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Matrox Intros RT.X2 and MXO at NAB 2006

Bringing HD production down to earth on Mac and PC By Charlie White

Matrox featured two significant introductions and an important update at NAB 2006, rolling out its MXO video and audio output device for Mac, along with the newest member of its RT series, the RT.X2 HDV editing system. The MXO marks Matroxs return to the Mac, while the RT.X2 gives RT users a low-cost entry into HDV editing on Adobe Premiere 2.0. Meanwhile, the company updated its Axio family of higher-end real-time editing systems for Premiere Pro with native MXF support for Panasonic P2 cards and Sony XDCam.

In our one-on-one demo, we first took a look at Matrox MXO, a handsomely-designed portable audio video encoder and output device for the Mac, an external aluminum box resembling a G5 right down to the ventilation holes. To be shipping in June for $995, Matrox worked with Apple to enable this little box to output audio and video signals through the Macs DVI port.

When it's connected to a Mac DVI port and USB 2.0, it converts those signals into a variety of broadcast-quality audio and video output, including SDI, component, composite, Y/C, HD and SD. Since it uses the nearly-ubiquitous USB and DVI ports, it can be connected to any recently-built Mac. Even though this might seem counterintuitive, the device is actually sending both video and audio through the secondary DVI port to a secondary Mac monitor, while the primary DVI port sends the video signal with the Mac user interface to the first computer monitor.  

With its small form factor, Matrox touts its easy compatibility with most modern Macs, including laptops, iMacs and G5 desktops. It's light and small enough to take into the field, enabling users to connect it to a laptop and conceivably use it for HD SDI output with up to eight tracks of embedded audio, with audio and video monitoring output as well.

Matrox also emphasized how this external box could also be useful for Power Mac users who have already filled up all the internal slots with graphics cards, fiber channel cards or other I/O cards. With this product, the company is targeting mostly Final Cut Pro users working on a workstation, using the Digital Display Mode in Final Cut Pro. By pressing F12, Mac users can now get a full-screen view of the display. The problem with that is, until now you couldn't get an accurate representation of what you would actually see on a television screen when using this mode. Because it's a progressive-scan computer monitor, it doesn't look the same as it would on a 1080i video monitor -- you don't see the interlaced effect, and the movement is not very smooth. When you choose MXO mode, by simply pressing the F12 key you can output your video via DVI to the digital cinema display, saving a significant amount of expenditure on a separate video monitor while still giving you an accurate representation of a video monitor. 

How does this work? Alain Legault, Vice President of Product Development for the Matrox Video Products Group told Digital Media Net that the device is actually resequencing the frames that are coming out of the Digital Display Mode of Final Cut Pro and perfectly synchronizing those frames of video with the audio and time code, which are all coming out of the DVI port. Said Legault, ?Typically, a graphics card coming out of a laptop or an iMac or a G5 is not at 59.94 fields per second, and it's not genlocked, so this device sends YUV video natively, converted from RGB along with digital audio tracks from the DVI, packing it all with time code. In the box, all the frames are being sequenced to be very clean, with no dropped frames and no repeated frames. As a result, the output of Matrox MXO looks just like it will on a TV set, and can also be inserted-edited on a VTR. That's why Matrox calls this ?broadcast video output.

Legault continued, ?There other ways to decode DVI video, but those other products don't clean the video in terms of making it frame-accurate, and they don't carry digital audio at the same time. As a bonus, the video is also cleaning up the video display to make the video-out look the same as a video monitor by eliminating the de-interlacing problem. It also applies gamma correction on the video-out. That way, you can trust your Apple Cinema Display to look exactly the way it will look on a TV set.

Early in development of the MXO, Matrox found that most Final Cut Pro users were buying I/O cards mostly to preview their HD video. When connecting that card to a $1500 video monitor, it would usually have just 800 lines of resolution. If they took another route and used an SDI to DVI converter such as the HDLink from Black Magic along with a flat panel display, the result would still have artifacts. Legault said, ?So not only are we giving you broadcast output, were also cleaning up your screen so you don't have to buy a broadcast video monitor.

Although MXO is targeted mostly at the hundreds of thousands of Final Cut Pro users, MXO works with any QuickTime application. One notable example that we saw in the demo was Soundtrack Pro, where its video window was displayed in a full-screen view on the secondary monitor in a two-monitor setup.  

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Related Keywords:NAB 2006, Matrox MXO, video, Mac, Output device, RT.X2, HDV editing, Adobe Premiere 2.0, Axio, native MXF support, Panasonic P2 cards, Sony XDCam

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