2003 was a landmark year for digital video editing. It will go down as the turning point that marks the changeover from hardware to software based NLE solutions. These new NLEs leverage the power and performance of your computer, as well as additional hardware. This is no small wave of change. It is actually a tidal wave that is as important as the DV Tsunami that revolutionized video editing in the beginning of the decade. There have never before been so many new NLEs to choose from and so many cool ways to save big bucks to get them. Before we go into the new NLEs and other gear that made our Top 10 products of the year, we've got to talk about the year's coolest market development – fantastic trade-up and upgrade offers!
2003 will go down as the year of the Upgrade/Trade-Up!!
If you own an older DV or real-time editing solution, now is the time to upgrade. We've had a slew of fantastic trade-up and upgrade offers for you since this summer, and many of the best will continue into the New Year.
Pinnacle started it all with an incredible trade-up offer to Edition Pro. Owners of qualified hardware (and almost every capture card sold over the past few years is on the list), can buy Liquid Edition Pro for $499.95 – that's almost half of the $949.95 sale price!. You must trade-in your old hardware to get the deal. Pinnacle just added a much easier upgrade for Studio & Premiere owners. All you need to do is order the Liquid Edition software upgrade for $399.95. You plug in your Studio or Premiere or edition 4.x serial number during installation and away you go.
Matrox jumped into the trade-up game as well with their RT.X100 Extreme. Initially, the trade-ups were for RT2000/2500 owners only. We had to get your board back before we could ship you, and the upgrade didn't include any editing software. Well now that Matrox has top-notch Adobe Premiere Pro drivers and integration, the trade-up has gotten even better. The new RTX100 Xtreme pro Upgrade Suite includes the RTX100 hardware, Premiere Pro upgrade, Encore DVD & Audition for $799.95 ( $1199 for the upgrade Collection which also includes After Effects 6). Even cooler – we can now accept back older Pinnacle and Canopus real-time cards!!
Avid introduced Xpress Pro and Mojo at this year's NAB. In the fall, both started shipping. As part of the launch, Avid introduced one of the most valuable upgrade programs of all time. For just $295 you get the upgrade to Xpress Pro with all its new features and capabilities plus Sorenson Squeeze & Sonic Reel2DVD. The value of the 3rd party software is well over $400 alone! And once you have upgraded to Xpress Pro you can use Avid Mojo.
When Adobe released the new versions of Premiere & After Effects, they took an different approach. You could upgrade either one for $199.95 each, or you could buy the complete Video Collection for $799.95. What a tremendous value, even if you own both Premiere & After Effects already. You end up with the upgraded versions of both plus Adobe's new DVD Authoring program Encore DVD and Audition their new audio editing tool.
There is one little catch to all these great programs. Odds are your older computer is going to need to be upgraded as well. Get yourself a new 2.4+ Mhz hyperthreaded computer with a gig or more of RAM and a 64 Meg graphics card. Throw in a dedicated 7200 RPM drive for your video files and you are ready to go! Click here for Videoguys' Recommended System page for NLE
So now that we've talked about these great upgrade & trade-up programs, lets get down to the Top 10 products of the year!
1. Adobe Video Collection
2. Pinnacle liquid Edition
3. Avid Xpress Pro & Avid Mojo
4. Matrox RT.X100 Xtreme Pro Suite & Collection
5. Serious Magic Ultra
6. Bella EZ Key Professional Keyboards with built in Jog
7. Canopus ADVC300
8. Plextor PX708A 8x DVD Burner
9. Boris FX 7 & Graffiti 3
10. Vegas 4 DVD
1. Adobe Video Collection
The much anticipated and eagerly awaited new versions of Premiere & After Effects finally shipped this summer and they have been a HUGE hit. The Video Collection includes Premiere Pro, After Effects, Encore DVD & Audition and at a tremendous savings. The Pro Collection includes the Professional version of After Effects and adds the full version of Photoshop for $1499. The integration and inter-operability of Adobe Premiere Pro, PhotoShop CS, After Effects and the new Encore DVD authoring application is superb.
With the new version of Adobe Premiere, Adobe addressed many of the weaknesses of the older 6.x versions. A top notch Keyframeable 3D motion control that lets you size, crop, rotate and fly your PIPs all over the screen, has replaced the clumsy motion controller. The new audio tools are fantastic. They've also dropped the old fashioned A/B editing interface for a more professional interface that lets you place your video, graphics and transitions on any track.
