Canopus EDIUS ($599) started life as a video editor sold only with Canopus hardware like DVStorm and DVRex, usually as a simpler, cheaper alternative to Adobe Premiere. As such, the program's capabilities started out fairly modest and grew as customers started requesting greater functionality; as customers are won't to do. However, the program was not originally designed to compete head to head with the likes of Premiere, Pinnacle Liquid Edition, or Sony Vegas.
Today, however, dual-processor and hyper-threading (HT) technology-enabled computers have lessened the necessity for hardware editing co-processors like DVStorm and DVRex. Accordingly, Canopus made EDIUS version 2.0 compatible with standard OHCI-compatible FireWire devices and started selling the program as a standalone tool, with a $599 price tag.
Unfortunately, this is a bit like sending a double-A ballplayer off to Fenway to face Pedro Martinez. While he may get a hit or two and demonstrate some dazzling fundamentals, overall, he can't compete at this level and needs more time to mature in the minor leagues.
This doesn't mean you can't edit with the tool, and that it's not a good buy when bundled with Canopus hardware. It's also got a terrific titling utility and a rich palette of highly configurable 2D and 3D effects.
However, head to head against the editors noted above on a plain Jane 1394 card, EDIUS compares poorly in terms of interface, usability, and editing speed, though Canopus makes up some of this time with very speedy rendering.
Let's start with the basics. When you run EDIUS, three application windows open up, one for the preview and trim window, one for the timeline, and one for the bin. Like Pinnacle Edition, most operations are guided through buttons atop the timeline and beneath the preview and trim windows, with no menus atop the program. This makes the program a bit more difficult to learn at first, but generally speeds production work down the line. So far, so good.
However, we quickly ran afoul of EDIUS' multiple window construction. For example, if you're Alt-Tabbing through the applications open on your system, frequently the preview and trim windows will show up, but not the timeline, or other EDIUS windows might appear floating over another application.
When you drag files from the bin into the timeline, the bin moves behind the main EDIUS application. To drag another asset from the bin, you first have to move the bin back in front of the timeline, which means at least one wasted click each time you grab an asset.
Similarly, applying an effect requires three separate floating windows within the program. First, you drag the effect from the effects bin onto the clip, which is simple enough, so long as the bin is open. To set effects parameters, you have to open the information window, which isn't available via right mouse click (like the properties window) and only shows the effect if you click the very thin green line EDIUS places on the track to designate the application of an effect. Click anywhere else on the clip with the information window open and the effect goes away, causing us to wonder whether a bug was making our effects disappear.
The effect parameters window is the third and final window, which generally needs another nudge or two to move into optimal position. Working with all these floating windows gets frustrating, especially if you've worked in a program that uses nested menus or other technique to eliminate them.
EDIUS is also the only editor in its price range that can't open multiple sequences simultaneously, which hinders large-project development. (Vegas can't open multiple sequences, but you can open multiple copies of Vegas simultaneously; EDIUS can't do this.) Working through our test sequences, we also missed features like the ability to paste attributes, which speeds the ability to apply effects to multiple clips.
Once we got familiar with EDIUS' operation, we started formal testing, which included building a 12-minute project from scratch and then performing several of the tests used in our "Take Five" article last December [pp. 36-42]. We tested on an HP xw4100 workstation running Windows XP with 2GB RAM and a 3.2gHz Pentium 4 processor with HT Technology. All drives were serial ATA drives, including two dedicated to video production.
For simplicity, we benchmarked EDIUS solely against Premiere Pro running on the same computer. However, where appropriate, we will mention the capabilities of other editors in this price range, drawing from the results of the "Take Five" article.
EDIUS's offers both batch and regular capture capabilities, both with scene detection, and the program can also capture directly to the timeline. Import capabilities are relatively standard, except EDIUS couldn't import two 32-bit test videos created in Cool 3D Studio, both of which loaded normally into all other tested programs. We also had an issue with a 320x240 file I'll describe below. Once inputted, you can arrange clips in the bin like a storyboard and drop the clips in sequence into the timeline.
Editing in the trim window and timeline was very responsive with both DV and MPEG-2 files. A consistent complaint, however, was that video in the preview window appeared much too dark, which was disconcerting, but didn't really affect our work because we used the real-time preview out the FireWire port.
Nonetheless, getting our 12-minute project trimmed and laid out was fairly simple work, until we started getting to the advanced tests. Then some surprisingly fundamental weaknesses began to appear.
For example, during chromakey testing, we discovered that you can't simultaneously apply a 3D picture-in-picture (PIP) effect and a chromakey effect to the same clip, a limitation we've not seen on any other program at this level. This is especially significant with EDIUS because the 3D PIP includes many basic controls, like those for resizing, motion and clip positioning, as well as traditional PIP functions.
