Toolbox makeover

There has been some merging and shaking in the world of desktop editing of late, and it could benefit many editing hd and sd video on their desktop. Just for starters, Apple and Intel are now business partners, meaning all new Macs now use Intel Processors. This makes them more like pcs, enabling them to run many programs previously geared only for that platform - as well as all the programs in Final Cut Studio.
October 1, 2006

There has been some merging and shaking in the world of desktop editing of late, and it could benefit many editing HD and SD video on their desktop. Just for starters, Apple and Intel are now business partners, meaning all new Macs now use Intel Processors. This makes them more like PCs, enabling them to run many programs previously geared only for that platform – as well as all the programs in Final Cut Studio.

Likewise, there are revolutions at Avid. Key applications like Media Composer and Avid Express can now operate in a Mac environment. (But, oddly enough, not on the new Intel-Macs.) Adobe Premiere also established itself as a serious player on the HD NLE stage with its new HD-capable post-production suite for the pc.

It is a clear sign that HD editing on the desktop has reached a new stage in its evolution when the three big ‘A’s (Apple, Avid, Adobe) and their competitors are boasting workflow and software integration as much as individual HD features and functions. Among other benefits, this simplifies moving files among applications (DVD authoring, audio editing, compression, graphics, or color correction) by reducing or eliminating file conversion, and therefore potential quality loss. It also saves time and creates a user-friendly desktop work environment. The ability to do this with multiple strains of HD and SD formats in real-time helps separate the desktop heavyweights from the welterweights.

Adobe’s Production Studio features tight integration of Premiere Pro 2.0, After Effects 7.0, Audition 2.0, Encore 2.0, Photoshop CS2, Illustrator CS2 and Adobe Bridge (asset management). It’s a PC-only option that supports the dominant hd formats. And with Matrox’s Axio board, which optimizes the package, Production Studio natively supports MXF files like DVCPRO HD from Panasonic’s P2 HVX 200 and Sony’s XDCAM HD at 17 to 35 Mbps, plus real-time color correction, chroma/luma keying, speed changes (slow mo/time-lapse), blur/glow/soft focus, and real-time 3D effects. The Axio LE (Axio board, Premiere Studio and breakout box) lists for US$4,500.

At Apple, the big news is clearly the new Mac Pro. At first glance, the old and new Macs look nearly identical, but under the hood the differences are striking: a pair of dual core Intel Xeon (2, 2.66, or 3 MHz) processors; up to 16 GB (8 slots) of RAM; and 2 TB of storage on two SuperDrives. With dual 3 GHz processors, the new Mac Pro cranks twice as fast as the quad G5.

Software-wise, OS X merely notches up to 10.3, and all the software in Final Cut Studio add a .1 to their current versions. More significant, though, is the fact that all the software in Final Cut Studio 5.1 will run on the new Mac Pros and on ‘classic’ Macs with OS X, which can run on the new Intel-Macs or on G5s. With G-series Macs no longer in production, Apple is keen to get established Final Cut users to switch to the new FC Studio, which operates in both worlds. (In part, to simplify support.)

To do so, Apple launched an attractive ‘crossgrade’ promotion enabling Production Suite owners to upgrade to Final Cut Studio 5.1 for only $49. Those with Final Cut Pro only (or other single apps) can buy FC Studio 5.1 for $199. A driving force is that apps like DVD Studio Pro 4.1 and Motion 2.1 can now be bought as part of Final Cut Studio for $1,299. Hence, the crossgrade promotion enables owners of single applications to get the full suite Final Cut software at a huge savings.

Final Cut Pro 5.1 now supports most SD and HD formats. Functions previously rendered (like multi-cam playback and complex motion graphics) should now be in real-time. Also, the tight integration of Final Cut Pro 5.1 with other software in Studio 5.1 further accelerates the post process. Files and data created in any program can be put directly on or off the timeline, or other Studio apps, without losing time or quality transcoding. One limitation is that key Adobe apps like PhotoShop and After Effects aren’t 100% reliable on Mac Pros, but Adobe promises universal versions by early ’07.

Avid’s hallmark Media Composer is now back on the Mac. Besides its comprehensive HD support, Media Composer 2.5 also supports multi-cam editing and full-screen DVI SD/HD output. Media Composer is now also available with Avid’s Mojo accelerator with new SDI I/Os (for uncompressed sd capture and real-time monitoring of DV, HDV, and DVCPRO HD projects). With Avid’s pricier Adrenaline board, Composer is even faster and more functional – ideal for mid-sized plants. A faster version of Adrenaline is now available with Avid DN Xcel, enabling real-time, 10-bit encoding of uncompressed HD at SD bandwidths.

The new Mac version of Media Composer supports DVCPRO HD, HDV, XDCAM HD and Avid DNxHD data rates of up to 220 Mbps, for uncompressed HD quality at SD data rates. Mac editors can now transfer HD projects seamlessly between Windows and Mac systems and monitor full screen on LCD or plasma displays, using standard Mac or PC graphics cards. Also, shaky footage can be stabilized with new motion tracking and stabilization tools (SteadyGlide). Media Composer 2.5′s background rendering is also improved for OS X, and is now available for $5,000 (software only).

Avid’s Mojo SDI also works with Avid Xpress Pro 5.5 on Macs and PCs, supporting native DVCPRO HD, HDV, XDCAM HD acquisition/output, real-time effects, 24p, Avid DNxHD encoding, plus editing HD and SD in the same timeline with real-time multicam support for Mac OS X.

Avid DS Nitris v8.0 now provides dual-link 4:4:4 hardware connectivity with native 64-bit software needed for deep layer compositing and high-res projects. It also dual-boots with Avid Symphony, providing access to both Symphony and Avid DS on a single Nitris workstation.

For its part, Canopus/Grass Valley Edius HD touts real-time, multi-layered HD editing and effects processing with scalable functionality. Uncompressed HD output is full resolution/full frame rate and real-time with features and functionality comparable to high-end nles. Key elements include Canopus HD software, the RX-E1 I/O board plus, and the HD-SDI I/O module. Edius HD supports native DVCPRO HD and (1080i) hdv, including high-speed HDV timeline export for dual-core CPUs. EDIUS HD hardware may be configured with the HDBX1000, a 3U rack-mountable multi-I/O processor.

Ulead, meanwhile, is the first to boast a batch capture of native 1080i HDV. The only conversion involved is from transport stream to program stream for editing which is considered lossless, with no impact on video quality. HDV, DV and Mpeg files can be mixed and matched on the same timeline and output as SD or HD, including WMV-HD.

With Vegas 7.O, Sony hopes to reinforce its reputation as a leading developer of intuitive and affordable HD-capable nles. It features strong support for XDCAM, with external monitoring, network support, plus native ingest of 1080i HDV with improved capacity for long-form projects. It also supports 1080i 24p and 720p timeline monitoring. Using Blackmagic’s Decklink PCIe and PCIx or AJA SDI boards (Xena, LH, LHe, LS, LSe), it features insert editing to tape, handles mixed time codes, 5.1 multi-channel audio, and improved batch capturing. The Vegas + Production Suite comes bundled with Boris Graffiti and Magic Bullet Movie Looks.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.