Adobe did much more than improve the audio and overhaul the interface. Premiere Pro can now tap into your computers power for real-time previews. The faster your machine, the better the quality and the smoother the playback. For even more real-time power and real-time analog & DV output you can add in a Matrox RT,X100 or Canopus DV Storm2 card.
After Effects 6.0 is more powerful than ever. The OpenGL acceleration gives you real-time previews of many effects, and even the most complex compositions can now be previewed as you work at reduced frame rates. Just a few years ago you would have paid over $5,000 for an ICE card to provide this performance!
The new DVD authoring application Encore DVD looks like a winner. I really like how well it integrates with Photoshop & Premiere. You can create menus & buttons in Photoshop, bring them into Encore, then go back and edit or change them in Photoshop. The elements move seamlessly across the two applications. Encore's got the features that videographers want and need the most. Add chapter points to your Premiere Pro timeline and they come over into Encore when you are authoring. You can also create Dolby AC3 5.1 surround audio tracks in Premiere Pro for Encore to author.
Audition was formerly known as Cool Edit. I really liked it as a low cost, yet powerful and easy to use audio editor. Premiere's got great new audio tools, but if you find you need more, Audition is the tool for the job.
Click here for more information on Adobe Premiere Pro and the Video Collections
2. Pinnacle liquid Edition
When Pinnacle bought the technological assets of Fast Multimedia a few years ago I knew they had big plans for it. I had no idea just how big they were. Pinnacle has positioned Liquid Edition as a competitor to the big 3 “A”s of video editing – Adobe, Avid & Apple. Guess what? They have done an outstanding job of engineering and Liquid Edition can go head-to-head and toe-to-toe with them.
What I like best about Liquid Edition is the solid integration of all its features and performance. The interface takes getting used to, but once you learn to edit the Edition way you too will realize just how elegant and productive Edition is. I love being able to author and burn fully interactive DVDs directly from the timeline. Heck, I hardly ever master out to tape anymore. If the goal is to produce a DVD, why waste time with extra steps?!?
Background processing is a killer feature. It means NEVER having to stop editing while you wait for your timeline to render. The faster your CPU, the faster the background processing. With a dual 3Ghz hyperthreaded workstation, you'll find that almost anything you do renders before you even need to play it back. Edition 5 also takes advantage of the GPU power of today's powerful 3D graphics cards, so you get even more real-time performance. Nothing comes close to the amount of real-time 3D transitions, filters and effects that come standard with Liquid Edition.
Click here for more information about Pinnacle liquid Edition and our upgrade offers
3. Avid Xpress Pro & Avid Mojo
A couple of years ago Avid started the software based real-time NLE revolution with the introduction of Xpress DV 3.0. (Outstanding real-time performance with no special hardware required, just an off the shelf FireWire card for the I/O). Well, the engineers at Avid certainly didn't sit still and watch as their competition jumped into the marketplace. Instead they leapfrogged them with Xpress Pro, blew them away with the Avid Mojo Digital NLE Accelerator, and then cut their legs out with a new improved and lower cost Xpress DV 4. I think the message is clear – Avid is out to dominate the prosumer low-end professional NLE market. So far, all I can say is “Watch Out,” because the new Avid line up offers a top-notch solution for every level of digital videographer.
With Xpress Pro, Avid has added a bunch of new tools that the more professional editor has been demanding. JKL keyboard shortcuts make trimming clips easier than ever. The already superb color correction has been made even better with a new expert automatic color correction tool that can color balance your entire video for you with the click of a mouse. Xpress Pro now supports 15:1s and other off line Avid editing resolutions for compatibility with all Avid systems new and old. Better still, all of the Avid PowerPack goodies – Image Stabilizer, Film Tools and Illusion FX are included in Xpress Pro. So is Sorenson Squeeze and Reel DVD le!
Hands down the best new thing about Xpress Pro is Mojo. Mojo is an EXTERNAL device that attaches to your laptop or workstation via FireWire. What Mojo then does is nothing short of remarkable. Real-Time analog & DV output for up to 5 streams of video! WOW! Want even more – how about the ability to capture and edit uncompressed video?!? With Xpress Pro & Mojo you can mix DV and uncompressed footage in the same timeline. No need to waste disk space when DV quality is all you need. You only use uncompressed when you really need it – for heavy-duty title and graphics and for complex compositing.
