Videoguys' NAB '99 Review

I just got back from NAB '99 and my head is still spinning. We are on the brink of a video revolution that is going to make digital video production easier, faster and less expensive.
Even more important, NAB '99 will mark the official release of MPEG2 video editing. Why is MPEG2 so special? Because it is the first video compression that supports non-linear editing for all formats of video. VHS, 8mm, Hi8, SVHS, DV, DVC Pro on up to broadcast quality. Even more important, MPEG2 video can be put on CD-ROM, Video CD, and DVD or you can stream it over the Internet. Even better, the newest MPEG2 chipset from C-Cube supports real time, dual stream 2D transitions and effects! It looks like it's going to be the Holy Grail of digital videography. A few years from now, we may look back at NAB '99 as the beginning of the end for video tape and the transformation of video from a linear medium to one of random access. Just imagine having all your video archived on CD or DVD. If you want to find all the clips of the family dog, you just pull them out of the index. Want to skip from the baby being born straight to the first home run she hit in little league? No rewinding, fast-forwarding or searching. Every scene is indexed and just a click of the remote or mouse away. At NAB '99 I saw the future of video, and tape was not in it!!

But while I'm sure you find my forecast interesting, I know what you really want. You want to know about what I saw at the show that you will be able to buy now, or at least this year. Well, as usual, I have so much information that I'm going to list it in alphabetical order. It's the only way I could make sure I left nothing out!! I'm only going to list Windows based DTV solutions in this article. Apple made some very big news at the show with the introduction of Quicktime 4.0 and Final Cut Pro. But, I'll leave that for my upcoming article on DTV for Macs.

Artel Boris FX 4.0
With the introduction of 4.0 Boris FX gets a whole new interface. You now get 3 scalable windows that you can position yourself anywhere you want. This makes it a much friendlier working environment. In addition to the new look you get much more control of objects and motion paths.

The most important new feature to me is RAM Preview. This means that when you create an effect or sequence in Boris, you can set up a RAM buffer for real-time previews. This is an incredible feature. Before if you made a 10 second segment with complex 3D motion path sequence and several video tracks you could wait a minute or two for the preview. With RAM Preview it is almost instantaneous. Better still, Boris now takes full advantage of multi-processor support, so when you have to render out the final video in full resolution it is lightning fast.

A new 3D Titler module was not yet finished at the show, but it was demonstrated in Boris AE 3.0 for After Effects. I am very excited to tell you that this same titling module will be available as a free download for all 4.0 owners. Existing Boris FX Pro owners can order the upgrade to 4.0 for $249.95 by calling 800 323-2325. Click here for more info.

Canopus had three very important announcements at the show. The first was that effective May 1st, the DV Rex and DV Raptor would be bundled with Adobe Premiere 5.1. Canopus will still support Ulead Media Studio Pro, but all bundles will now include Premiere 5.1 or 5.1 le.

The second big announcement was DV Rex RT. Jan Piros gave me an incredible demo which left me stunned. I expected to see real time transitions, and Rex RT has plenty of them. But what blew me away was the multiple layers of real time titling and filters. Want to put a semi transparent logo in the bottom corner of the entire video? No problem and no rendering! Want to add multiple filters over a 60 second section of video. Click a few buttons and press play. No rendering, just play it instantly! This usually takes hours to do! Want to key one moving video image over another? No problem and no rendering! Even more significant, Rex RT software uses YUV colorspace, so keying is exceptionally sharp with no halos or artifacts. Rex RT requires NT, dual Pentium II or III processors, and the Rex RT software. Support for Premiere 5.1 RT is planned, but at least 6 months away. Existing DV Rex owners will be able to add the RT board and software to their existing Rex systems for well under $2000, with a $4000 target for the complete RT bundle (DV Rex & Rex RT).

The third big announcement from Canopus is Amber. Amber is an extremely high quality real time MPEG2 encoder board. It can be used in a system with DV Raptor or DV Rex or on its own. Amber produced the sharpest, crispest MPEG2 video I've ever seen. Amber will ship with a Panasonic DVD RAM drive for about $2500. Amber is intended to let professional digital videographers archive and master from MPEG2 DVD. All files created with Amber can be imported into third party DVD authoring tools for creating interactive DVD titles. As I was finishing this article I learned that Amber will be shipping with a DVD authoring program, but I was unable to get any more information before my deadline. Canopus also told me that we will be offering existing DV Rex & DV Raptor owners a special discount on Amber. Click here for more info.

