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A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?

COW Library : Apple Final Cut Pro Legacy : Peter Wiggins : A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
CreativeCOW presents A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2? -- Apple Final Cut Pro Review


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I missed two inch tape machine editing, ferric fluid and razor blades thankfully, but I have more one inch editing hours under my belt than I will admit. Did I have a social life in my twenties? No, but I can probably still lace up an Ampex VPR2 blindfold.

When I first started editing in facility houses in the eighties, an edit suite was a room full of large control panels next to a room with racks and racks of mainframes. This online suite would cost a quarter of a million pounds, more was not unusual if you wanted the latest toys. Editing then was expensive, noisy, hot and slow. Plus you had to have a science degree to understand why you could only edit every 4th frame. How things have changed!

Now don't get me wrong I'm all for new technology and trying things out. Final Cut Pro for me is my weapon of choice with 6 notches for each year on the broadcast bedpost. But I think every now and then we should look back and see how far technology has come in a lifetime, or career even, better still half a career!

So as the vogue thing in British television is at the moment to issue a challenge, I thought I'd do the same: - Build a broadcast DigiBeta quality edit suite that will fit in a computer bag and will go through airport security.

To start off with this seems easy, get a MacBookPro and use FCP. Fine, nothing new here - except the fact that we have to get SDI and a 422 connector in and out of the MBP. This is broadcast, so no DV and firewire going on here. Not so easy.

I do remote edits where all I have to do is digitize on site and then bring that data back to my edit suite for editing/finishing etc.  So far I have been lugging my MacPro with an internal RAID & capture card installed along with a screen, keyboard, cables and everything else you need to get a Mac into TV land. It was a major operation, flightcases, back seats of the car down, having to get a trolly to wheel the kit through an office, I'm sure you know the pain.

 

Then I was given a Matrox MXO2 to try out and things changed. Changed a lot actually. So before I get inundated by emails from people saying what about the MXO1, well that is a display box, the MXO2 is different, bidirectional so it will ingest or digitize, display for edit and then edit or print to tape. Before I get another folder full of emails from AJA IO owners, a few things.

The Matrox MXO2 uses the express card for its connectivity so that frees up the firewire bus for storage. No firewire latency issues either so no questions from the producer saying, "Which monitor should I look at?"  Also the footprint of the MXO2 is actually smaller than my 15" MacBookPro so it sits nicely underneath it. Would you want to lug an AJA IO or even an IOHD on a plane? Put one of those in a flightcase and the air hostess will be pointing at the cargo hold.

The Matrox MXO2 is small and light, what about connectivity?



Well there is quite a bit of it actually digital and analogue. The digital side is SDI or HDSDI plus HDMI. Which means using embedded audio you only need 3 cables to talk to a Digi or indeed many other VTR's -  2 BNC's one in, one out and a 422 control cable.


There are analogue inputs too component SD/HD, Y/C and composite. Do people still do composite? Well of course they do!  I've been using the MXO2 hooked up via the composite out into a scart connector to get an FCP output on a hotel TV set. A great way to check field order on location. By the way if you are thinking of unplugging a hotels TV connectors, just check you are not going to send the hotel film charging into chaos. You never know what might appear on the bill! A colleague of mine used to sell a modified scart plug with a 9-volt battery attached- but that's another story.

I work with quite a few clients who now use IMX50 as their preferred SD codec, it offers a fairly good quality to file size and has other benefits like ease of use when exchanging material with other servers. As the firewire bus is unused, a Lacie 500MB firewire 800 drive does perfectly for storage. Giving over 15 hours of storage, that should be enough for most location projects including render files and any other media.

So that's the computer, Matrox MXO2 and storage sorted, what else do you need?

