Over the past several years the West Coast DV Expo has become a very important show. All of the major players in the industry are there, showing off their latest and greatest new products. The timing of the West Coast show is late fall or early winter, making it kind of a mid way point between NAB shows. It's a great way to get a feel for the direction the industry is going and what the companies have in store for the next year.
This was the first ever East Coast DV Expo. It was launched as a sub-show of the NY PC Expo in NYC (June 25-26). The PC Expo includes everything computer - hardware, storage, networking, software, internet, wireless, PDA. It's more like a small Comdex, aimed at corporate IT departments and power PC users. The DV Expo East was not as big as the west coast show, but there were some very significant product introductions.
Here is my report on the hottest new video editing gear at this show. It's very clear that a major product war is starting on the NLE front. Matrox, Pinnacle and Avid each had MAJOR new prodcut anouncements. As a digital videographer you have never before had so many great new products to choose from. If you've been thinking about upgrading your NLE system but you've been waiting for a reason why you should, here are 10 very good ones!
1. Matrox RT.X100 (IN STOCK $999.95!!)
The star of the show. Matrox has raised the bar for real-time NLE by leveraging their 3D graphics hardware technology with CPU intensive software FX. Matrox calls this the Power of X. I call it a real-time NLE monster –especially when you consider the $1000 price tag. The real-time color correction is very professional and the auto white balance feature is very cool. The real-time chrome key is phenomenal. Simply the best DV based chroma key I've seen to date. The field based slow motion is smooth and artifact free. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention the real-time DV output and real-time MPEG2 export from the timeline.
Even more exciting, you can now combine 2 layers of video with 2 graphics layers and 12 additional layers of filters and FX for a total of 16 layers all in real-time. The Flex 3D FX are better then ever, with a 3D cube, blur, ripple and lense flare added to the mix. Down the road Matrox will kepp adding new features and performance to the RT.X100, just as they did with the original RT2000 and the RT2500. This time the architecture is scalable, which means that as CPUs get even faster, you'll get new real-time features added in addition to new Flex 3D FX.
If you're ready to upgrade your NLE, the RT.X100 is a great choice, but be prepared to upgrade your computer as well. You'll need a P4 2.2 or Athlon 2000+ machine with 512 megs of DDR or RDR Ram and some serious storage.
2. Pinnacle Edition (shipping July 19th $699.95)
I'll be honest with you, I thought this software was really cool when it was Fast Studio. The gang at Pinnacle has made it even better. They've integrated TitleDeko and Hollywood FX into the program, and for DVD you can export MPEG2 directly from the timeline to Impressions Pro. The $699.95 Edition DV Plus bundle will include Edition, Impressions DVD Pro and Commotion.
Here's what cool about Edition. The interface is completely customizable to your workflow and you can map your own keyboard and GUI shortcuts. The video capture and media management tools are excellent. The instant save feature means that the program is constantly saving your work, while you work. Pull out the plug on your computer while editing and when you plug it back in and go back into Edition, your work is exactly as you left it. Background rendering is an extremely important new feature. With background rendering you NEVER have to stop working and wait. While your complex transition is rendering you can be trimming another scene, laying out a title, messing with your soundtrack or working on another transition. Heck, you can minimize Edition and surf the web or answer emails. This is revolutionary technology - I predict it will become a must have feature in any NLE that wants to be considered professional a year from now. Edition is more then just an NLE app, it is also a very powerful compositing tool. You can create extremely complex, multi-layered sequences. The 3D PIP lets you not only adjust the positioning of the clip, but the camera angle as well.
Pinnacle was also showing Edition running with a DV500 card. This adds analog I/O for capturing analog footage and using a standard TV Monitor for preview while you edit. You'll also get real-time dissolves, static titles and 2D wipes. Pinnacle will be launching a very aggressive Edition upgrade program for existing DV500 hardware owners this summer.
3. Avid XDV 3.5 (In Stock! $1499 for base, $2195 for PowerPack)
Avid was not at the DV Expo, but at 3PM on Wed. I logged into an extremely exciting conference call from a payphone just off the show floor. Avid announced the full feature set of XDV 3.5 and it is awesome. First and foremost, it is now a Mac OS X and Windows XP application. You will get both versions of the software in the retail box. Just move your dongle and media between platforms and edit. Along with the new OS support Avid has added what they are calling their Expert Color Correction Toolkit. These are the same color correction tools found in Avid Symphony and they are all real-time!
* Patent-pending NaturalMatch™ technology, capable of true color-to-color matching without the use of grayscale values to approximate color tones.
* A three-window view that includes previous, current and next frames, along with reference frames and split-screen mode, to let editors precisely correct colors between shots.
