Videoguys Top 10 Products of 2006

2006 was a transitional year for digital videographers. While we had several very new and exciting products, they were more evolutionary then revolutionary. In fact, my most revolutionary new product of the year isn’t even a video product. It’s the new Intel Core 2 Duo dual-core CPUs. With the introduction of these new CPUs, in both Apple and Windows computers, we are now getting an incredible level of CPU power and performance at very reasonable prices. With them we can take video editing and production to the next level - and that level is High Definition.

Unfortunately, the road to HD is still loaded with potholes, speed bumps and detours. With each new HD camcorder that gets released it seems we get another sub-format of HD that the video editing vendors are struggling to keep up with. As a result, not every HD format and feature is supported across the board by any single NLE. But the good news is that with every version release and update, more HD support is being added. We are getting there!!

To make matters even more complicated, the Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD Hi-Def optical disc format war drags on. While HD-DVD seems to have the early lead as far as player and DVD sales go, the Sony PS3 with built in Blu-Ray player is finally shipping and Blu-Ray authoring software and burners are available today.

You really have to do your homework before you invest in HD. It’s a bunch of alphabet soup and specs that just keeps getting more confusing. The Videoguys are committed to leading the way and making the questions and answers easier for you to understand. (The folks over at VASST have put together an excellent HDV Glossary to help you understand them) Today, the most important thing you need to do is follow these steps:

1. Decide which HD camcorder you want to buy.
This seems like a simple enough question, but we know it’s not. Don’t get bogged down in the specs here. For most of you, all you need is great image quality, which HDV 1080i delivers.
2. What kind of video productions do you plan on making
* If you are an independent film maker then having 24p support is important to you, as is an NLE that supports 24p and all the other technical issues that come with film work.
* If you make high action sports or advenure video then you need progressive settings – these will give you the best possible image quality of fast moving objects, unfortunately as with 24p, not all NLEs support all progressive formats.
* If you just want to shoot and produce GREAT looking HD videos, then HDV 1080i is exactly what you need. Best of all, it is the most widely supported HD format available today.
3. What is your budget for Video Editing and what are you expectations?
These are the big questions here. While many NLE software products allow you to edit HD footage, the editing experience you get will not be what you are probably used to with DV. Today DV footage is super easy to edit. The compression is minimal and the technology is mature. With HD footage you need more horsepower and often times CPU power alone will not get the job done. This really will depend on how complex your projects are.
4. Call the Videoguys 800-323-2325 - We will take the time to talk with you and review all these steps with you and to make sure you get the perfect HD editing and production solution to meet your needs, budget and expectations.

OK, now that we have pointed you in the right direction towards your HD future, lets take a look at the Top 10 new products of 2006 that will be an important part of your journey.

Videoguys Top 10 new products of 2006

1. Adobe Production Studio

2. Matrox RT.X2

3. Focus FS-4 Pro HD

4. Pioneer BDR-101A

5. Roxio DVDit Pro HD

6. Avid Studio Toolkit 5.6

7. Sonicfire Pro 4

8. G-Tech G- Raid II

9. Avid Media Composer Software

10. Sony Vegas 7 +DVD

Honorable Mentions

Here we go - Videoguys Top 10 new products of 2006:

Click Here to get more info on Adobe Production Studio
#1 - Adobe Production Studio

My top new product of 2006 is the Adobe Production Studio. With the release of this new suite of software, Adobe not only delivered new versions of Premiere Pro and After Effects, but they added in a new level of inter-operability and workflow that while just the tip of the iceberg, has me extremely excited about the future for Adobe products.

The Adobe Bridge is a one stop shopping spot for all your media. Images, video, audio – it keeps it all in one central location. Not only does the bridge keep track of all your media, it can also reach out across your network or onto the web for additional content.