  • Keyboard, the nice thin aluminium Logic keyboard with FCP caps & mouse
  • Cables, BNC's 422, scart plug, RCA to BNC adaptor
  • Host adaptor for MXO2 & cable
  • Power, a six way fused multiway strip and of course all power supplies/leads

 

And there you have it

 

And there you have it in my computer bag. Note the MXO is slipped into an old neoprene Powerbook cover. Total weight 11.6 KG


 

Ok, I agree the DigiBeta isn't in the bag, but you could hold a J3 or similar by the handle or even put that in a soft bag too. 

So to go back to the first paragraph of the article, it now means I can carry my edit suite around with me. The MXO2 is actually smaller than the tapes I used to use back in the rose tinted first paragraph days. Size isn't everything though as the USP of the MXO2 is in unlocking the power of my MacBookPro enabling it to interface into the pro connectivity of today's television & video industry. 

Long sentence, but what does this mean?

  1. I can edit anywhere, hotel room, home, clients office etc
  2. I can charge more money for supplying kit without having to dismantle the MacPro and bundle all that in flight cases etc into a car.
  3. I can move quickly, especially important for news. I would imagine a news company would have a standard 'bag' for journo's & cameramen/editors. You might laugh but only last week I saw a news crew sat in a hotel lobby putting together a piece on one of those dual jog wheel suitcase tape editors. Yes, they are still out there.
  4. I can have a broadcast output feed in SDI/HDSDI or composite direct to a satellite truck. No layoff, no time wasted. In news, time is everything.
  5. I can record SDI/HDSDI, composite or any other signal the MXO2 will support straight into FCP. Very often a news crew will share material and this is important to be able to get legacy formats (BetaSX anybody) digitized. So a camerman turning up with a BNC to dump stuff straight from his camera wouldn't be a problem.

 

AppleMark?


 

As you might have gathered from the above, I've tended to concentrate on standard definition, but this box does a lot more than that. The MacBookPro now runs fast enough to be able to handle HD and the MXO2 will let you handle XDCAM, XDCAM HD, XDCAM EX, P2, and P2HD. Granted you have to have storage fast enough to serve these formats though. One downside is that with the express slot in use, getting media in via that route means you have to unplug. 

How do you monitor these formats? Well you have a couple of choices. Either watch the output using the realtime downscaling on an SD monitor or better still use the HDMI output. This will give pixel accurate mapping on an HDMI monitor at 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 and both NTSC & PAL SD. This thing really is beginning to look like the Swiss Army Knife of video I/O.


Then there are other nice little touches too like RCA sockets for 5.1 audio monitoring. I work with a facility company who has bought a batch of expensive surround sound breakout boxes that work out at $7,000 each -- a potential huge saving if they had bought the MXO2 instead. If you are worried about installing the box in a suite, not a problem now as the MXO2 now has a rack mount option. Also I must mention that you get a choice of host connection too. There is a supplied PCIe host adapter for use should you want to use it with a MacPro. This could be left installed and then the MXO2 could be utilised by both machines with a simple cable swap.



Conclusion

I think we can safely say that the concept of a broadcast editing suite in a bag was well and truly proven with the help of the MXO2. The progress of technology is amazing and I'm sure the novelty value of being able to turn up at a broadcast job with just a computer bag will disappear as it becomes the norm. This box really does change things again. Once it was bigger, better. Now it is smaller, faster, cheaper. For a piece of broadcast equipment, this thing is small, light and cheap.

I'm sure there are many freelance editors and news staff guys who are going to have great interest in this box. The I/O flexibility means that you should be able to handle most formats with ease.

I get the feeling that the MXO2 design team sat down and said "Wouldn't it be great if it did this" Then they went away and built it. There are many other features that I haven't touched upon, take a good look at the Matrox website for a full rundown of features, spec sheets and videos. They are really gunning for the competition too with a blow by blow comparison against rival products.

I hope the guys at Matrox don't want this demo model back as you can be sure it is going to help me earn a living over the next few years.

Peter Wiggins

 

Peter is a freelance broadcast editor working in the UK. He also writes FxPlug plugins for FCP & Motion as part of Idustrial Revolution.


