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Matrox MXO 2.0A Mac-only monitoring and downscaling device, and also a great way to calibrate your monitors!
The Matrox MXO 2.0 is a Mac-only monitoring and downscaling device, and also a great way to calibrate your monitors. This little hardware box packs quite a punch, and if youre editing with HDV, whether on a desktop or a laptop, youll have no need for expensive capture cards; A/D, D/A; or small HD CRT monitors to see and hear your footage in high definition. All you need is an extra monitor (native 1920 x 1080 preferred), speakers and the MXO, and youre ready to rock and roll!
Though Final Cut Pro 6 can down-convert native HDV footage to DV so you can monitor and hear it, FCP 5 had no such capabilities. And regardless of which version youre using, to actually be able to view and hear the HD footage, you would need an expensive set up listed above (a DeckLink HD card to convert the HDV footage to uncompressed HD; an A/D, D/A (Analog to Digital, Digital to Analog) device to convert the digital audio to analog; and a solid HDTV CRT to monitor the video could cost a total $2,500 to $3,000). The MXO makes this more affordable. And dont even mention to Apple laptop users who would have to buy a more expensive breakout box to monitor their HDV edits.
My first test with the MXO was with a MacBook Pro (MBP) 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM. I hooked up a 19-inch Westinghouse Digital monitor (native 1400 x 1050, similar to the MacBook Pro) into the MXOs DVI-in slot, then from the MXOs DVI-out port and into the LCDs DVI-in port. I then hooked up the USB cable into the MBP from the MXO, plugged it in and loaded up the newest software drivers. Please read the instructions thoroughly to avoid any issues.
Once my friend and I had everything set up, we got to work. This was on FCP 5.1.4, so I was excited to see my film in HD vs. down-converted on a DVD. It looked great, and can make doing color correction, etc., a much easier task. But really, you need to have a full 1920 x 1080 resolution monitor, even if youre doing 720p monitoring. The world is going 1080p (and up), so you might as well be ready.
|The Matrox MXO|
I went into the Mastering section and was able to activate a 1080i60 clip (also 50 and 480i?use 1080i for 720p) and Blue Only to calibrate the monitor after I set the calibration via Apples set-up. Once again, the manual is indispensable if you arent familiar with calibration, providing color illustrations how it should look. The MXO gives you true-color, perfect for color correcting, finishing and grading.
One quick note: for audio monitoring, you may have to buy an RCA-to-1/8 inch (or whichever connection you use) adapter to plug it into your speakers, headphones, etc. Otherwise, there will be a delay if youre trying to route the sound through your system.
Another thing I love about the MXO is that its portable. If a client needs you to edit something at his or her office, you grab your Apple laptop and a FireWire drive, and perhaps a deck if you need to capture. Well, throw in your monitor, mini speakers and MXO, and youre set to professionally monitor whats happening. Buying a cushioned case to store everything is recommended.
Testing on the Mac Pro
When I plugged MXO into a new Mac Pro with FCP 6, and output to a 23-inch Apple LCD (native 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution), things got really cool. Now I was able to see and monitor 1080i50 video, and later, 1080p23.98 with no problems, just make sure you go into Audio/Video settings to change it to output as 23.98 fps at either that native frame rate or allow the MXO to output it as 60i. Again, being able to see things live is so much better than having to try and see it on a computer monitor that hasnt been properly set up.
Not only does the MXO allow you to calibrate your monitor, but it also keeps things playing smoothly, with no flicker, at broadcast quality, without any issues. Obviously, if you have an older monitor thats having problems, you shouldnt use it. Stick with something new and, again, something that supports native 1920 x 1080. I recommend the 24-inch Westinghouse Digital Multimedia/Multifunctional widescreen LCD (see my Westinghouse Digital review for affordable LCDs), along with the Apple 23-inch LCD, both 1920 x 1200 native pixels. Dell has some very nice monitors, as well, at good prices, too. Look for 23-inch and above and anything above 1920 x 1080 resolution.
Whether youre cutting in HDV or DV, having the MXO provides many benefits for monitoring and downscaling options. Its an excellent and affordable monitoring solution with no stutter on playback. Ive seen editors use cheap HDTVs that barely provide 720p resolution, and have spent another $1500 for an HD capture card and A/D D/A converter box vs. buying an MXO and a solid, high-res monitor. I highly recommend the Matrox MXO. For more information, visit www.matrox.com. One quick note, Apple and Matrox are currently working on support for the new Color app in Final Cut Studio 2, so stay tuned for further details. Ill update my article when I get the news. Special thanks to Janet Matey, Wayne Andrews and the team at Matrox for their help with set-up.
Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.
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