This years DV Expo (Oct 19-22, Long Beach CA) was even more exciting then last years show!! I strongly recommend that digital videographers and content creators put the DV Expo in their plans. The seminars and conferences were well done and the presenters were both knowledgeable and interesting to watch. The exposition was extremely focused and the atmosphere on the floor was electric! The products shown were cutting edge technology and the roster read like a who's who of digital video vendors.
New products for the new millennium
At the DV Expo major new products were introduced for desktop video editing. Unfortunately not all the products mentioned in this article are shipping. The Canopus Rex RT & DPS Velocity 2D are now shipping. Hopefully by Thanksgiving they will all be readily available. In addition to seeing them at the show, I had the chance to play with all these hot new products in private demo sessions and beta tests.
All of the products in this article have one thing in common. They deliver a more productive editing environment and they add power and features previously available only at two or three times the price!! The buzzword most often associated with these products is real-time. What real-time means is that you can play video directly from the timeline out to video without having to render. Not all effects are necessarily real-time, and not all products deliver the same degree of real-time features. For this reason I will add a note at the end of each products review called real-time reality. In this section I will explain exactly what real-time features the product does or does not have.
Real-time reality check #1:
In order to handle two streams of video plus effects you need extremely fast storage. While a single dedicated Ultra66 EIDE drive is more then adequate for single stream DV editing, you need more sustained speed for these real-time systems. I recommend one of these three storage solutions.
1. Promise FastTrack66 controller with 2 or 4 Ultra66 EIDE drives. The FastTrack stripes the drives in a RAID 0 configuration. This gives you tremendous throughput (over 20 megs per second) at a fraction of the cost of SCSI
2. Medea VideoRAID SCSI. That's what I used on my test system. The VideoRAID SCSI is external storage, and that's what I like best about it. It hooks up to the external UW SCSI port on your SCSI controller. To your system it looks like one big SCSI drive. I really like this solution. It is super easy to set up and configure, you can move it to another computer with a SCSI controller and it is significantly less expensive than an external SCSI storage solution. Note: These systems will work fine with a 2 or 4 bay VideoRAID SCSI. They do no require the 6 drive RT units.
3. SCSI. I have nothing against SCSI, except that it gets very expensive. If you are going to go SCSI, I recommend you get a small 9 GB SCSI drive as your system drive and then 1 or 2 massive SCSI drives for the video storage. I have found that especially under NT, an all SCSI solution works better then a mixed system.
Real-time reality check #2:
In addition to really fast storage, these real-time systems also require a screaming fast computer. For full real-time functionality plan on a PIII 450 or faster processor with 256 megs of RAM. I'd also recommend that you have a dual processor capable motherboard. Some of the products reviewed in this article require it, while others are multi-threaded for multiple processors.
Canopus Rext RT and MegaRex bundle $2999 (in stock)
The Canopus DV Rex has been the most stable and reliable DV editing product around. I've been using one since it first shipped and it keeps getting better. Every six months or so, a new feature is added, or the drivers are tweaked to deliver even better performance. Now Canopus has added the most significant upgrade to date. The Rex RT board turns your existing DV Rex into a dual stream real-time NLE. Even better, you can add the Xplode graphics card and get real-time 3D transitions and effects. If you put the DV Rex M1, RexRT and Xplode together, you get the MegaRex bundle. For under $3000 you end up with a tremendously versatile and powerful native DV real-time system.
When using Rex Edit RT software, ALL transitions, effects and filters are real-time. Better still, the real-time output is on your VGA screen, out analog video and out via FireWire. Everything is real-time. I really liked the ability to do real-time color correction and picture-in-picture. The luma keying was really nice, with no halos or artifacts. Hopefully future versions will include real-time chroma keying for blue screen effects. With Rex RT you can have two video tracks and up to 10 graphic or animation layers. All video effects, filters and titles are processed in YUV4:2:2. The result is that your titles are much crisper and cleaner, superimposition are artifact free, and complex 3D effects look awesome! Another professional feature provided in RexRT software is the ability to add multiple keyframes to most of the real-time effects.
If RexRT sounds too good to be true, there is one little 'catch'. You need a dual-processor NT workstation to get the full real-time functionality. RexRT will run on a single Pentium III processor, but you will not get full real-time capabilities. So while at $3000 the MegaRex bundle is a bargain, be prepared to spend an additional $1,000 or more for the computer to run it on. In addition at the time I wrote this the RexRT did not support Premiere RT. So if you want to use Premier, you don't get any real-time features. Canopus hopes to have support for Premiere RT 1Q 2000.