As cool as the Adobe Bridge is, Adobe Dynamic Link is even more important. It’s the new secret sauce that ties all the Adobe applications together. As an example, with Dynamic Link you can go into After Effects and manipulate an animated background you are using in your Premiere timeline – and the Premiere timeline will update automatically! Open up Photoshop and touch up an image for a DVD menu and it automatically updates that image in Premiere or Encore. The timesaving here is very real, and with Dynamic Link you can spend more time experimenting and being creative.

Of course the new versions of Premiere Pro 2 and After Effects 7 added a ton of new features and performance that make them worthy upgrades on their own, but it’s just a small part of the equation. If you are a Premiere editor, you really owe it to yourself to upgrade to the Adobe Production Studio. Fortunately, Adobe has some really aggressive upgrade prices that make this an affordable choice.
Click Here to get more info on Matrox RT.X2
#2 - Matrox RT.X2

If the Adobe Production Studio is my top new product, then the next choice has to be the Matrox RT.X2 real-time hardware. When you put them together, you get the most productive, real-time HDV editing solution on the market. As I mentioned earlier, with the new dual-core CPUs and powerful software you can in fact edit HDV footage – but it is not going to be the same experience you are used to with DV. Editing HDV footage with CPU power alone can be sluggish and frustrating. You are going to have to be patient while things render and you are not going to get the same responsiveness on the timeline as you do with SD footage.

Now, add in the RT.X2 and watch the magic happen! You can edit away, making cuts, applying filters, adding transitions and other effects in real-time. The Premiere Pro timeline becomes very responsive and productive. For RT.X2 owners editing HDV footage is a breeze, and you get a complete set of real-time tools you can use to unlock your creativity.

In the beginning Matrox was very cautious about the computer you needed to run the RT.X2. With the latest rounds of new motherboards and chipsets, they have really opened up the list of certified components and systems, the list just keeps growing. Best of all, you don’t need to spend a small fortune. You can build a computer like our DIY5 machine for around $2,000. Put the RT.X2 in it and edit away!!

Matrox has just released the version2 drivers for RT.X2. With these new drivers they have made the RT.X2 even more powerful and better! Now 720p and 1080i HDV formats are supports. You can also bring in native Adobe HDV files or m2t files from your Focus FS-4 HD and edit them in real-time. Matrox also added some great flex 3D effects that were initially missing form the Rt.X2 such as cube, ripples and twirls.
Click Here to get more info on Focus FS-4 Pro HD
#3 - Focus FireStore FS-4 Pro HD

Speaking of the Focus FireStore FS-4, once again this product family scores in the Top 10. This year the new Pro HD line-up was introduced. Now you can purchase the units with 60, 80 or 100GB internal drives. They also introduced an extended play battery that will run the unit for an hour and a half. Bigger hard drives and longer run times were two of the most requested features we heard being asked for, and it’s great to see a company that responds to their customers needs and requests.

The FireStore FS-4 was the first portable tapeless capture solution on the market. With it you can capture directly from you camcorder while you shoot to the hard drive. What separates the FS-4 from the competition is DTE – which stands for Direct To Edit. This allows you to capture directly into the format your NLE application requires, so that you can edit the files immediately. You can edit directly off the FS-4 or you can copy the files onto your computer drive first. Either way, you don’t need to capture and you don’t need to transcode them.

The biggest most important new feature in the FS-4 Pro HD line is the addition of Quicktime HDV files. Now you can bring your HDV footage directly into Final Cut Pro and edit away! As I mentioned earlier, you can now bring FS-4 HDV m2t files directly into the Adobe Premiere pro 2 timeline and edit in real-time with the Matrox RT.X2 hardware. More NLEs will be supported in the future for HDV DTE editing.

#4-6 HD Blues - I want to, I want to, I want to show you my HD!

