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Pinnacle CinéWave RT Review

Really Real Time, with Digital I/O for Final Cut Pro By Charlie White
Even though Pinnacle tells us its Mac OS X version of CinéWave RT is right around the corner, we couldn't resist taking a look at the Mac OS 9 version of what many say is the best way to edit with Final Cut Pro. And glory be, I wasn't disappointed at all. Even though the $14,185 bundle of hardware and software I tested isn't going to be occupying any bargain basements anytime soon, it's so versatile and powerful, I can see why pros all over are snapping this baby up. It's solid, it's quick, it's stable, and I want one. So let's take a look at this OS 9 version in part one, and in part two, we'll see the OS X version as soon as it's released. Pinnacle says that should happen sometime this summer.

CinéWave RT consists of Pinnacle's Targa
Click graphic for enlargement -- CineWave Targa Cine card
Click graphic for enlargement -- Here's a close-up of the Targa Ciné engine
Ciné engine (a fancy name for its circuit board that accelerates all the video going in and out of a Power Mac G4), your choice of breakout boxes, and driver software for the real time features as well as a full version of Final Cut Pro 3, Commotion Pro 4.1 and Knoll Light Factory. Also as part of the CinéWave base system we received what Pinnacle calls a GeeThree Stealth Serial Port, so that we could control a video deck with RS-422. That base bundle costs $6495. For breakout boxes, we received the Pro Analog option ($1295) that let us plug in just about anything that outputs analog video, from SVideo to composite to component video. In that breakout box, you also have your choice of balanced or unbalanced audio in and out. Also included in the bundle for us was the Pro Digital breakout box ($1295) that allows for SDI in and out, perfect for DigiBeta machine users. And, if those I/O options aren't enough, you can just bring in DV via FireWire on the Mac without using any breakout boxes at all, and CinéWave lets you edit that footage in real time as well. Also included was the real time (RT) option ($2495), and let's not forget storage, a Medéa VideoRaid 5/160 RTR array for $3900 (more on that later). So, altogether, our entire RT system as tested would set you back $14,185, plus the cost of a Mac and monitors. You can also get a Pro digital and analog (Pro D&A) breakout box, where you can get both 10-bit analog and 10-bit SDI I/O in one box. This option sells for $4995.

Click for enlargement -- Pro analog breakout box
Click for enlargement -- Cinewave's pro breakout box lets you plug in just about anything that outputs analog video.
As I installed the Targa Ciné engine into our Mac G4 dual-gig machine, I found its unassuming small size interesting. But in this case, size doesn't matter, because on the card sits the brains of this outfit, a chip that Pinnacle has dubbed the HUB-3. It can do all kinds of tremendously powerful tricks, like resizing uncompressed standard definition and high definition images on the fly and putting out multiple streams of different kinds of video at the same time. So this could be useful if you need to output SDI video to your Digi-Beta deck while also playing out Betacam SP video out the component outputs. This means that it can take in a stream of standard-definition video and resize it, with or without a 3:2 pulldown, and output the stream (at either 24 or 30 frames) to 1080/24P or 1080i in real time. If there are both high-definition and standard-definition outputs connected, both will be displayed at all times. So the real magic that you're buying here is this HUB-3 chip. It can spit out lots of video through the back of its card, through what Pinnacle calls its two Digital Tether ports on the back of the card.

CineWave digital breakout box
Here's the digital breakout box, which gives you input and output for SDI digital video decks like the Digital Betacam
So how did it work for us? Like a champ. I've become used to editing with Final Cut Pro 3 where transitions have to be rendered, so when there were green lines on the timeline above the dissolves I added to my sequence, meaning "no rendering necessary," I was delighted. It was even nicer to superimpose text on top of that dissolve, and have that play back without rendering, too. But it was even better when I was able to use Final Cut Pro's three-way color corrector in real time. Or dissolve between two shots with a text key over that, all in real time. It's also a neat trick to be able to place DV clips on the same timeline as uncompressed 601 clips and have them all work and play together seamlessly. The system is also able to create a real-time chromakey effect, and a few wipes that I would never use. But overall, Final Cut Pro's user friendliness is made even more appealing with this supercharger under its hood, and unlike other "real time" Mac-based boards, there is no rendering necessary when you want to send your finished product back to DV or tape.

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Related Keywords:Charlie White, review, Pinnacle, OS X, CinéWave RT, OS 9 version, Final Cut Pro, CineWave, Commotion, Knoll light factory


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