Pinnacle DV500 $899.95 (In Stock!)
The DV500 represents a major breakthrough for digital videographers. It is the first under $1000 video capture card that supports both DV/FireWire and analog video. It uses the same MPEG2 chipsets developed by C-Cube and used in the DC1000. The video quality of the DV500 is exceptional. Before the DV500 you had to spend $2000 or more for a hybrid (DV & analog) card. It ships with a breakout box for all the analog connections and has an external FireWire jack on the board. You can capture video from analog or FireWire in real-time to your hard drive and use both types of footage in the same timeline. The DV500 ships with Premiere RT and you get over 300 real-time transitions. These transitions & effects play out in real-time through the analog jacks on the breakout box. This is a very nice feature because it allows the editor to work in Native DV while and previewing on an NTSC monitor. Before the DV500 you required your camcorder to be hooked into the system, with the output of the DV cam going into the NTSC monitor.
The DV500, like all Pinnacles' offerings in the DVxx product line includes an incredible software bundle. I raved about TitleDeko a year ago when it first became bundled with the DC30+ card. It is still the best titling software around for under $500, and it's included FREE! You also get something very cool called Free FX. The Free FX are 3D transitions that tap into the power of your 3D graphics card to accelerate the rendering. These effects require you to have a pretty powerful card (ie Viper 770, ATI Rage Fury, Matrox G400), but most current systems can be configured with one of these cards for less then a $100 premium. You also get Minerva CD Impressions for putting high resolution MPEG2 video on CD ROM. Rounding out the bundle is Pixelan SpiceRack with 300 transitions that are all real-time with the DV500 and Sonic ACID for adding audio loops.
While I really love this card, it does not have real-time DV output. You do get real-time output via the analog jacks on the breakout box, but DV/FireWire output must be rendered. When editing in Native DV all transitions and effects have to render, using the INSTANT video feature. So when outputting to DV via FireWire, the DV500 operates like the DV200 or DV300 cards.
Pinnacle DC1000 $1899, DC1000DV $2699 (in stock)
The DC1000 was the first card on the market to take advantage of the C-Cube MPEG2 chipset. I really love this card. You can read my complete hands on review here. While the features of the DV500 sound similar, there are three major differences between the DV500 and the DC1000 w/ DV option:
1. The DV Option to the DC1000 adds a third CODEC to the system, so you do get real-time playback from the timeline out both the FireWire and the analog jacks!
2. The DC1000 uses 4:2:2 colorspace, so it will provide superior video quality with complex titling, animation and compositing.
3. With the DC1000 the MPEG2 bitrate is scalable. I found that at 16 megabits per second the DV output quality was as good as the original footage. By delivering outstanding video quality at lower datarates, you get more data per GB and rendering is faster.
The DC1000 gives you real-time output via analog and DV/FireWire. You get the same real-time effects as the DV500. Unfortunately the DC1000 is NT only, and the FREE FX 3D transitions are Win98 only, so you don't get FreeFX. A Win98 driver for DC1000 will hopefully be available by year end.
Matrox RT2000 $1199 (coming 1/15/2000)
The RT2000 marks Matrox entry into the prosumer video editing market. In the professional market the DigiSuite has won countless awards. Budget minded consumers have enjoyed using the Rainbow Runner and Marvel products as well. With the RT2000 Matrox has a serious card, suitable for event videography, corporate video work and much more. It is a hybrid card that supports both DV & analog video. Actually the RT2000 is a bundle of two cards; you get the RT2000 PCI card and a G400 AGP graphics card. The base hardware uses the same C-Cube MPEG2 chipsets found in the DV500. The special version of the G400 includes something called Matrox Flex 3D™ architecture. What this provides is real-time 3D effects like page turns and moving titles. So the RT2000 has significantly more real-time effects then the DV500.
