Review: MacroSystem Renommee Plus
Posted Mar 1, 2007

The Renommee Plus ($3,999) is MacroSystem's newest and most powerful standalone NLE. While capable of spreadsheets, word processing, web surfing, etc., with an optional Windows XP hard drive, it never shares any of its processing power or resources while editing. This allows the 3.8GHz Renommee Plus with 1024MB of DDR2 RAM to be one of the most efficient SD/HDV editors currently available. The Renommee Plus gives you a unique and viable alternative to the many PC- and Mac-based choices out there.

The Renommee Plus, the latest and fastest (at 3.8GHz) addition to MacroSystem's longstanding line of dedicated video editing systems, comes ready to edit out of the box, preloaded with the company's easy-to-use operating system and DVD authoring software. It also has a Logitech optical trackball, a customized USB Powerkey keyboard, a 300GB, 7200RPM hard drive in a lockable, exchangeable sled, and the latest Pioneer DVD±R/RW DL burner.

All that's needed is a monitor or two. The edit system allows the display flexibility of anything from a single NTSC television to a two-monitor system comprised of a VGA monitor for the GUI (graphic user interface) and an NTSC monitor to display the video footage.

It appears the cubical glass Solitaire satisfied the company's taste for system-design adventure because they have returned to a conventional container for the Renommee Plus. In fact, at first glance, one could easily mistake the Renommee Plus for the Prestige, which it is replacing.

From the front, the Renommee Plus shares the same height, width, and functional layout of the Prestige with only the capped card reader slot (the reader has gone the way of the Smart Media format itself) and nameplate to distinguish it from its predecessor. The depth of the case, however, underscores the difference, being three inches deeper to accommodate the larger and more powerful processor boards and the accompanying heavier-duty cooling system.

figure 1It has the same handy inputs on the front left-hand side, consisting of analog (RCA, Y/C), digital (four-pin IEEE1394/FireWire), and a 3.5 mm stereo microphone jack. Just above these jacks are the power button and LED indicators for power and drive activity. The Renommee Plus forgoes the outdated Smart Media card system of loading software and uses CD/DVD-ROM media in the built-in Pioneer DVD burner centrally located behind a drop-down door. Just below the burner is the lockable, exchangeable hard drive sled. All of this allows easy access to the burner, drive, and connections.

The rear of the unit (left) has all the typical PC connections—serial, parallel, PS2, VGA, microphone, speaker, and Ethernet, plus four USB jacks. For audio and video, there are RCA and Y/C input/output jacks, and a SCART monitor jack along with another four-pin FireWire jack.

figure 1Operation
Power up the Renommee Plus in the two-monitor mode and you get a default color bar display on the NTSC monitor and the clean and simple GUI that draws many adherents to the MacroSystem product line. You have a choice of five VGA settings, depending on whether you are using single VGA monitor mode or two-monitor mode with a varying combination of refresh rates and resolution choices.

In System Settings, you set your preferred language from 19 choices and choose screen resolution, background rendering format, and trackball speed. In this menu you can also install additional software and set the unattended record timer.

In Project Settings, you select from up to 10 individual projects, although this will change to 30 projects in the next OS version, SE6. Each of these projects can then be set to a specified video format. The format choices are anamorphic or progressive in either 4:3 or 16:9 SD or HDV. In Video Settings, you choose between digital or analog input and whether the connection is from the front or rear jacks.

After the initial set-up, there are Video menu (left) choices of Record, Edit, Finish, Transitions, Image Processing, and Titling, and Audio menu selections of Record, Edit, or Mix. In Record, you choose from three modes: Normal (for manual recording), Time (for scheduled recording durations ranging from one frame to 180 minutes) and Photo (for still-frame captures that then create Scenes of set durations ranging from one second to one minute). There are also on-screen transport controls for most digitally connectable cams, decks, and portable hard drives in this menu.

figure 1In Edit (left), you do the bulk of the editing, splitting, trimming, and assembling of the video, and have direct access to the transitions, image processing (IP) effects and titling menus. The audio menus contain comparable audio editing capabilities, which range from trimming and sweetening to surround-sound depending on what optional software you add. The Finish menu contains all export functions including the MacroSystem DVD authoring program, Arabesk. There are also onscreen transport controls here for digitally connected devices.

