1999 was the best year yet for amazing new desk top video products. In 1999 DV became the dominant format for DTV. Of the 12 hardware products featured in this article, ten are DV and the remaining two have DV options.
As 1999 came to a close two new very hot technologies have emerged: affordable Real-time dual stream editing and MPEG2 compression.
Real-time dual stream editing means that you can play your video directly out to tape from the timeline. With standard Non Linear Editing systems all titles, transitions, filters and effects must be rendered before they can be played out to tape. With our new real-time systems they do not need to be rendered. You just hit enter and they play right off the timeline! The result is a much more productive working environment.
The new MPEG2 compression is exciting for several reasons:
1. MPEG2 is a very efficient. This means that you can compress the footage more while maintaining great video quality.
2. MPEG2 video can be put on a CD ROM or DVD. While the cost of a DVD recorder is quite high today ($5,000+), the price will fall dramatically in the near future.
3. The coolest thing about our new MPEG2 products is that they support both DV and real-time editing!
MPEG2 cards give you the best technology of 1999 with the hottest new technology for 2000. As of the writing of this article the DC1000 is the only MPEG2 card shipping. I have included a special addendum feature to this article for two very exciting MPEG2 products that will hopefully be shipping this year!
Videoguys' Top 10 (actually 15) products of 1999
1. DV Raptor w/ Full Premiere
2. DC1000 & DC1000DV
3. Medea VRAID SCSI
4. Edit DV
5. Boris FX 4.0
6. DV Rex RT
7. DPS Velocity 3D / Newtek Toaster NT
8. Media Cleaner Pro 4.0
9. ADS Pyro / Intro DV / Studio DV
10. DV200 w/ Full premiere
Two more for the new millennium
#1 Canopus DV Raptor w/ Full Premiere $499.95
For the second straight year Canopus gets the #1 spot. The DV Raptor has become the standard which all new under $1000 DV cards are compared. The drivers are rock solid and stable. The integration with Premier is superb. The Raptor Navigator interface is clean and smooth. You can do manual, batch or seamless captures. Seamless captures let you capture up to the capacity of your storage, circumventing the 2GB file limit. The other cool feature that sets Raptor apart from the industry is DV loop-through. By sending the DV signal out to your DV device, then back into the computer via the analog inputs on the Raptor, you get full screen, full motion overlay on your computer monitor. Other cards depend on the CPU and graphics card to overlay the DV footage in a 1/4-screen window.
#2 Pinnacle DC1000 $1699 & DC1000DV $2495
The DC1000 was first affordable MPEG2 product to ship, utilizing the revolutionary C-Cube MPEG2 chipset. As my hands on review will attest, I really loved this unit from the first time I installed it. This product takes full advantage of all the cool features in the chipset including:
1. Real-time transitions, titling and filters
2. Fully scalable data rates. With MPEG2 you can get DV quality video output with half the datarate.
3. 4:2:2 color space for sharper animations, layering and titling.
4. Real-time DV output via FireWire with DV option
#3 Medea VideoRAID SCSI ( 26GB $899.95 to 150GB $2995)
VideoRAID SCSI is the third generation of VideoRAID technology. Like its predecessors before it (VideoRAID si, VideoRAID DV, VideoRAID pci) these units are top ten winners! In a nutshell, what VideoRAID SCSI gives you is massive external storage at a fraction of the cost of a traditional SCSI storage system. The 2-drive units are perfect for DV & MPEG2 based real-time systems that need the extra throughput to provide perfect real-time transitions and effects. With the 4-drive units you get throughput capable of supporting commercial NLE systems like Media100, Avid, Velocity & Toaster NT. The 6-drive units (called VideoRAID RT) are capable of handling dual stream uncompressed systems like Matrox Digisuite, Pinnacle ReelTime and Accom. What I like best about VideoRAID SCSI is that it is external, so you can move it to any computer with an UW or U2W controller. Even better, it sets up as a single SCSI device! So installing and chaining multiple units on a single computer is a breeze.
