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Avid Xpress DV 3.5 for Mac OS X

Tewksbury Titan Rolls Out the Big Guns By Charlie White
Avid XpressDV 3.5 reviewA few months ago we took a close-up look at Avid Xpress DV 3.0 for the PC. The new version received a positive review from Digital Media Net, where I highly recommended the software and mentioned how nice it is to have your own personal Avid system. Now, Avid Xpress DV version 3.5 ($1699 standard, $2499 for Power Pack) takes that concept a step further, with more sophisticated color correction controls and an interface that's the closest thing to a Media Composer and Symphony we've seen this side of the $70,000 mark. Best of all, the update now works with both Mac OS X and Windows XP, and versions for each platform are included in the same box. Here's our review.

For this report, we decided to review the Mac OS X version of the software, since the PC version was the one I focused on in our earlier review of version 3.0 on Windows 2000, the only platform supported by that version (click here to read that review, which covers many of the features in common with this new release). The lack of OS versatility somewhat limited its appeal in my opinion, since Windows 2000 was a great OS in its day but one that's been eclipsed by the higher speed, greater stability and user-friendliness of Windows XP Professional, the PC OS of choice for version 3.5. But never mind that. The big draw with version 3.5 is its Mac OS X compatibility. And we're here to tell you, this release takes advantage of the stability and aesthetic beauty of OS X. When I loaded the OS X version of Xpress DV 3.5 on a dual 1GHz Mac G4, I was pleased to see that its interface looks just like OS X, with its water droplet look and smooth, curvilinear atmosphere. Everything has that appealing look we've gotten accustomed to on Mac OS X.

When you first get started, it's a convenience to choose from one of Avid's new (with version 3.0) Customizable Workspaces. You're able to quickly switch back and forth between work arrangements, or use the nicely-arranged ones Avid provides for functions like recording, capturing, audio editing and source-record editing. This is a useful feature, where you'll find yourself jumping to different settings as the need arises. They seems to speed things along, and serve as a good starting point when you're just getting used to the software, suggesting certain tools for certain tasks.


Avid Xpress DV 3.5 screen shot
Click for enlargement -- Avid Xpress DV 3.5 screen shot
But enough about window dressing. Let's open this baby up and see what it can do. When it was time to capture some video, I looked around for the digitize window that's in Media Composer, but now it's called the Record Tool. Opening that, I could see that it already knew which DV deck I was using and it was ready to go. But it didn't call the Sony DSR-40 deck by name, so I steered it into that and it was ready for capturing.

Click for enlargement -- Xpress DV 3.5 recording workspace
Click for enlargement -- Xpress DV 3.5 recording workspace, showing the easily-adjustable preroll time
But wait. Why not just click on the Recording workspace (see graphic at left) and, just like in version 3.0, the windows are quickly arranged where all the items needed to capture and log shots are right there where they're needed? Hey, I'm getting used to these presets. And, since Avid's user interface has been around since the beginning, its rife with loads of useful details, which are continually improved and enhanced. For example, a nice augmentation in this area is the ability to change your preroll time on an as-needed basis, handy when there's not enough footage before time code begins in one shot. This beats Avids of the past, where you had to go back out into the Settings menu and change the preroll time before you could capture shots like this, and then had to remember to go and change it back when you were done.

Xpress DV 3.5 Quick Transition dialog boxIt's also nice to see an old Avid friend, Dupe Detection, a Power Pack feature annoyingly absent in Final Cut Pro, that tells you if you've used a shot already on a show. Another welcome old friend is the Avid-standard Quick Transition window (see graphic at right), a totally active graphic representation of the transition you choose. It defaults to a simple dissolve but there are a half dozen dips and fades available in a pulldown menu. In the Quick Transition window you have mouse control over most parameters of the transition. Drag the dissolve handles to lengthen or shorten the duration. A pulldown menu gives you the standard center, start-at-cut or end-at-cut choices or you can drag the entire dissolve left or right for a custom start.. I also like the easy way of managing your data and clips that Avid had nailed down years ago but where others are just now getting started, like the Find Bin command, which is useful if you're working on an hour-long documentary and need to find out where one of 1000 shots came from among 100 bins.

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Related Keywords:Charlie White, Avid Xpress DV, PC, new version, Digital Media Net, Avid Xpress DV 3.5 Mac OS X , sophisticated color correction controls, interface, Media Composer, Symphony, Mac OS X, Windows XP, review

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