It's hard to believe that it's that time again. I've been doing this for over 10 years now, I can remember the first Videoguys' Top 10 article that was published in 1996. Back then MotionJPEG capture cards were the only way we could get video into our computers, and that was no easy matter. The PCI bus was the new technology but IRQ problems, driver conflicts and storage bottlenecks were still the norm. For a walk down memory lane visit the Videoguys article archive.
Wow! How things have changed. Today we can edit HD video with an off the shelf computer and a FireWire port. Video editing products are stable, reliable and, most importantly, affordable. The level of sophistication and features found in today's video editing software and plug-ins are simply amazing.
Back in March, Adobe announced that they would be releasing the new CS3 versions of just about every title in their arsenal. We went to NAB2007 back in April, anxious to get a good hard look at the new crown jewel of the Adobe Video products, Adobe Production Premium CS3. We were blown away! Not just by the value of all the great products included in the bundle, but the promise of tight integration between the applications. The big question we all had was: "Would Adobe deliver the product on time and with all this goodness?" They DID! This is why we are naming Production Premium CS3 as the Videoguys' Top New Product of 2007!
There have been many in depth reviews published on the new CS3 Production Premium and the individual products included in it. You can find most of them by following this link to our blog. I'm going to talk about the features that I liked best that have the biggest impact on my workflow.
It's not just that Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, Adobe After Effects CS3 Professional, Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended and Adobe Encore CS3 are all included; it's how you can use them together and seamlessly move your project and your media between them. Change a graphic in Photoshop and it updates automatically in the other apps. Change an animated background in After Effects for your DVD menu or your title sequence in Premiere Pro and the updated animation replaces the old one. The Adobe Bridge and Dynamic Link are the secret sauce that tie everything together and make this the most fully integrated bundle of video editing and production tools ever offered.
I'd also like to mention that Encore CS3 now allows you to author high definition Blu-Ray discs. You can also publish your DVD as an interactive flash video for web streaming. Adobe understands that today we are creating video for multiple formats and viewing methods. Adobe Production Premium CS3 supports tape, Standard DVDs, web streaming, Blu-Ray, iPods and portable media players, video games and cell phones. Device Central (another very cool innovation by Adobe) lets you preview how your media will look on hundreds of different cell phones and personal media players.
The other big announcement at NAB2007 was from Apple. Apple was going to be releasing a new version of Final Cut Studio that would not only include an update to the flagship product – Final Cut Pro 6, but also the addition of a new product called Color. What made this so amazing was that Color was previously Color Finesse and it sold for over five thousand dollars! Now it is included free as part of Final Cut Studio 2!
There have been many in depth reviews published on the new Final Cut Studio 2 and the individual products included in it. You can find most of them by following this link to our blog. I'm going to talk about the features that I liked best that have the biggest impact on my workflow.
The biggest new feature in Final Cut Studio 2 is Apple's new ProRes 422 compression format that allows you to easily edit HD footage in Final Cut Pro. While you have been able to edit uncompressed HD footage with Final Cut Pro using relatively inexpensive hardware from either BlackMagic or Aja, you also need a ton of expensive storage to handle it, then managing and moving all that data is no small job. I've never been a big fan of the uncompressed HD workflow. While uncompressed HD may be OK for broadcast, it's just not practical for most video editors. ProRes allows you to edit HD footage efficiently and cost effectively.
Final Cut Studio 2 also includes Motion 3. I really like the additional 3D capabilities of Motion 3 and the improved integration with Final Cut Pro 6. The motion stabilizer is a very useful and powerful tool. Final Cut Studio 2 is optimized for Intel based Macs and takes advantage of multiple cores. Recent updates add support for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, AVCHD, and Sony professional camcorders. Hopefully some time soon we'll be hearing about a new update to DVD Studio Pro that will include support for Blu-Ray Disc authoring.