#4 Digital Origin EditDV for Windows $499.95(after rebate) Web bundle with Media Cleaner Pro $879.95
When it comes to Editing DV footage, I think Edit DV is the best software around. The feature that I like best about EditDV that sets it apart from all others is Draft DV mode. Draft DV lets you work with low-resolution proxy files of your DV footage. In draft mode I render a 2 second dissolve in under10 seconds! It's like having a real-time editing system for a fraction of the cost! Live DV lets you see trim, scrub and preview all video via a monitor hooked up to your DV device. I always recommend working with an standard video monitor when you edit. Live DV lets you do this without unnecessary rendering or previews. With Edit DV 2.0 (not yet released at this writing) Edit DV gets even better. 3rd party plug-ins are now supported as is multi-processor support. In a dual Pentium III system that same 2 second dissolve would render in less than 5 seconds! One other feature of Edit DV that often gets overlooked is that it is QuickTime based. This makes the clips created with Edit DV much more portable and scalable for the web or CD. Use Terran Media Cleaner Pro 4.0 (another Top 10 winner) together with Edit DV and you have what I feel is without a doubt the best solution for taking DV footage, editing it,and then compressing it for streaming on the web.
#5 Boris FX 4.0 $399.95 ( $299.95 w/ capture card, upgrade $199.95)
For the third straight year the latest version of Boris FX gets a Top 10 award. The feature in 4.0 that I liked best is Preview to RAM. With Preview to RAM even the most complex 3D transitions are previewed in near real-time. This makes Boris dramatically more productive. Now if I make a really cool 3D segment and I need to fine-tune it I can quickly and easily. The final output still needs to be rendered, but now I can fiddle with Boris all I want without spending the bulk of the day waiting for previews to render. Boris 4.0 also has a bunch of new filters and much smoother 3D motion paths. If you already own an older version of Boris, put the upgrade to 4.0 on the top of your shopping list. Boris FX has just announced version 5.0!! Anyone buying BFX after March 1st, 2000 will get a FREE upgrade to 5.0 when it ships!
#6 Canopus DV Rex RT $999.95 (MegaRex $2996)
Last year the DV Rex M1 was our #1 top ten product. This year Canopus has made it even better. The RT module turns your DV Rex into a Native DV real-time dual stream NLE system. The included Rex RT software lets you add hundreds of real-time transitions and effects. You can have up to 10 layers of titles and graphics all in real-time. You get color correction, keying, filters, picture-in-picture and more, all in real-time. Rex RT needs a lot of CPU power, namely dual Pentium III processors. As CPUs continue to get faster, we may very well see RT deliver full real-time features with a single processor. The MegaRex bundle takes the Rex M1, Rex RT and adds the Xplode AGP card. What the Xplode gives you is even more real-time effects and super fast rendering of 3D Xplode transitions. When you put it all together the result is clear: MegaRex is the professionals choice for real-time native DV editing.
#7 (tie) Both these products, Velocity & Toaster NT, represent major cost/performance breakthroughs for professional/ commercial non-linear editing. Either of these two systems will give you broadcast quality video editing. They both have component video in & out for BetaCam video format.
#7 DPS Velocity 3D $4799 (Velocity 3D DX $5695, Velocity 2D $2895)
With the introduction of the Reality hardware DPS has once again established themselves as an industry leader for animation and video editing technology. Velocity 3D combines the Reality card with 3D daughter card and the Velocity software. This system is extremely powerful. It supports both uncompressed and MJPEG compression at extremely high data rates. The hardware has a built-in U2W SCSI controller that avoids the PCI throughput bottlenecks that can occur with real-time systems at such high data rates. You get tons of real-time filters, 2D & 3D effects, animation playback and a whole lot more. One of the features I think is the coolest about Velocity is the virtual file system. This lets you access any frame of a video clip as a bitmap or other still image format!
#7 Newtek Toaster NT $2995
With the introduction of the Toaster NT hardware Newtek has once again established themselves as an industry leader for animation and video editing technology. Toaster NT combines the Toaster card with In:sync Speed Razor for editing, Aura for compositing and Lightwave for animations. What you get is an incredibly powerful system for editing and manipulating uncompressed video. Since the video is uncompressed rendering is very fast, even with a complex multi-layered production. With uncompressed video it does not matter how many times you manipulate the video, the quality is never degraded since there is no compression. With the introduction of Lightwave 6, the NT Toaster is a professional animators dream come true.
#8 Terran Media Cleaner Pro 4.0 $449.95 ($399.95 w/ capture card)
With all these cool non linear editing products on the market the question I get asked most by customers is how do I put my video on the web or CD wand still have it look good? The answer is simple: Media Cleaner Pro. Meida Cleaner Pro lets you really get in there and optimize the compression. They offer several very nice CODECs including the Sorenson QuickTime compression which in my opinion is the best there is for making really compact, great looking video. The other feature that sets Media Cleaner pro apart from all other web compressors is the ability to set key-frames in the compression. This gives you a ton of control over how the video ultimately looks. When you compress your gorgeous DV footage into Real Video using their compressor, you may find that the compression algorithm worked, but not the way you wanted it too. So the video looks good but the car passing by in the background is mush. With Media Cleaner Pro you could have set a key-frame in the middle of the scene that had the car in it. Now the compressor would work differently. The car would look sharper and the other parts of the video would be less crisp. Same bandwidth, but now the video tells the story the way you want it!
