Watchout's Next Big Step…um, Steps By Jake Pinholster

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So I'm counting myself privileged to be the first to shower accolades on Dataton AB. The Watchout guys don't mess around with this versioning thing. I'm just glad they are slow at this press release thing so I can write about it first.

Still in beta, Watchout 4 is an incredible leap forward in terms of the utility of the application for live performance and staging. I just don't know where to start… I think I might cry…

Version 4 takes DMX input to control the opacity or volume of each individual piece of media in the timeline. I didn't misstate that: you can assign a DMX channel to ANY piece of media, or one channel to multiple items. If that weren't enough, you can also place DMX output objects into the timeline and control DMX channel values using the standard keyframe/tweening Watchout interface.

You see what I mean about crying…[sniff]. Just so I never have to ask another lighting designer to close my shutters. The new Input and Output features also handle serial protocols, TCP/IP and MIDI. They have an extremely cool demo in the booth using a MIDI keyboard control surface to fade images and trigger cues.

As if that weren't enough, the new version also adds a new concept to programming that is essentially similar to nested compositions in AfterEffects. Using a feature called Compositions, you can create a new media object in your library that is essentially a mini timeline. Double-clicking on the object in the library produces another timeline window to which multiple images, movies, and audio files can be added and manipulated just as in the primary timeline. Then, that Composition can be dropped into the primary timeline and manipulated just like any other object. Finally, a solution to complex loops and onsite non-destructive editing.

If you don't want to nest everything in one timeline, a new feature, Auxiliary Timelines, lets you have multiple active timelines in the same show file. All of this is, of course, resource heavy, but the step forward in programming utility is huge.

I could write about this all day - there are plenty of other new features. One called Stage Tiers creates what are essentially layers in your stage window, allowing you to apply attributes like edge blending only to the displays on one tier, leaving others unaffected. There is a much more flexible and utile Geometry adjustment capability. It now exports movie and audio files directly from the production machine, creating Quicktimes of the stage window with full motion video and mixing down stereo audio files from all the audio in your show.

I have to stop…can't take it.

I think I kind of love them for this…

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