1998 was a banner year for revolutionary new desk top video editing products. Not only are the 12 products on this list (two ties) outstanding, but each one pushed the envelope of the current technology and has left an indelible mark on the timeline of digital video editing. Unlike last year's top ten list I have actually ranked this years winners. This ranking is totally my own, based not only on how much I liked the products, but how easily they were to set up and install and how much of an impact I feel they have made on DTV as a whole.
1. Canopus DV Rex M1
A year ago nobody even heard of Canopus and now they have taken the industry by storm. The DVREXM1 is a hybrid NLE system that lets you use analog and DV footage. It supports FireWire, S-Video, Composite, YUV (output only) and DAT audio (requires M2 add on). What really puts this card in a league of its own is the software. Canopus has written their own software based DV CODEC that renders faster than any other CODEC on the market. Even more important is Rex Edit. Rex Edit allows you to capture video up to the capacity of your hard drive, continuously, using a kind of virtual avi file system. In addition, you can playback cuts only edits in real time directly from the timeline. Canopus has been very diligent in releasing updated drivers with more features. DV Rex works great on Win95, 98 and NT. Do you want even more? You got it! The newest 1.5 version of Rex Edit includes dissolves, basic a/b wipes and titling. So it has become a fully functional non linear editor. Canopus still offers a bundle with the Full version of Media Studio Pro 5 software for jobs that require more effects, filters and fancier transitions. The most amazing thing of all, is that as I was writing this article I learned that the price of the DV Rex was dropping below $2000!! (Special version, no Media Studio Pro).
2. Medea VideoRAID PCI
Medea first introduced its VideoRAID technology to the industry late last year, just after my article was written. Had I been able to get my hands on one in time, I would have named it a Top 10 for 97. In 98 Medea took its basic concept of a self-contained video storage device consisting of 2 Ultra DMA EIDE drives and their RAID controller and kicked it up a notch. The PCI units are external. Each unit includes either a 2 or 4 drive stack plus a special PCI VideoRAID controller card. The 2 drive stack cranks out a sustained 15 megs per second data rate and a 4 drive system gets a whopping 27 megs/sec - more than enough for the latest real time, dual streaming video capture card technologies! Set up of a VideoRAID is incredibly simple and easy. Unlike SCSI that requires some degree of knowledge and expertise, anyone can install a VideoRAID in under 15 minutes!! Medea now offers a wide choice of VideoRAIDs of all different capacities.
3. Radius MotoDV (Mac & Windows), Edit DV ( Mac only) & Truevision Bravado DV2000 (Win only)
All three of these products are based on Radius' award winning FireWire capture card and MotoDV software. MotoDV lets you capture and playback fantastic DV video on either a PC or a Mac. The base MotoDV bundle does not include any NLE software, but it works with Premiere 5.0. What MotoDV has done is made DV editing more affordable then ever, regardless of what platform you are on. The same hardware runs on Mac, Win95 & Win98, with NT drivers due out by the time you read this article.
Edit DV is Radius' own Mac based NLE software program, written from the ground up exclusively for the DV format. As a result, it gives you features and performance that go beyond what any other DV system can offer for under $1000. Draft DV lets you work in a low resolution proxy mode so previews are rendered 4x as fast! Live DV lets you view your video footage out through the FireWire to your DV cam at all times, without having to leave EditDV. Other features include 3 point editing, multiple audio formats and, with the 1.5 driver version, batch capture and timeline playback. Hopefully this fantastic software will be available for Windows early next year, although no official announcement has been made by Radius.
The Truevision Bravado DV2000 bundle includes the Radius MotoDV combined with Premiere 5.0 (another Top 10 product of '98) at an amazingly low price. It is a complete DV editing solution that lets you dump DV footage directly to your hard drive, edit it and then send it back out to your DV cam for under $500!! Well, actually, the $499 intro price was for a limited time only, but you should still be able to purchase at this price when this article hits the newsstand. Even if the price goes up a couple of hundred bucks, Bravado DV2000 is a great product.
4. Pinnacle Studio 400
With all the hoopla going on about Non Linear Editing it's easy to forget about linear video editing. Well, I'm glad Pinnacle didn't forget. What they did was create what I feel is simply the best linear video editing system ever. That's right, ever. This $200 wonder gives you the same or better editing power than stand alone or PC based systems costing a thousand dollars or more!!. The Titling program is superb. In fact, it's so good that it will be released for their DC30+/DC50/DV300 products as a Premiere 5.0 plug-in called TitleDeko. But Studio 400 is more than a titler, it's a fully functional editor that can automatically scan through and log your video tapes, perform near frame accurate edits, add special effects, transitions and graphics and even create a continuous generic background music track.
One note though, while the box says you can use any camcorder with IR control as a source, I strongly recommend that you us a camcorder or VCR with either Sony Control L or Panasonic 5 pin edit hardwired edit control capabilities.
5. Adobe Premiere 5.0
When I first got a look at 5.0 at NAB I realized that 5.0 was much more than just an upgrade; it is a completely new non linear editing system. I'm not just talking about the great new interface or the much more intuitive commands. 5.0 is pushing the capabilities of the industry. Unfortunately when a software product becomes this dramatically different from its predecessor, you are going to hit some bumps in the road. The bumps in this case are compatability issues with some of the most popular video capture cards in the industry. As a result, many users have gotten a very bad impression of 5.0 and I think this is a real shame. When run with a capture card that has drivers written to take full advantage of its power, the results are nothing short of remarkable. Just as I was writing this article, I got a chance to play with what should be the final beta drivers for the DC30+. I finally got to use 5.0 to its full capabilities. I love it! The keyboard shortcuts make editing much faster and I don't know how I ever lived without 3 point editing. 3 point editing lets you automatically insert scenes that fill the open space in your timeline exactly, keying to either the first or last frame.