* Customizable, advanced vectorscope, waveform monitors and histograms, including luminance and chrominance.
* Three ChromaWheel™ HSL color offset wheels (shadows, midtones, highlights).
* HSL master controls (hue, saturation, brightness, contrast, clip, invert).
* ChromaCurve ™ interactive graphs with multi-point controls (red, blue, green, master).
XDV 3.5 also includes new DV device drivers which should make XDV compatible with over 90% of existing FireWire camcorders and decks.
Avid has also lowered the price of the XDV 3.5 PowerPack by $500 to $2499 and changed the content. In the new PowerPack ver 3.5 you will now get the full versions of Boris FX and Graffiti instead on Commotion and Knoll light factory. While supplies last you will be able to purchase XDV 3.0 with a Free 3.5 upgrade. This will give Windows users the ability to migrate to XP at your own speed. We will be offering these special Windows only XDV 3.0 w/ 3.5 upgrades at special pricing while supplies last -XDV 3 base for $1399, XDV3 PowerPacks for $1995.
4. ADS PyroPro DVD (In Stock! $279.95)
For those of you looking for a really easy DV to DVD editing and authoring solution ADS has come out with a bundle that is just right for you. The PyroPro DVD includes their top rated Pyro OHCI FireWire card with 3 FireWire ports. Then ADS loads in a ton of very easy to use and full featured software. For the NLE editing you get Ulead Media Studio Pro 6.5 Directors Cut and for the DVD autoring you get their hot new DVD workshop. This is a killer combination. You'll be able to edit your videos with all kinds of cool special FX and transitions. When you are done editing you'll be able to create fully interactive DVDs loaded with multiple menus, chapter points and other goodies.
I've always been a big fan of Media Studio Pro NLE software. beginners will find it much easier to use then Premiere, w/o having to sacrifice on the features and capabilities. In fact, MS Pro has more 3D transitions and motion FX then you get with Premiere. Like Premiere it accepts plug-ins like Boris FX, Hollywood FX, SpiceMaster and more. DVD Workshop is Ulead's first high end authroing solution. I think you'll find it comparable to DVDit! SE and Impressions DVD SE.
This is an extemely good deal at $279.95 - by itself DVD workshop sells for $249 and Director's Cut is $179.
5. Videoguys' exclusive SonicFire Pro bundle (In Stock! $199.95 w/ NLE or DVD purchase)
I've always been ahuge fan of Sonics SmartSound technology for creating your own custom audio tracks. SonicFire Pro allows you to take that technology to the next level. You can import your DV video clips into SonicFire and create your score directly to the video. Even better you can preview your new score in real-time with the video. SonicFire Pro also allows you to import your own music.
I have no musical talent. Sure I've burned my own greatest hits CDs, but besides that I have no musical abilities or training. I've tried to make soundtracks for my videos using loops. They all end up sounding the same - like something from a cheesy 80s adult movie. Worse yet, if they run longer then a few minutes it starts to feel like chinese water torture. That's why I love using SmartSound technology. Your soundtracks all have distinct intros and outtros. The audio tracks are named for their style and mood, not the instuments used. SonicFire Pro guides you along the way, letting you know which tracks will work best together. You don't have to follow these recommendations, but if you do, you'll never go wrong. The best part of all is that if you need to lengthen or shorten the track, it gets re-created to fit the new timeframe. SonicFire Pro is simply the best and easiest way to add great soundtracks to your video. If I can do it, anybody can.
Our new exclusive bundle will include SonicFirePro and our two best selling audio palettes – Scoring Essentials and Maximum Action. That's a $300 value, yours for just $199.95 with any NLE purchase.
6. Pinnacle Pro-ONE RTDV (shipping July 31 $999.95)
Pinnacle announced their next version of the Pro-ONE called the RTDV. This new model has added real-time DV output, advanced real-time color correction, improved video quality during real-time 3D FX, improved automatic motion tracker and several new real-time FX including spotlight, magnifier, lense flare, ripples and Pinnacle Magic. Pinnacle Magic is a real-time layering effect that lets you reveal one layer of video over another. You can customize the shape, size and position as well as the edge softness of the reveal and it is all keyframable. While not as powerful as the Matrox RT.X100, it has the advantage of running great on anything over a 750Mhz machine. The new drivers also incorporate many of the new features found in the DV500 DVD such as real-time scene cutter, TurboMPEG DVD export, MPEG2 import for re-editing of DVD projects with intelligent rendering and the new break-out box with FireWire. The price looks to be about $1,000 with Impressions DVD Pro included as a bonus.
