Build a Workstation Designed to Edit Digital Video
A Radified Guide

Intro Part 1 Intro Part 2 Hardware 1 Hardware 2 Linkage

Intro Part 2

* Every system is different - tailored to both the performance req'ments & budget of its user. Consequently, you should plan to endure some pain, working out all the little idiosyncrasies of your particular creation. The idea of building a video-editing system where everything goes perfectly is mere fantasy. 

Editing video is not word processing. But if you’re prepared for problems, & you know where to get help when you need it, you won’t get so discouraged (like I was) when things don’t work the way you expect.

*Video-editing is a (relatively) nascent technology, still being developed & refined. But rest assured, there’s nothing you can’t work out – with a little radified help & logical troubleshooting skills. Each glitch you solve will teach you something new, and it won’t be long before you’ve handled everything your beast-of-a-creation can throw at you. That’s when editing (really) becomes magical.

* Once the glitches have been ironed out, & everything is tweaked to perfection, editing video is a beautiful thing. There’s nothing like it. It gives you the ability to (virtually) create your own reality - something that would've cost a fortune only a few years ago. Many of the early video-editors are out of the game simply cuz they got too frustrated or ran out of money. They got in too early. 

You’ll have the tools to create things that, until recently, were out of reach for all without a winning lottery ticket or trust fund. With the right camera & audio equipment, your own movies are possible. Perhaps the coolest thing about being able to make your own movies is the possibility (remote as it is) that your movie might actually make a dent in popular culture - as only mass media can. Everyday, the internet is becoming more & more a conduit for mass media. 

Even if you only make a small ding in popular culture, it can have wide-ranging and long-lasting effects – something that our parents couldn’t even dream of, at least not without buying into the System. Things are different today, and the rate of change is accelerating. Tines are changing, we're excited about it.

* Making a (serious) movie is not an easy undertaking. It's 5-to-10 times easier than it would be with film/celluloid, but still a bear (gives you an idea of how hard it is to work with film). But if you have the desire, and the talent, at least finances will no longer be the main thing holding you back. This is nothing short of a revolution

With internet bandwidth growing daily, and the number of users opting for broadband services (Cable/DSL), a feature-length movie is not out of the question. Today, with a relatively small budget, you can write, direct, produce, shoot, capture, edit, mix, print, encode & post your movies on the Net. 

Let me repeat that making a serious movie on a PC is not as easy as it sounds, but until the advent of DV & NLE, making your own movie was prohibitively expensive.

* Wendy is a graduate Film school student at USC (Los Angeles). See here (Lagunacinema )for an example what can be done at home. Some of her movies are simply for fun; others for school projects (got an A- for the semester). Vandancing is prolly her best, even though the dang lip-sync is off a hair (only in the encoded Real media file. We’ll re-encode when we get a chance) 

Some of these movies were shot with a single-chip Sony TRV9, & the others on a 3-chip Canon GL1 – both 720x480, 24-bit color, WAV audio. The older ones captured & edited with a Pinnacle DV300 (software editing/rendering), while the latest were done with a Matrox RT2000 (real-time editing/rendering). All were edited with Adobe Premiere 5.1 & encoded to MPEG-1 at VideoCD specs (same bit-rate specs as the music CDs you buy in stores). The resultant MPEG-1 file was encoded to Real media with RealProducer G2 Plus. Quality of the final product is dependant on (quality of) the source.

* First semester graduate Production students at USC use the Sony TRV900 (provided by the school), a 3-chip DV camcorder. The TRV900 is a great camera, but we prefer the Canon GL1. If you compare the two, side-by-side, we think you’ll agree. USC students edit DV using Adobe Premiere on dedicated Macs – meaning these computers are used for nothing but editing. 

Some of the students have their own Macs and edit at home (so they don’t have to quit when the school closes for the night). We know one student who uses a Mac (at home) solely to edit video, & does everything else on a Windows PC. Others (like us) do everything, including editing, on a Windows PC.

