A Sneak Peak at Draco's Avio

Draco Avio Editing Appliance

($1,495-$1,795)

(303) 440-5311

www.draco.com


Draco’s Casablanca was the first nonlinear video editing appliance that you could simply hook to a television and use. Now, a second-generation Casablanca by Draco should be available by press time. The Casablanca II (dubbed the Avio by Draco) manages to squeeze in many new features, including real-time transitions, while sporting a price less than half that of the original Casablanca.

To perform this bit of magic, the Avio abandons the Motorola processors and SCSI hard drives of the classic Casablanca, and replaces them with off-the-shelf Intel Pentium MMX chips and IDE hard drives. Lastly, the Avio incorporates a SmartMedia card reader. This allows you to load software updates from the card, and also download digital still pictures saved on a SmartMedia card. These hardware changes are important, but the most significant difference between the classic Casablanca and the Avio is in how they handle video compression.

The Avio uses MPEG-2, the same format as DVDs and DTS satellite, to compress and decompress video. This is a radical shift from the M-JPEG compression used by the original Cassie. This shift also allows the Avio to store three to four times as much video with the same sized drive. For example, the 20GB drive on the Avio ST will store 3.5 hours of video. It is the lower bit rate of MPEG-2 that allows the Avio to perform real-time transitions and store so much more video.

The Avio will come in two basic models. The Avio LT, ($1,495), includes a 12GB hard drive that can store two hours of video at the highest quality setting. The $1,795 Avio ST includes a 20GB hard drive, and can do two things the LT model cannot: chromakey and insert edits.

An IEEE 1394 input option should be available by the end of the summer. We saw the two painfully empty slots labeled "IEEE 1394" in the back of our Beta version. Draco also hinted that a third Avio version, tentatively called the Avio SE, may become available at some point later.

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