Digital Origin
Digital Origin finally made it official. Edit DV for Windows is here! I got a one-on-one demo of Edit DV Windows from Mike Jennings, their DV guru. It was everything I'd hoped for and more. The biggest features of Edit DV that set it head and shoulders above any other DV editing application are Live DV and draft DV. Live DV means that you can preview, scrub and trim directly from the timeline out to your DV device. You do not have to run any special playback utility or render first. All video clips appear both in the preview window on your computer monitor and out to a monitor via FireWire. Draft DV lets you work with low res proxy files of your video while you edit. As a result, all previews are in practically real time! A 1-second dissolve took 4 seconds on a PIII 500 machine. With the shipping version that could be under 3 seconds!! Speaking of Pentium III machines, Edit DV will take full advantage of Digital Origins new Accelerated Video Architecture (AVA), which is designed to fully utilize the new SIMD extensions in the Pentium III. Mike told me that rendering was almost 50% faster on a PIII500 over a PII450. That is a very significant statistic. EditDV on a PIII 500 will give you a 1-second dissolve in under 8 seconds! Edit DV also has an improved titler and 3rd party plug-in support will be added shortly. Owners of PhotoDV, MotoDV or Truevision Bravado DV can save $100 by pre-ordering Edit DV for Windows software from The Electronic Mailbox for $499.95. This offer is limited to 299 units. A full version of Edit DV w/ FireWire hardware will cost around $799.95 Versions of Edit DV for computers now shipping with FireWire hardware built in is planned for later this year. Click here for more info.

The other new product announced by Digital Origin is RotoDV. This very cool program lets you paint and draw directly onto your DV footage. You can use it to add x's and o's like the telestrators used on broadcast sports, or you can draw a light saber in your kids hand. If you are really talented you can make someone breath fire, levitate objects or even walk through walls.

The big news out of Fast was 601. 601 is amazing. It uses the new C-Cube MPEG2 chipset and Fast's own Studio software to deliver real time, dual stream video content in just about every video format known to mankind. 601 is expensive, but I always say, what I see at NAB this year for over 10 grand will be available next year, in some form or another, for well under $5k. If Fast doesn't do it, someone else will.

The other news out of Fast was the arrival of Speed Razor 4.7. This is the much-awaited upgrade that will finally unlock the full potential of the DV Master hardware. The new DV Master Pro supports dual processing and multi-threading. Previews of all effects, titles and filters are in real time and rendering is dramatically faster. I got two demos of the new software, one at the Fast booth and one at the In:sync booth. Both companies are extremely proud of this new bundle and rightfully so. For making long format videos such as documentaries or independent movies, I can't think of a better solution. With the client version of the software multiple users can work on the same project over a network. DV Master Pro owners who purchased after February 1st, 1999 qualify for a free upgrade, those who purchased before Feb 1 can upgrade for $599. DV Master owners can upgrade to the Speed Razor 4.7 software for $899. If you've got the DV Master hardware, this upgrade is a must! Call 800 323-2325 to pre-order yours! Click here for more info.

Medea announces their biggest storage system ever, the VideoRaid 4/100. Using the latest 25GB Ultra66 EIDE drives from IBM, Medea has created the most cost effective video storage solution on the planet. With a list price of $4999, that boils down to under $50 per gig or screaming fast storage. How fast you ask? 36 megs per second sustained throughput for the SCSI version, 27 megs per second for the pci version. That's fast enough for dual stream real time systems like Matrox DigiSuite, Pinnacle RealTime, DPS Perception RT and Targa RTX & DTX. These drives are not only perfect for video editing, but they are the ideal mass storage device for web streaming content or video archiving. VideoRaid 4/100GB are now in stock, both PCI and SCSI. Order before May 31st and mention this article to save an extra $100! Click here for more info.

Medea also gave me a little sneak peak into the future. With VideoRAIDs being so successfully used on professional dual stream video editing solutions, they are getting requests for even faster, more sophisticated storage. They've got plans for VideoRAIDs with 6 or more drives delivering sustained throughput over 50 megs per second, fast enough for uncompressed video. Rack mountable, hot swappable & redundant VideoRAIDs are also on the horizon. Should one of the drives in these VideoRAID systems fail, you would still be able to continue editing! Then, after your project is complete, you can replace the drive.

I would not have believed it had I not seen it with mine own two eyes!! The toaster for Windows is really coming. The original Video Toaster revolutionized the world of video production. It put incredible animated effects and transitions in the hands of event videographers that were simply impossible to do before it existed. Unfortunately the toaster was based on the Amiga platform and while the Toaster was a smash hit, the Amiga could not grow beyond it. But like the mighty Phoenix arising from the ashes, so is the new Toaster. It combines eye-popping 3D animated transitions and effects with Newtek's existing 3D-animation technology to deliver an incredible video production tool for under $3000!! We've heard about Toaster for Windows before, but this time I really did see it. If they can deliver it on schedule, this summer, and add in non linear editing capabilities, it's going to be a smash hit!

