|Page (1) of 3 - 06/15/05||email article||print page|
Avid Xpress Pro HDNew version of highly scalable editing software nails it
(6/15/05) Avid Xpress Pro HD ($1695 software only, $295 for students) is a new version of Avids lowest-cost line of editing software. Adding to its mile-high feature set are improvements such as DVCProHD support, along with real time HD multicamera editing. You get a lot for your money with this package, but theres one important thing missing from its extensive list of features that Avid says well seeing by the end of this year?native HDV editing?although it will be provided free to all Avid Xpress Pro HD customers. Lets take a close-up look.
For our testing, we used the basic software-only version of Avid Xpress Pro HD, which doesnt include the Avid Mojo hardware box, a $1695 option thats also available bundled with Avid Xpress Pro software for a total of $2595 after rebate. Of course, when equipping yourself for this task of multistream editing, and especially anything having to do with high definition, youd be much better off with a really fast machine with a RAID-0 array moving data around quickly. But in our testing, even without those fast disks or the Mojo hardware, the performance of the software was still sprightly and useful. The scalability of this software serves as a great performance enhancer?the beauty of this software-driven system Avid has developed lies in that fact that better the host computer and drives, the better your performance will be.
Starting from the most basic aspect of Xpress Pro HD, lets briefly pay well-deserved homage to the famed Avid interface. Although there are easier interfaces to learn and use, Avids source/record model of nonlinear editing is the standard of the industry and has withstood the test of time. Better yet, over many years and a multitude of revisions, the software has gone far beyond that early simple nonlinear editing paradigm that has become commonplace. Seasoned professional editors are accustomed to Avids source/record, mark in/mark out routine, facilitated by its splice-in and overwrite buttons. Since the advent of the lower-cost Xpress line, Avid has added numerous drag-and-drop features, and theyve also combined those features with some of its earlier editing styles. For example, instead of normally marking an in point and out point on a clip and then attaching its tracks to V2, in addition youre able to drag a title from the source window onto the timeline and it instantly is superimposed over the clip below.
Thanks to its decade-and-a-half development effort, the software is packed with usability-oriented features. For example, if you want to place a dissolve on a group of clips, its a simple matter of marking an in and out point and with one click, you tell the software to add a dissolve to all of the shots within those points. Conceivably, you could add hundreds of dissolves over an entire production this way. There are hundreds more usability features that have been added over the years, but it would take an entire book for me to describe and explain them all. Suffice to say, this is a well-developed interface with more features than one person will probably ever learn. Its these kind of features that make life easier for a real-world video editor. Thats the legacy that gives Avid users the benefit of years of experience, in addition to being able to sell their services as editors who know how to use the most ubiquitous editing interface in the industry.
Moving ahead from the storied tradition of Avid to the present day, perhaps the most useful new feature of this version of Xpress Pro HD is its ability to handle mixed resolutions of footage on the timeline. Avids thinking here is that most people using Xpress Pro HD will not be making an instant jump to all-HD production to the exclusion of standard definition production. So, they will need to mix both standard definition and high definition footage together on the same timeline. Many production facilities and TV stations have vast libraries of file footage, and also use stock footage, much of it still in standard definition (see graphic below for a bin that could be typical of many production facilities). However, at the same time, more and more projects will be produced in HD, or will be produced in standard definition using HD footage, while saving the HD footage and those Avid-accurate EDLs in a vault somewhere to ensure a long shelf life.
|Look at this bin with three different resolutions coexisting. All these can occupy the same timeline, too. Note also the convenient color-coding feature.|
Given these common scenarios, with a few exceptions Xpress Pro HD is able to cover all the HD and SD bases including 720p, 23.976, 59.94, and all the different flavors of 1080i. One thing to keep in mind, though, different resolutions can share the same timeline without rendering, but if you have clips with different frame rates, some will need rendering in order to conform with the others. On our test machine, we had DV25 footage in a bin, along with DVCPro HD, and DNxHD footage from Media Composer (SD footage that was up-rezzed to HD), and all with the same frame rate. And then, it was a joy to see them all coexisting on the timeline. The best part of all about Avids strategy for Xpress Pro HD is that when footage is brought into the system, its not changed at all. All the different formats are handled in their native form, where the only transcoding happens at the end, when all the editing is done. This makes sense, especially because, simply put, editing typically involves taking large amounts of footage and turning that into small amounts of footage. Why not do all of the number crunching at the end of the process, when theres much less footage? It makes a lot of sense.
Unfortunately absent from Avids grand design is the hottest codec to come down the pike in a long time?HDV, the new high-definition format that gives users the workflow and bandwidth of DV25 and the resolution of high definition. Even though Avid told me last December that its much-anticipated native HDV codec would be ready in June of this year, its late. Now, Avid officials can only say that the HDV codec wont be ready until ?late 2005. But when it finally gets here, this upcoming codec is going to be powerful. Avid showed me a beta version at its Tewksbury headquarters last week. In keeping with that theme of all resolutions playing together nicely on the timeline, HDV will also be able to coexist on the timeline with other formats of video that use fields and frames. This is an unusual coexistence, where the HDV codec, with its long-GOP MPEG format and ability to occupy the same timeline with all types of other footage from DVCPro HD to DV25. This will be a first. But theres one big problem?its not here yet, and that leaves Avid users whod like to make a foray into the HDV format left without support for it unless they awkwardly bounce their footage off another format first and then bring it into the Avid Xpress HD system through SDI. Although Avid claims that, when it gets here, this will be the best HDV codec of the bunch, unfortunately it will appear almost a year later than that of other major nonlinear editing software developers of such NLEs as Adobe Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas with their transcoded HDV codecs derived from CineForm. Its also scheduled to arrive much later than soon-to-be partner Pinnacle, whose native HDV codec has been on the market for over a year. It will also be at least six months behind Apples Final Cut Pro, which now also ships with a native HDV codec. Although Avid is coming to market in last place in the HDV codec derby, the good news about this late arrival is that it wont cost anything?its going to be free to anyone who buys this current version of the software.
Related Keywords:Avid Xpress Pro HD, editing software, feature set, improvements, DVCProHD, real time HD multicamera editing, native HDV editing