Even as mainstream PCs and Macs get faster and faster, and increasingly capable of editing video alongside other tasks, the decreasing cost of all that processing power is reason enough to devote your primary editing machine to video and video alone. Another approach is to purchase a workstation, like the Macrosystem Casablanca AVIO, that's video-dedicated by definition. Many dedicated video editors—such as Media 100's 844/x or Leitch's dpsVelocity Q—cost significantly more than the most expensive mainstream PCs and Macs, even those based on dual Xeon or G5 processors, but they offer more focused processing, customized interfaces, turnkey operation, and advanced video I/O. Macrosystem's Casablanca line features HD-capable $5,000-$6,000 Solitaire systems that reach (price-wise) into the lower regions of Leitch territory (VelocityQ NLE but not VelocityHD).
The lower-cost variation on the Casablanca theme is the AVIO, with configurations ranging from a rock-bottom $999 to a $2,199 model that targets independent and corporate/ departmental videographers. The top-end AVIO includes DV and analog video support plus a DVD recorder and the same proprietary Smart Edit NLE and Arabesk-DVD authoring tool found in Solitaire. Higher-end systems are also more likely to be found running specialized Macrosystem applications like the CBPaint graphics package or QuadCam, a multiple-camera syncing tool [see Lee Rickwood's review in the February issue], although you can purchase and add these to any Casablanca machine.
Macrosystem sent us the $2,199 AVIO DV-DVD system for review, with full Smart Edit 3 functionality as well as DVD-Arabesk 2, the latest version of the DVD tool, and a factory-installed Pioneer DVR-A07 8X DVD recorder. With VGA, component, and S-Video output (in addition to DV for writing finished productions to tape), the AVIO is equally at home being attached to a CRT or LCD monitor as to an ordinary television set (assuming it takes component or S-Video input). So you can also use it to record TV shows. But our interest here is strictly its video production capabilities, which are in fact quite remarkable—and not just because they get to do their thing without a multitasking OS getting in the way.
If you're starting from scratch with a dedicated video editing system (and running the rest of your business on another computer), the $2,199 AVIO DV-DVD compares well to similarly priced Macs with Final Cut Express or PCs with Vegas Movie Studio or Ulead Media Studio Pro. Thus it's reasonable to comparison-shop based on which software you prefer. Without various Macrosystem add-on applications for enhanced PIP, 3D transitions, heightened color correction, and various effects packs, Smart Edit matches up best with those and other "Pre-Pro" tools discussed in the article "Pre-Pro NLEs" (http://www.eventdv.net/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=9133). And as with those tools, there's plenty of room to grow, thanks to those many add-ons, effects packs, and plug-ins. Naturally, that growth comes at a price: $99-$119 for each additional software component.
Like most video editors in the prosumer class, AVIO/Smart Edit renders some effects in real time, while it has to pause to render others. Smart Edit gives you the option of rendering those more taxing effects during the Edit phase (by clicking Create after the effect is placed); all audio mixing and track placement require a pause for rendering, although this usually happens in a matter of a few seconds. Likewise for the more involved transitions (simple dissolves, for example, require no additional rendering time).