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CineWave v4.5

CreativeCOW presents CineWave v4.5 -- Pinnacle CineWave Editorial

Biscardi Creative Media
Buford Georgia USA All rights reserved.

With all the talk that’s going on regarding the power of the G5 and the claims that the G5 makes the need for a CinéWave superfluous, I thought this was a good time to have a chat with Andrew Baum, the head of the CinéWave program at Pinnacle. For those who might not be aware, Andrew was previously at Apple where he was the product manager who launched Final Cut Pro. Over the past three years, I’ve developed a great relationship with him and the entire CinéWave team and he was very gracious in offering his time to have a very in-depth discussion about both the history of CinéWave and also give users some hints about where it’s going. I am pleased to offer some of what we talked about during this interview and give this report to Creative Cow members...

CinéWave is not for every Final Cut Pro user. For some whose work may not require the power that the system offers, using a CinéWave would be akin to hunting rabbits with a tank. You see the CinéWave is about power, pure and simple -- but not every user needs this kind of power. Each of us works in often unique situations and the best thing anyone can do is get a hands-on demonstration of all products which you feel may be the correct solution based on your own circumstances. It doesn’t matter one bit what I, or any other person on these forums, says, as we won't be paying your bills or writing your check. You need to make the best decision that satisfies your own needs and demands based on your own research into what best meets these requirements.

With the preceding caveat given, as a longtime Pinnacle CinéWave user who has bought multiple systems for our company's post production studios here in Georgia, I have taken special interest in the online debates that espouse points like "...CinéWave is overpriced, outdated and that it actually hurts the performance of the G5 -- so who needs it anymore?" I have taken extra interest in these comments because I am one of the hosts of the CinéWave community here at Creative Cow, having helped launch the original Cow CinéWave users' community back in early 2001.

As a user myself, one who has never worked for Pinnacle and whose systems have been purchased (and I have the paperwork and cancelled checks to back that up), I find comments like this one made by a nay-sayer on the CinéWave forum to be of special interest -- “I will make a prediction, hedged just a little bit, that unless Pinnacle releases a much more powerful CinéWave at a much lower price, then this card is history.” (Dec. 10, 2003, CinéWave Cow forum). These kinds of comments are interesting, as nearly all these posts have come from users of competing systems, users who feel that their systems out-perform the CinéWave. Is that true? Is the CinéWave history as they argue?

Let's see how the facts lay out when we compare things without all the emotion and smoke and mirrors...

I'd like to offer special thanks to Andrew Baum, Pinnacle's product manager for CinéWave, for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat a bit and for allowing me to share some of this information with you here at the Cow -- some of it, information granted for the first-time ever to users. You will find Andrew's comments and announcements woven into the overall story...

From working with my CinéWave for over three years now, I have learned one thing about Pinnacle: They don’t make promises of taking over the world. For the most part, you rarely see their people in online fire fights around the Net -- neither working people up into a frenzy nor trying to placate those whose emotions are running wild with speculation. They simply deliver time and time again. They have been around the longest of those in this market sector and they show why they are a recognized broadcast leader. And while users of Pinnacle's lower-end tools (like those acquired through the company's Dazzle™ and Miro™ purchases) may complain about busy customer service lines, etc. -- those of us using systems like the CinéWave and Pinnacle's Liquid Systems can point to the one year of 24/7 telephone tech support included at no charge in our purchase. If I call, I have never waited more than 20 minutes for a call back and I know few users who can say that about their company.

My first CinéWave worked out of the box over three years ago and it’s still a solid performer today -- having earned many times its purchase cost and it continues to earn money for our company today. But with so much rampant speculation being tossed about by "experts" and others as to the fate of CinéWave, I began calling Andrew Baum, asking him what he could tell me of the future path CinéWave would take. I've included some of his comments throughout this article.

In a telephone interview that spanned a few hours stretched out over the course of nearly a week, Andrew Baum was able to share with me that the CinéWave product line is certainly not at the end of its life. In fact, he revealed to me some of the things that Pinnacle is working on and as I suspected as seen from some of my posts made here in the Cow, it looks like CinéWave will once again raise the bar. There is a new feature-set coming along and I can point to something which is sure to be of special interest to CinéWave users, this because some of what you should be seeing in the near future will include higher through-put, support for Apple Shake, higher performance, higher quality audio support, and … well, I don’t think I should say this but Andrew just turned around … Andrew said something about real-time HD effects.