Click here for more information on Avid Xpress DV 4, Xpress Pro & Avid Mojo
4. Matrox RT.X100 Xtreme Pro Suite & Collection
The RTX100 was already one of the best real-time Premiere accelerators of all time. Not only was it very powerful, but the tools and interface Matrox provided for their real-time 3D filters and effects made it so easy to use. When Premiere Pro came out, we all anxiously awaited to see the new RTX100 drivers and how they would interface with the new Premiere. Well, it took Matrox a couple of months longer than they had hoped, but let me tell you, it was well worth the wait. The RTX.100 Xtreme Pro rocks! The integration with Premiere Pro is superb. No features or capabilities have been sacrificed, and the stability is rock solid as well.
With all the new real-time performance of Premiere Pro, I'm sure many of you are wondering just what does the RTX100 add to the mix. PLENTY!! With the RTX.100 you get real-time analog & DV output, in full resolution and frame rates. You also get real-time MPEG2 encoding for DVD from the timeline. Even cooler, the Matrox real-time 3D power plugs directly into the new Premiere Pro motion keyframer – so you can create all kinds of flying PIPs in real-time!
The new RTX.100 Xtreme Pro Suite is a fantastic value at $999.95. You get the RTX100 hardware, Premiere Pro, Encore DVD & Audition. For $400 more you can get the RTX100 Xtreme Pro Collection that includes everything in the Suite plus After Effects 6!
Click here for more information obout the Matorx RT.X100 Xtreme Pro Suite, Collection aad trade-up offers
5. Serious Magic Ultra
At year end,Serious Magic renamed their UltraKey product to Ultra. The reasoning was simple: Ultra is much more than just chromakeying tool. I could not agree more. Ultra is simply the coolest new product to hit NLE in a long time!!
First and foremost, it is one fantastic chromakeyer. As any experienced DV editor will tell you, the DV CODEC is good for a lot of things, but chromakey is not one of them. Since DV uses 4:1:1 color space you end up with artifacts, halos and spillage. The engineers at Serious Magic recognized this weakness and created a very powerful, yet extremely easy to use solution. Instead of just using a keycolor, Ultra actually analyzes the backdrop for lighting anomalies and defects. It can then compensate for these when doing the actual keying. The result is the cleanest, tightest, keying around.
But as I said, Ultra is much more than a chromakey tool. It is also a virtual set tool. You can take your talent and place them in one of the 20+ included virtual sets. Even cooler many of the sets include multiple camera angles, pan, zoom and even have the camera move through the virtual set. That's right, using Ultra's VirtualTrak system you can create virtual camera moves form your stationary camera shots. Pretty amazing, and with Ultra it is so easy to do! Ultra works with most 3rd party Virtual sets.
Click here for more information on Serious Magic Ultra
6. Bella EZ Key Professional Keyboards with built in Jog/Shuttle
What can I say ?!? I love using an NLE customized keyboard and I can't live without a jog shuttle when I edit. With the new Bella Professional keyboards I get them both! Many folks ask me why I keep recommending customized keyboards for video editing. The answer is simple – productivity. They help you edit faster. How? By using keyboard shortcuts you will be able to work faster and smoother. That's why every serious NLE on the market has keyboard shortcuts available. I've also found that these keyboards can make you a better editor. The folks who designed the software put in the shortcuts that the most advanced editors want. If you will take the time to figure out what each keyboard shortcut is, you will also gain access to an additional toolset you may not even have realized you had. The Professional series is available for Xpress, Premiere & Final Cut.
The Integrated Jog Shuttle is very responsive. It's positioned very smartly on the keyboard, between the keypad and number pad, where the arrow keys are on a standard keyboard. That puts the shuttle right under my right hand while I edit. Best of all, it takes up about the same amount of desk space as a standard keyboard, which is important in a cramped editing suite.
Bella also makes a DV series of keyboards, which are not color-coded. They have the built-in jog, and keycap stickers, which are available for both consumer NLEs like Studio and iMovie, as well as the higher end NLEs (Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Edition, Vegas & Xpress). For under $100 they are a great value, especially if the computer is used for multiple purposes with different users.
