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October 2014
Issue: March 1. 2014

Review: Assimilate's Scratch Play

By: Tom Wong
NEW YORK — I am a DIT for a lot of commercial productions here in NYC (www.thewongcut.com), and the main thing about commercials is that they can go all over the place with camera systems, codecs/file formats, and workflow. You can have something from a high-end digital cinema camera, to multiple GoPros, DSLRs, security camera footage, and anything else you can think of — all rolling at once. 

Unifying the file format and codec as much as possible is a way to simplify things, but sometimes you just don’t have that luxury. Having a program that can pretty much read just about any codec for playback, QC, and to test some looks out is refreshing and eases up the day. From ArriRaw playback, to compressed H.264, or something oddball that you don’t see too often, being able to pull them all up in a streamlined player — to show the DP what we have, and to assure myself that we got what we needed — in a quick, easy, and timely matter is absolutely priceless. 

I was using Assimilate’s free Scratch Play player for a while, but paid the $5 for the ad-free release. It’s very negligible in cost, and for what you are getting, it’s a steal either way. I wanted to show my support for the company, so I paid for it. Either way, the ad-free version is neither distracting, nor does it really have any impact on your resources. Installation was simple and user friendly, but the UI for Scratch Play itself might take a bit of getting used to. It’s like learning any other piece of software. 



I think the Scratch Play can be used by anybody, for any number of reasons. Whether I’m generating looks with Scratch Play or the full version of Scratch, I can save those looks for the DP, and he or she can use Scratch Play to review footage later on with a copy of the footage. It makes great use of Surface Pro tablets, and it’s just as easy to use on a laptop. In turn, the DP can play with it on his or her own system and send me back ideas with the look up tables and their thoughts on how to refine the image. 

The possibilities grow from there. It can be a simple player, for review and QC, or a powerful creative tool. Scratch Play does cover a broad spectrum of codecs, including R3D, ProRes, ArriRaw, and Sony formats. Assimilate also recently added support for the Red Dragon camera. So the fact that I can play back high resolution, RAW, or not, all in the same place is great. It’s really the culmination of simple things, on-set, working correctly and smoothly, that really make my day. A player you can throw just about anything at is a tool everybody should have in their bag.