But the really big news which I can share with you is not far ahead in one of the next sections, so read on, weary traveler. I promise, the wait will be worth it...

During the debates that have gone on over the past few months over the viability of CinéWave vs. the competition, Pinnacle has remained quiet, other than to release CinéWave v4.0.3. This has intrigued me for some time as I would have expected Pinnacle to release some sort of a statement about the future. Instead, it appears they decided to stay out of the fray and have simply been quietly working on improvements and what lies ahead for their users.

CinéWave appears to still be the only card that actually performs RT effects on the card itself. From what I can ascertain from their competitors' websites and from reading posts on the Cow, the competition is selling cards which simply act as an I/O device and which allow users to capture and output video. Other competing systems use the host CPU on the Mac to perform any-and-all effects. So as the CPU gets faster, these systems will be able to open up new features -- this is definitely a good choice for some users.

From its very beginning on Day One, CinéWave was designed to be CPU-independent and offered substantial real-time powers when the CPUs of the day just couldn’t handle this kind of extreme performance. CinéWave has always taken on the heavy load of RT effects because at the time it was released, CPU speed was simply not there to offer any kind of RT. So it was built into the card along with HD and SD on a single card. And today, as the CPUs become more capable on their own, the Pinnacle engineers are moving many new features to CinéWave's on-board CPUs while your host box's CPU(s) handle more of the things that the Ciné engine once handled alone.

What are some of the powers being unleashed on the board that no one else has yet to match? Let's look at a couple of examples...

CinéWave is the only product that offers Apple® LiveType™ users real-time support when working with Final Cut Pro's powerful text animation companion program. There’s no other competitor that I know of that offers this.

CinéWave is also the only product that offers real-time Animation + Alpha playback in a timeline. There’s no competitor that offers this one either.

One of the biggest comments that some people have thrown around here in the Cow forums and elsewhere during much of Q3 and Q4 of 2003, is seen in this example of a post taken from the Cow's FCP forum back on December 8th. It states: “Other cards take full advantage of the Mac G5’s faster PCI-X 133 MHz interface, the CinéWave is stuck with the old 33 MHz interface."

But is that comment true? Has CinéWave really come to the end of the road?

What nobody knew is that Pinnacle designed this board with the future in mind, with a hidden surprise that gave users an extra run-of-life and it's been kept a pretty good secret up to this point.
But now, for the first time anywhere, Andrew Baum has authorized me to tell you this hidden secret regarding the CinéWave hardware:

“The CinéWave has always been more than 33MHz. Pinnacle restricted it because at the time of its release in 2000, the G4s could not take advantage of any PCI card above 33mhz. In fact, until the G5’s were released last year, no desktop Mac could take advantage of a card over 33MHz. Pinnacle engineers had the foresight and planning to create a card that would actually adapt to a faster PCI bus interface when it became available. So, instead of taking this time to completely re-engineer a new PCI card, we are able to concentrate on new features and take full advantage of the native 66MHz bus interface in the near future which is totally PCI-X compatible.”
-- Andrew Baum, product manager of CinéWave for Pinnacle Systems

So instead of designing a 33MHz card that would have to be replaced, Pinnacle thought ahead and designed a product for us that can be adapted rather than being completely replaced. They did not trumpet this fact nor divulge it previously because they simply wanted to wait until they were ready to “pull the brakes” off the card. That shows what a broadcast leader like Pinnacle can do, given the engineering and other resources at its disposal. They do not simply design for the here-and-now; they have designed CinéWave to take advantage of the developments that might come in the future. This is a result of great engineering, a solid in-house development team, and a tight partnership with Apple.

So will the CinéWave always cost more than the competition? Probably. But with this product, you get features that work, you get planning for the future and with it, you have the top selling HD editing product in the world.

