Applied Magic Sequel Editing Appliance
Applied Magic, Inc.
5845 Owens Ave.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
These are interesting times for home videographerstimes in which it's possible for consumers to purchase a full-featured hard-disk based, video editing appliance for less than it would cost for a pair of editing VCRs for a cuts-only linear editing system.
Endeavoring to stay at the forefront of this exciting trend is Applied Magic, a company whose ScreenPlay video editing appliance hit the market in 1999. While attempting to retain the quality of the ScreenPlay, Applied Magic's Sequel, the "little brother" of ScreenPlay, aims to bring video editing to budget-minded entry level video editors. Serious editors shouldn't stop reading though, this little box packs a punch.
To test the Sequel, we took our Sony DCR-TRV120 Digital8 test camcorder, shot some footage, hooked it up to the Sequel's S-video input (note: our test model did not have the FireWire option) and began editing.
Setup of the Sequel was very simple, though it did require a bit more installation than we had originally hoped. In order to use the unit's password-protection feature for managing multiple projects, we had to install additional software from CD-ROM. This extended the setup time from about five minutes to around ten or sono big deal, especially considering the ease of use and economical operation that the Sequel provides once you actually get it going.
Sequel's outer design is stylish enough to sit alongside a VCR or stereo in a living room setting. The front-mounted connectors for S-video, composite video (IEEE 1394 FireWire in/out is optional), stereo audio, 1/4-inch microphone and headphones also make it suitable for operation from a typical home entertainment center. Even at base price, the Sequel includes a keyboard and standard PC mouse. Applied Magic took a typical PC keyboard and changed the function keys and numeric pad keys to reflect their roles within the editing interface. The numeric keypad, for example, covers all of the relevant VCR transport functions (fast forward, rewind, etc.) The keyboard's tactile response is excellent, and the wireless option further accommodates those who intend to edit in the living room. Couch and coffee table editors may wish for a trackball instead of the included mouse, but desktop users will like the PC-feel of the mouse.
At first glance, the Sequel interface looks identical to the earlier Screenplay - a clip bin sits on the upper left-hand side of the screen, while a monitor window sits on the upper right. Below, the Sequel's main editing interface, the storyboard window, stretches across the bottom of the screen. Those who are familiar with simple point-and-click icons should have no trouble navigating the Sequel interface.
One rather impressive feature of Screenplay that was carried forward to the Sequel is the ability to color-correct shots with white balance problems. Clicking the Details tab above the Storyboard window reveals a number of options, including one that allows you to select a portion of the screen to represent "true white," and adjust all other colors accordingly. So, if you find that you have a shot of the bride with washed-out, red-looking skin and a purplish dress, you can use this feature to set the dress to white and correct the skin tone in the bargain.
True to its claims, the Sequel provides a number of real-time effects and transitions you can use to make your videos quickly and easily. In fact, nothing you can do with the basic version we tested will ever require even a few seconds of render time. That makes for pretty quick editing. The effects and transitions are, however, limited to two-dimensional, dual-stream transitions such as wipes, pushes and dissolves. The page turns, for example, are a decent-looking attempt to imitate a true page-turn effect, but they're not fully three-dimensional, because that would require more computing cycles than this real-time system can handle.
With that in mind, it's also good to note that the version of Sequel we tested was the most basic model you can buy; upgrades such as the aforementioned FireWire jack, larger hard drives, more transitions, etc. are available for those who outgrow this basic system. This gives Sequel a flexibility that's worth condsidering.
What's the Difference?
The Sequel offers substantial savings over the ScreenPlay, but what features has it forfeited in exchange for its lower price tag? We've provided a short list of some of the differences between the two siblings. ScreenPlay has 130 transition effects, Sequel offers 50. ScreenPlay features eight special effects: including three styles of slow-motion, mirror, rotate, flip, strobe and film grain. Sequel has just two slow-motion effects. ScreenPlay has 21 color effects, Sequel has just six. Probably the most important feature appearing in ScreenPlay and missing in Sequel, is the sync feature for locking video and audio clips together. Without this feature, the Sequel is not capable of performing insert edits.
Even without the above features, the Sequel is a powerful editing tool. With the $2k that you'll save, you can buy yourself that new camcorder you've been looking at, buy a professional light kit or pay for your daughter's braces.
The quality of the images produced by the Sequel looked to be better than the earlier Screenplay that we tested in our February 2000 issue. In addition, there were fewer bugs, the editing was faster and the titler showed some significant improvements (more fonts, motions, etc.). It looks as though Casablanca's Avio might have a serious contender in the marketplace after all.
Hardware: PowerPC processor, CD-ROM, keyboard and mouse
Inputs: Composite video, stereo audio,
S-video, FireWire (optional), microphone (1/4-inch)
Outputs: Composite video, stereo audio,
S-video, FireWire (optional), headphones
Other connections: SCSI (for external storage)
Hard drive: 10GB (Upgradable)
Transitions: real-time transition effects
Image filters: 6 real-time color effects
Motion effects: 2 styles of slow motion