How do you take our top new product of 2007 and make it better? Easy – add the Matrox RT.X2 to your system and experience the real-time hardware advantage. Adobe Production Premium CS3's new features and today's computers being so powerful it's easy to think that you have everything you need. What you will quickly find out is that while you can edit HD footage and create fantastic looking videos without the RT.X2 card, you can do it so much faster, easier and better with it! Time is money and the RT.X2 will save you so much time it will easily pay for itself after just a few productions.
What does the RT.X2 card give you that software alone does not? First and foremost you get a wide range of real-time special effects, transitions, filters and features. Over the past few years, video editors have become very spoiled by how easily and efficiently we can handle DV footage. This simply isn't going to happen with HD footage – unless you have the Matrox hardware advantage. With an RT.X2 system you'll be able to edit HDV or DVCProHD footage in real-time. Want to try a complicated 3D transition or filter, just apply it to your timeline and you can preview it immediately in full HD quality via the component output of the RT.X2 hardware. You don't have to wait for it to render and you can tweak and modify it all you want in real-time. That allows your creativity to flow and allows you to spend your time making your video better, not waiting around for previews to render.
With the RT.X2 version 3 driver and Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 you get support for the most advanced cameras in the industry including Sony HDV 1080p, Canon 24f/30f, JVC ProHD HDV 720p and native editing of Panasonic P2 MXF 720p and SD files. You also get accelerated exports to DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray, QuickTime, Flash Video, and other multimedia formats with Matrox Media Encoder.
The Matrox RT.X2 hardware together with the Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 is the most powerful real-time video editing solution on the market today for only $1,695. For those needing broader HD support including uncompressed HD via SDI, you can step up to the Axio LE card and get the same level of real-time performance.
OK, I'm not going to call Vegas the best kept secret in the industry anymore. I think enough folks are finding out about it and finally giving it a try. What are they discovering? That for under $500 this is a very powerful, stable and full featured video editing program!!
With Vegas Pro 8 you finally get two much needed features - multi-cam support and an improved titler. Multicam for Vegas has been available for years via 3rd party scripts like Ed Troxel's Excalibur and Vasst's Ultimate S, but now it is a fully integrated feature. I really like the new ProType Titling engine and with it you can easily add great looking still, moving or 3D animated titles.
Sony has also added even more comprehensive HDV and XDCAM support. This makes it a very good choice for field based HD editing on a laptop at all levels of video production including broadcast. But that doesn't change the fact that Vegas is still a great choice for all levels of video editing. The versatility and shear editing performance of Vegas makes it a tremendous value. Vegas will take full advantage of multiple cores and 64bit drivers are in the works.
My favorite new video editing plug-ins are the Magic Bullet color filters. I love being able to give my videos a different Hollywood style look and feel with just a few mouse clicks. It is amazing how powerful these filters can be. In Hollywood, directors use different film stocks and lighting to give their features a distinct look and feel. With Magic Bullet you can do this with ease to your own videos. I use them to really set the mood of my videos and to make them even more special.
Magic Bullet Looks is now a stand-alone application that lets you load and customize hundreds of different color grades to your video. You can mix and match and modify and save them to create your own as well. It's a really nice interface and I found it very easy to learn. I like loading up different looks, then ‘reverse engineering' them by digging into the settings and playing with the controls. I wanted to try and create a more ominous look for some clips I have of my kids trick or treating. You may want to make your vacation video look more romantic, or make a cloudy day at the ballpark feel more like a spectacular summer afternoon. After a few hours of messing around, I was amazed at what I was able to do.
Magic Bullet Colorista is a plug-in that has really enhanced my workflow. Colorista makes it quick and easy to color correct all your footage. I know that all the advanced or professional NLEs have color correction tools built-in and that many of them have color tools that are so sophisticated and complex that you can spend hours just learning them. (Which is why I love Colorists so much - It's quick, simple and it gets the job done).
How do you take a product that is already in a league of its own and make it even more powerful? I don't know how they do it, but the folks at Newtek keep making TriCaster the world's best portable digital mixing and streaming solution. TriCaster Studio has the added ability to switch between even more sources – up to 6 cameras plus 2 streams of video from the hard drive. You can stream your production out over the internet or save it as an avi or wmv file or both at the same time! Even better - You can easily export the files for DVD or Video Podcasts!