7. DataVideo DAC-100 (shipping July 31 $249.95)
The DAC 100 is a low cost DV converter. It's got DV, composite, S-Video and Audio L/R in and out. It supports both 32Khz/12bit and 48Khz/16bit audio. The video quality of this unit is every bit as good as their DAC-2 unit (DAC-2 includes component I/O as well). Apple approves it for FCP and Avid has given the green light for Xpress DV. With a $249.95 price, it's the best quality converter for the money around.
DataVideo was also showing their new DV Bank FireWire DV Recorder. This intelligent FireWire storage device comes with a 60GB hard drive which will store up to 4 1/2 hours of footage. What makes it so interesting is the on board processor which manages the drive and allows you to record and playback w/o a computer. It also includes basic cuts only editing software.
8. Canon GL2 (shipping July 15th)
This is one sweet new camcorder. For the past 2 years the GL-1 has been one of the top choices for professional DV shooting. With the GL-2, Canon has improved on the GL-1 and added some cool new features. The video quality has been improved by increasing the number of pixels per chip for each of the 3 CCDs. Each of the 3 CCDs is now 410K pixels and you'll get crisp images even under extremely low light conditions. The new 2.5 inch LCD screen is brighter and clearer. It's got a 20x Optical / 100x Digital Zoom Lens and Optical Image Stabilizer.
Here is my favorite new feature: the GL-2 is also a 1.7 megapixel digital camera. You can save your still images on a SecureDigital/MultiMediaCard. The GL-2 comes with an 8 meg card which can hold 93 images at 640x480 Standard resolution. The same 8 megs only holds 6 images using the highest image resolution (1488x1128 Fine).
Nore: We don't sell camcorders. For 3 grand it's not for everyone, but it sure would make a great present this Holiday season.
9. Azden FMX-2 (shipping September)
Azden makes some of the best, most affordable microphone solutions for video shooting. The WR22 two channel receiver has been a mainstay for event videographers who need to wirelessly mic two individuals at the same time. Over the past few years Azden has been releasing more commercial/ broadcast solutions. Their 1000 and 500 series UHF mics are as good as any on the market, at a substantial savings.
The latest commercial audio for video product from Azden is the FMX-2 on camera mixer. The FMX-2 is a 2-channel field mixer designed for use by professional videographers. It features XLR connectors and delivers superior sound quality.
Azden was also showing the new SGM-X shotgun mic. This newest member of their top rates SGM lone-up of shotgun mics is designed specifically for use with mini DV cameras. It's a professional super-cardioid shotgun microphone with a wide frequency response and low noise levels.
10. Panasonic DVDBurner II (shipping October)
Upstairs in the recordable DVD pavillion Panasonic was showing their new DVD-Multi player. It will support DVD-R, -RW, -RAM as well a CD-R/RW. The addition of -RW is great for DVD authoring. I like to burn my DVD on a test -RW first, then watch it and test the navigation. If i find anyhting that needs fixing, I go back and do it again without wasting any DVD-R blanks. When it's time to burn for keeps, just pop in a DVD-R and take advantage of the 2X write speed. While the DVD-RAM format isn't useful for DVD authoring, it is an excellent storage/ backup solution.
The target price is under $500, which is more expensive then the Pioneer DVR-A04. If you plan on using the DVD-RAM capabilites for your back-ups and archiving, I think you'll find it worth the extra bucks.
Bonus new product!!
# Phillips DVDR985 (In Stock! $999.95)
This is the first stand alone DVD recorder that we feel delivers the features our customers want most. It's basically a replacement for the VCR. You can record from DV or analog and it's even got a built in tuner like your VCR for timeshifting. What I really like best about this unit is that you don't have to finalize your DVDs and you can record over the disk without having to erase it first. This unit supports the DVD+RW and +R formats.
For serious DVD production you are still going to be much better off with a computer based DVD burner and authroing software. But if all you are looking to do is get your video onto a DVD that can play on most folks home DVD players, this is an excellent, affordable, easy to use solution. At under $1,000 I think a lot of us are be going to saying "goodbuy" to our old VCRs and replacing them with DVD recorders. It's just a matter of time.
It's a wrap!
So there you have it, our DV Expo East report. Almost all of the products mentioned here will be available this summer. We've already sold a bunch of Xpress DV 3.5 to both Mac & WinXP users and so far the results are unanimous - it rocks! We are extremely excited about the new Matrox RTX.100 which is now shipping. I'll be posting my in depth hands on review of it later this month. Pinnacle's Edition will be shipping any day now as well. In August I'll be posting my hands on review of it running with some real-time hardware, giving you the first glimpse of the Pinnacle future.