April 17

An American in the Paris
Vegas capitulates to the Mac

As I watched from my room in the Paris hotel in Vegas, the forces of Mac descended upon the NAB. Capitulation was inevitable. (Click image for more valuable information.)

by David Nagel
Senior Producer

So I stayed at the Paris hotel in Vegas for last week's NAB convention. It left me with the same feeling I get whenever I leave the actual Paris—dirty, tired and ripped off. And yet, the hotel provided me with a backdrop for my first NAB experience, one in which it felt like the whole broadcasting industry had surrendered faster than a Frenchman to a new conqueror—the Macintosh—and, also like a Frenchman, welcomed it with enthusiasm. As a long-time Mac loyalist, I was awed. Sure, there were pockets of resistance, but very little worth mentioning. (I'm tempted to draw an analogy with the French Resistance, but I think I'd best just drop this whole metaphor.)

If you didn't make it to the convention, here's a little rundown of what happened: There were those who talked and those who did. Those who talked seemed fixated on nothing new—generalities about convergence, streaming this and dot com that, blah blah. But the other camp—those who did—had an awful lot of incredible product to show for their efforts, mostly to the benefit of Mac users.

Let's look at what the two camps had to offer.

Gettin' down with my proactive self
Taking a cue from every vice president of marketing who gave a speech at the show, I spent the weekend practicing my synergy techniques so that I could get a little more proactive about revolutionizing my paradigm. This process involved a grueling 48 hours of eating, sleeping and hitting my head into a wall (to teach me the value of perseverance), resulting in an awareness unmatched in the mundane world of actual concrete nouns. My training complete, I am happy to report that, like the elite 90 percent of companies at the NAB show, I now provide turnkey solutions for your business model. As a fourth-level master of this synergy technique, I am, of course, prohibited from revealing what exactly this means. Suffice to say that I am now looking for partnerships with companies that share my vision and whose paradigms synergize with my own. I believe as well that I am now ready for an IPO, and I already have a tracking stock in the works for some revolutionary new synergies that I am not yet at liberty to discuss, me not having my gambling license yet and this being my quiet period and whatnot.

Lots of news is good news
I can, however, discuss what the less proactively synergistic people out there are doing—bringing amazing, new, actual products to the Macintosh platform. When you peel back the layers of Latinate verbosity shoveled at the show, what you find is that this was very much a Mac-oriented convention, probably more so than at any other NAB. I don't mean just that there was a lot of Mac news. I mean that the bulk of serious product news centered around the Mac platform. Let's kick it off with the hardware.

Matrox, Pinnacle Systems and Digital Voodoo brought us the most encouraging signs to date that the Mac will remain the platform of choice for editing and effects. With Pinnacle's new Targa Ciné, the Mac will become the only desktop platform to offer uncompressed high-definition editing and playback for less than hundreds of thousands of dollars. Significantly less. If this thing actually gets out on the market—and there's no reason to believe it couldn't—we're going to see HD on the Mac by the end of the third quarter for about $30,000. That's the top end. The low end, standard-definition system will come in at less than $10,000. And Matrox has sweetened up the deal even more with a single-card, real-time DVE, dual-stream uncompressed video solution for less than $1,000. Mon Dieu! And then there's Digital Voodoo with their new line of D1 cards for the Mac, with real-time uncompressed 10-bit video, 4:2:2 input, 64-bit PCI architecture and six channels of AES/EBU audio. It goes beyond the current limits of QuickTime with built-in support for six 24-bit audio channels with a 48 KHz sample rate and support for 5.1 surround-sound editing. It even supports an external monitor with a desktop so that you can, for example, paint in Photoshop directly into NTSC or PAL. I had the good fortune to see all of this hardware in action, and it impressed the bejeezus out of me. (I should mention that I had planned on seeing Final Cut Pro on ICE, but it wasn't ready yet. I'll update you when I finally do get a look at it.) And let's not forget Avid's revamped commitment to the Mac with the promise of parity between new Macintosh- and NT-based systems and the announcement of Media Composer 10 and Avid XPress 4.0. We also saw scads of other hardware options introduced—RAID arrays, SDIs and the like, but nothing more impressive than the offerings from these companies on any platform.

But that's not all. We also saw a slew of software upgrades and introductions that turned the Las Vegas strip into a Mac fantasy land. We got news of Final Cut Pro 1.2.5—a free update that adds widescreen support—and the promise of another update when the Pinnacle and Matrox systems become available. We also witnessed the launch of Commotion 3.0 from Pinnacle Systems' new acquisition, Puffin Designs. The new version is a stand-alone compositor and a major leap from 2.2. Boris FX also showed us their wares, including Boris FX 5.0, Graffiti 1.0 and Boris Red. It's difficult to express how cool these things are. I was drooling during the one on one demonstration and practically begging for my review copies. Graffiti alone was worth the price of admission. Cycore too offered a mightily impressive upgrade to Cult Effects, with new and enhanced filters and levels of fine control that were astonishing. I was drooling over that demo as well. Discreet stepped up its support of the Mac platform with the launch of combustion* on the Macintosh. The software replaces edit* and paint* and offers 3D compositing, painting and network rendering. I don't want to say too much about any of these packages or the companies will have no reason to send me my review copies. But we Mac folk have gotten incredibly lucky in the last three weeks, and it looks like we have a lot more ahead of us. (I also got promises of support from these companies to help us bring you probably more than 50 tutorials over the coming year. Time to upgrade the servers!)

It all speaks to an incredibly healthy, vibrant Macintosh presence in the world of broadcast—the actual fulfillment of the promised desktop video revolution. In an industry where marketing clichés make all the headlines, Mac developers have followed through with solid products. If you'd like to read about all the stuff we got to see at the show, click here for our NAB headlines.

Post a message in the Creative Mac World Wide User Group.

We also have user forums for several of the products mentioned in this article. If you have questions or just want some insight, please visit them: Digital Voodoo, Avid XPress, Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, Pinnacle Commotion, Boris FX and Cycore Cult Effects. Look for new forums soon to support new products announced at the show!

Dave Nagel is the still somewhat new Senior Producer of Creative Mac. An eight-year veteran of the print publishing world, Nagel covered a broad range of topics in the areas of technology and marketing. As a Mac psychofanatic since 1987, he's finally landed his dream job: earning a living writing about his favorite topic. If you have something to say, please send a polite e-mail to [email protected]. (Let's not try to bring him down from his euphoria too soon.)

View Previous Occasions upon Which Dave Talks Smack:

View Recent Columns