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Review: Macrosystem Solitaire
Posted Feb 21, 2005 - KMWorld Buyer's Guide [September 1999] Issue Print Version     Page 1of 3 next »

As the top-end product in Macrosystem's various lines of standalone video editing systems, Solitaire ($4,769 as reviewed) is an easy-to-learn, simple-to-operate non-linear editor, one without the complexity or hassle of PC-based systems.  While earlier versions of Macrosystem's patented OS/NLE, SmartEdit, may have seemed limiting to some pro users, Solitaire now comes with added power and flexibility, and is an alternative worth considering when shopping for video editing solutions around $5,000. Users can also choose among an array of add-on effects packs and utilities to extend Solitaire's capabilities; of special interest to videographers is QuadCam, an ingenious tool for synching footage from multicamera shoots.

Macrosystem's Solitaire is very aptly named.

It's a standalone video editinhg appliance: it works without a computer, doesn't need a dedicated display, and can even be used without a keyboard.

Solitaire is an easy-to-learn, simple-to-operate non-linear editor, one without the complexity or hassle of PC-based systems. It's the newest entry in the Casablanca family of standalone video devices from Macrosystem Digital Video AG.

Almost literally, you can be up and editing minutes after taking Solitaire out of the box. But this apparent simplicity is both its strength and its weakness.

For those new to video editing, Solitaire or one of its siblings is a great way to get started; company reps say you don't have to be an editor to edit with them. But earlier offersings from Macrosystem were almost toy-like in their simplicity to those with professional editing experience, especially on top computer-based NLEs.

While earlier versions may have seemed limiting, Solitaire now comes with added power and flexibility, and is an alternative worth considering when shopping for video solutions around $5,000.

It includes recently updated software, removable hard drives, a leading DVD burner, one-button backup, and more memory than previous models. More often than not, a trackball is all that's needed to navigate the user interface and initiate system functions, although Solitaire does ship with a keyboard and dedicated "shortcut" software.

A wide selection of software is available from Macrosystem, designed for Solitaire and other Casablanca family members Avio, Prestige, and Kron (see Stephen Nathans' review of Avio Pro at http://www.eventdv.net/Articles/PrintArticle.aspx?ArticleID=9287). At the core of these offerings is the current OS/editing program, SmartEdit 4. There are also new DVD authoring and burning utilities. CBPaint is the latest paint and graphics program, and PhotoStudio is a brand new release for photo manipulation, including pan and zoom. Perhaps most interesting to videographers is a new tool called QuadCam that's designed to facilitate multicamera editing with support for as many as four cameras.

In fact, dozens of software programs--effects and transitions, animated backgrounds, title motion, and 3D packs--are available extend and enhance the capabilities of the hardware. Solitaire comes with several on-board, but there are so many more from which to choose that, all in all, a big chunk of the investment in a Macrosystem video editing solution potentially lies in the software, the upgrades, and the learning curves.

Luckily, that is where the solitary nature of the Solitaire disappears.

Its growing user base is supported by a vibrant owner community and tech-support network, including online forums, chat boards, and a truly helpful and responsive corporate help desk. The company itself supports and benefits from this exchange of ideas, of course, and it integrates such feedback into its product support and development.

Take the Tour
Solitaire comes in a shiny, silvery cube. Its glassy cover (front and top) gives it a sleek, distinguished look, diminished somewhat by the flimsy plastic-hinged doors on the front.

Touch-sensitive buttons marked on the glass are kept to a minimum: Off, Open, and One Touch Back-up are all that are needed. A small LED display indicates the unit's operating status.

Behind the bottom door on the front of the Solitaire, ther are supplemental video connections (DV, S-Video, RCA/composite) and a SmartCard slot, used to load new operating software or special effects packages. The top flap opens to the DVD burner, Pioneer's DVR-A08, featuring the latest high-speed and dual-layer recording technology.

The back of the unit is where the main connections are found, including video and audio I/O as RCA composite, dedicated S-Video, or four-pin DV. Solitaire comes with a handy two-way adaptor for those who do not want double the cables running out the back of the unit--a simple switch changes one set of cables from input to output.

Suitable for analog editing, the product now uses what's called Direct DV--incoming digital video is no longer transcoded to MPEG-2 (as in previous products) bus is captured "as is" in raw DV files, maintaining pristine image quality.

Other important connections are for trackball, PowerKey keyboard, Ethernet/LAN, dedicated VGA monitor, or outboard USB devices.

Inside, the system includes (depending on the configuration purchased) a 3.2GHz Intel processor, up to 1GB RAM, a removable IDE (up to 300GB) and backup drive (also up to 300GB), and the built-in DVD burner, as well as video chipsets, codecs, and other dedicated processors (codecs from C-Cube and MainConcept).

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