But that's not all. By far and away the coolest new feature in TriCaster Studio is the virtual set technology. That's right; you can instantly superimpose your talent into virtual sets with support for multiple camera angles. To say these virtual sets look good and professional is an understatement. They are stunning and the quality of the keying is superb. If you already own the TriCaster Pro you can upgrade with virtual set software for only $1,995. Standard TriCaster owners can upgrade as well, but it requires a trade in of your system to be upgraded to Pro.
I get asked all the time by friends, family and prospective customers: "What is the best affordable video editing solution for beginners looking to create home videos that look professional?" My answer is simple – "Get Pinnacle Studio 11 MovieBox Ultimate!" For under $150 you get everything you need to capture, edit and then output your work.
The MovieBox hardware just attaches to you computer's USB port and allows you to capture analog or DV footage from just about any source available. That means any current computer (laptop or desktop) can be immediately upgraded into a video editing solution.
I really like the Studio 11 Ultimate software because it is easy to use and loaded with goodies including those transitions and special effects that make your videos look like you spent hundreds of dollars and hours producing them. Studio does it all and it does it quick and easy. You don't get the levels of control and tweaking that more advanced programs like Avid Liquid or Adobe Premiere Pro have, but the final results will still leave your audience wondering how you did it.
What is the Intenstiy Pro? I think it's the coolest new hardware capture device to hit the market in years – and it's under $350!! Intensity Pro allows you to capture uncompressed video (HD or SD) into your PC or Mac via component video or HDMI. HDMI is that clever little jack that allows you to run both digital audio and video over a single cable between your high-end home theatre equipment. With Intensity Pro you can output directly from your Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro timeline directly onto your gorgeous new flat screen plasma or LCD HDTV.
Many of the new HD camcorders have HDMI output like the new Canon HV20 HDV camcorder (more on that later in this article). The Intensity Pro card lets me capture uncompressed HD footage from the HV20 via HDMI directly into my computer. WOW! Just make sure you've got a ton of really fast storage to put it on.
This is the second generation of Blu-Ray Disc burner from Pioneer. As expected it is faster and less expensive than the original BDR-101 that shipped last year. I still believe that when all is said and done Blu-Ray Disc will be victorious and the dominant HiDef optical disc solution. Sony, Disney and Warner Bros are now releasing their titles exclusively on Blu-Ray. The Blu-Ray Disc you create with the BDR-202 will play on the Sony PlayStation 3 (now under $400) as well as the various stand alone Blu-Ray Disc players that have come down in price dramatically over the past few months.
Creating a Blu-Ray Disc is still expensive (compared to standard DVDs and media) but you can create high definition discs that folks can watch at home. I realize not that many of us have Blu-Ray Disc players yet, but millions of PS3s are now in living rooms all over the world. The BDR202 attaches to your computer via SATA connector. SATA gives superior performance to the old fashion EIDE connector. For PC owners that means improved data throughput and easier connectivity. Unfortunately, this can be a problem with new Macs which do not have an easy way to attach them. We do have a work around that will work great and takes only a little extra effort and a less than $10 adapter plug.
What can I say – I love this camcorder. I think it is the perfect choice for prosumer videographers looking to migrate to HD. The picture quality is fantastic. While I have found that good lighting is more crucial than ever with HD footage, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the HV20 handles low light situations. With the price of a new HV20 falling below $800 at many on line dealers this holiday season, it left no doubt in my mind that it deserves a Videoguys' Top 10 award. We do not sell camcorders, but every few years a new camcorder comes along that opens up a new level of video production to our customers. With its awesome HD footage at a remarkable price point, the HV20 demanded a place on this year's list.
