Videoguys' Top 10
Products of 2008!!!
2008 was a tough year for the US economy and our industry has been affected. Back in April two industry stalwarts, Avid & Apple, announced that they would not be attending the 2008 NAB show. While both companies had a presence with dealer meetings and customer events, it definitely sent a shock wave through the industry. Companies were watching every dollar and that would soon affect new products as well.
While 2008 had its share of stellar new products, we did not see anywhere near the level of new product introductions or new versions compared to prior years. Some may view this as a negative, but I think it is our industry catching its breath and preparing for the next great change in technology: 64-bit computing. True 64-bit computing with massive banks of memory and multi-threaded applications that can tap into multiple CPU cores is the type of power video editors have been waiting for. In 2008 we just touched the surface of this; in 2009 I expect the 64-bit revolution to hit full speed. Then we will finally start utilizing all of the computer horsepower at our disposal to provide efficient, superior HD workflows.
Before we get into what's ahead for 2009, let's give credit where credit is due – to our top new products of 2008. The top four products stood out above all others this year and I want to give them special honors: Avid Media Composer 3, Adobe Production Premium CS4, Matrox MXO2 and Focus FS-5 all showed a level of innovation, new features, performance and superior workflow enhancement that make them my top picks of 2008!!
No product made a bigger impact in 2008 than Avid Media Composer 3. Avid sent a clear message to the industry that they're back and ready to fight for their customers. In February, Avid launched their "New Thinking" campaign and cut the price of Avid Media Composer in half to $2,495, even more exciting, the cost to upgrade from an Avid Xpress Pro was reduced to just $495 – making it the most aggressive upgrade offer in the industry, by far. While this price move was exciting, the biggest news was still to come with the launch of Avid Media Composer 3. In the spring Avid returned to it's proper place as the best video editing solution for under $5k.
Avid Media Composer 3 is a rock solid application. It has been redesigned to tap into both the CPU and GPU performance of your computer. When you run it in Windows Vista 64 you can tap into huge amounts of RAM. Now you can give it 6,8 or 12 GB of RAM and let me tell you, Media Composer loves RAM. When it comes to HD editing, you get the broadest support in the industry with HDV, uncompressed HD, Panasonic P2 DVC Pro HD, Sony XD Cam, Red and most of the special sub-formats and pull downs. Plus Avid DNxHD allows you to work with your footage in a virtually lossless compression that is built for editing.
With Media Composer you get a proven, efficient workflow; stability on any platform Windows or Mac; fantastic features and great performance. You also get a ton of Avid integrated utilities, as well as a fantastic suite of 3rd party plug-ins and applications that really round out your workflow. These programs include Sorenson Squeeze so you can encode your timeline for the web or DVD in everything from highly compressed MPEG for streaming or full HD quality for Blu-ray Disc and Avid DVD by Sonic for interactive and professional Blu-ray Disc authoring.
Avid also introduced new MojoDX and Nitris DX hardware for Media Composer. The MojoDX was initially priced a bit too expensively to make our Videoguys' Top 10 list, but we now have a limited time promotion in the US that brought the cost of the hardware down below $5,000 for Media Composer owners. As a result we are giving MojoDX an honorable mention on this years list.
Avid Mojo DX gives you HD & SD in and output via SDI connection. You also get HDMI output for HD monitoring with 5.1 surround sound. While MojoDX does not offer any kind of real-time acceleration, adding it to Media Composer does make your editing more powerful. Avid redesigned the way Avid Media Composer 3 utilizes the power in your computer. By tapping into both CPU and GPU processing MC3 is more stable and more powerful than any other NLE on the market. By offloading some of the computer cycles needed for video display to the MojoDX, it frees up both CPU and GPU power for MC3 to tap into. So the end result is a pick up in performance by adding MojoDX.