Click here for more information about Bella EZ Keyboards
7. Canopus ADVC300
The Canopus ADVC100 has set the standard as the best quality AV/DV converter in the industry. Digital editors at every level and on any platform use it. What sets Canopus DV converters apart from all others is their superior DV CODEC. The CODEC is the actual encoding algorithm used to convert your analog footage to DV and visa versa. Canopus uses the same CODEC in their converters as they do with their state-of-the-art real-time NLE editing solutions.
With the ADVC300 Canopus has answered one of the biggest problems facing DV editors trying to incorporate older VHS/8mm footage into their productions. Lets face it, the quality of these older VHS tapes is average at best, and the years of sitting on the shelf or in the closet has degraded the video quality further. The ADVC300 has built in digital image enhancement technology that cleans, enhances and stabilizes old analog video. We tested it with some really old footage that wasn't properly white balanced to begin with, and the results were quite impressive. I realize all of the new NLE applications have fantastic color correction tools, but the old adage "Garbage In = Garbage Out "still holds true. Older analog footage doesn't always offer a good enough signal and the AV to DV conversion degrades the image further. This degraded footage often isn't 'strong' enough for even these powerful color correction tools to do the job. With the ADVC300 you can will get the best possible video quality out of your older analog footage.
Click here for more information on the complete line of Canopus ADVC converters
8. Plextor PX708A 8x DVD Burner
It's hard to believe that just two short years ago Pioneer changed the face of video production with the world's first under $1,000 DVD burner. Since then, DVD burner prices have fallen dramatically as the technology and features have improved steadily. In 2003 Plextor has not only entered the DVD burner game, but they have established a leadership position. The Plextor PX708 multi-format burners are the first to ship with 8x burn speeds! 8x burns speed means you can burn full 4.7GB DVD in about 8 minutes.
Plextor has pushed the envelope in burning speed beyond just 8x burning. One of the unfortunate factors of DVD burning is that the fastest media is more expensive and usually lags the new burners by several months. So, although the Plextor drive supports 8x burn speeds, 8x rated blank media is still several months away. Plextor has solved this dilemma. Their PoweRec technology analyzes your blank +R media and determines the fastest possible speed it can safely burn. Pop in a high quality 4x DVD+R disk and you may achieve 6x, 7x or even 8x burning! The key to this technology is the simple fact that not all blank DVDs are created equal. The better quality media actually spec out better than the rating on the label. But beware – the inverse is also true. Unfortunately there is a lot of cheap media around that will not even support the 4x rating on label consistently. The Plextor 708 series handles this by slowing down the burn speed, rather than just popping out coasters. It may sound complicated, but the Plextor burner does it all automatically. What you get is simply the fastest DVD burner on the market!
Click here for more information on Plextor DVD Burners
9. Boris FX 7 & Graffiti 3
Every year the gang at Boris FX comes up with something new and exciting to earn a spot on my Top 10 list. This year is no exception. The new versions of Boris FX and Graffiti offer the usual improvements you've come to expect. Before I go into what's new for each title, let me go over 2 very important new features that both share
1. OpenGL support for faster rendering and near real-time previews. Now you can work much faster, without sacrificing a drop of quality
2. Multi-platform support. Premiere Pro, Final Cut pro, Avid Xpress DV & Pro, Pinnacle Liquid Edition and Sony Vegas are all now supported as plug-in hosts!!
Boris FX continues to grow beyond being the best 3D effects plug-in around. With version 7 they've added Rotoscoping, vector paint, animated gradients and the ability to create your own custom shapes for wipes and masks. Several new tools to give your video a film look; film grain, film damage, dust & scratches. And a host of new Blurs and glows.
Graffiti continues to be the best 3D animated titling tool for the money. You can now create your titles directly over the video footage, which makes fine tuning the placement a breeze. They've enhanced the 2D & 3D title animation tool by adding even more controls over jittering scale, position, hue, angle and more.
Click here for more information about Boris FX. Graffiti and the complete Boris FX product line
10. Sony Vegas 4 + DVD
My Top 10 article would not be complete without including the best kept secret in video editing – Vegas 4. I've always liked Vegas, but it always had a couple of missing features that held it back. With Vegas 4 they've gotten it right. It is a very innovative product – the first to offer real-time previews via FireWire. It's based on a digital audio mixing interface. While this may seem strange to some, it is actually quite elegant. If you've ever played with an audio editing tool like SoundForge or CoolEdit you will take to Vegas very quickly. Vegas is a rock solid app that is loaded with cool features. As you would expect, the audio tools are superb, and so are the speed controls and color processing. You can very easily create multiple layered video compositions. Vegas is also very good for creating photomontages – especially if you like doing the effect popularized in Ken Burn's documentaries, where you pan & zoom over a series of still images.
