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