Adobe CS4 Production Premium for Mac
While other companies may have backed off from NAB, Adobe was there in full force, even though all they gave us was some teaser looks at some of the new technology that would be coming. We had to wait until the fall to finally get a look at and our hands on perhaps their biggest product release ever – Adobe Creative Suite 4. Adobe released a new CS4 rev of just about every software title in their vast content creation arsenal. Not just the video products in Production Premium, but the imaging and web products in the Design and Web suites as well. It was a massive undertaking, but it was quickly apparent why Adobe chose to launch them all together. They really didn't have a choice! Their products now integrate so well with each other that their release cycle had to run in parallel. I have to give credit to Adobe for being the first vendor to go beyond just bundling a suite of products together and actually integrating their workflows and features into each other. While CS3 touched on this integration, CS4 makes it a reality.
Adobe CS4 Production Premium lets you work with Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, Flash and Encore all together, at the same time. But, make sure you have plenty of RAM. Thankfully, you may now run CS4 in Windows Vista 64 which gives you access to all the RAM you'll ever need. Dynamic linking lets you effortlessly move between applications while never having to leave your project. Need to touch a photo in your Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 timeline? Just open up the photo in Adobe Photoshop CS, make your changes, and then you'll see the final edited photo instantly in Premiere. It's the same with After Effects. You can now preview your DVD (or Blu-ray Disc) using the original footage in Encore. No more having to wait for the encoding before you can see what you have, then going back into Premiere Pro, making changes and having to encode again. That is a huge time saver! Encore CS4 also adds transparent Blu-ray menu overlays and it is still the only solution for authoring Blu-ray Discs on a Mac.
Adobe CS4 Production Premium also includes some cutting edge technologies putting them at the forefront of NLE enhancements. Perhaps the most impressive is voice recognition. Adobe On Location is included and it lets you create metadata for identifying your clips using the spoken words in the clip. If your video is about cars, you can pull every scene that talks about "hybrid" and even find the exact frame in each clip when the actor says "hybrid". While not perfect, it's clear that the potential time savings and improved workflow this technology brings is worth checking out. It's only going to get better and more accurate as time goes by and, who knows, one day in the future we may just be able to tell Premiere Pro when to place our "In" & "Out" points without ever having to touch the mouse!
Even with all of these great new features, Adobe kept the pricing on the full Production Premium consistent with CS3 pricing, but they also put together some very aggressive upgrade offers that have been top sellers since CS4 began shipping. If you own Adobe Production Premium CS3 you can upgrade to CS4 Production Premium for under $600. In fact, if you own CS2 Production Studio Adobe has put together a special upgrade offer through February 2009 allowing you to upgrade to CS4 Production Premium at the same low price.
If you own Adobe Premiere or Premiere Pro, After Effects 6 or later, Photoshop CS or later, Flash Professional or Illustrator CS or later you can take advantage of Adobe's "Point Product" upgrade for around $1,000!! Feel free to call the Videoguys upgrade experts at 800-323-2325 for help finding the best upgrade deal that you're eligible for – PC or Mac.
I think the biggest and most important hardware I/O introduction of 2008 was the Matrox MXO 2. Matrox gave the world a sneak peak at NAB2008 at what they called the world's best I/O device for Final Cut Pro users. While the MXO-2 took a little longer than anticipated for first shipments, it was worth the wait. The MXO2 delivers price / performance value beyond any other HD I/O solution for Final Cut Pro. You get image quality and performance that has all the top Apple guru's singing its praises and instantly putting it on their short list of recommended solutions for just $1,595. Plus, you get a level of flexibility and versatility that no other product can match.
The MXO2 attaches to your Mac Book laptop or Mac Pro workstation via the included PCIe connection hardware. It includes two cards - one that slips into your Mac Books Express Card/34 slot and another to install in a PCIe slot inside your Mac Pro. This means that you can use the MXO2 with the laptop, desktop or BOTH! You can simply install the cards in your Mac Book and Mac Pro, and then move the MXO2 between the two as needed!!
The PCIe technology is the key to the MXO2's ability to handle HD footage in and out. No matter how you need it, MXO2 supports it. SDI, HDMI, component video, balanced audio – you name it, MXO2 supports it.
