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Avid's Media Composer 5 Part 3 - Matrox's MXO2 mini

How Does it Fare? By Kevin McAuliffe

I thought for the last article I'm writing on Media Composer 5, I would do something a little different.  Since Avid made the decision to support Matrox's MXO2 mini as a way for editors to monitor external video, I thought that I would do a review of it.

I have to say that I have never really been a fan of Matrox.  I have attended their product demos in the past, and just have never been overly impressed by any product they have released to date, and that's why when AVID stated that they supported the MXO2 mini to monitor external video, I was pretty surprised, as this is a big change of direction for AVID as they normally only support their own hardware for video monitoring.  Then, the kicker was I was approached by Matrox to take a look at the unit.  Well, as a writer, whatever preconceived notions I had of Matrox, or their products I put on the back burner, as I wanted to give the MXO2 mini a fair shake, as for the $449 price tag I really wanted (and hoped) it to work for the user bases sake.  Let's see how it fared.

 


WHAT YOU GET

With the MXO2 Mini, you get the unit itself and power supply (which came with universal adapters as well.  Bonus!), which let me point out is super light-weight (Less than a coffee mug).

You also get two Y/C (S-Video) cables, the host cable, PCI-e card for your CPU (either tower or laptop depending on your needs).  Now, for an extra $100 you can get yourself either the PCI-e card or PCI-e laptop adapter, whichever you didn't get with the unit to really make it an "on-the-go" monitoring solution.  As for I/O's, here's what you're looking at

Video
Component HD/SD (YUV or RGB) I/O
Y/C I/O
Composite I/O
HDMI (YUV or RGB) I/O

Audio
RCA 2 Channel (unbalanced) I/O
HDMI 8 channels (embedded) I/O

My only beef with the unit was that Matrox didn't supply an HDMI cable with it.  Don't get me wrong, it's a very minor beef, but AVID is marketing it heavily as an HDMI monitoring option, and in that case, it should ship with an HDMI cable. 

INSTALLATION

For the review, I received both the desktop and laptop PCI-e adapters, so I decided to go with the desktop configuration, as that is what I use 99% of the time.  Also, I'm using a custom PC running Windows 7 from Puget Systems.  All the media I used in Media Composer was brought in via MacDrive from my Mac hard drives.  The card went into the CPU like a charm, and I had the unit hooked up via the host cable in about five minutes.  Since I had the unit before MC5 officially shipped, I had beta drivers, so I headed over to the Matrox website, and downloaded the most current drivers.  Now, as I am sitting here writing this, I was just sent the most recent version of the drivers with support for Adobe's CS5, which will be available on Matrox's website, as you are reading this article, so if you're reading this, and have already purchased the MXO2 mini, head over to www.matrox.com, and download the most recent driver (for PC only right now with Mac to follow in Q4).  All in all, it took less than fifteen minutes to hook the unit up and get things ready to launch MC5, and for you laptop users, you'll have it ready to go in about five minutes!  Once I installed all the drivers, I noticed two tools in the bottom tool bar of my PC.  One was the I/O settings, which I'll get to in the next segment, but the other one was very cool.  It was basically a Matrox control panel that gave me detailed information about the unit, right down to the operating temperature. 

Well, everything has been silky smooth up until now.  Let's see how things go with MC5 running.

HOW IT WORKS

This is normally one of those sections where I go into great detail about how the unit works, but this one is going to be relatively short.  First, decide what format you are going to work in, and in the lower right corner of your taskbar, right-click on the "TV" logo and select your project format, and your output format.

Each of the output formats (We'll look at 720p now as an example), supports the specific project format,  as well as an SD down conversion, and depending on your workflow, an HD up conversion as well.  I noticed that with 720p, the HD up conversion to 1080i only became active once I was outside Media Composer.

Now, once Media Composer is launched, and you're in your project, all you have to do is click on the "1394" icon between the audio meters and the Avid logo, and HD video appears right away on your client monitor.

 
 
 

Now, once you hit play, there is no lag, no stuttering just crystal clear HD video playing in sync with your timeline.  I really don't know what else I can say.  The MXO2 mini was awesome, and the unit worked like a charm, and now with support for Adobe's CS5, as well as Final Cut Studio (Final Cut Pro and Color), this unit is one that any editor working in HD that doesn't have a way to monitor their footage on an external source NEEDS to check out.  I couldn't find one performance problem with the unit the entire time I was using it.

PROS
- Works exactly the way you hope it would
- Awesome price - $449
- $99 extra for a complete "on-the-go" monitoring solution
- Supported by AVID
- Support for Adobe's CS5
- excellent feedback from the unit right down to the operating temperature
-  You get universal power adapters for use anywhere in the world
- Mac/PC/Desktop/Laptop.  Matrox has your covered no matter what your workflow

CONS
- No included HDMI cable

If you work in Avid's Media Composer 5 (or Adobe's CS5 or Final Cut Studio), and do not have a way to externally monitor your HD video, you owe it to yourself to get this unit as soon as possible.  With the $449 price tag, they're practically giving it away.  The MXO2 mini will be on this year's top ten list, and I give it my highest recommendation.

Check it out at www.matrox.com .


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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at kevinpmcauliffe@gmail.com


Related Keywords:avid media composer, Matrox's MXO2 mini, non linear editor, nle, external video monitor, Final Cut Studio, fcp, final cut pro

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