Avid at NAB 2019: Preview of Pro Tools Video Engine Development

By in Audio Post, Pro Mixing

At NAB 2019, Avid will preview in-development improvements to the Avid Video Engine in Pro Tools. These features are not currently tied to a specific upcoming release, but rather a look into the future at what is currently in development.*

These updates will allow better frame reference accuracy with a “true HD” timeline and will accept various video formats over HD resolutions, allowing the same high-resolution files to be used throughout the production process. 

Pro Tools may have left the HD name behind for Ultimate at the beginning of 2018, but two parts of Pro Tools remained HD and even SD when talking about specifically video raster, that is video size or resolution, and video frame rates respectively.

 

Higher resolutions and frame rates are becoming more common

As ultra-high-quality, 4K-and-beyond content creation becomes more commonplace it is important for Pro Tools to easily accept a wide range of video formats, frame rates and sizes, remaining a smooth part of audio post production workflows.

By adding compatibility with higher resolution video and higher frame rates, the planned improvements to the video engine will enable smoother, more efficient collaboration between editorial and sound mixing with less time-consuming conversion or transcoding.

 

Support for higher frame rates up to 120fps

 Currently, Pro Tools can interpolate video file frame rates and reference to higher frame rate sync sources up to 59.94fps, however it is limited to a maximum of 30fps on the Main Timecode Counter for the session frame rate. This requires the user to choose half frames or another grid value to accurately display the video frames above 30fps.

At NAB 2019, we are previewing true HD and beyond frame rate support in the timeline, specifically up to 120fps. This will allow Pro Tools users to easily reference current frame rates accurately in the timeline as well as provide for future formats as they become more readily used in production. This also means your main counter frame grids can match the actual frame rate of the video file.

Current Session Frame Rate Selection

Preview Session Frame Rate Selection

Main Timecode Count with 3-digit fps display

1 frame Audio Clip at 30/60/120fps with 30fps Session/Grid

1 frame Audio Clip at 30/60/120fps with 120fps Session/Grid

Support for higher video resolutions, including 4k

Video raster refers to the file’s resolution, sometimes called “size.” Currently, Pro Tools can correctly play back video that is within 29fps 1080p, however it does not support 30fps 1080p or multiples of that. This is an issue in certain parts of the industry such as gaming, where these frame rates are used and sometimes require an additional video frame rate conversion before being used in Pro Tools.

In the future we will support a much wider range of raster sizes—including 4k resolution—in alignment with Avid’s video editing software Media Composer. Pro Tools will recognize standard formats when adding those video clips to the timeline making them easy to identify and it will have the ability to play clips outside those standard recognized formats. This means while commonly identified formats will be selected automatically, Pro Tools will also allow other rasters that may be required for non-standard video sizes, such as web based or installation video, or new rasters that become popular in the future.

Preset Sizes

The Video track itself will now appear a little differently, where the frame rate and raster size are independent, rather than fixed settings of frame rates and size.

Current

Preview

Improvements to H.264 Playback and Performance

Additionally, we are developing our own decoding for H.264 files which will enable us to deliver smoother, more stable playback and performance without directly using 32-bit QuickTime APIs.

H.264, while extremely popular for its relatively good quality versus file size and wide playback device support, can be a difficult codec to playback smoothly in an editorial environment. This is partly because the many different possible encoders but also the way in which the frames and information are organized in the file itself. For example, it doesn’t lend itself well to nudging, scrubbing and shuttling. However, given the ubiquitous nature of the file type Avid is working to improve the performance of this important codec.

To learn more about Pro Tools for audio post production stop by our booth at NAB 2019 and visit avid.com/nab.

 

*As these improvements to the video engine are still in-development, they are subject to change.

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I’m a Kiwi living in Tokyo, Japan. From Audio Post and now an Audio Application Specialist at Avid, while staying in touch in the industry with the occasional spot of mixing and sound design for TV. Sound, music and technology have been my career for the last 17 years and my passion for a lifetime.