So we finally have all these new HD camcorders available to choose from. And we have the software and hardware to edit them. What we didn’t have – until now – was the ability to deliver the content! The next 3 products in our top 10 article deliver these missing pieces of the puzzle. Now you can Author and Burn your own Blu-Ray discs with gorgeous HD footage and menus. These discs can be played back on a Blu-Ray player, Blu-Ray ROM equipped computer or the new Sony PS3 gaming system. Click here for our new Blu-Ray bundles page
Click Here to get more info on Pioneer BDR-101
#4 - Pioneer BDR-101 Blu-Ray burner

I have to give kudos to Pioneer. They began delivering these drives in April, around NAB. (Well actually – they delivered them at NAB - 5 of them to be exact, to my hotel room in Las Vegas). I then distributed them to several of our vendors so that they could use them for test and development and demonstrations.

While the BDR-101 isn’t the only Blu-Ray burner now available, it was the first. With the shipment of the BDR-101 we finally had the ability to deliver HD footage to our customers – almost. All we needed was authoring software.
Click Here to get more info on Roxio DVDit Pro HD
#5 -Roxio DVDit Pro HD by Sonic

With DVDit Pro HD Sonic has taken their very popular DVDit Pro software and upgraded it for Blu-Ray Authoring. Along the way, they also fixed a whole bunch of bugs and made it a far more stable and reliable program. With DVDit Pro HD and a Blu-Ray burner you can create your own Hi-Def Blu-Ray discs. You can add 16 x 9 Hi-Def menus with all of the navigation you are used to on standard def DVDs, but with HD footage. DVDit Pro HD includes a very high quality, efficient encoder to turn out HD MPEG2 files for authoring.

What is probably the most amazing thing about DVDit Pro HD is the price. I can’t believe this software costs less than $500!! Even cooler, you can upgrade from any version of Sonic DVDit, MyDVD, Roxio Easy Media Creator or Videowave for only $199.95!!
Click Here to get more info on Avid Studio Toolkit 5.6
#6 - Avid Studio Toolkit 5.6

The Avid Studio Toolkit is a collection of 3 programs that provide Avid editors with additional tools that allow them to do their job better. Avid FX is a special customized version of Boris Red that has all the same features as the latest version Red 4 with a more Avid-like interface. Avid 3D is a tool that allows you to create, import and manipulate 3D objects for use in your videos. The new version is loaded with templates that are actually pretty useful and usable for video editors.

For me the crown jewel in the Studio Toolkit is the new Avid DVD BD by Sonic. This is a customized version of the DVDit pro HD software for Avid. Not only does it provide the full feature set of Blu-Ray authoring to Avid editors, it adds a couple of extra tools that I really like. Avid editors can set markers in the Xpress Pro or Media Composer timeline that get exported as chapter points in Avid DVD. You can also export and burn your HD timeline directly to Blu-Ray disc. While you won’t have any menus, you will be able to play back the movie on any Blu-Ray player.
Click Here to get more info on SmartSound SonicFire Pro 4

#7 - SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 4

One of the most important aspects of putting together a great video that is all too often overlooked is the soundtrack. Many videographers just don’t realize how adding the right music to your video can dramatically add to the emotional impact of each scene. Let’s be honest about it, the main reason so many of us overlook this is simple: we are not musicians! With the introduction of Smartsound Sonic Fire Pro this is no longer a valid excuse.
Sonic Fire pro 4 not only allows you to add custom created soundtracks to your video with ease, it adds an amazing new feature called “Mood Mapping” that really allows you to match the soundtrack to your video perfectly. Mood Mapping allows you to control the actual mix of instruments used in the soundtrack, and you can add and subtract to your mix over the duration of the clip. So your action clip can start with only a few strings, then the bass and drums fill in as the tempo of the clip picks up, with more strings and horns being added as we reach the big crescendo. Sounds complicated, but with Sonic Fire pro 4 this is a snap!