Not only does the MXO2 give you complete I/O flexibility, it gives you the same flexibility with CODECs. Unlike other external I/O devices you are not limited to just ProRes. MXO2 handles ProRes, ProRes422 HQ, HDV, DVCPRO HD, XDCAM HD, XDCAM HD 422, and XDCAM EX as well as 8- and 10- bit uncompressed workflows. Depending on the speed and cores of your Mac you can capture directly into DVC Pro or ProRes via any of the MXO2 inputs. Regardless of which format you use, SD or HD, the MXO2 allows you to play directly out to any of its output options.
The MXO2 allows you to up and down convert from HD to SD as well as 720p to 1080i. You can even play out your timeline in both SD & HD simultaneously for those workflows that require mastering in both formats. Matrox is just about to release new software for the MXO2 that will make the quality, performance and flexibility of the down/cross converting even more powerful.
When I want the best I/O solution for FCP, with incomparable flexibility, versatility, performance and value the choice is clear – give me a Matrox MXO2. I guess that's why so many news organizations are putting them in their mobile trucks; local call letter stations are specking them into their new digital suites; and broadcasters all over the world are designing them into their workflows. As an independent producer it makes sense to take advantage of the same value, at $1,595 it's clearly the best choice.
Focus FS-5 60GB DTE Recorder
Focus FS-5 100GB DTE Recorder
I've been a big fan of Focus Enhancements Direct-To-Edit (D.T.E.) technology since we first got a sneak peak at the FS-1 many years ago. When they introduced the FS-4 family in 2005, I felt they had given us a device that fully delivered on the promise and opportunity of D.T.E. Now, the FS-5 goes even beyond that and is a Videoguys Top 10 Product of 2008.
Like the FS-4 Pro family of D.T.E devices, the Focus FS-5 allows you to capture directly to the hard drive while you are shooting with your DV or HDV camcorder. You encode directly into the format that best suits your NLE, as a result you can simply copy the files onto your hard drive and edit them. If you want, you can actually edit directly on the FS-5, but I find it fits my workflow better to copy them, which also frees up the FS-5 for more shooting. For example; FCP editors can capture directly into Quicktime HDV files, Avid editors can use MXF HDV and Adobe editors can use .m2t files. This saves you tons of time because you don't have to capture the footage. I also like being able to record to tape for archiving while simultaneously capturing to the FS-5. That gives me the best of both worlds and I don't have to worry about storing all those hours of footage somewhere, I can always go back to the tape if needed months or years later.
The Focus FS-5 takes D.T.E to the next level – I like to call it "DTE2". Metadata allows you to manage and log your footage while you shoot by adding tags. When you bring the files into your video editing software, the metadata tags comes with it. So you can easily find, sort and manage your clips. You can tag media on the fly using the 5 function keys on the FS-5 or via wireless peer-to-peer connection with your laptop or smart device such as the Apple iPod Touch. The FS-5 also uses the "Universal Disk Format" (UDF) file system, which lets you capture up to 90 minutes of HDV or DV footage as a single file.
The FS-5 is smaller, lighter and more efficient than the FS-4 products. It's about half the size and weight and includes a free universal mounting bracket. The fanless design uses the same drives found in iPods and as a result gives you silent operation. While the FS-5 attaches to your camcorder using FireWire, it takes advantage of the increased flexibility of USB2 to connect to your computer, while maintaining the same transfer speeds as standard FireWire 400.
Focus introduced a 60Gb version of the FS-5 in the fall which we have on sale now for $1,495. At that price I think it's a technology worth looking into and something that existing FS-4 owners should seriously consider if they need or want an additional D.T.E device.
Over the years Boris FX products have consistently been given Videoguys Top 10 awards, and for good reason! I have always been a huge fan of their plug-ins. The team at Boris has always found a way to deliver the filters and effects that the editing applications were missing or needed to do better. The latest version of Boris Continuum is no exception. Not only do you get great filters and effects, they plug in seamlessly to the host application, even mimicking the host interface. That makes using and learning them much easier. If you have the budget for the full Boris Continuum Complete get it – you get so many powerful filters and effects that it is a fantastic investment. However, if you're not ready to make a large investment then you should at least consider the Boris Continuum Units you most need.
