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Media Player Now Supports Surround Sound Down Mix

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Streambox is pleased to announce the new Media Player 2.0.5 with realtime surround sound down-mix feature for iOS and macOS media players.

This new feature is designed for live remote reviews, where both surround audio (7.1/51.) and stereo clients can receive the same session without re-encoding or experiencing additional delay.

Clients without surround support will automatically playback a stereo downmix stream from the master surround sound. Streambox supports multi-channel audio in both uncompressed and AAC formats, with software players rendering up to 8 channels.

The new players are available now in the Apple App store:
Download v 2.0.5
https://apps.apple.com/us/app/streambox-media-player/id1329435619

For more details on setup and usage, including procedure for 7.1 audio output setup for macOS,  download this free Quick Start Guide.

Sharpe Sound Conducts Remote Audio Reviews Using Streambox

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Sharpe Sound is a full service audio post-production house based in North Vancouver that was established in 1991. The owners, Paul and Jacqueline, had both worked in Los Angeles for a number of years. Paul is originally from Canada and wanted to bring audio post back to Canada. He left his position at Todd AO and came up to Vancouver with Jacqueline who was a sound editor in Los Angeles. They opened Sharpe Sound with the intent of bringing audio post to Vancouver as the audio post industry was just getting started there.

There were already a few places in the city, but it was still on a small scale. Deciding to move things up an octave, they built a true theater style dubbing room. From there the business has progressed over the years to be the largest audio post-production house in Vancouver, specializing in feature films and television.

Sharpe Sound first looked at Streambox a couple years ago as an option for remote sound reviews for clients, particularly those in Los Angeles. Things changed when Netflix launched multiple productions in Vancouver.

Netflix producers had already embraced the idea of using a Streambox solution for remote reviews. They had a Chroma system in their audio lab that they had started using for a few productions in Europe, and asked Sharpe Sound if they would be willing to put in a system to interface with their audio lab.

The production crew in Vancouver could avoid travel to Los Angeles if there were a way for to playback live home Dolby Atmos mixes to the producers in Los Angeles. Sharpe Sound subsequently acquired a Streambox Chroma encoder decoder system and got started with it to work directly with Netflix. With Chroma they were able to employ a point-to-point connection from Vancouver directly to the Netflix audio lab in Los Angeles and right out of the gate did live Atmos playbacks from the Sharpe Sound stage to the audio lab.

Once Sharpe Sound gained experience with the remote connection process, they expanded coverage to additional Netflix projects and a few other clients, including Disney.

Kelly Cole, senior re-recording mixer and head sound supervisor at Shape Sound remarks, “We find it’s a very stable platform for us to work with. And, you know, especially in this day and age that we’re living in right now with no travel back and forth to Los Angeles, the ability for our clients such as Netflix and or Disney to be able to go on stage and essentially be in the mix is invaluable.”

Having a Streambox solution has helped Sharpe Sound expand its business. As the word has got out all around Los Angeles and Vancouver that Sharpe Sound had remote audio streaming capability with support for 16 channels to even work with Dolby Atmos, they have been approached by many other clients to use the Streambox solution for live playback sessions.

Because Streambox Chroma can be used as both an encoder and a decoder, a director from Los Angeles working in Vancouver on a project came into the Sharpe Sound studio and was able to listen to a mix coming from a location in Los Angeles.

Sharpe Sound has been using Streambox solutions for about a year. They have found the system to be really robust and reliable. They quickly got up to speed dialing in the settings to learn how to optimize full Dolby Atmos live streaming. They found the support from Streambox to be invaluable working with their technicians to get things just right.

Before long the Sharpe Sound staff got to a point where the process became an integral part of their workflow. They are able to do a test run where the IT director can log on from the Web and monitor the stream to assess the status and adjust the streaming throughput if needed to compensate for end to-end bandwidth performance before playback is started.

Aside from the reliability and quality, the ability to fine tune the system to match different network and client conditions is what separates Streambox from other systems. Sharpe Sound has other systems in-house that they use depending on the client’s needs, but they can be difficult to adjust or deal with. It is often a case of just rebooting and hoping that the system fixes itself, whereas with Streambox, the staff knows how the unit operates in the facility and is able to go in and make quick streaming adjustments to get the transport performance precisely where they need it to be. For example, because Sharpe Sound is more concerned with audio, they can throttle back the video when the receiving end does not have sufficient download speed in order to maintain perfect quality on the audio. If there are any latency issues across the network, they can make adjustments with the bandwidth.