This past summer Sony Pictures Digital purchased the software group of Sonic Foundry – the makers of Vegas, Sound Forge & Acid. Until just recently, it was unclear just what Sony would do with it. Just recently Sony has placed Vegas under the Sony Electronics umbrella. With the Sony name behind it, I can't see Vegas staying a secret much longer. The bad news is that all of the great deals we were running in 2003 on Vegas have now expired and Sony has no new promotions planned. This means you will have to pay more for Vegas in 2004 - but it is still worth considering.
Click here for more information on Sony Vegas
Videoguys Real-Time NLE Comparison 5!
Hot new Non Linear Editing Programs revolutionize digital videography
Adobe Premiere Pro, Pinnacle Liquid Edition, Sony Pictures Vegas 4 and Avid Xpress Pro are all great products loaded with all the tools and features you need for even the most complex long format video productions. This article will point out some of the particular strengths of each product and what I like most about them.
Read Videoguys Real-Time NLE Comparison 5!
There you have it, Videoguys' Top 10 products of 2003. Sorry it took so long to post (Normally the article comes out prior to the holidays).
I thought I would end this article with a look forward at some of the up and coming technologies that may just emerge this year.
This is a new High Definition spec created by JVC and with planned support by the leading Japanese Consumer Electronic companies. JVC has been shipping their HDV camcorders since NAB. With HDV you can capture the HD video into a computer using a standard FireWire jack. Special NLE software and/or plug-ins are then required to edit the footage. So far Adobe, Canopus, Ulead, Sony, Hueris and Cineform have all announced planned products to edit HDV. High Def video editing is in your future, and I'm hoping to see several more HDV camcorders announced this Spring at NAB2004.
Keep up with all the latest and greatest HDV info - check out HDVideoguys.com
2. Dual-Layer Recordable DVD
Pioneer and several other DVD burner vendors announced planned support for this new technology. This will allow you to double the amount of content you can put on a single DVD from 4.7GB to 9.4GB. You do not have to "flip" the DVD to record on the second layer, and they will be able to be played on your home theatre DVD plaer. New laser technologies will allow the burner to write through the top layer onto the second layer below. Pretty amazing if you ask me. Unfortuantely, like everything else with DVD we've got competing formats involved. I don't think we'll see any dual-layer DVD burners released before 2005.
3. Blu-Ray DVD
Blu-Ray DVDs will use blue-violet colored laser beams that are much narrower then the red lasers used for reading & writing DVDs today. As a result they are able to store 27GB of data on a single sided disk. That's almost 5 times the current 4.7GB DVD capacity. That's the good news. The bad news is that these Blu-Ray recorders are going to cost several thousand dollars and the disks they produce may not be compatible with existing DVD players. So we'll have to buy new Blu-Ray DVD players to benefit from this technology. I think that Blu-Ray will initially be used by the broadcast/ commercial television industry for storing HDTV content and programming. Once again, like everything else with DVD, we've got competing formats involved. I don't think you'll see consumer Blu-Ray products unitl 2006.
MPEG-4 is a new compression spec that allows you to pack in more video then ever into a fixed amount of space. It started as a streaming technology, but I think it could be much bigger then that. The popular DivX format used for on line video sharing is MPEG-4 based. For now MPEG-4 video is difficult to edit and work with, but the thought of storing 10 hours of DV quality on a DVD is quite exciting. Imagine putting your family videos on a low cost memory card and caring it with you when you are on the road or visiting family & friends. Or capturing and playing video on solid state digital devices that do not require any fast spinning mechanical parts that can breakdown or wear out. Even cooler how about 'renting' video digitally form a Virtual Video Store. You would search and preview 1000s of movies via a small kiosk. Once you select the ones you want you just plug in your encrypted USB "Movie Stick" and download the movies to bring home. When you're done watching the movies you would just insert the stick back into the kiosk and reload it with new ones. I think we'll start seeing more and more MPEG-4 encoding devices and software this year, and hopefully MPEG-4 editing and authoring software will soon follow. Several DVD player makers have already announced support for playing back MPEG-4 encoded CDs & DVDs.