Boris Continuum Units have given video editors the flexibility to purchase just the key features they need. In today's tough economy that is just what the doctor ordered. You get the same fantastic quality and performance of Continuum Complete, without having to pay for the whole package at once. At around $100 - $200 for each Unit this is a great way to get started with Continuum, and even better, you can apply the cost of what you paid for your Unit towards an upgrade for the full version. Now that's what I call an amazing offer!
Here's a List of the most current Boris Continuum Units available from Videoguys.com:
- UpRez for instant, high-quality resizing of image clips from SD to HD
- Film Look to make your video look like film
- Pan and Zoom for easy, documentary-style animation
- Motion Key for removal of moving foreground objects
- Chroma Key for fast, precise keys
- Lens Flare for fast, easy simulation of a lens flare
- Glitters to add glints, glares, and glitter to your video
- Optical Stabilizer to remove "camera shake"
- Light Rays contains 9 individual filters of light rays
G-Tech G-RAID3 2,000GB (2TB)
G-Tech G-RAID3 3,000GB (3TB)
G-Tech G-RAIDs have been our top recommendation for best video storage since they were first introduced and we awarded it Top New Product in 2004. The G-Tech GRAID 3 keeps up their tradition of excellence and once again shows why they are the defacto standard for video editing storage.
The G-RAID3 adds eSata connectivity giving it a Quad interface (USB2, FW400, FW800, eSata). eSata lets you get the highest possible data rates and performance. More and more motherboards now include an eSata port so adding the G-RAID 3 requires no additional hardware. If your motherboard does not have eSata you can simply use one of the other 3 interfaces or add an inexpensive eSata connection yourself.
It is their superior design that makes G-RAIDs so much better than the external storage solutions of the competition. G-RAIDs are sleek and sexy, taking their design cues from Apple, and they are engineered for the video editing environment. Heat is the enemy of your hard drives. G-RAIDs have superior cooling that protects your drives and allows them to operate at peak performance and reliability for years. Unlike most competitive solutions that cut corners on cooling and materials, G-Tech uses only the best – down to the drives they include inside each G-RAID. They have the highest quality standards and controls in the industry - which is why they are the most reliable and dependable video storage company and why G-Raids are our go-to choice for video storage.
The G-Tech G-Speed eS is not eligible for this year's list since they were first introduced in 2007 but since they have just released a new 6TB model that I think deserves an honorable mention here. G-Speed eS is an eSata solution that includes an eSata RAID controller card that allows you to configure it as either RAID 0, 1 or 5. I recommend RAID 5, which combines outstanding throughput with redundancy. If one of the drives should fail, you don't lose any data and you can keep on editing. Once again G-Tech's superior design gives you a great looking solution that has excellent cooling to insure reliability and performance. We decided to go with G-Speed eS in our DIY6 machine this past year rather than an internal RAID. We simply did not want to put that much heat inside the box and have to worry about it hurting any of the components.
Sony Vegas Pro 8 was actually one of the Videoguys Top Ten Products of 2007 but the release of two very significant updates is enough to qualify for this year's list as well.
In 2008, Sony updated Vegas Pro 8 with the new version of DVD Architect 5 with Blu-ray support. That combination makes one of most powerful and affordable solutions to go from HDV to Blu-Ray Disc. In fact it is the only solution for under $500 that gives you robust professional video editing and authoring for SD & HD. In addition to HDV, Vegas supports XDCAM and AVCHD formats, although I must warn you that for AVCHD you need a very powerful machine – Quad core – loaded with memory.
Speaking of memory, Sony also introduced a 64-bit version of Vegas Pro 8 that runs on Windows Vista 64. That means you can install and use far more memory, 4, 6, 8 even 16 GBs. Vegas Pro 8 64 bit doesn't just run under Vista 64, it is the first NLE that can really take advantage of it, along with multiple CPU cores. When you combine it together it makes Vegas Pro even more powerful.
