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by David Fox
If you want to edit on location, there are essentially three laptop-compatible systems to choose from: Avid's NewsCutter XP, FAST's purple.Field, and Apple's Macintosh with either its free iMovie 2 software or the much more powerful Final Cut Pro. However, if you want to do more than just edit DV input from the back of a camcorder, there is now a more sophisticated (if decidedly less portable) solution.
The new EditPro/M from Athens-based Eagle Research is essentially a complete edit suite in a box, the top if which holds two high-resolution LCD screens, the bottom of which can offer half a Terabyte of RAID disk storage.
The custom-built units can essentially house whatever non-linear editing system you choose. The first units have been built around either Matrox or Targa 3000 boards, but could use any Windows-compatible cards and software. Avid Xpress is due on it soon.
The demonstration Matrox system at IBC 2001 had nine 73GB disks, but it could also have a RAID 3 configuration with one disk as a hot spare. It also has a camera return, so users can see the edited footage on the camera.
"Previously the director and editor have had to work in post, but if they can do it on location they get much more feedback and can be more creative and see all the problems as they appear," says its president & CEO, Evangelos Achillopoulus. It also means fewer compromises have to be made.
"If the editor, director and DoP can be in the same place, they can be more creative and more cost effective, because they can be faster, as they don't need to shoot the same scene three or four times to be sure as they can see what works on the spot. This is a different workflow, a different way of thinking."
He maintains it will also make it easier to work with one camera, as they can be sure they have all the angles they need so much more quickly.
Until now, he says it was difficult to have editing systems on location, because a lot of delicate equipment was involved, as well as lots of wiring, and it was time consuming to set up.
The Eagle system needs just four cables. One to the monitors (up to 10 metres away), one to the director's terminal box (up to 40 metres), one to the camera from the director (a further 20 metres), and one connecting to the director's terminal desk. The camera doesn't need to be connected unless the editor wants to edit while shooting, as they can have a VTR in the car - but with the camera connected, another VTR isn't necessary as 500GB of disk can store up to 20 hours of video.
It has an internal uninterruptible power supply, RFI and electromagnetic interference and lightning protection. Besides RAID 3, there is also a second pair of shock-proof 2.5 inch Notebook PC hard disks for extra back-up of the edit and EDL.
The editor's workstation includes two eight-inch high-resolution TFT LCD screens and a standard keyboard. The editor would work in the back seat of a car (typically an MPV or estate car) as it gives an isolated environment, so the audio can be heard properly, and it can be air conditioned.
The editing system, which weighs 59kg, can also be removed from the car and used as a fly-away kit, for installation in a rented car or hotel room. The weight of the multicore cables also needs to be taken into account. "It is extremely fast to deploy," he claims, taking less than ten minutes.
It promises a four-camera version during 2002 with independent capture while still editing. It is also developing a news version, and can use the Live Tools (or other) digital wireless camera transmission system for working without cables. He also sees the system being bought by post houses who want the flexibility to offer location editing without having to compromise on system quality.
The editing system alone costs from 60,000 Euros, including Discreet edit, DigiSuite LE and 250GB storage (80,000 Euros for a 500GB system). A full production kit with 500GB costs 130,000 Euros. It will also offer a fibre optic option, which will reach up to 300 metres.
FAST purple.Field System
FAST's purple.Field system is a notebook version of its Windows 2000-based native DV editor (miniDV, DVCAM and DVCPRO 25) with all the editing functions of the desktop system. It can be expanded with purple.Field FX for 3D work and purple.Field XL for multilayering. At present it is certified for use with the Sony Vaio, HP Omnibook and Gateway Solo laptops.
A typical purple.Field user, according to FAST (now part of Pinnacle), is Matthias von Mutius, a freelance producer, cameraman and editor contributing short reports to Bayerischer Rundfunk, who chose the system to compliment his desktop FAST silver. He shoots on a Sony DSR-300 DVCAM camcorder, and can edit on location (or even in the car between locations), using both the XL and FX options for greater creativity, on a Vaio with 256MB RAM and a 60GB external FireWire hard disk. The end result is delivered on Betacam SP.
FAST's new way to get the pictures back to base is FASTtransmit, a video store and forward system which works via Inmarsat satellites and shipped just before IBC 2001. It converts the DV into MPEG-2 files and then into packets for transfer (using a combination of TransTel's VoyagerLite software and LiveWire Skylink). It comes with both a collapsible Nera satellite uplink unit and an ISDN modem. Users just click on the station they want to uplink to, and the software takes care of the rest. If there is a break in transmission, it will automatically reconnect and just send the rest of the file rather than going back to the beginning. The broadcaster also has to have a converter to unpack the delivered files. A three minute story typically takes about nine to 15 minutes to transmit. This is partly processor dependent, so it would be faster from a more powerful desktop PC.
Its first satellite transmission was from Oman in early October 2001 by APTN. It is also being used by the BBC, but over ISDN for its regional services. Other users include, ZDF, ORF and TF1.
Ikegami's new iFast portable video transmission system can transmit material in real time or be used to store and forward. How long it takes to transmit varies depending on the amount of bandwidth available and the desired quality.
For real-time use, it must be used with analogue video input and users can trade off frame rate against picture quality, using a special video compression codec developed by the Japanese telecommunications company, KDD, for better quality for transmission between 12kbps and 128kbps. For store and forward, users can capture DV via FireWire input, converting to MPEG-2 and compress to the required quality and/or file size (768kbps to 10Mbps) depending on how long they have to transmit and the bandwidth available. There is also a Pipeline transmission function, for use with DV input, which can transmit data while encoding.
It has an ISDN interface and can be used with a satellite or mobile phone, LAN or WAN. Two ISDN or satellite phone lines can be bonded together to halve the transmission time.
It will work on any laptop PC, so could be run alongside NewsCutter XP, but is sold with a Panasonic ToughBook. Because iFast is so new, it has no European users yet, but is used by broadcasters and emergency services in Japan. [Go to http://www.ikegami.de/frames22.htm and click Special Products].
At IBC, Ikegami showed Avid's NewsCutter XP software-only NLE for laptops working with its small EditCam Field Pack adaptor (SAT-100), which means material is instantly available to edit. It is being used by a totally tapeless news operation in Slovakia.
Apple's iMovie2 and Final Cut Pro
Apple's iMovie2 is undoubtedly the most easily learnt NLE on the market. It is also highly mobile. Apple recently had one user make a one hour documentary on his ascent of Mount Everest while he was on the mountain, using a PowerBook. Everything is simple drag and drop and takes only a few minutes to learn. The quality is native DV. Like Apple's much more full-featured NLE, Final Cut Pro 3, iMovie users can now record voice overs direct on to the system, adding to what is a simple, very mobile NLE for editing in the field. It is also very cheap, especially running on an iBook, as the software is free. It also works well with Apple's free and equally simple DVD creation system, iDVD.
Final Cut Pro is just as usable for mobile editing, and now includes an offline mode which allows large quantities of video to be stored on the medium-sized hard disks typically found on a laptop (it will then copy just the material needed in the finished version at full resolution). Both systems can make use of the FireWire (IEEE 1394) interface which is standard across Apple's range. FCP is ideally used with the more powerful PowerBook, which has a larger (wide) screen making it more suitable for editing and the G4 processor needed for real-time effects. The PowerBook can also utilise third-party interfaces for non-1394 equipped camcorders.