real time - cross dissolves, colour correction, picture-in-picture and a number of special effects. In addition, the system is much cheaper than other professional solutions."
It was not a complete surprise to MCI Mediatronic's Assistant Product Manager Claus Hanghøj Thalwitzer that Solar A/S was pleased with the Axio LE solution. "We have content Matrox customers, and we take great efforts to define our customers' needs so they get exactly the system they require to do their work. Ma-trox's RT.X2 cards for small-scale productions have been in great demand. On the more professional scene, Matrox Axio LE is an excellent solution at an affordable price. Integration with Panasonic P2 or XDCAM HD works impeccably. The entire range of professional I/Os on the breakout box make Axio LE extremely flexi-ble, too."
Ebbe Wendelboe sums up his experience, "We have been through a lot since we decided on HD, but now we have attained our goal and it has been worth all the trouble. Although most of our productions are distrib-uted via DVD and the internet, in SD or lower resolution, the final result is demonstrably better when re-cording and editing in HD. Another major advantage is that we can get still photographs from the video re-cordings that are print quality. We couldn't do that when we were working with DVCAM. Our HD production system also gives us the ability to produce our own high-quality TV commercials and films for exhibitions and conferences where they are shown on big screens, and to do similar work for external clients."
After quite a long detour, Solar finally invested in an HD editing solution based on Matrox Axio LE - Ebbe Wendelboe appreciates the Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 user interface and the efficient XDCAM HD file-based workflow.
Solar's video division is shooting a new product presentation. Ebbe Wendelboe holds the Sony XDCAM HD camera, product engineer Knud Kristensen presents the new type of outdoor illumination, and Thao Ngo deals with the sound.
Thao Ngo's IT expertise has been indispensable for the implementation of the new file-based video work-flows.
- Solar Danmark A/S is one of Denmark's largest wholesalers in the fields of electric appliances, plumbing material and ventilation.
- Solar's headquarters are located in Vejen between Kolding and Esbjerg. The company has 700 employees and annual sales of 3 billion Danish kroner.
- Solar works in seven countries, providing day-to-day delivery from nine central warehouses with annual sales of 10 billion Danish kroner.
- Solar is a purely Danish company, founded by Jacob Jørgensen in 1919.
- 60 percent of Solar's sales in Denmark are handled via the internet.
Images © 2008 Finn Nesgaard, Audio Visuelle Medier, www.avm.dk