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Turnkey systems
Software simplifies

FAST Hits Purple Patch

by David Fox

FAST has launched a new DV-only editor, purple, to complement its MPEG-2 editor, silver, launched at NAB.

The system is aimed at broadcasters as a low-cost desktop system, especially the producer/director market where content needs to be created cheaply. It will also be sold for education, where multiple purples can work with a silver or ES-3 for finishing, although purple is fully featured for stand-alone DV work. A DVCPRO (4:1:1) version aimed at news will launch at IBC.

As an offline editor, projects created on purple are completely interchangeable with silver or ES-3 (and vice versa). It can also work with any OMF-complaint editor (OMF export is standard on the FAST-Studio XL).

It will be FAST's main product at IBC, where it will also be previewing a 3D effects package (which will include a 3D editor for the DVE), and other additions for all its systems, including a new keyer.

Turnkey Systems

The UK version of purple uses the full FAST-Studio XL software, which can make use of dual processors. It uses a software DV codec, approved by Sony, and a Firewire i/o card. The UK system price will be £5,000 including dual PIII 700MHz, 128MB RAM and 60GB drives. It can take advantage of the InTime accelerator and jog/shuttle board. A turbo system for £10,000 increases power and moves the storage from EIDE to SCSI. It is only selling turnkey systems to make it easier to support.

Steve Wise, general manager, FAST UK, sees the market for editors breaking down into uncompressed at the top end, MPEG-2 in the middle, and DV for low-end work. ES-3 and silver, running the latest version 2.5 software, now have uncompressed D1 as a software option, as is DVD, with YUV and DV as hardware options. On silver, users can choose the MPEG-2 compression rates. The system is modular, with many options, but is now complete - all further development will be software only. When it arrives, blue will be uncompressed, it will also have the compositing and 3D features buyers expect, without them Wise believes that had it emerged two years ago, it wouldn't have sold.

The FAST-Studio interface has been developed over four years, and with silver and Sony's ES-3, it now has 3,000 users worldwide. FAST-Studio 3.0 (arriving next year) will have improved media management and better interoperability with other applications, such as compositing software.

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Software Simplifies

"In the past few years, editors have had to become too involved in engineering, having to become IT people, but purple is very simple. It is all in software. There is no hardware card involved except for the Firewire i/o card," says Brad Swenson, FAST product manager. It has three Firewire ports (one of which can be used by an internal drive).

Because the software is the same as silver, but DV only, an editor can work in exactly the same way with any FAST system.

Despite being in software, the response of the system was pleasingly quick thanks to the fast dual processors. All cuts are done in real time and it does any effects rendering or colour correction in the background, so the user isn't delayed in any way, which he says makes it very usable for news. Swenson claims that its background processing is as real time as users will need and it doesn't face the bottlenecks that some hardware-based "real-time" solutions entail. Effects can be saved as template icons for ease of use.

FAST has also developed an analogue audio scrub effect using just software (silver needs hardware to do the same). There is also a built-in character generator, and XL 2.5 has added a real-time voice-over feature, as well as external audio fader control via MIDI, and a Container facility which enables complex sequences to be collapsed down and combined within other sequences.

Users can customise the interface and export that interface to any purple, silver or ES-3. The keyboard can be set up to have the same shortcuts as Avid (or users can change it as they want it).

If you import MPEG or other files, they will be automatically converted to DV when you drag them to the timeline. A more conventional batch processing feature will probably be added as part of version 3.0's media management. It can also do streaming media from the timeline, and FAST will be showing a new streaming solution at IBC: silver-stream. This is a Unix-based Internet server appliance which can do real-time Webcasting. It is also launching a service, Carbon-base, which mirrors your site onto a main server so it automatically takes over if your local hit rate rises above 80% of your capacity.

DEC 2000

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David Fox