Click Here to get more info on G-Tech G-Raid II

#8 - G-Tech G-Raid II

In little more than two years G-Tech has emerged as the leading storage solution supplier for video editing. The reason is simple – they deliver superb quality storage with exceptional reliability at extremely affordable prices and that is a winning combination that just can’t be beat. So it’s no surprise that the G-tech line-up of storage solutions is expanding into more professional markets. Unlike other companies that sell external storage, G-tech has always understood that heat is the biggest problem facing digital videographers with storage. We don’t want or need cheap external FireWire drives that overheat and become unreliable, we demand affordable external drives that will be able to handle the rigors of video editing without ever missing a beat!

The new G-Raid II drives introduced this year continue that tradition. They have integrated cooling so that they can stand up the demands of multi-stream DV, HDV, DVC Pro HD and uncompressed video editing. G-Raid II now has a triple interface – FireWire 400, 800 and USB2, so you can attach them to virtually any computer that you would use for video editing – PC or Mac. Inside each G-Raid II you will now find a pair of 7200RPM SATA II drives and the latest FireWire bridge chips. The results are obvious - the fastest performance ever with that same great G-Tech reliability.

Click Here to get more info on Avid Media COmposer Software

#9 - Avid Media Composer Software

If you are a professional video editor then you have heard of Media Composer. It’s the software that Avid includes with their Adrenaline hardware-editing package, and the software that is used to edit almost every TV show and Hollywood movie produced this century. Until now you had to purchase Media Composer as part of an expensive ($25,000+) NLE solution. With the introduction of MC Soft, this is no longer the case.
MC Soft isn’t for everyone and it is still pretty expensive at $4,995; it is still remarkable that Avid has brought this level of technology and capability to this price level. The big question everyone asks me is “What can MC Soft do that Xpress Pro can’t?” The answer isn’t that simple and easy. First it gives you the full Avid editing interface and workflow. Xpress Pro (or Premiere or Final Cut Pro for that matter) is great software and very powerful, but MC Soft is the actual software that the Pros edit on. Once you learn how to use it, you will never be able to settle for anything less. Next it adds a level of real-time effects, filtering and layering that is just as powerful as the editing, so you can be even more productive. Finally, since it is the same Avid software the Pros use, you can collaborate and edit with other Avid editors. This can be on a network or on the other side of the country.

Click Here to get more info on Sony Vegas 7 + DVD

#10 - Sony Vegas 7 + DVD

I don’t know how it’s possible, but Vegas 7 still remains one of the industry’s best-kept secrets. If only Sony’s marketing was as strong as the engineering on this product. Vegas 7 + DVD gives you everything you need to create top-notch DV and HDV productions. With the release of version 7 you can now edit native HDV files. Sony also added full XD Cam HD support, which is nice, but not really a feature for anything but the highest-level professionals.

What Vegas 7 gives you is a rock solid NLE that will fully utilize the latest advancements in CPU technology. If you have workstation with a pair of dual-core processors, Vegas will take full advantage of all 4 cores delivering faster rendering and more real-time performance. On the flip side, you can still run Vegas 7 in a slower P4 machine and still get decent results. That’s the beauty of Vegas – it’ll run on just about any computer around, you’ll just have to deal with more sluggish performance and longer render times on an old clunker – but it will get the job done!

Honorable Mention

There you have it, our Top 10 new products of 2006. Several other products that did not make it still deserve honorable mention, so I’m going to include them (in alphabetical order) here with a very brief reason why it’s included:

Adobe / Serious Magic DV Rack 2.0 HD – I’ve always been a really big fan of Serious Magic software. This past fall they were purchased by Adobe. I’m sure it will just get better. DV Rack 2.0 HD adds support for DVC Pro HD footage as well as HDV and DV. Not only can you monitor this footage in full resolution, you can also record it to your hard drive.

Apple Final Cut Studio 5.1 – This was just a dot revision but it still deserves mention here. With new Universal Binary code it is optimized for the new Intel based Macs and Apple claims it runs 2.5 times faster on them. For Mac guys Final Cut Studio remains the best value for your editing dollar.