You can work around this limitation by using a command to render a portion of the project to the timeline, which produces and inserts a file directly above the current clips. However, in our advanced tests, we ran into another limitation: EDIUS apparently assumes that all video files are 720x480 in resolution. Specifically, when we loaded a 320x240 bluescreen test file, EDIUS inserted a black border around the content to expand the file to 720x480.
To produce our comparative test, we first had to crop the border using the 3D PIP, then scale to a custom aspect ratio using the 2D PIP because the 3D PIP can only scale proportionately. You can't apply 2D and 3D PIP filters together, so it was apply one, render, apply the next, render again, then finally apply the blue screen on the third generation DV file. While it may sound like we designed the test to highlight EDIUS' limitations, note that this test was originally used for the "Take Five" article, and that no other NLEs experienced similar problems.
Though our patience was somewhat tattered by the time we reached the actual chromakey tools, we found them very impressive, with great fine-tuning controls, spill suppression, and a built in garbage matte for cleaning up edges. Rendering speed was very fast—20.43 seconds compared to 67.52 for Premiere Pro, though this doesn't count the two intermediate renders we had to perform or the increased set-up time. Output quality was quite high, especially considering that EDIUS was working with second and third-generation DV files.
Other performance benchmarks were similarly impressive. For example, EDIUS rendered our 12-minute test project to MPEG-2 in 9:06 compared to 14:36 for Premiere Pro. Once again, however, the machinations of setting up the multiple renders and the multiple renders themselves are not factored in. If your projects are fairly simple, you can probably bank on the speed increase, but if you're forced to perform multiple renders to work within EDIUS' limitations, this time advantage will quickly erode.
Our next performance test measured how many simultaneous DV video streams EDIUS could retrieve and display from our hard disk. The procedure was simple: keep adding picture-in-picture layers until real time playback stopped. EDIUS was able to support six streams to Premiere's four, which was impressive, and equal to Pinnacle Edition's performance on the same machine at the end of last year.
We then moved on to color correction, which proved less impressive. Of the five tools available for color correction, we found the white balance tool most useful, but automatic mode was a hit-or-miss proposition—resolving some problem videos easily, and providing little benefit on others. Though we could preview the manual adjustments in real time out the DV window, the tool lacked the split-screen display available in most other editors, which would have been useful.
A pervasive lack of documentation complicated working with this software. For example, with Premiere Pro and Liquid Edition, you grab an eyedropper and touch a color that should be white, and the programs adjust the video from there. EDIUS may have a similar function, but documentation was limited, and when we clicked white, the screen turned psychedelic.
Of course, speedy as EDIUS is, you'll have plenty of time to experiment. For example, EDIUS color-corrected our four test clips, totaling about 40 seconds of video, in 15.16 (second.milliseconds). In contrast, Premiere Pro performed the same task in 78.78. Note, however, that with Premiere Pro, your chances of getting it right the first time (and saving further development), are much, much greater.
Working through other capabilities, we experimented with EDIUS' still image capabilities, and learned that unlike Premiere and Edition, EDIUS subsamples all images down to 720x480 resolution before applying pan and zoom effects, limiting quality significantly. Of course, Canopus offers their excellent Imaginate tool for creating pan and zoom effects with high-resolution images, but you can't embed Imaginate projects into EDIUS, as you can with Premiere Pro.
EDIUS produced beautifully smooth slow-motion video in testing, but it lacks the ability to change speeds gradually, which Vegas, Final Cut Pro, and Liquid Edition all offer.
Title creation is a strength, courtesy of the bundled Inscriber TitleMotion. You design your titles over the background video with WYSIWYG placement, and EDIUS offers outstanding arrangement tools for the text and objects you can insert into your titles. You also get over 350 title presets including full screen, upper and lower third presets, and exquisite animation controls.
We also liked the Canopus Xplode 2D and 3D effects engine, which is highly configurable and includes a range of canned effects and transitions. However, audio editing is a weakness. Not only are the audio effects generally weak as compared to those offered by Premiere and Vegas, the audio mixer works as a post process after adjustments are made on the timeline. This means that adjustments made in the audio mixer don't show up in the timeline rubber band controls, which complicates operation. In contrast, Premiere and most other editors use their audio mixers to adjust volume on the timeline, which is much more straightforward.
The bundled ProCoder Express—a lite version of Canopus' multi-codec batch transcoder—turned out to be a mixed bag, though generally positive. Novices will like the comprehensive wizard-based approach, with good access to advanced adjustments, and all users will like the ability to select a previous project and have Procoder render using the same settings. Though the range of output formats is extensive, including QuickTime, Real, Microsoft Windows Media, VideoCD, DV, and DVD, EDIUS can't output a Dolby Digital stream for DVD production.
companies mentioned in this article
Adobe Systems, www.adobe.com
Pinnacle Systems, www.pinnaclesys.com
Sony Pictures Digital, www.mediasoftware.sonypictures.com