In initial testing with several SD projects I found the Renommee Plus very impressive. Many functions that are non-real time on the other MacroSystem platforms are faster than real-time on the Renommee Plus, eliminating the Preview mode and allowing immediate full-screen video monitoring and a more fluid workflow pace.

Comparing it to a Solitaire, which was until the release of the Renommee the most powerful MacroSystem system, I found the difference varied from a mere 20% improvement to over 225%, depending on the specific process chosen. The difference would of course be considerably greater with any of the less powerful platforms.

MacroSystem's method of editing HDV footage is unique. You input one or multiple HDV tapes, and when you exit the Record menu, the system immediately creates SD versions of the footage, giving you a progress bar to know where you are in the process. When finished, it places the SD-created footage in the Scene bin. The auto-conversion rate is about 125% of the real-time duration of the footage. In my testing, a 38-minute segment of HDV took 48 minutes to convert to the SD version, and conversion of a 51-minute segment took 64 minutes.

You edit using this SD footage while the system concurrently creates an edited HDV version of what you are doing seamlessly in the background. Auto-Split (scene detect) is available to split the footage up into individual record segments to make it more manageable. The Renommee Plus, like all the other platforms in the MacroSystem line, uses the Storyboard format.

Rather than drag and drop, you use button commands of Add, Remove, and Replace. To tweak durations in the Scene bin, you use Split or Trim, which opens sub-windows where you can choose specific segments or adjust the beginnings and endings of Scenes prior to placing them on the Storyboard.

The use of transitions, IP Effect, or Titling allows you to add a layer of effects with no visible rendering delays. Background rendering, which MacroSystem calls SmartRendering, will create the HDV version of the effect unseen, allowing you to continue to edit, keeping the work-pace fluid.

The exception to this is using IP effects in the Special menu. This mode allows unlimited layering of IP effects by creating fully independent scenes in the Scene bin with the desired IP effect added. The downside is that it requires the full attention of the processor to create the HDV version of the scene due to HDV's LongGOP nature, which makes editing processor-intensive on any system (see Ben Balser's January 2007 article, Editing HDV). You can see this process played out visually by watching the individual DV and HDV on-screen progress bars of identical footage. On the Renommee Plus, the DV progress bar often comes and goes in an eye blink, while the HDV bar visibly crawls. Actual duration of the rendering of a scene depends on the scene's length and the IP effect used, because some are more processor-intensive than others.

Regardless, rendering must be completed before editing can continue. Upon completion of the edit, you move to the Finish menu, choosing analog, DV, or HDV, output, or switch to Arabesk for DVD authoring. In testing, I created several short SD and HDV projects, all two minutes in length, varying from straightforward assembly-editing to video with IP effects, inserts, transitions, and multiple audio tracks. SD projects were immediately ready for export thanks to SmartRender. HDV projects required additional rendering despite SmartRender, with a preview pop-up window and progress bar beneath the footage. The two-minute HDV projects varied from under eight minutes to 12.5 minutes to render for export to digital tape.

I found the Renommee Plus straightforward, efficient, and capable. The system's exchangeable hard drive sled system enables unlimited storage and the ability to safely and efficiently archive projects that require multiple revisions or editing over time. Editors concerned with the formidable software learning curves of many PC- and Mac-based editing software programs and/or frustrated by the distractions of non-editing issues such as virus system infection and third-party software compatibility problems should strongly consider the Renommee Plus as a unique and viable editing platform alternative.

Timothy D. Kennelly is an event videographer with 21 years in the industry, an international speaker, and a beta tester for several video-related companies.