The RT2000 has one heck of a bundle as well. The included G400 graphics card is one of the industries best. It has won numerous awards from leading gaming publications and it supports dual monitors. You can't use two monitors while editing, but you can for all other applications. You get Premiere RT for your NLE software and Ulead cool 3D for creating tiles and graphics, plus Sonic ACID for audio loops. You also get Sonic DVD it le for creating DVD-Video and DVD-ROM titles that play back on your set-top or PC-based player. Other cool utilities include Infinite Capture™ to overcome the 2 GB file size limit of Windows 98. The FireWire interface includes complete deck control for accurate frame clip logging and batch captures.
While I really love this card, it does not have real-time DV output. You do get real-time output via the analog jacks on the breakout box, but DV/FireWire output must be rendered. While Matrox has greatly accelerated rendering to DV, you still have to render if you want DV/FireWire output.
Digital Origin Edit DV 2.0 $699.95 (coming 12/20, FREE upgrade if you purchase 1.0 now)
This new version of Edit DV for windows makes Edit DV the most powerful NLE application for DV footage around. They've added complete DV device control for batch captures and unlike other DV cards on the market, the original DV time codes are used. 2.0 adds multi-threading and support for multiple processors. When this is combined with their already existing AVA optimization for the new Pentium III instruction set, it lets EditDV render super fast. Draft DV mode lets you work with lower resolution proxy files while you go about your editing. When you combine DraftDV with the pure speed of the AVA acceleration and multi-processor/multi-threading, you get a real-time editing environment. You don't output to DV in real-time, but you get all the other benefits of a real-time system. Best off all, every effect, title, transition, and filter is accelerated.
The other really cool thing about Edit DV2.0 is that it fully supports QuickTime 4 and QuickTime Effects. This means that you can now use popular third party plug-ins with EditDV. Another advantage of QuickTime is how easily it ports to streaming video. If you want to go from DV to the web, the combination of Edit DV, QuickTime and Terran Media Cleaner Pro is simply the best solution around.
Edit DV 2.0 is not a real-time system, but it doesn't claim to be. Edit DV is lightning fast. If all you have is DV footage and you want the fastest editing solution around for under $1000, EditDV 2.0 is the winner, by a very wide margin.
DPS Velocity 2D $2999 (coming 12/20) & 3D $4999 (now shipping)
DPS has finally replaced the old reliable Perception technology with new powerful hardware that delivers professional/commercial quality video and animation support at price levels even prosumers can afford! The Veleocity is actually the name of the real-time software DPS has ported to its Reality hardware. So the the Velocity 2D bundle includes the Velocity software and the Reality hardware for under $3000. For 2 grand more you can add their real-time 3D daughter card. The Velocity software is loaded with professional features like luma & chroma keying, time base correction, vectorscopes and color correction, and of course fantastic real-time effects, transitions and filters.
Velocity is definitely a professional product with component, Y/C and composite in & out. It lets you use uncompressed or compressed video for the absolute best possible video quality, especially when compositing and animation work is required. The integrated Ultra-Wide SCSI 3 controller allows video to pass directly to the drives, so there is no PCI bottleneck. A real-time DVoption will be available that will also support Serial Digital Interface for broadcast work.
The coolest feature about Velocity is its virtual file system. This lets you get instant access to any frame or series of frames within a video clip for use in animation, compositing, painting or other high-end professional effects environment. A feature that for most of us means nothing, but to the professional who needs it is invaluable.
This is a 100% bona fide real-time system. With the 3D module it's going to cost around $5k, but for the serious professional it's worth every penny. The DV add option is expensive because it's tied to the SDI option, so it's not really intended for prosumer DV cams.
You will need very fast storage to handle dual stream uncompressed video, so we are recommending one of our VideoRAID RT units or a pair of U2W Cheetahs with Velocity. We also suggest you build your NT workstation with all SCSI storage. That way you can put the audio on a seperate SCSI drive.
There you have it, the hottest new cards and technology for the new millennium, from the leading vendors in the industry.
All of these products are cutting edge technology and very powerful. We are in the middle of a major revolution in product/ price / performance. Both the DV500 and the RT2000 are perfect for videographers migrating from analog to DV equipment. You'll get to use all your old equipment and the latest DV/FireWire technology together. If you've already migrated to DV, then the MegaRex bundle lets you go to a true, real-time Native DV system. If you have DV and you want the a highly productive editing environment without having to spend thousands of dollars, EditDV 2.0 is the way to go. If you have a professional/ commercial editing suite and betacam quality is more important then DV, I can't say enough about the DPS Velocity. As you can see, the new millennium has something new for digital videographers of every level.