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Avid Xpress DV 3 Goes Final Cut Pro-Hunting

New NLE Throws Its Hat Into the Software-Based Real Time Ring By Charlie White
So did you think digi-vid powerhouse Avid was going to just sit there and watch Apple take all the glory with its shiny new ultra-hip 'n' trendy Final Cut Pro 3? You know, the Jobs-blessed "real time" editing software that many think is on its way to world domination? Well, I took a day trip this week to Avid's Mother Ship in Tewksbury, Massachusetts and I'm here to tell you, the makers of Apple's Final Cut Pro might want to take a trip back to the old drawing board when they see what Avid has been cooking up in its back-room labs.

Avid takes the idea of software-based real time previews to the next level with its newest edition of its DV nonlinear editing software, called Avid Xpress DV 3. Now I'm not going to go into a full-blown review here, because the software hasn't even shipped yet. Let's just call this a first-look editorial. I've been toying around with a Beta build here at the Midwest Test Facility and have only scratched the surface of this significant upgrade, but from what I've seen so far, this looks like it's going to be a tremendous hit with both Avid stalwarts and maybe gain a few converts as well.


The trick here is flexibility, where you can choose the quality in which you see your real time previews according to how much processing power you have, and all along the software shows you how well your computer is handling these effects. If your system doesn't have the power to handle what you're asking it to do, you can make some adjustments in the software so it can keep up. So, you don't have to buy a new computer to enjoy the benefits of XpressDV 3. And that also means that if you're editing on a notebook, typically lower-powered than desktops, you can join in the fun without ruining the workflow with tons of rendering.

Like all software-based real time effects applications, the more powerful your machine, the more real time effects you'll be able to preview in real time. But Avid takes this concept a step further, letting you specify how many seconds you'll allow the software to pre-load data into RAM before playback begins. If you set it at 0 seconds, the software plays your effects, doing the best it can to process them in real time -- and even with that, it can play back a lot. But set it for three seconds, and it will "pre-fill" frames to give smoother performance and play back even more. So, for example, you can park your cursor right before an effects-thick section, and after it loads that into RAM it'll play it back for you.

In charge of all this is a new toggle button at the top right of the timeline, which is typically blue, but click on it and it changes to green, signifying that the real time fun has begun. After you throw the magic green real-time switch, all the little blue dots on the effects in your timeline change to green if they're able to play without rendering. But the downside is that as soon as you select that button, you can no longer pass your video through 1394 and thus through a transcoder or camcorder and onto an NTSC or PAL monitor. As a workaround to this, Avid recommends a specific graphics card, the Matrox Millennium G450 or G550, which has an SVideo out jack where you take your video to the NTSC monitor.

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Related Keywords:Digital video editing, Avid, Apple, Final Cut Pro 3, Avid Xpress DV 3, editorial, Charlie White

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