Comments

A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
by Ben Holmes
As an update (and a concerted attempt not to run this product down), I'm running more controlled tests at the office. So far, ProRes HQ at 1080i50 seems to be ingesting fine on my MBP. Not sure what the issue was before. More and more impressed with the MXO....
A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
by Ben Holmes
Cheers Pete - yes, I've updated my profile here with a URL for my (somewhat temporary) website. I always forget there's no IM/private message option off this forum...

Short version: got it this morning, with an option to return. Tested it on site today with my old MPB (2.33Ghz Core2Duo) and a FW800 drive (G-Tech G-Drive). It would not process (assume it's not the drive) ProRes HQ or standard at 1080i50, but I could capture DVCProHD - dropped frame, which I assume was due to the processor requirements for ProRes in HD, not the drive. Most of what I'd need it for this summer will probably be SD, of the "I can fix that - I'll get my bag" nature, and one HD job. Otherwise, I'll have a Mac Pro on site.

My brief impression of it is that it seems well made, lightweight, and quiet. I wish it had 4 channels of audio (AES or analogue) on the input side, in case I wanted to record PGM in a truck without embedded audio on it (sometimes the case), but you can't have eveything.

I've got a new 2.4Ghz MBP with a friend on a shoot, which is a bit clearer and has more RAM, so I'll try that for ProRes in a few days.

Pretty sure I'll keep it, as it'll probably pay for itself this year, and save some travel hassle....

Thanks for the offer though!
A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
by Peter Wiggins
Ben,

Tried to find your email on you profile and then your posts, no luck. Couldn't find your company on Google either.

Was going to suggest you could borrow mine

Peter
A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
by Ben Holmes
Never mind - went ahead and ordered one. End of financial year coming, and a couple of jobs on the horizon that should be a little easier if this all works well. I'll be doing some HD onsite testing tomrrow....

ps - I have the same Crumpler bag, so at least I know it will fit....
A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
by Ben Holmes
Hi Pete!

Weighing this up for occasional 'by the way' fixes on site. Question is, can I capture ProRes in HD using a 2.33Ghz MBP? I'm worried about the load on the MPBs processor. I've contemplated the IO HD - nice to see someone else say it's not actually very portable....

If not ProRes (preferably HQ at 1080, which I know my G-Tech drives will support via FW800), can you recommend another HD codec? DVCProHD?

Good tip about IMX, BTW!

Nice article - and very timely for me,

Cheers,

Ben

A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
by Erich Hoberg
AJA I/O HD accomplishes the same thing, except and hereis the advantage ... it handles HD (using the Pro Res 422) over firewire freeing your pci slot for an e-sata drive enabling digitizing without copying files. Much more efficient.

A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
by David Sallak
Great concept, Peter! It's no coincidence that you found the Matrox MXO2 to be a great tool for portable editing. I also see the need for a Travel Kit for all kinds of markets in the USA, for the One-Man-Band journalists (and One-Girl-Band too) that need to cut a story quickly, anywhere!

By the way we sell this complete kit at a discounted rate. Check out http://www.mwmg.com/sales_promos/promotion_detail.asp?promotion_id=144
A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
by Gary Bettan
The MXO2 is a remarkable product. Not only is it portable as your article explained, it is just as useful and valuable in an edit suite.

One thing folks should also keep in mind is that you can attach the MXO2 to many machines, just by purchasing additional low cost PCIe adapters. You can only use it in one at a time, but it sure beats the heck out of having to buy 2 or 3 Kona cards (or Multi-bridges)
A Digibeta Quality Edit Suite in a bag - Could it be done using the MXO2?
by Travis Roop
Wow now your truly mobile!
I can think of one more thing to add to your bag of tricks though, how about an OLED monitor to check your HD output!
The size would fit into the bag but, unfortunately, the price likely wouldn't fit nicely into your budget.


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