MacroSystem Casablanca Solitaire Editing Appliance Review

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Casablanca

Solitaire is that it doesn’t look like any other

non-linear editing solution out there.

The Solitaire is an elegant cube with a

translucent white glass-sheathed face and top and front

aluminum insets housing the drive bays and front I/O

ports. All in all, it’s a distinctive looking unit that’s

a departure from the VCR-like form factor of many of the

previous Casablanca editing appliances.

Getting Started

When the unit is powered up, the LCD window glows blue

and white and after boot, the MacroSystem logo (or a

"standby" screen if the unit is at rest) appears and the

control points on the left and right front bottom become

active. In the quest to create an elegant box, Solitaire’s

designers chose to leave the traditional mechanical

buttons behind. In their place are a series of "sensor"

buttons that read presence of the user’s finger on the

button. On the positive side, there’s no mechanical switch

to break and there’s a definite "cool factor" in play. The

only negative is that it takes a few moments for the

switch to acknowledge the presence of your finger, so the

buttons take a little getting used to. If you simply tap

the button, nothing happens. When you condition yourself

to hold your finger over them until you get the result you

want, things work fine.


Smart Edit and Friends

While the hardware might be new, the MacroSystems editing

software is still designed with the novice or beginning

editor in mind. That doesn’t mean it’s limited in its

capabilities, just that the initial user interface that it

presents to the editor is about as simple as it can be.

When you turn on the power of a properly

configured Solitaire system, you’ll find a simple initial

menu screen that makes your choices crystal clear. Again,

this is a dedicated video-editing appliance. And as such,

you don’t have to figure out how to get from your general

computer interface into your editing program — the editing

program is the general computer interface.

The startup screen has an area to allow you to

set System, Project and Video Capture settings — items

that, once set, should seldom change. The next group of

choices is for Video Recording, Audio Mixing, setting

Transitions, Image processing and Titling. As you dive

into editing, you’ll quickly learn that you can generally

jump between any of these modes instantly, so there’s

little need to come back to this startup screen once

you’re beyond it.

The Solitaire’s software forgoes the log and

capture process in favor of a scene capture process where

you click on the record button to record your scenes as

they appear on your tape. Both methods get the job done,

but high-volume editors will miss the functionality of

keyboard logging and batch capture.

Once your scenes are trimmed, you click on the

ADD button to insert them into your storyboard and arrange

them to your liking.

Next up are the transitions, and here the

Solitaire really shines. The MacroSystem team clearly

understands that their customers like to spice up their

video projects and to satisfy them they not only build a

wide range of basic effects into the stock software, they

market Effects Packs full of even fancier transitions and

video effects. These include everything from special

wipes, fades, 3D effects and special-purpose transitions

to some pretty sophisticated Blue screening (via both the

built-in basic Bluebox and the more sophisticated Add-On

Bluebox World.)

One interesting element of this rich add-on

environment is that it sometimes serves to make Casablanca

systems like the Solitaire more complicated to understand

— a reality that goes against their basic philosophy of

making easy-to-use "appliance" video editors.

In the more traditional NLE industry, we’re

seeing a trend with software companies adding new

functionality within the primary application and folding

it into their offerings at the same price. MacroSystem

clearly takes the more traditional approach of viewing the

majority of their add-ons as pay-if-you-want-to-play

extras. So purchasers would be wise to research whether

the capabilities you want are in the basic feature set, or

if you need one of the add-on programs to do what you need

to do.

Overall Impressions

All in all, the Solitaire is a pretty impressive box.

It has an elegant appearance that will enhance the visual

professionalism of any edit desk, and it’s packed with

lots and lots of functionality. That elegance and

capability doesn’t come cheap and there are those who

would argue that the price point of a well-equipped

Solitaire system is high enough that the same money could

buy an extremely robust general purpose editing computer

and software.

While true, that approach misses the point of

what MacroSystem has always offered over their long and

successful company history. Which is an alternative for

those who don’t want to research and build their own

computer, choose stand-alone software and configure

everything themselves. The customer seriously looking at

this type of "editing appliance" is looking for a turn-key

solution that does the majority of what you need to do –

out of the box — with a minimum of hassle and effort.

For the beginning or basic videographer,

hobbyist or even the modest to medium-volume event

videographer the Solitaire with its attendant suite of

software choices can easily form the heart of a very

robust video editing enterprise. You get simplicity. You

get quick startup and quick success. The penalty for this

"packaged" approach is that you give up some things the

typical "open system" approach that editing software

running on a standard PC or Mac can provide. Which

approach you prefer is totally a matter of personal

preference.

If choice is good, than MacroSystem deserves

kudos for providing precisely that — an alternative to the

"open systems" approach to computer editing – one that

serves the interests of the editor who wants minimum

system futzing and is willing to accept some operational

limitations in order to get that. In short, if you’re

looking for a "get the job done" approach and are willing

to give up some flexibility and industry standard benefits

(e.g. offline clip logging and batch capture) then the

Casablanca Solitaire looks to be a great new product that

should serve you well.

TECH SPECS

Included Hard Drive Size 160GB

Removable Hard Drive Yes

CD Read Yes

CD Write Yes

DVD Read Yes

DVD Write Yes

Mouse or Trackball Trackball

Video Editing Interface (storyboard or timeline) Storyboard

STRENGTHS

  • Nice selection of transitions
  • Simple interface

WEAKNESSES

  • Annoying "sensor" buttons
  • Expensive

SUMMARY

If you like the Casablanca, you’ll like this upgrade.

Bill Davis writes, shoots, edits, and does voiceover

work for a variety of corporate and industrial

clients.

$5,499

MacroSystem US

5485 Conestoga Ct.

Boulder, CO 80301

(877) 554-2846

www.casablanca.tv

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