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Avid's Symphony Number 10 in A-Sharp Major

Sharp new Mac OS X version of Symphony gets a 10 By Charlie White
Avid Symphony for OS X --  review by Charlie White"What are your plans for OS X?," I asked Avid officials at their annual NAB party two years ago. "Whoever does something first doesn't always do it best," was the non-answer. Now, two years later, Avid attempts to show us what they meant by that cryptic remark, releasing all its Mac-based nonlinear editors running on Mac OS X in one big day. One of the editing systems Mac users requested most from Avid over the past few years has been Symphony, until now only available on Windows PCs. Starting now, not only is Symphony available for the Mac, but on OS X as well. I think Mac users far and wide are going to snap this up.

"L.A. is a Mac community," said Matt Allard, Avid's Senior Manager of Product Marketing. "We saw a lot of demand in our customer base for a Mac-based version of Symphony, especially in Hollywood. These editors saw a lot of tools they really wanted and needed in Symphony, but said 'I ain't buying a PC.' So for us it was a no-brainer -- there was enough demand to easily justify it. These people want their Macs." When Avid made the decision to make the move to the Mac with Symphony, it aimed directly for OS X. As any Mac video developer can tell you, porting Mac programs to OS X is certainly nothing trivial, especially since the code for OS X has been in a constantly changing state since its inception. Only with the release of Jaguar (version 10.2) has the code stabilized enough to reliably run video applications. For Avid, the software wasn't the only stumbling block. For the longest time, there were only three PCI slots available inside Macs. Now, with five slots, there's enough room for the multiple cards necessary to make Symphony sing.

Shipping now, Mac Symphony is priced at $90K, same as the Windows version. Sweetening the pot is a special price through the end of this month (March 2003) cutting $20K off the list price for software and board set. Avid also told us it's offering feature and price protection from now until NAB, hinting that the company plans to announce even more features at the annual get-together in early April. As is the custom with Avid, you're also able to buy the system turnkey, where a Mac computer outfitted for the Symphony will cost you an extra $5K. If you're bringing your own computer to the Symphony, Avid says it should be at least a PowerMac G4 867, 933 or a Dual 1-GB "mirror front."

For the most part, the core feature set in Symphony PC and Symphony Mac is the same, however, there are slight differences. For example, the Windows version supports DV and MPEG resolutions (DV 25 DV 50, MPEG IMX) with a hardware option. Although those DV and MPEG features aren't currently supported on the Mac version, Avid tells us it plans to offer them in the future. Another feature missing from the Mac version is Marquee, the 3D titling tool which Avid says is "on its way" to the Mac version. But never mind those slight differences. There are many more similarities than differences and a healthy dose of compatibility too -- Avid assures us that any projects, effects and metadata you've created with Media Composer, you can use in Symphony.

Lots of Mac users have been salivating over the powerful toolset available in Symphony. So what's the big deal? What can Symphony do that Avid Media Composer can't? First, you get the benefit of Ultimatte chromakeying. The best keyer in the industry is now available for Mac users in real time, and it's not a plug-in, either -- all of Ultimatte's clean and precise keying controls are hardware-based in Symphony, giving you a degree of real time interactivity that's not possible with software-only plug-ins.

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Related Keywords:plans for OS X, Avid officials, NAB, Mac-based products, Mac OS X, Symphony, Windows PCs, Charlie White, review,


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