Can you show me another product out there that’s three years old and performs better today than it did when it was released? If you purchased a CinéWave six months ago, you have more features available today than when you bought it. Add to that, the laundry list of features that have been added over the years and the CinéWave of today doesn’t even resemble the CinéWave of a year ago -- but it’s the same card. And think about that, three years and its better today than it was when it was released. It has taken CPU development three years to start catching up to what CinéWave was doing when it was released in 2000. Now that they have caught up in some areas -- and FCP's own RT Extreme™ has come on strong, to be sure -- Pinnacle can start to look at other ways to utilize the CinéWave card.

So yeah, CinéWave does cost more than the others, but I guess it’s the old adage “you get what you pay for.” But as we have all seen, the costs have also been dropping over time. In fact, the RT Pro Option dropped 60% on January 1st. And now the HD BOB is 50% off in response to many customer requests. And don’t forget, every CinéWave system will edit HD, it has from Day One -- and down-convert it to SD. What does this mean to you? Well, you can have multiple CinéWave edit stations and just one HD BOB in the shop.

How did all of this happen? Pinnacle laid a solid architectural foundation on the Ciné card, a foundation which allows them to write software that takes advantage of this strong foundation and which allws them to add more functionality as host CPUs can now take up some of the burden once carried solely by the Ciné card. This shows the planning and foresight of the Pinnacle engineers where they can now improve the product with software instead of having to develop all new hardware.

As I look back over the past three years, and look at how the competition has changed, it’s impressive to me just how innovative the CinéWave card really is. My investment from three years ago is still paying great dividends today because -- instead of creating new cards all the time -- Pinnacle is able to update the same card to keep out-performing itself and the competition.

And here's one of the features which makes the CinéWave system such a production powerhouse...

CinéWave is HD and SD on the same card with real-time, simultaneous output. In other words, if you need to output an HD program in both HD and SD, you can do this in one pass via CinéWave. Or, if you want to monitor your HD material on an SD monitor, you can do this in real-time. And don’t forget CinéWave has real-time, keyframeable, HD Pan and Scan down-convert to SD.

As far as I can tell, in other systems if you need to output an HD master and an SD master, you would require two passes. They cannot simultaneously output an HD signal and an SD signal. CinéWave can.

CinéWave is the only product that can edit with multiple formats in the same timeline in real-time. That would be, Photo-JPEG, DV-25, DV-50, 8bit, Apple 10bit, 16bit and RGBA. You can even mix Black Magic’s 10 bit codec in the same timeline in real-time.

And speaking of codecs, even Marco Solorio (creator of the top-rated codec comparison page at ) has commended Pinnacle for their new codecs. When he completed his tests of the new Pinnacle codecs, Marco stated:

“Okay so I don't exactly represent the level of prestige as a Technical Achievement Oscar™ Award or anything, but I do want to give a big pat on the back to Brian Shaw, Andrew Baum and the rest of the Macintosh team at Pinnacle for their development of the newly updated OSX codecs for CinéWave.”
-- Marco Solario, Feb 14, 2003, CinéWave Cow forum

In fact, in his own codec homepage report on the new Pinnacle 16bit codec for Mac OSX, Marco writes:

"Now who would have thought that the new OSX Cinewave 16-bit codec would out-perform the Digital Voodoo codec???!!! I sure didn't! Look at that White Count number and image! Wow! It may not beat the infamous BMD 10-bit Trillions codec, but it sure is getting darnn close. At this rate things become somewhat of a moot point. And like the new Cinewave 8-bit codec, the chroma filtering makes things just a whole bunch better. I would still prefer to see a true 10-bit codec from Pinnacle with less file size space and support for its RT FX, but this update does make for a stronger representation. And again, I think the chroma filtering could be a hair smoother, but nothing major. These new codecs are worth the upgrade to OSX alone. Great job, Pinnacle!"
-- Marco Solorio in his report at

CinéWave is the only product that offers a native 16 bit workspace. Why this is important is that as it was explained to me by Andrew, when you render in a 16 bit timeline, you’re going into a deeper color space which allows the computer to make better decisions and give you better granularity. Essentially, your colors will be truer than in any other color space in FCP. So yes, there is a benefit to 16 bit over 10 bit. But if you really prefer to work in native 10bit -- and some do, even though drive space is no longer an issue like it once was -- Pinnacle did hear this request, and you can go ahead and capture with the 10bit codec and still use your real-time effects with CinéWave. And this is all true 10 bit processing right in the CinéWave timeline.