As Sharpe Sound has very robust connectivity coming out of their facility, sometimes they must bring down the bandwidth so as not to overwhelm the system at the receiving endpoint. With a quick call to the technician at whatever facility they are interfacing with, they can determine what can be accepted and adjust accordingly, which alleviates a lot of problems.

When referring to their experience with Streambox, Kelly states “Any time we have needed help, it’s been really fast to reach them to work with us. It’s been really, really positive working with them.”

Company 3 Extends Remote Workflows Services with Streambox Solutions

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There was a time in the post-production industry when your competitive advantage was defined by owning the latest marquee-brand technology. This reflected that era’s thinking around brand marketing, which was all about promoting the unique aspects of your product.

Contemporary brand marketing is based on promoting how your products and services benefit the customer. Sure, you still need the tech, but your value proposition is truly defined by your ability to deliver solutions that address each client’s unique needs.

Dealing with Remote Reviews

Enter Company 3, a global post-production services organization that clearly understands how to deliver value in our challenging times.

Company 3 provides dailies, picture and sound post production and VFX for feature films, commercials, music videos and television, with facilities in Atlanta, Hollywood, London. Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, and Toronto.

Their Toronto facility has been providing post-production services for the film and television industry since the 1980’s.

Company 3 has lots of experience with developing remote workflow solutions for their clients, streaming video and audio to facilities around the world so that clients at their facilities in Los Angeles or London or New York can review work being conducted in Toronto, in real-time. Providing client access to services and support wherever they are located is a key aspect of the services that Company 3 offers.

As James Fraser, Vice President and General Manager who manages day-to-day operations for the Toronto facility puts it, “finding customized solutions for clients to  collaborate with us remotely during the post process is a big part of what we do, and this was true even prior to having to post shows during the current health crisis, which  presented some unique challenges of its own”.

3-Way Collaboration

Company 3 started working with Streambox more than 10 years ago, with clients who were on another shoot somewhere else in the world but still working on projects being finished in Toronto. They gained a new level of ability to support remote review sessions with a client able to see exactly the same things, the same colors, and hearing the same audio mix without having to be in the same physical location as the colorist or mixer.

This experience grew into what Company 3 realized was something special for them.

COVID-19

The health crisis impacted Toronto operations at the end of March 2020, as local government ordered the closing all non-essential businesses. Company 3 reached out to Streambox to determine what additional solutions might be available to cope with these new challenges.

They settled on several Chroma Plus decoder systems from Streambox, paired them with calibrated monitors and shipped them off to their clients. The clients simply   connected through their local Internet and were ready to go. The Toronto creative and technical staff were then able to stream simultaneously to multiple locations, in real-time, and conduct 4K HDR reviews.

The second challenge was to get the Toronto staff up and working from home, including the colorists. The engineering staff maintained their ability to remotely manage and set up systems with sophisticated VPN solutions, all fully secure under industry guidelines and requirements. They were able to deploy a Streambox 4K streaming encoder system that they already owned, and actually put it in the artist’s home. Engineers could log in remotely and monitor the streams going out of the remote system and make data rate adjustments to compensate for inconsistent public Internet connections.

The engineers were also working remotely but could still manage all these processes in real-time from the safety of their own homes. A key benefit of Streambox systems is the ability to deal with sub-optimal Internet connections while still delivering a reliable media stream. This allowed Company 3 to maintain post-production client services with minimal interruption in the production schedules.

As Greg Hull, the Vice President of Engineering, Technology indicates, “the collective sigh of relief coming from clients when they realized we were still functional in a secure manner and able to support their projects that they already had underway was immense. They were thrilled at the results, as was our whole facility, all the staff, the colorists, mixers, engineers, everybody, it’s been fantastic. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the clients being happy”.

According to Fraser, “what we’ve realized is that no two shows are alike. Each one really has its own demands, its own special requirements and specifications that need to be met. By partnering with Streambox and developing these solutions, it gave us a lot of tools in our toolbox to choose from, whether it was their Chroma 4K encoder/decoder systems or their new Chroma plus boxes, we could offer a solution solution to meet our clients’ budget. Further, using Streambox Cloud Services, which allows us to push a signal to multiple locations at the same time, we are able to utilize all of those tool sets in various ways and for various people. It’s really given us a big arsenal of workflow solutions to propose depending on the complexity and needs of the job”.

To maintain flexibility in remote reviews they offer clients a variety of easy-to-deal-with viewing choices, including connecting to a live session with an iPad Pro, iPhone or Mac laptop to view a real-time stream of what the colorists are doing. They can also use

Streambox cloud services and streaming for feedback. In some cases, Company 3 has employed Streambox to do audio reviews in stereo, on headphones or even in ATMOS to a compatible facility on the receiving end. These simple-to-deploy setups support multiple locations around the world, even when contending with some of the higher requirements like 4K HDR.