For those editors looking for more editing features and capabilities than the $100 consumer level NLEs you can find at the local super store, Vegas Pro 8 is a great choice. You will instantly see how much more productive and creative you can be when you're using the right tool for the job. For under $500, Vegas will give you everything you need and more to produce spectacular HD videos for Blu-ray Disc or the web.
Back in 2006 Matrox introduced their next generation of real-time Adobe Premiere Pro accelerator. While other players in the industry (Pinnacle and Canopus) abandoned Adobe Premiere editors, Matrox has continued to work closely with them. Which is why the RT.X2 and RT.X2 LE are the first (and, at the time of this article being written, the only) approved hardware for Adobe Premiere Pro CS4.
This past year Matrox was able to break through the $1,000 barrier with the release of the RT.X2 LE at $995. Even better, existing RT.X100 and even older RTX2000/2500 owners have been extended a $200 loyalty discount that they can instantly apply to the any RT.X2 or RT.X2 LE purchase.
What does the RT.X2 LE give you for under $1,000 that no other hardware or just the Adobe CS4 software alone can deliver? Real-Time NLE acceleration! When you are working with HDV or P2 DVC Pro HD footage in Adobe Premiere Pro with the RT.X2 LE hardware you get instantaneous playback out to HD from the timeline. Slow Motion, Chroma Key, PIP, color correction all playback immediately in full resolution and frame rate. Even with multiple layers of video, filters and with 3D transitions and effects.
We hear it all the time from editors who migrate from DV to HDV – Why can't I get the same response, performance and workflow in Premiere Pro as I did with DV? The technical answer is that the HD compression makes working with the footage far more difficult for just the CPU and Adobe Premiere to handle. The solution is really quite simple. When you add the Matrox RT.X2 LE to your workflow you can edit your HDV footage just like you used to with DV. You don't have to wait for renders, you don't get frustrated by sluggish timelines and you get to see your filters, effects and transitions in real-time while you are editing and working with them. That my friends, is the Matrox Hardware Advantage!
Pioneer introduced the BDR-202 Blu-Ray burner last year and it was named one of our 10 best. While Pioneer did not introduce a new generation of Blu-ray burner in 2008, the cost dropped dramatically from over $500 to under $300 and the Videoguys went out and put together an external USB bundle that allowed both PC & Mac, desktop or laptop video editors to add Blu-Ray Disc burning to their machines. Our BDR203 Mega X bundle includes the Vantec NexStar DX 5.25" External USB Enclosure for the BDR-202 0r BDR-203 drive that assembles in minutes and allows you to take the BDR-203 with you anywhere and attach it to any computer. All for just $375 and that includes a 6-pack of Verbatim Blu-Ray Media (5 BD-R and 1 BD-RE).
In 2008 Blu-ray won the High Definition format war. There are millions of Sony PlayStation 3's in living rooms all over the world that are also Blu-ray players. This past holiday season prices on Blu-ray players dropped dramatically with many stores promoting Blu-ray players at under $250. With the release of "Dark Knight" on Blu-ray we finally have a title worth paying extra for, loaded with additional Blu-ray content and features.
By now, many of our customers have migrated to HD camcorders. Now is the time to start delivering that HD content to your friends, family, customers and clients. Our BDR-202 Mega X bundle is the perfect solution for you. Especially if you are editing with Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro CS3/CS4 or Sony Vegas Pro 8. You have all the software you need; all that is missing is this bundle. (Apple Final Cut Pro owners are still going to have to invest in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 or Production Premium CS4 to get Blu-ray Disc authoring).
Series of 8" HD LCD Monitors
When we first saw the iKan V8000HD we knew it was going to be just the right solution for many of our customers. Some are looking for an affordable way to monitor in HD while they are shooting, others wanted a small HD monitor to integrate into a cramped NLE suite, still others found it the perfect solution for their production studio. No matter what you need it for, the V800HD monitors deliver the quality and performance you require at a price you can afford.