RT Extreme™ is incredibly powerful and Apple has really "upped the ante" by including so much real-time within the FCP application itself. But this does require the purchase of a G5 to really get some serious RT out of the application (and most users will want a G5 anyway, as most of us use After Effects, DVD Studio Pro and other applications that benefit mightily from the G5's power). That said, CinéWave still runs all 40+ SD Effects in real-time, in the native TARGA Ciné codecs, on a G4/400 and it can also edit HD -- so you can keep earning money on your investments if you can't afford to jump to the latest Macs right away as they are released. The only thing the G4/400 really can’t do is the mixed-formats in the same timeline. In fact, on a G4 / Dual 1gHz, you can do everything in the toolbox, mixed formats, SD, HD, etc. So, instead of retiring my G4/Dual 1.25, I’m simply going to move it into my second edit suite with our new G5 in the primary edit suite. Both rooms will be fully SD and HD capable with only the rendering speeds really being affected by the G5.

Yes, RT Extreme can do seven layers of realtime PIP on a top-of-the-line G5 and the CinéWave can only do five -- so why pay all this money for just five layers of PIP? Fair enough. I’ll let you in on a little secret... CinéWave can also use RT Extreme to run seven layers of real-time PIP. Just capture all of your footage to the Apple 10bit codec and then instead of editing in a TARGA YUV or YUV-16 timeline, just edit in an Apple 10 bit timeline, or a DV-25 timeline, or a Photo-JPEG and voila! As many layers in real-time as your system will allow. That’s called flexibility. You have a choice there, use the CinéWave on-board CPU to get guaranteed RT effects or use the G5’s CPU to run your SD material at whatever the CPU can handle.

So you’re paying a little extra money now for CinéWave but you get all the features you want now, and not maybe next week, maybe next month, or when we’re “ready to show you what the card is really capable of” as some of CinéWave's competitors have stated right here in the Cow itself. And keep in mind, the price differential is getting smaller all the time.

Oh and don’t forget, you can do all of these effects on even older G4 machines when using the CinéWave. You don’t need to buy a new computer or if you do, you can keep making money with the old one. But of course, you can’t edit HD with the CPU and you can’t output HD to SD simultaneously with the CPU. Yes, yes, maybe the CPU will be able to do this eventually, but it can’t today and CinéWave was doing this way back in December 2000.

When you really take a look at all that you get with the CinéWave and want to compare it to the competition, you should be looking at comparing it to Quantel and AVID DS/HD systems. That's the real competition to the CinéWave. Those are two highly respected “top of the line” HD suites and seem to be more common as to what I’m competing with here in Atlanta. The feature-set of the CinéWave and also through the powers inherent in FCP itself, really lend themselves to comparison to these top-of-the-line systems. Features like CinéWave's ability to simultaneously output both SD and HD, along with its 16 bit color space and other features like its robust realtime capabilities, make this comparison inevitable.

The feature-set of my CinéWave today -- and not what it might be in the future -- is what is allowing me to not only compete for the same clients as the “big boys,” but to actually win some of them to my edit suites

Suffice it to say that all those who own a CinéWave today should shortly be happy with the coming announcements and I would not hesitate for a second to recommend a CinéWave system to anyone out there who is looking for an SD/HD solution.

I hope this report helps to clear up some mis-information that has been prevalent on the forums for the past several months. No matter what side of the fence you happen you work on, and no matter what system you use, the good news is that we’re all using Final Cut Pro. As long as the FCP user base continues to expand and continues to bring in more high-profile users like Walter Murch, editing major films like "Cold Mountain" using FCP, that’s good news for all of us.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Creative Director
d’Arte media creations, Buford, Georgia USA


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Oscar is a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Apple, Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, RT Extreme and LiveType are trademarks of Apple Computer.
AJA and Kona are trademarks of AJA Video Systems.
Black Magic Design, Decklink, DecklinkHD are trademarks of Black Magic Design.
Quantel is a trademark of Quantel Inc.
Avid DS|HD is a trademark of Avid Technology Inc.
Use of these trademarks in this article does not imply endorsement
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Lastly: Walter Biscardi's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the
official position of Creative Cow or its management and officers.

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