* Each platform has it’s own pro’s & con’s. Macs are typically easier to use for the novice. PCs offer a wider range of options, greater expandability, upgradability & control vastly more market share. Since development typically follows dollars, new products are typically designed for use on the Windows platform first (the RT2000 was released for Windows first, the Mac). 

We started our computing experience with a Macs (IIci), but didn’t like not being able to upgrade the CPU, or having to wait for the newest, coolest products to be released on the Mac. Then when the big players like Avid said they were no longer going to release any new products for the Mac, we thought it time to make the leap (to PCs). As painful as its been (negotiating the learning curve), we feel good about the decision. But many working (strictly) with multimedia, still use Macs.

* Movies played over the internet are still highly compressed. Compression degrades (image/audio) quality, but they don’t look that bad, especially considering a 100-to-1 compression ratio over original DV footage. 

We compress our AVI files (720x480, 30fps, 24-bit color, WAV audio, 3 minutes = ~650MB, play using Windows Media Player) to MPEG-1 (using the Panasonic encoder to -> 352x240, 30fps, 3 mins = ~30MB, play using Windows Media Player), then encode the MPEG-1 to Real media using Real Producer (220Kbps for Cable/DSL users, 3 mins = 5MB). So, as you can see, a 650MB (3-min) AVI file is compressed to 5MB for play on the net.

* A wise course of action for the first-time video editor seems to be to choosing a less-expensive editing/capture card until you become proficient with the editing application – then, if you have sufficient finances & motivation - move up to a real-time (RT) editing card. A RT card will improve your editing experience dramatically - assuming you’ve mastered the editing app. 

We started with the DV300 by Pinnacle/Miro, then upgraded to the RT2000 (Matrox) after a year. Both cards come with Adobe Premiere 5.1. An editing app usually comes with the card. Better apps come with better cards. Adobe Premiere is the first-ever program for editing video, and is the closest thing there is to a standard.

* Initially, we had some probs getting the batch-capture function to work with the RT2000. But after swapping PCI slots of the sound card with the RT2000, everything works fine. We just captured 20 clips from a single tape – the RT2000 got ‘em all, flawlessly. Real-time editing is impressive. It keeps you in the creative flow much better than software-rendering, where you have to wait for rendering to see how your chances turned out. 

A real-time card doesn't penalize you for changing your mind. At the very end, when you print to tape, transitions are rendered then, with hardware acceleration. All transitions and effects during the editing process are done with hardware acceleration.

* Some claim that Incite makes the best non-dedicated editing app on the planet.  We’ve never tried it. Incite makes the software that works with the hardware. Many talk lustfully about the Matrox DigiSuite and the DigiSuite MAX. Incite works on both these platforms. See here for info a link to the Matrox site that addresses both these products. You have to be very good at editing in order to take advantage of a package like this. 

I think prices for the DigiSuite products range from $3K to $8K – not including price of Incite software. I’ve sent an email to Incite & asked they’ve considered porting their product to the RT2000 (that we have). They said they’d look into it. But it may cost more than the RT2000 itself. Again, moving up from here will take you into the domain of dedicated, closed-architecture systems from the folks at Avid or Media100. This is not likely something a home user would be interested in.

* The cool thing about the DV300 is that the video signal never sees the PCI bus. Video data is x-fered to the DV300 (PCI slot) from the camcorder via a Firewire (IEEE-1394) cable and, from there, is routed to the SCSI bus where it ends up on the awaiting/dedicated SCSI hard drive. The DV300 has an onboard Firewire and SCSI controller both. 

This design makes it less prone to dropping frames, b-cuz the signal doesn’t have to negotiate the PCI bus, which sees a lot of traffic. It’s like the video signal has its own road to travel on – there’s much less chance that the car (data) will get into an accident (drop frames, other problems) if it’s the only car on the road.

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