Streambox has been one of the few suppliers that could meet the technical and workflow requirements of Company 3 in these challenging times. Fraser takes it further, “Streambox has been very proactive in working with us in terms of taking suggestions and having their development team work with our engineers to make their solutions even better and more robust, whether it’s improvements to the Cloud infrastructure that will allow us to really have super low latency or changes to system capabilities. For a small, growing company they have been attentive and responsive in implementing our recommendations. Ultimately, the result is providing an even better solutionfor our clients”.

For Company 3 Streambox is a sophisticated tool that engineering can add their technical expertise to. Hull relates, “the game changer for us is the fact that we have so much control during sessions. That control allows us to push the boundaries of what network bandwidth is available to get the best quality image, even on the fly during sessions. We can even add a second Streambox to gain redundancy on a different path in case one of the internet routes happens to have an issue and switch seamlessly. In a real-world situation you need the flexibility to deal with any situation. We’ve gotten pretty sophisticated with these over the years and they’ve worked out well for us, and with some of the latest updates, latency is lower than ever and image quality is better than ever.”.

Although they sometimes deploy other “plug and play” solutions, Company 3 engineers are most comfortable when they are able get in and adjust settings to deliver the best possible experience for their clients. Hey, that’s what makes them engineers!

Company 3 has collaborated extensively with Streambox. They share information about what capabilities are needed and provide input as to industry trends. Company 3 is able to put systems into real-world scenarios for Streambox to apply fast updates, and have been impressed with how quickly they’re able to turn around new solutions that meet their needs. With such close contact over the years, Streambox has a good sense of what the needs are of Company 3 and their clients.

In the past Company 3 had turned down request for solutions for clients who were working from home. They were concerned that not everybody had the same bandwidth that a post facility might have. The Streambox components have been a great tool for Company 3 to be able to deploy systems and solutions and have them work over standard public Internet networks with residential-level service

Keeping Things Secure

One of the important responsibilities that Company 3 faces working with content producers is ensuring that all of their workforce solutions comply with strict security requirements. The fact that Streambox devices natively support full AES encryption really simplified the overall implementation process for remote workflows. Security Control access for the engineering team allows them to monitor and control who is logged on to sessions, note what part of the world there are in based on the IP address and ensure that everybody connected is actually supposed to be there. Engineering controls the data flow, the log ins, and the links to connect and content to manage their own security.

Company 3 services ongoing productions all over the world, from New Zealand to Budapest, to Ireland and locally within Toronto, and they have been able to deploy Streambox solutions globally. Leveraging the tools that Streambox provides allows Company 3 to offer a range of reliable solutions that were not possible even four or five years ago.

James Fraser concludes, “beyond just the scope of the products that Streambox has developed, the relationship between them and us as two organizations trying to solve problems has been very valuable for everybody”.

Greg Hull adds, “We like being part of the solution. It’s all about process and it’s great being one of the voices to get valuable information to a partner like Streambox to continue down the path of improved production experiences. And we think it’s the right path”.

The Post Production industry has a rich history of creative collaboration, with content creators, service providers and technology developers working together to drive innovation and push the boundaries of what is possible. The disruptive impact of COVID-19 has led to a new round of innovation and adaptation, and, once again, organizations like Company 3, Streambox and many others rose to the challenge.

Streaming Solution for Production Dailies

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Television and theatrical projects can take place anywhere in the world. To manage budgets, it is crucial to minimize the time needed for reviews and approvals. While long gone are the days of having to ship media around, the next advance of posting files for download still suffers from a lack of immediacy.

Now live review sessions can be scheduled for all key stake holders to participate no matter where everyone is located. Using one of the Streambox encoder systems on location by an originator such as an editor, colorist, effects creator, or audio engineer, live reviews can be easily conducted on a daily basis. For organizations that have an on-going Streambox Cloud Services account, a review time is scheduled, and everyone involved log-ins to the account and receives a high quality media stream in real time. An alternative method for reviews is to use a Streambox Sessions package. In this case, connectivity is provided on an as needed, case by case basis. The originator generates a code and sends it to everyone who will be part of the review. Reviewers enter the code and the originator sends out the stream.

Directors, producers, and other reviewers have flexible choices in how they can receive streams of dailies content. The most versatile manner is to use an iOS tablet or smartphone device over a WiFI connection. Steambox has software players for MacOS and Windows computers, and hardware decoder devices when there is the need to view material on reference monitors and hear multi-channel audio.