Avid Liquid 7.1 – Liquid is still in my opinion the best “Bang for the Buck” of any NLE solution. The 7.1 release was really more a bug fix than a new version, so I didn’t include it in this year’s Top 10. The "Big Splash" promotion made it an even bigger value with some very cool software addedto the bundle including Magic Bullet Movie Looks.

Avid Xpress Pro 5.6 – Once again, not a truly new version, but much more than a bug fix. Several new features were added this past year including DVI monitoring of SD and HD footage, more optimized HDV output, support of DVC Pro HD and P2, and the new Mojo SDI hardware option.

Bella EZ Keyboard Pro 3 – It took a while for these to finally start shipping, but they are now here. These color-coded keyboards with built in jog wheel are the perfect accessory to your NLE suite. The added Neo light makes working in a dark or dimly lit room much easier.

Boris Red 4, Boris FX 9 and Graffiti 5 – This year the gang at Boris once again introduced new versions of these titles. I really like the new interface in Boris FX 9 and Graffiti 5. I also like how Boris keeps migrating features from Red and Continuum into Boris FX.

Cineform AspectHD 4.3 – The Cineform intermediary technology allows you to edit HDV and DVC Pro HD footage in Premiere Pro 2 in real-time. What is intermediary technology? Think of it as a real-time hardware accelerator that isn’t hardware at all but a software plug-in. Pretty amazing!

Grass Valley Edius 4.1 – When it comes to handling HD footage, Edius does the job as well or better than any other NLE out there. The interface is straightforward and designed to get the job done. What it lacks in editing features, bells and whistles it makes up for in sheer performance and stability.

Matrox MXO – What a clever little gadget for Final Cut pro editors. The MXO box allows you to monitor HD footage in full resolution from the FCP timeline. You get SDI and component output. The MXO will also improve the image quality of your DVI output if you are using one of the big Apple LCD monitors.

Rimage 360i – The ultimate DVD duplicator and printer for small shops! If you are going to take the time to produce elaborate menus for your DVDs, shouldn’t the DVD itself look just as good? With the 360i your DVDs will look as good in the box as they do on the TV.

VASST HDV: What You NEED to Know! Second Edition, The Complete Guide – If you want to learn more about and get a better understanding of HDV, this book is the perfect place to start. It is loaded with great information and it is very easy to read. I recommend it for any and all digital videographers.

So there you have it, the best of the new products for 2006. Overall it was a very good year delivering many new products to help us transition to our HD future.

What will the year ahead hold for us? I’m really not sure, but here are my 3 wishes for 2007:

1. An end to the Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD war. If we can get by this, or find a work around (ie dual format players) then I think HD video production can really take off. The tools are finally available, we just need more players in more homes. If you own a big beautiful HDTV or have friends or family who have one, then you can see just how much better HD content is to watch. Now we can start making that content and delivering it. Trust me, people want to see it. If you make it, they will come!

2. 64 bit software and hardware running on a 64 bit OS. Yes, this is a big deal. When we can finally run a true 64 bit OS, with 64 bit optimized software and hardware drivers we’ll be able to take full advantage of dual and multi-core CPUs. Vista has just started shipping and none of our software is even ported to it yet, let alone optimized for it. Vista will also allow us to use huge amounts of memory 4, 6 or even 8GB will become commonplace on NLE workstations. The added memory will allow us to more efficiently edit and manipulate HD footage. The new Core 2 Duo was just the tip of the iceberg here. The real power of these new chips still remains under the surface. Hopefully Vista will allow us to unleash the full potential of today's hardware and chips.

3. Reaping the benefits of consolidation. Over the past couple of years we have seen a tremendous amount of consolidation in our industry. Avid purchased Pinnacle, Adobe purchased Macromedia and now Serious Magic, Thomson/ Grass Valley purchased Canopus, Apple purchases Silicon Color's Final Touch and AMD purchased ATI. What we haven’t really seen yet is any new or breakthrough products as a result of these acquisitions. I’m hoping that in 2007 we will finally start seeing some of the merging of the underlying technologies.

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