Late in 2020 LWKS Software was formed, led by former EditShare executives. LWKS acquired the Lightworks NLE and QScan ACQ systems from EditShare. The NLE has been used to edit major TV shows and films, including “LA Confidential,” “Pulp Fiction” and “The King’s Speech.”
With a simple, intuitive UI, easy timeline editing and trimming and real-time audio and video FX, the popularity of the NLE among those creating content for YouTube, Twitch and other platforms is growing, according to LWKS.
QScan AQC is used to ensure content meets technical standards by a variety of media organizations, including NHK, Apple, and Netflix.
Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with Daniel Roques, QScan Product Manager for LWKS. He brought us up to speed with some of the latest QScan and LWKS developments and more background about product developments in AI and the expanding HDR space.
PH: LWKS was recently established in 2020, but the principles of the company have been in the industry for quite a while. Tell us a little bit about yourselves and why form LWKS? Have there been any growing pains with the new organization?
Daniel Roques: These are exciting times at LWKS, we may have only just celebrated our half-birthday, but QScan, our automated QC platform, Lightworks, our NLE, and our senior team have an industry pedigree that has taken 20 years to build.
We proposed acquiring QScan and Lightworks from EditShare a year ago as their ambitions are clearly expressed to be in storage. We want the creative community to discover – and rediscover – using Lightworks as a craft editor and to cast the chore of quality checking video into ancient history with QScan.
Establishing a company in a pandemic, entirely remotely, across five countries and collaborating successfully six months later to launch major product releases is something the whole LWKS team can be immensely proud of. For those of us who already knew each other it has been totally straightforward, and our personal productivity has soared. For those who have joined along the way, we have had to be diligent to ensure we keep everyone connected through a number of group video calls, one to one sessions and group chats.
PH: AI seems to have permeated the production and post production space almost everywhere. What is the significance of automating advanced features of QSCAN 2021? Especially for HDR? Is there that much movement in that type of workflow and later in the distribution model?
Daniel Roques: Automated QC drastically reduces the review and validation time of media content by immediately identifying technical problems, perceptual quality problems or guaranteeing compliance to technical and quality standards.
Human supervision cannot cover all these at once, it’s impossible. Even with multiple tools, it is a tedious and time-consuming process. By automating QC, the human intervention is minimized and time is reduced and everyone can get on with creating new content.
HDR is now becoming a standard almost everywhere. Companies such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO and Disney+ now publish massive amounts of HDR content on their platforms. Thousands of post-production companies deliver HDR content to them. This content needs to go through a validation and Quality Control process before it is handed off to the OTT providers, requiring more technical knowledge and specialized tools to achieve compliance.
By automating the HDR validation process, QScan once again reduces the time required to perform these tasks, heavily reduces the investment needed, and automatically provides reports detailing any problems and where they can be found in the HDR content. Essentially, it achieves complete compliance with the OTT services standards, automatically.
PH: If QSCAN detects an error or anomaly, does the operator have to stop and send it back to the editor if it is at this point? Can QSCAN 2021 be utilized to check sources pre edit? Where do you think QSCAN fits best in the workflow?
Daniel Roques: As a result of a QC job in QScan, a report is generated (HTML, PDF, XML). This report will have information about what has been detected, where it was detected, how long the problem lasts, and visual references for better understanding. But this process does not need to happen only at the end of the content creation process.
An enormous advantage of QScan is that users can do Quality Control at any stage. It can happen at ingest of the source content, during and after editing, after exporting, and when it is transcoded to other formats. This stops problems from making their way down the supply chain and causing further issues that take even more time to correct at the end of the process.
Think about a manufacturing line: not only the final product needs to be quality controlled, but there are several checkpoints in the line to ensure that no anomalies have been introduced in any stage of the manufacturing process: at the arrival of raw materials, after any manipulation of any kind, with the finished goods, after delivering, etc., media content creation should not be different to any other manufacturing process.
PH: Let’s talk about the different levels of users. Can someone who is just moving into this space “figure it out” or do they need to get an engineer involved? You mention in your press release the “occasional use”. Where do they fit in? What is the learning curve and what might be an advanced application versus just starting out with the free version?
Daniel Roques: We want QC to be available for everyone, regardless of the experience level. We are the first to democratize QC by making a complex technical tool incredibly simple and available to all knowledge levels of the media creation industry. QScan is designed in such a way that any user can perform an AQC in just three clicks; select a file, select a pre-defined template and go! QScan will then worry about the technicalities of the AQC and provide an easy-to-understand report.
Additionally, many users out there, no matter whether they are just starting out or seasoned professionals, might only need AQC a few times per month, per quarter or per year. So, we wanted to make the financials simple too. Why pay thousands of dollars up front for something that will only be used occasionally, or several times per year? If it is only needed once, you can purchase our monthly license. If you’re working at a Post House and need AQC every day you can choose between the annual license or the perpetual license. There’s a cost-effective package for everyone. I think the business model will change the media QC landscape for good.
QScan is a powerful AQC platform. For advanced users who require higher throughput and more sophisticated measurements, who need HDR; IMF, DCP, DPX, MXF, DPP, Video Gamut, dead pixel, etc., QScan also provides all the tools and analysis volume needed and can deliver industrial quantities of files to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
PH: Has having the web-based GUI facilitated this new “remote” working model or was that always part of the plan? What do customers say?
Daniel Roques: QScan’s web-based GUI has always been part of the product. Remote production was important before the pandemic, now it’s critical and QScan’s natively remote nature means the AQC can happen anywhere; on premise, in the cloud, or even in highly complex hybrid configurations. You can QC your content seamlessly regardless.
The new user interface makes QScan much more accessible to all levels of user, and after five years of new features, it needed some architectural changes to keep the experience and feel of the product in line with its QC power.
PH: Can you give us some examples of where QSCAN 2021 is in use right now? Can you mention anyone by name?
Daniel Roques: QScan 2021 was downloaded and used by hundreds of users in the first week alone. It’s difficult to give only one name. But if we have to mention one, it would be The Finish Line. They needed to have IMF, HDR advanced measurements and pre-made templates for delivering content to Amazon and Netflix.
At The Finish Line we have been using QSCAN for over a year now. We still own but no longer use a competing product that we had in place for many years before the move to QSCAN. We decided to take a gamble and switch platforms because we felt the QSCAN team had more passion and bigger plans for their AQC system than other providers. We have been proven right on this with their continued development and ability to look at the market and what is coming so they can develop for it allowing us to be best prepared for the future. An example of this is their IMF and HDR testing including Dolby Vision analysis which is best in class and very handy to have at our finger tips.
The latest version is a great set of refinements for the user interface on what was already a very powerful engine. I think for new users this rebuild really will reduce the barrier to entry in using QSCAN.
One thing that is especially handy with QSCAN is being able to send tech specs to them to have templates made for analysing to the spec of various broadcasters. Not only is this great and handy for us, it will also help new users arriving to use the platform for the first time to have easy access for templates that will check for any broadcaster they need to deliver to. Their support is 100% at the top of the market which is really important when you are in the world of television deliveries and tight deadlines.
PH: Is there anything I missed or is there anything you would like to add?
Daniel Roques: I can’t really mention too much, but you can probably imagine what a product roadmap would look like for a company that has both an AQC platform and an Oscar® and Emmy® winning pro NLE platform… We’ve got big ideas and the technology and expertise to bring them to fruition. It’s a cliche, but ‘watch this space’ it’s going be an exciting year!