6. Fast DV Master Pro
The Fast DV Master was released last year and it quickly became the DV editing board of choice for many professional videographers because it offered DV, S-Video and composite in and out PLUS BetaCam output. This made it a great choice for pros wanting to gradually migrate their shops from analog to DV. Unfortunately, what many pros soon discovered was that they needed a much more professional and sophisticated non linear editing software package. Fast listened, and the result is the DV Master Pro, which includes in:sync's Speed Razor DV software. Speed Razor is an NT only package that uses its own proprietary file system, so there is no file size limitation on either capture or the final production. Speed Razor is not for everyone. It is a truly professional editing package that is required by end users who depend on their NLE system for a living. If you are going to be making video everyday, you demand a system that handles your workload efficiently and provides an environment that is highly productive. DV Master Pro is for you.
7. Pinnacle DC50
This product gets the award because it is dramatically less expensive than the other products in its class, with a far superior software bundle. What do you get for under $2000? How about a video capture card capable of sustaining 7 megs per second at full 720x486 resolution, BetaCam/YUV/Component video inputs and outputs, balanced audio, genlock, breakout box plus Adobe Premiere and After Effects!! The video quality of the DC50 is exceptional and you get the miro INSTANT Video Timeline Playback utility.
Pinnacle first introduced this breakthrough technology last year in their award winning, best selling DC30+ card. This feature only renders out your transitions and effects while using the original source avi files. What does that mean to you? It means you can create video projects up to 3 hours long with Premiere 5.0. It means you can create your project using about 40% less disk space than if you had to make movie. And best of all, since you don't make movie, you don't sit and wait. Rendering takes a fraction of the time, since only transitions are rendered. Even more important, once you render a transition for preview, it gets stored, so if you don't change it, you don't have to re-render it again. The bottom line is this: If you need to edit in BetaCam, you aren't going to find a better value than the DC50, the software bundle is fantastic and the video quality is even better!
8. Promise Fast Track
How do you get 16+ gigs of screaming video storage for under $1000? The answer is simple, with a promise Fast Track RAID controller. The FastTrack lets you take any 2 or 4 off the shelf Ultra DMA EIDE drives and create what your computer sees as single huge drive. By setting up a RAID 0 stripe, the data is shared between the drives. This results in sustained datarates over 10 megs per second, more than enough for today's MJPEG and DV video capture cards. Setting up the RAID is pretty simple as long as you start with a matched pair of blank drives. Back to the initial question. You can find the Fast Track for under $150, and 8.4 GB drives are now under $400 each. Put them together and you just saved yourself a ton of money that you can now use to buy other cool stuff like 3D plug-in software for your new NLE system!
9. Boris FX 3.5 & Hollywood FX 3.1
I'm a big fan of 3rd party plug-in software and these are two of my all time favorites. Both companies were chosen last year for the 3.0 versions of their software and the new versions just recently released offer enough new features that I felt they qualified again this year. Interestingly enough, both these releases are really stepping stones to 4.0 versions that promise to increase the power and features of these packages dramatically.
Boris FX 3.5 adds particle effects, much more sophisticated filters like gaussian blurs, posterization and and noise filters. The keying capabilities have been improved by adding chrome, 2 color and luma linear keys. As a result Boris is growing from a 3D transition plug-in into a more robust compositing tool.
Hollywood FX biggest area of improvement is that it integrates so much better into the host applications. You can preview the effects using the actual video clips from the timeline and you can scrub back and forth in preview. You can also apply it as a filter directly on a single video source. What does all this mean? That you get even more control and creativity at your fingertips.
10. Pinnacle miromotionDC30+ for Mac & DC30+Deko for Windows
Just as the DC50 delivers incredible price performance versus the competition, so does the DC30+ for Mac. Capable of sustained data rates up to 8 megs/sec in Macs equipped with a RAID 0 storage system, the DC30+ delivers video quality as good as the older established Mac video capture cards that cost 2 or 3 times as much. The DC30+ ships with the full version of Premiere for under $1000!! In a new G3 equipped with a single Ultra Wide SCSI drive dedicated for video storage, you can produce great looking SVHS quality video at a data rate of 4 megs per second. In a G3 with EIDE drives you'll still be able to create great looking video that looks almost as good as the S-VHS original. With the DC30+ you don't have to spend a fortune to create full motion, full screen, high resolution video.
The DC30+ was one of last years top products and now this year just in time for the holidays they have rebundled it. The new bundle called the DC30+ Deko includes the full version of Premiere 5.0, miroINSTANT video 5.0 for timeline playback from Premiere, and two really neat plug-ins. The first one is called DekoTitle and it is simply the best and easiest titler I have ever used. The titles look great and are super easy to create. The second plug-in is called the Pixelan Spice Rack and the name really fits the product. You can really spice up your video with these super hot 2D transitions. Pixelan uses the term organic to describe the effects. Basically what they mean is that the transition effects flow and curve from source A to B.
There you have it, my Top 10 products of the year!
Other outstanding products that were introduced this year that get honorable mention include:
* Truevision Bravado 2000 analog video capture card
* Pinnacle DV300 FireWire capture card
* DPS Spark+ w/ VideoAction
* DPS EditBay analog video capture card
* Seagate 18GB Barracuda SCSI drive
* MetaCreations Final Effects NLE Plug In
* MetaCreations Infini D 3D animation and titling software