The HV20 allows you to shoot HD footage in 1080i format as well as Canon's 24p progressive. Even without the 24p support the HV20 would be an outstanding camcorder. You may be asking yourself "What is 24p?" In simple terms, it allows you to shoot HD footage that looks more like film. When you go to the movies, you watch the film at 24 frames per second (fps). In the US our television shows are broadcast using the NTSC standard which is 29.97 fps. While logic would dictate that more frames per second is better, many videographers will tell you that the 24 fps footage looks better. I happen to think both frame rates look great. If you are compressing your footage for the web you will find that footage that starts as 24p ends up compressing better. Why? One of the reasons is that it is very easy to compress down to 20 or 16 fps for the web since it is a clean fraction of 24. Progressive formats also allow the encoder to work more efficiently. The result is that web video producers will get the best possible compressed video footage from 24p footage.
This past year there where several products introduced that did not make our Top 10 list but are deserving of honorable mention. I'm going to lst them now, with brief descriptions.
Aja IO HD and Motu V3HD
Azden 320 Series Dual Channel Wireless Mic System
G-Tech G-SPEED eS
Avid Media Composer Upgrade with Mojo SDI Bundle
Smartsound SonicFire Pro 4.5
What's in store for 2008?
I like to end the Videoguys' Top 10 list each year with a quick look at what we hope to see in the upcoming year. Last year our wish list didn't do so well. So for 2008 I'm going to keep these two on my wish list and add a new one at #3.
- An end to the Blu-Ray Disc vs. HD DVD war. While the war waged strong in '07, early reports from CES 2008 in Vegas have Blu-Ray Disc emerging as the winner. Warner announced that they will join Disney and Sony as being exclusively Blu-ray for their HiDef releases by the end of the year. Paramount is expected to be the final defector.
We have felt strongly that Blu-Ray would win since the beginning. The combined power of the Disney and Sony studios gave it a very big advantage. Second there was no denying the Trojan horse in everyone's living room - Sony PlayStation 3 sales exploded when they lowered the cost to $399 this past holiday season. In addition Sony began actively marketing the Blu-Ray Disc player capabilities of PS3 and they began offering free Blu-Ray movies with PS3 purchases. Third, and most important of all for video editors, is the simple fact that Blu-ray Disc burners exist and they are available – which means that you can create Blu-Ray content.
- 64 bit software and hardware running on a 64 bit OS. Unfortunately we have not seen any change here from last year. This is a very 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 is here, but so far we have not seen any benefit at all for video editors. A year later and very few of our products are ported to the 32 bit version, let alone optimized for it. Vista 64 bit support is still 6 months to a year away. When we get Vista 64 it will 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. Even more importantly multiple cores can be optimized for encoding our HD video into multiple formats and compressions. 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 64 will allow us to unleash the full potential of today's hardware and chips.
- Universal HD capture hardware. I talked about this a little already. We need converter / encoder boxes that allow us to take HD footage from multiple sources and formats and capture them into our computers in easily editable and manageable compressions. With so many different HD compressions and specialized settings and frame-rates, it can be very frustrating to work with video from multiple HD sources. Even if your NLE can handle a mixed HD timeline, you can still run into footage at a setting that isn't supported. Editing uncompressed HD footage is a solution, but it isn't practical or efficient. Here's hoping we get a universal HD converter box that supports multiple HD formats and NLEs.
Finally I'd like to talk a little about industry consolidation and the leading technology companies in our industry. Last year Adobe and Apple both showed us how integrating technologies from acquired companies can bring us additional value, performance and features. Other companies in our industry are still struggling to integrate and innovate with the technologies and companies they purchased.
Apple switching to Intel based Macs has had a dramatic impact on our industry and encouraged companies like Adobe to come back to Mac. There is no denying the power and performance of Intel based Macs for video editing. Microsoft has dropped the ball with Vista, and I can only hope that they get things turned around with Vista 64 support to and from our vendors.It will be very interesting to see which companies can leverage their own technologies and partnerships with other tech leaders to leap frog the competition in 2008. Today's video editors and producers are faced with new and challenging workflows. We have to edit video from different HD sources and mix in our old SD footage. We may even have to use video shot with cell phones and still cameras, or downloaded from the web. Then we are producing multi-formatted videos for HD, SD, streaming video, and portable device playback. There is still plenty of room for innovation and tools to increase our productivity. It's time to unleash all that power under the hood of today's workstations. If they build it, we will use it!