The BIG news at the Pinnacle booth is the DC1000. Using the new C-Cube MPEG2 chipset it provides a real time, dual stream editing environment, and incredible video quality. The base unit will have a list price of $2499, with an optional DV/FireWire module for $1299. Put them together and for under $4000 you have a product that just may revolutionize the industry. You get a real time, dual streaming NLE system that supports both DV and analog video inputs and outputs. It ships with Adobe Premiere 5.1 RT and it lets you produce incredible video for analog, DV, CD-ROM, DVD, or the web. In the beginning of this article I talked about MPEG2 and how big I feel its impact will be on the industry. The DC1000 is the first product to fully execute this new technology. It will include a limited authoring program that will let you create a basic table of contents for indexing your CD/DVD. With CD-ROM burners now costing under $200 and available everywhere, you'll be able to make video CDs with spectacular MPEG2 quality video that anyone with a CD-ROM drive can watch! Pinnacle will be offering a very special limited time only migration rebate for existing DCxx and DVxx products. While the exact figures were not available as this article went to bed, it is expected that current owners of qualified products will be gives a rebate of several hundred dollars when they return their old board. Click here for more info.

The DC1000 has a big brother called the DVD1000. With a list price of $6995, it is only for professional digital content creators. But, it was so amazing, I had to include it. It's the identical hardware with the edition of Minerva's CD-ROM / DVD authoring software.. With just a few clicks of the mouse you can drag and drop your clips into a fully interactive CD-ROM. Complete with alternate video & audio tracks, interactive menus, multiple languages, and animated buttons. This level of video production goes way beyond just editing. But it gives everyone the ability to create interactive training videos, sales tools, video albums and much much more.

Pixelan Software
Pixelan makes a very cool product called the Video SpiceRack. It lets you add very smooth, almost animated 2D transitions to your NLE video. Well the SpiceRack has just gotten a lot cooler. Spice Rack Pro now has over 500 total effects. Organic FX adds over 350 effects that seem almost alive in how they move and grow over the video screen. Because the effects are 2d they render very quickly and are actually real time when used in any dual stream NLE editing application. Pixelan has added support for almost every NLE application you could want. You can get both bundles together and add over +750 effects for $299. Existing owners of SpiceRack can upgrade to the Pro/Organix bundle for $199, owners of the Pinnacle products that come bundled with SpiceRack transitions can upgrade for $249. Call us to pre-order your upgrade 800 323-2325.

The happy re-cap
There you have it, the latest and greatest from this years NAB. There were two other products I saw at NAB that although not DTV, deserve to be mentioned. The first is the Azden 400UDR on camera UHF wireless mic system. Now for under $600 you can get the same great sound quality and clarity of broadcast professionals. The second is the new Videonics MX ProDV mixer with FireWire. This means that event videographers can use their new digital cams in an A/B roll editing suite. If Videonics could develop some software to integrate the new mixer with Premiere and a DV capture card, we'd have the ideal linear/NLE hybrid edit suite!

I also have reached a decision about what kind of computer I'm getting next for my home NLE system. The new Pentium III machines are screaming fast. But what makes this new processor so important for non linear editing is the inclusion of 70 new instructions called Streaming SIMD Extensions that enable advanced imaging, 3D, streaming audio and video, and even speech recognition applications. They are specifically designed for such CPU intensive tasks such as image filtering and processing 3D geometric shapes. Canopus, Digital Origin and many others in the industry are already optimizing there drivers for the PIII. You can find out what they are doing by reading my Pentium III for NLE article published in the June issue os Computer Video & Camcorder magazine.

Based on my research on that article and conversations with many of my vendors on the NAB floor, I'm getting a new Dual PIII 500 Mhz NT workstation, w/ 256 megs RAM and an all SCSI storage system (9GB Barracuda system drive and external VideoRAID SCSI for video storage. I will be installing NT on this system myself and dual booting to Windows 2000 down the road. I consider this to be the basis of a professional NLE solution, designed for supporting all the latest dual stream real time systems as well as various CD/DVD recording solutions. I'm going all SCSI so I can chain multiple CD-R/ CD-RW/ DVD RAM drives together. This system will have a 10/100 network adapter in it. I want it for my cable modem, but I also want to be able to understand NLE in a networked environment.

I plan on posting an article on our website about my experiences with migrating to NT and such a powerful system. I will also be investigating what it will take for The Electronic Mailbox to begin offering turnkey solutions based on this platform. I do not know when or if this will actually happen. We will see how it goes. NOTE: This does not mean that in order to have a top notch NLE system you have to invest in a super hi end workstation. We have seen that our customers are getting more and more professional, and I feel I must upgrade to NT and begin working with these more sophisticated systems. I will still use my Micron PII400, Win98 machine for testing new boards.

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