February 2003|The ideal video editing system would offer a tantalizing range of creative options, instantaneous editing responsiveness, and real-time output to analog tape, DV camera, or MPEG-2 for DVD production. Ease of use and format quality are also high on the wish list, as is a price tag under $1,100.
Impossible to achieve at any cost only a scant two years ago, today this ideal is not far-fetched. Here we review three real-time video editing systems that come intriguingly close to this definition: Canopus' DVStorm2 ($1,088 at www.videoguys.com), Matrox's RT X.100 ($999.95 at same) and Pinnacle's Pro-ONE RDTV ($799.95 after rebate). All three products accept both analog and DV input and work primarily with Adobe Premiere 6.5, though you'll have to spend about $300 more to get Premiere for the DVStorm2. However, Canopus also throws its StormBay breakout box into the bundle.
The common threads running through these products—real-time operation and Premiere—could easily mislead you into believing that they're similar in capabilities and operation. But in reality, the exact features and performance profiles of the respective products are extraordinarily idiosyncratic. We're not reviewing chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry here, we're reviewing Almond Saffron Pistachio, Berry Merry Gingerbread, and (my favorite) Chocolate Raspberry Truffle.
As in any frank discussion of contemporary "real-time" digital video production, we should start with the caveat that real time doesn't always mean real time. The first limit is that only selected effects, usually those supplied by the vendor, operate in real time. In addition, only a limited number of simultaneously implemented special effects will operate in real time, and then only if applied in the proper order. Finally, sometimes real time means real-time preview, sometimes real-time analog output, sometimes real- time DV output, and sometimes all three. If you're starting to get a headache, you'll know exactly how we feel. To try to break down both our thoughts and presentation, we've rated each board in a number of critical categories, as shown in Table 1. Before getting started on this list, let's spend a bit of time getting to know the three products.
The original DVStorm debuted Canopus' scalable video architecture, which relies primarily on the power of the host CPU to deliver up to five real-time video tracks, a pretty hot number given that both Matrox and Pinnacle are limited to two video tracks in real time. DVStorm was also the first product to render supported DV effects in real time, a significant time-saver.
With DVStorm2, Canopus now includes the StormEncoder MPEG hardware for real-time MPEG-2 capture, throwing in Ulead's DVD Workshop SE to complete the DVD au- thoring connection. Also new is one-pass capture and scene detection to more efficiently get the video to hard disk, and additional filters and special effects.
The base version of DVStorm2 ships with all Canopus capture and editing software, including the popular Storm Edit. As with all products, we used the supporting programs as little as possible, and spent the most time in Adobe Premiere.
We requested that vendors supply their products pre-installed in systems to minimize installation and compatibility issues. Canopus supplied the DVStorm2 in a dual AMD Athlon processor with 1GB RAM, well above the Pentium III or AMD Athlon 700mHz recommendation. Since CPU horsepower drives most performance, the DVStorm2 makes the most sense for those with very fast single-processor or dual-processor systems.
From an I/O standpoint, you can run DVStorm2 two ways: out of the back of the computer or via StormBay, a breakout box that fits in a drive bay in your computer. Most people either love or hate StormBay; we disliked having the cables trailing down the front of the computer and found the movable breakout box offered by the other vendors more convenient.