This past fall iKan began shipping the V8000HDMI, their second generation, high definition monitor. As the name implies you now get HDMI input in addition to pass through inputs for analog SD & HD video. For under $1,000 it's a great alternative to more expensive monitors costing two or three times as much. The V8000HDMI also gives you the flexibility of using different battery plates for mounting to Canon, JVC, Panasonic and V-Mount systems.
What's in store for 2009?
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 did pretty well:
Blu-Ray Disc beat HD-DVD to win the high-definition format war, we started seeing our first 64 bit applications and, although we didn't get a piece of universal HD capture hardware, Final Cut editors did get the Matrox MXO2, and if Avid and Adobe would cooperate I'm sure Matrox would love to support Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and Avid Media Composer as well.
So what do we wish for in 2009 - first and foremost a rebound in the US and global economy. All the coolest new technology in the world doesn't matter if folks can't afford it or won't buy it. But the bad economy also means that our industry and our vendors have to do more. We have to deliver outstanding new products that really do raise the bar and offer users enough increased performance and/or cost savings to have them scrap what they have and invest in new gear. Sure the migration to HD will help move this along, but we need to make editing HD footage as simple and easy as editing DV had become – for all flavors of HD. Then we need to start looking a the actual way we edit video and see if smarter interfaces and other technologies can make us work faster and better. That said, here's the wish list for 2009:
More 64 bit software and hardware running on a 64 bit OS. In 2008 we got our first taste of 64-bit computing. So far we have seen significant improvements in the overall editing environmentwhen we give the new 64-bit version of NLE software 4 GB or more of RAM. Heavy compositors and those working with large images and multiple layers of HD footage will see even more benefit if they go to 6, 8 or even 12GB. But more memory is just the tip of the iceberg.
We are in the process of building our next Videoguys' DIY project which will use the new Intel i7 processor. The i7 is a quad core CPU with hyper threading. To the OS it looks like 8 processors are running. We need our NLEs to be optimized to find and utilize all the available cores and spreading the workload to the GPU as well. At that point we should be able to start cutting through all kinds of HD footage like butter!
Broader support for AVCHD files. Walk into any electronics store and you'll find a huge choice of compact HD camcorders that record to either hard drives or media cards using the SVCHD compression. The image quality from these camcorders are superb – full 1920 x 1080 HD resolution. The problem is that editing these files is a bear. While many applications claim they can edit AVCHD, it's a choppy, sluggish workflow.
That's why I'm so excited about the new NEO Scene plug-in from CineForm. It allows you to edit HDV and more importantly AVCHD much more efficiently, without the need for a super fast computer. For $99 (intro special) you can add it to Adobe Premiere Pro or Sony Vegas and your editing of AVCHD footage becomes much smoother and easier. Hopefully we’ll see CineForm add support for more applications in 2009, and perhaps we'll even see the software vendors integrate this type of technology directly into their products.
Faster HD encoding to Blu-ray Disc, Flash and the web – while maintaining all that great HD quality! Nobody likes to wait for their final encoding. No matter how long it takes, less time is better. We have great encoding software that allows you to tweak your settings and get really great quality. Now I want it faster, and I think I speak for many when I say time is money, and if it lets us keep the same great quality, we're willing to pay for encoding accelerators!
The engineers over at nVidia have made available a plug-in technology called "CUDA" that allows developers direct access into the GPU power used to render the hottest new games in real-time. The new Quadro CX card does just that! Using the RapiHD™ plug-in from Elemental Technologies it accelerates H-264 Blu-ray Disc encoding from the Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 timeline. How much? 4x faster then the standard media encoder in Premiere Pro!
The NLE vendor that delivers all 3 wishes is going to have a big advantage over the competition. It is clear that the technology is here; it's not vaporware or years away. The question is not who is going to do it, but who gets there first and who does it the best. Will it be integrated into the NLE apps, or will it be 3rd party plug-ins? Right now I'd have to say that the folks over at Adobe are in the lead, but you never know what Avid, Apple and the rest of the industry have up their sleeves. It's going to be a great 2009!!
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