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SheerVideo Compressor

SheerVideo from Bitjazz is a series of non-destructive, ultra-fast, QuickTime codecs for applications that interact with QuickTime. The non-destructive feature renders lossless compression, so that the file sizes are reduced to half, but they appear every bit as good as uncompressed. Andreas Wittenstein who created innovative compressors like Pixie and PhotoJazz is also the creator of SheerVideo.

The SheerVideo codecs can be accessed by selecting QuickTime folder in the Library menu. SheerVideo is fifty times faster compared to other lossless codecs, seven times faster than the DV, and three times faster compared to Apple’s speedy PhotoJPEG and MotionJPEG. Its processing speed is also twice that of the uncompressed. It is not a low-resolution, intermediate format, and there is no need to recapture full-resolution files for output. The output is of a lightweight format to move across cross platform workflow, with 100 percent quality .

In order to run an uncompressed ten-bit video, the required drives and system should be capable of pushing 27 mb/sec for the SD, and around 140MB/sec for the HD. Fast drives coupled with mass storage capacity are required. These files may need to be sent to clients through FTP, and SheeVideo meets all the cross platform workflow requirements. The SheerVideo Installer offers some extra features for easy AE and FCP setups.

SheerVideo works well for animation and compositing in large scales with cross-platform workflow. An exemplary explanation is given here. Film Roman is involved in production of shows such as ‘King of the Hill’ and ‘The Simpsons’. Visual effects beginning from Ally McBeal to Xena prevail throughout the shows. Over two-dozen of their recent hits including Date Movie, Robot and Jackass have visual effects.

According to Robert Weaver (Post Production Director in Film Roman/Starz Media), Film Roman needed portability for an easy cross-network, and cross platform workflow with their existing storage. They also needed a codec to transcode from RGB to the YUV color space, but still remain satisfactory for directors, art directors, producers and animators.

He describes about a worldwide cross-platform workflow starting from California where stories are set out by directors, and the storyboard artists sketch reference frames for every episode. The frames are uploaded to Korea, and the animation cells are drawn by animators, who work on Windows stations. Animations that are complete are rendered in SheerVideo YUV codec. They are delivered through the web to Film Roman and onlined on a Macintosh.

As the files compress quickly and also move quickly over a network, their onlining time has been reduced from twelve hours to three hours, working with SheerVideo in FCP. Once the output is ready, the drives taken to post facility are played to a HDCAM SR deck via AJA Kona hardware, from FCP. It is aired right from there.

Comparing the old workflow to the cross platform workflow brings more clarity. The drive with uncompressed animations was shipped to Korea. Animations that were completed were rendered as TIFF sequence to a hard drive. They were then shipped back, and from that sequence, a HD master would be struck. Downconverted tapes were created for editing and screening. TIFF sequences were then re-linked in online and the final RGB to YUV colorpass was done.

SheerVideo files can easily move over the Internet, because of the lightweight. The image quality is high enough so that it can be aired directly from the computer.

For my test, I downloaded SheerVideo codecs and accessed it from the QuickTime folder. It makes it easy to incorporate the codecs into the cross platform workflow instantly. As the codec is very fast, I could capture straight with no transcoding while I digitized. Only half the space of the uncompressed was required to get twice the performance. Then I could send the footage to tape straight away.

The drawback is that SheerVideo is not RT enabled for the Final Cut Pro. It works well with Windows for editing and compositing.

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