REVIEW MAY 9 , 2001
Cards for Mac Video
Ive tried and owned both platforms, and Im still more impressed with the Macs speed and ease of use when it comes to editing, graphics, and compositing. Part of my appreciation for the Mac is its elegant system and up-to-date processor. If youve ever used a G4, you know what Im talking about. After working on a PC, Ive come to appreciate the Mac for its ease of swapping files from one application to another, and the way I can stick any weird character into a file name and the Mac OS doesnt care. Also, when I am working late at night and end up with a computer error, its much easier for me to diagnose and fix a Mac problem than when Im working with Windows. Its also cool that Macs can easily read PC disks and open their files something that Windows machines still balk at. In general, I think Macs are more modern in their processes, so, in my opinion, they are a good choice for doing demanding jobs like hi-res video.
you can imagine, Macs had I/O cards, compression, and editing technology
that seemed to virtually explode from Radius, SuperMac (eventually
acquired by Radius), Intelligent Resources, Truevision, RasterOps,
Immix (acquired by Scitex and then Àccom), Data Translation
(now Media 100), and Avid. All of these companies were in competition
on the Mac platform and the PC side of things, in comparison, was
rather lackluster and just gaining a foothold. Most of what was
happening in the development of compression, QuickTime, and video
I/O was first being tried and tested on the Mac.
lost its luster in 1997, it looked as if it was down for the count.
Macs made by Apple were slower and more expensive than the Mac clones
that were prevalent at the time. The Amiga also was long gone and
most developers scrambled to port their products over to the PC.
Adobe, Avid, Media 100, and Newtek the key players in the
industry eventually came out with PC products. Most people
thought that Apple was losing it, while at the same time it was
leaving its real power users to struggle with computers that were
more expensive and less powerful than their PC counterparts. Thus
began the slide from Mac to PC.
We all know
the rest of the story. Steve Jobs came back and revamped Apple,
made sweeping changes, and restored the companys profitability.
Jobs also bought-out all the other company agreements that had been
manufacturing Mac clones, putting Apple back into the drivers
seat again. Then, Apple came out with the iMac, a Lee Iacocca-type
of company bailout. Jobs knew that Apple was making too many machines,
was confusing the marketplace, and needed to stay in step with the
innovations that were now emerging from the PC world. Apple seemed
to be going consumer, and so video pros again thought theyd
been abandoned. We all started looking at NT machines a lot more
closely. Things have changed once again and Final Cut Pro deserves
much of the credit.
versus M-JPEG Video
signals can utilize the built-in hard drive on most Macs. Currently,
a relatively quick IDE drive with enough space can handle DV video
on a Mac, and the G4 can accommodate 100GB of storage internally
without hanging on additional arrays. Thats quite a bit of
space for most people, and this setup is ideal for Final Cut Pro
or Adobe Premiere. The DV format is very forgiving.
S-Video, component analog, or uncompressed videocards require some
form of SCSI or Fibre Channel disk array because theyre digitizing
M-JPEG and not the DV format. Throughput issues then become very
important, which also includes how many channels of audio will be
digitized concurrently with the picture. Many times, this factor
is ignored. On an Avid Media Composer, you can digitize high-quality
M-JPEG video plus eight channels of 44.1kHz digital audio and this
requires a SCSI accelerator and a carefully matched disk array or
Fibre Channel setup. It raises the cost of the system, but the quality
is better than DV because video can be captured up to uncompressed
resolutions on systems that are so equipped. When all of it comes
together correctly, up to HD resolutions are possible. At HD levels,
Fibre Channel becomes a sensible requirement.
The next factor
that is important to video pros is the issue of realtime effects.
These become more difficult to achieve as less compression is used
because two or three streams of digitized video have to be manipulated
in realtime. This type of performance still requires serious hardware
and separates the semi-pro systems from those that are considerably
more expensive with a greater number of professional features. Realtime
effects also require software drivers that can actuate the components
on the board to assist in the process of producing the effect on
the designated video layer. Without this hardware and software link-up,
not much can take place.
As of the time
of this writing, Ive been promised by both the board manufacturers
and software developers, including Adobe for Premiere 6.0, that
all of this is currently being developed. However, realtime effects
at this price point will have to be seamless if theyre planning
on competing with the big boys. Currently, Avid, Media 100, and
Àccom are the undisputed leaders in creating systems for
the Mac that use realtime effects with keyframe capability. Those
three companies have had years to perfect the marriage of their
hardware and software, and theyve managed to make it work
at professional broadcast levels. Needless to say, this is the 21st
century and miracles can happen. Also, its not the time to
ignore what is going on with the new version of Premiere 6.0. While
Final Cut certainly has made a dent in the video market, it was
developed by the same guys that created Premiere. The ease of sliding
Adobe files from one application to another and the importance of
third-party plug-ins for Premiere is not something to be taken lightly,
even if Final Cut Pro is an exciting system.
Post a message in the Creative Mac World Wide User Group.
Contributing editor Rick Shaw is managing director of Z Post, a post house in Atlanta that specializes in nonlinear editing and digital media production for a variety of broadcast and corporate clients. He can be reached at [email protected].
© 2001, Intertec Publishing, A Primedia Company All Rights Reserved.