Unique to Streambox solutions is superior image fidelity with the ability to support up to 4K DCI resolutions and a variety of HDR color profiles- even on certain tablets and smartphones. Streambox technology also provides reliable performance with high efficiency, low latency transport even over public Internet connections.

Projects such as a theatrical release or television series can involve a significant period of time to complete. This makes it high likely that the principals are going to be moving between locations during the project timeline. Streambox offers effective solutions for reviewing dailies with fast and easy set-up, as well as flexibility in reliable remote viewing from anywhere using different types of platforms.

 

Remote color grading using Streambox Mobile Media Player

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Color Collective provides remote color grading using Streambox Mobile Media Player

Color Collective is a colorist boutique for features, series, and commercials based in New York City with review sites in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Color Collective has been using Streambox remote streaming solutions for a number of years. More recently, they occasionally used the Sessions remote service to iPads with some clients in Europe or on the West Coast that could not get to their studio in Los Angeles. They had also been using this workflow for assisting LUT development with DPs during pre-production and having good success.

When the global health crisis emerged, Color Corrective had a comfort level of managing remote workflows and this enabled them to move very quickly and get their customers up and running comfortably on their iPads and iPhones. The clients appreciated this, and it helped Color Collective meet the extraordinary demand for remote work to overcome all the various healthcare restrictions.

The Streambox Mobile Media Player app has been satisfying the needs of Color Collective’s commercial clients with Rec. 709 color extremely well, as it substantially cuts down review times by not wasting hours waiting for feedback. With just posting and no live reviews, there is a reliance on email or desktop products for reviews which is cumbersome and slow. Therefore, having instant feedback is really, really useful.

Color Collective beta tested the latest Streambox Mobile Media Player release and used it on a feature film project they are finishing up. All reviews were live and entirely remote. The production master  was delivered in Dolby Vision HDR. Prior to having a full HDR Streambox Mobile Media Player workflow, they would have had to do any live sessions in the SDR color, and post a H.265 file for HDR review.  For this latest project they needed to do real-time client reviews in HDR using P3 D65 PQ gamma. The director was in Los Angeles, the producers in the Pacific Northwest, and the DP in Portland, and participated in many live review sessions all in HDR on iPad Pro tablets.

The Streambox advanced codec has been enhanced in the latest version of the Streambox Mobile Media player to support 10-bit HDR, providing much higher color fidelity with minimal visual artifacts or banding. The app offers the user the ability to choose a variety of color profiles making it a highly reliable and usable tool to do remote reviews from anywhere.

Alex Bickel, the founder and senior colorist, considers the iPad Pro a decent real-world display. It is not a replacement for a full reference monitor, as it caps out at around 600 nits, and lacks some shadow detail when the display is set to the necessary HDR brightness , but says that most of his HDR grades do not often exceed 600nits. Even so he states, “the combination is an excellent substitute and an invaluable tool when you cannot get your project artists into a studio”.

Aside from the viewing experience, not having to render an HDR posting in order to share it remotely is once again, a big timesaver. Being able to do active reviews without having to spend a lot of energy engineering, or shipping media around saves everyone time and money.

Another key advantage for Streambox solutions, including the Mobile Media Player, is that the codec and transport protocol provides very high image fidelity even while operating across low bandwidth networks at low bit rates. Color Collective works with clients all around the world that have varying degrees of connectivity. Some clients have limited public Internet service, or their Wi-Fi is cluttered because they are in a city with many competing Wi-Fi signals. In addition to working on these networks, the Mobile Media Player app supports cellular networks as well. Clients are able to connect with 4G LTE and sometimes benefit from better bit rates. Alex points out, “the fact that we’re able to do this kind of review over an 4G LTE network is just remarkable”. For clients with more robust Internet service providers, Color Collective is able to increase the bandwidth to the device for review sessions. Alex also comments that the support team at Streambox is very helpful when it comes to fine tuning the stream to accommodate clients with varying degrees of bandwidth access.

Looking ahead, Color Collective thinks there are going to be many clients that have complicated schedules and they were already struggling with dropping everything to come to a grading review, who will be receptive to doing more remote reviews. Rather than attending or waiting at the end of the day for a posting, clients can connect on their iPhone or iPad in real time, even over LTE networks.

As an advocate for remote production workflows, Color Collective has built a remote facility in upstate New York around Resolve, a Mac Pro with NVMe RAID storage, and a Streambox encoder-decoder. The footprint of the equipment including the reference monitor is not large, so it was relatively easy to build out a suite to do all reviews remotely.