#9 (tie) All three of these products represent just how far desk top video has come. For under $250 any of these three will let you capture, edit and output DV video. While they don't offer the power and performance of more expensive DV solutions, the video quality is the same. All DV cards, regardless of price offer you the same great video quality because DV in = DV out!!
#9 ADS Pyro $99.95
For under $150 this incredible product gets the job done. While the included Ulead Video Editor software is simple, it will let you edit your video. The Pyro is a fully OHCI compliant IEEE1394 device. This means that in the future it will integrate flawlessly with any other OHCI hardware and software. So when more sophisticated programs like Premiere become OHCI, your Pyro will run great with it. On an interesting note, ADS announced driver support for the next release of the alternative Be operating system early 2000.
#9 Digtial Origin IntroDV $189.95
Digital Origin set out to make a product that would allow anyone with a computer and a DV or Digital 8 camcorder to install, set up and edit within 5 minutes. Guess what, you can!! The software was a breeze to set up and use. Yes it is very simple and limited, but it is also extremely simple and easy to use. If you just want to get started as quickly and easily as possible, Intro DV is the way to go. Best of all, if you decide you really love digital videography, you can upgrade to Edit DV in the future!!
#9 Pinnacle Studio DV $99.95
With Studio DV Pinnacle has taken their award winning Stduio non linear editing application and ported it to DV. And they did a great job! For the money Studio is loaded. You get great titling and effects. You get sophisticated deck control and batch capture. You also get a very cool feature call 'Smart Capture'. This lets you grab an hours worth of video at low res on 150MB of drive space. You edit your entire video using the low resolution footage. Then when you are ready to make the video for real, Studio goes back and captures the footage you used in your video at full DV resolution. VERY COOL!!
#10 Pinnacle DV200 w/ Full Premiere $399.95
What makes this product so special is the bundle. The DV200 is a great piece of hardware, but when you add the Full version of Adobe Premiere 5.1, DV Tools, Instant Video timeline playback and TitleDeko for under $400 you get a Top 10 award! DV Tools is Pinnacle's very cool interface for scanning, logging and batch capturing your DV footage. What sets it apart from standard batch capture capabilities is the fact that DV Tools will do it automatically for you! You get a thumbnail image of the first frame of each scene for the capture gallery. While pro-sumer videographers might find this feature cumbersome, I love it. I came back from vacation with 75 minutes of footage (most of it bad). DV Tools scanned and logged it for me. I then went into each clip and selected only the exact footage I wanted for my video. The end result was a very nice 30 minute videotape that required only about 8 GB total disk space!
That raps up my top ten products of 1999. But that doesn't complete my article. As 1999 comes to an end two very exciting new products are just days away from shipping. Both the Pinnacle DV500 and Matrox RT2000 will give digital videographers features and performance that you couldn't get for $3000 or more last year!! So I feel that I must include them in this year's best products article, even though they aren't here yet. I think that I'll name them my top 2 products for the new millenium. I'm sure they'll end up on my top 10 for 2000!
Pinnacle DV500 In Stock $899.95!
The DV500 is now shipping! Since it arrived so late in the year I am going to save it for my Best Products of 2000 list!! RIght now, It's got the #1 slot!!!
For under $1000 this revolutionary product lets you edit both DV and analog footage. Even cooler, you get real-time titling, transitions and effects. While these real-time effects are limited to the analog outputs (output via FireWire requires some rendering) you get a great improvement in editing productivity. You also get the ability to make high resolution MPEG2 CD ROMs using the include Minerva Impressions software to share with friends and family!!
Matrox RT2000 In Stock $1199!
The RT2000 costs a little more, but you get some great value for the additional investment. The RT200 includes a special version of the award winning Matrox G400 graphics card. Using special 3D Flex technology, this adds real-time 3D transitions and full motion titling! While these real-time effects are limited to the analog outputs (output via FireWire requires some rendering) you get a great improvement in editing productivity. You also get the ability to make high resolution MPEG2 CD ROMs & DVDs using the included Sonic Solutions DVD it software to share with friends and family!!