AJA XENA 2K video playback and capture cards play prominent role in Gearless Visual Effects' feature film pipeline

August 31, 2006

Copenhagen-based studio delivers cost-efficient, world-class visual effects and film finishing using the AJA XENA card

Located in Filmbyen, the "Film Town" of Denmark, Gearless Visual Effects is an independent post-production studio that has contributed VFX and HD finishing on such high-profile Danish film projects as director Lars von Trier's Cannes Film Festival favorites "Manderlay" and "Dogville," Thomas Vinterberg's "It's All About Love," and Susanne Bier's "Brothers."

Since the company's inception in 2002, its business model has been based on using inexpensive Windows-based platforms to provide high- quality services to its clients. An integral part of this post-production pipeline has been AJA's XENA card, which, according to company founder Peter Hjorth, has cut the cost of professionally HD-equipping the studio's PCs by 90%.

The XENA 2K video card is AJA's top-of-the-line card for Windows XP, delivering uncompressed SD, HD and Dual Link HD and enabling customers to work with 2K frames in a flexible and future-safe architecture. XENA 2K enables ingest and output of 2K files via HSDL (High Speed Data Link) for integration with telecine and film scanning devices. Within Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0, full raster 2K files of any supported file format (DPX, Cineon, AVI, QuickTime, etc.) are instantly accessible for editorial and playback, without the need to render into proprietary codecs. All of this, coupled with the unique ability to output cropped and positionable 1080 HD and/or SD video, brings a complete and powerful 2K workflow to the PC.

Said Peter Hjorth, VFX Supervisor and Founder, Gearless Visual Effects, "The bottleneck in PC-based VFX work for features has always been the viewing and real time I/O of high-resolution sequences. The usual solution has been to center a group of VFX workstations around a single HD-equipped disk recorder or HD online system. The cost-effectiveness of the AJA XENA 2K has changed this. XENA cards give individual workstations HD and 4:4:4 I/O, thus making the production pipeline enormously more flexible since our VFX artists do not have to queue for real time viewing in the HD online suite."

The XENA 2K card has also proven to be a time and money-saver when it comes to Gearless Visual Effects' television work. Said Hjorth, "The simultaneous HD and SD output has made it possible to offer the broadcast clients a future-proof 2K HD SR master even though the projects are budgeted as SD work. In a format-confused world, it's great to always have the original images in uncompromising quality."

Gearless Visual Effects has also taken advantage of the fact that all XENA cards come packaged with AJA's own Machina software— the powerful standalone deck-control, playback and capture application that Hjorth nicknamed the "Swiss Army Knife" because it gives users access to any and all XENA-supported file formats, video standards and video conversions, together in an easy-to-use interface.

Gearless is using the XENA 2K card combined with Machina on challenging technical tests produced for the upcoming movie "Daisy Diamond," in which 24p-in-60i HD footage had to be played out for 25i PAL offline editing and 25p HD 4:4:4 online.

For Gearless Visual Effects, the XENA card has proven to be a reliable, affordable, flexible, and powerful addition to its pipeline. Already, the studio has several feature productions underway for finishing work, and it anticipates moving some of the HD online editing work to a XENA-equipped workstation in the near future. The XENA 2K card has truly enabled the studio to focus even more on putting the director's vision to the screen.
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