Learning Silverstack Part 2: Overcoming the Interface

January 26, 2018

In this second insight of a series with Pomfort Silverstack, you take a first-contact look at the user interface to overcome the initial fear of learning a new software. Explore the various layouts and workspaces available to better understand how you navigate the program.


Series
Bonus Insight: 24 Insights in 24 Days – 2018 New Year Marathon

Getting Comfortable with Silverstack

Have you ever had that initial sinking feeling of self-doubt, anxiety, and paralysis when you boot up new software for the first time? It comes at you hard and fast, right after the splash graphic disappears, and it stares back at you full-screen. Thankfully, one of the biggest hurdles with learning a new program is simply getting comfortable with the interface, and the sooner you are able to get to the point of understanding and navigating its most basic of sections, the quicker the fear of that unknown fades away. This insight is a quick house tour of Silverstack to provide you a birds eye view of the software.

Silverstack is designed very well in the sense that all the main controls are immediately within reach. The information that is important to you as a Digital Imaging Technician or Digital Loader is stored in different panels, and can be individually toggled on and off, or called into view by way of ‘Layouts’. They can be thought of as preset workspaces, from those coming from the Adobe world. There are 5 main layouts you need to know, and each layout has its own feature-set and core functionality. In the coming insights, we will be looking at each of these layouts one by one in practice.

This insight is using Silverstack LAB, though 90% of what we’re covering here also relates to Silverstack XT and below. There is the option to have the interface across two GUIs in a dual screen mode, but we will be looking at Silverstack today in its single monitor mode.

The 4 main layout buttons. I did say there are 5 layouts – we’ll get to the mysterious 5th layout at the bottom of the insight. All of these layouts have their own key bindings which make snapping between the different workspaces a breeze!

The ‘Manage’ Layout

I consider the Manage layout to be the default view of Silverstack – it’s the one layout out of the 5 that I like to rest on when idle. This layout provides you a top down view of your project at large, and is tailored around allowing you to oversee your files. From here you can jump around the project and traverse the many Folders, Bins, and Smart Bins you have created for yourself. Flanked on the left and right are ‘Side Bar’ panels – the left holds your project tree, and the right side displays file metadata for any clips you have actively selected.

I consider this the default view of Silverstack. The Manage Layout is a perfect resting workspace when idle.

You have the option to see your video clips as large thumbnails, or have them in a traditional list view. The list view, just like Explorer from Windows or Finder from Mac, allows you to customize what information you’d like to see. You can turn on and off specific columns to your liking, and even save them for recall for another project later on.

The ‘QC’ (Quality Check) Layout

You can think of the Quality Check layout as a quarantine room of sorts. I like to imagine the QC layout like one of those X-Ray machines you see at the TSA security check points at the airport – here you can thumb through the video clips one by one to rule out any technical issues as well as enter user managed metadata, flags, and markers. This is also the same place where we sync external audio clips to our video clips to prepare sound sync dailies or edit-friendly transcodes.

If you are using Silverstack XT or LAB, you can send this signal out to your calibrated reference display using a I/O device such as the Blackmagic Decklink, which is much more preferable to squinting at your GUI monitor for extended periods of time, and you get the added confidence of evaluating the footage on a color critical screen.

The Quality Check layout gives the shot more real-estate for your viewing pleasure (and sometimes, displeasure!). It’s always good to scrub through the footage to spot check for any technical issues as an added measure of safety.

Also built into this page is the Image Analysis Window which gives you access to essential visual diagnostic tools such as:

  1. R/G/B Channel Only Filters
  2. Focus Assist
  3. Clipping
  4. Exposure Range
  5. False Color
  6. Custom Framelines
The few essential Image Analysis tools at your disposal for visual diagnostic needs.

The ‘Color’ Layout

One of the strengths of Silverstack is its ability to crosstalk with many other color environments such as LiveGrade and DaVinci Resolve. The color layout is where you can create, import, and export looks from your project. In the case of moving grades made from LiveGrade into Silverstack, Pomfort has its own way of matching looks to video clips imported into your Library, comparable to way ‘Color Trace’ works from inside of DaVinci Resolve. More on all of that another day.

The Color workspace is focused on giving you all the necessary tools for your on-set color correction needs. The Look Library to the right is where you can store grades, very similar to the Stills Gallery in Resolve.

You’ll notice that the workspace is very similar to the QC layout. In fact, the only difference between the QC layout and the Color layout, is that the Color Controls and Look Library become active. The entire bottom bar is referred to as the “Audio & Color” bar. There is a small toggle button on the top left of the window that allows you to switch between the waveform view (as previously seen in the QC layout) and the color controls.

These buttons toggle on and off the contextual panels of the interface.

The ‘Config’ Layout

Just like the QC and Color layout, this workspace will be fully covered in another insight, but already at first glance you can appreciate what this panel is all about. The transcode configuration tab is where you can customize and setup your render presets. It’s extremely full-featured and one of the best strengths of Silverstack LAB. Note that these controls are not part of Silverstack XT and lower – this is unique to LAB.

Use the Config page to set up your render presets. Be sure to confirm what the edit specs are with the post-house, and optimize your dailies for web viewing.

The Jobs Detail Sheet

This is the mystery 5th layout I was alluding to earlier. Technically, this layout isn’t a layout at all but a sheet that ‘covers’ the active workspaces behind it. You can bring up the Jobs Detail sheet by clicking ‘Jobs’ on the bottom right hand corner, or using its keyboard shortcut. This special page lists all current, past, and upcoming jobs that you have queued up in Silverstack. We’re going to take a look at the Jobs page more in-depth in the next insight to see it in-action, where we will start to register footage into Silverstack and see how useful (and critical) this page can be than it initially lets on.

This view isn’t considered a workspace. It’s a ‘sheet’ that covers whichever workspace is active. The Jobs view is a list of all current and past tasks.

About this Video Insight

In this video you’ll learn:

  • How to navigate Silverstack.
  • Identify the five main different layouts available in Silverstack.
  • Recognize each layout’s core functional design.
  • Distinguish between Action Buttons and Layout Buttons.

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