Test Bench: DVS Direct Pinnacle Liquid Edition Pro Turnkey Editing System

Alliances have been broken (Pinnacle/Adobe) and re-created (Pinnacle/ATI) in a new marriage of hardware and software: Liquid Edition Pro. For prosumers and small shops, Liquid Edition is a real-time competitor in the sub-$1,000 class of editing software. Combined and configured in a customized turnkey from DVS Direct, this no-render (no kidding) editing package was an impressive and pleasant surprise.

The Hardware

DVS Direct did not cut any corners: the fast 3GHz CPU, the 400-watt power supply, attractive (but not gaudy) case, the Intel 845GE chipset, the DDR400 RAM and the Sony DRU500A DVD-RW/+RW drive are all quality components. The only aspect of this computer that we were not enthusiastic about was the noise level of the case fans, although we’d rather have a stable/noisy/cool machine instead of a crashy/quiet/hot computer.

The new Liquid Edition Pro hardware-assisted rendering card struck us as unusual at first, since it sits in the AGP slot in the computer (instead of a standard PCI slot) and is the primary display device. Pinnacle has leveraged the graphics processing power of ATI’s excellent Radeon 8500. It is surprising, for whatever reason, that most other video software companies have not yet used the sophisticated GPU on 3D gaming cards to better advantage. The only downside to this particular card is that you cannot hook up dual monitors (unless you add a PCI card).

The breakout box (BoB) that hooks into the back of the Edition Pro 5/Radeon 8500 card with a long, stiff cable has a FireWire port and a full compliment of analog inputs and outputs (including S-video) so you can connect your television for real-time previews. This is critical for all but the most casual of editing. Interestingly, since the software will take advantage of just about any graphics accelerator card (from nVidia or ATI), you could get Edition 5 by itself and pair it with a different video card (although you’d lose the BoB).

Scalable

In marketing-speak, "scalable" simply means that faster computers mean faster rendering speeds. Any new computer will produce real-time output (at least a preview anyhow) for most editing tasks. Only complex special effects and composites need rendering. If your shop regularly performs some type of effects and compositing beyond titles and crossfades, then real-time hardware can be a real time saver. Further, Pinnacle Edition’s background rendering changes the overall workflow of editing as well: you always get real-time previews, but a fully rendered DV output is ready when you are as well.

The rendering workflow is really worth it, but do you really want to learn a whole new editing app? Although we are sure someone will tell you Edition is easy to learn, it isn’t. Then again, neither is Premiere, et al. So if you are already proficient in Premiere (or Vegas or Avid or FCP or MSP), the decision to switch is a tough one.

If you are looking for your first professional app, then by all means, consider Edition. If you will need to collaborate with others, you’ll need to find out what they use. You might find that the broadcast professionals you need to work with are using Pinnacle broadcast products, in which case Edition is well worth learning.

The 5th Edition

Everything that we said about the basic interface in our November 2002 review of Edition still applies: it is non-standard and takes over Windows, but the design is actually quite good. We like the free-form storyboard layout, project organization bins and the nested timeline structure. The beefy printed manuals total almost 900 pages and are well organized, clearly written and very graphical. We also appreciate the small touches, like the glossy Quick Reference card, totally customizable buttons and extensive context menus.

Effects and DVD Authoring

Edition comes with a very large array of stock effects. The Dynamic Time Warping and Color Correction tools are well done, but are certainly not unique to this product. The app was always fast and responsive, even when we abused it by throwing clip upon clip on top of effects. Audio on imported DV AVI files took a while to process, over six seconds per minute of source media.

We are unable to cover DVD authoring in any detail here, except to say that it starts with your editing timeline. The templates are attractive enough and have a professional feel. There are very few advanced authoring features (e.g. Dolby encoding), but you can get a full-motion DVD menu with basic navigation without too much effort.


Nicely Configured

Liquid Edition Pro has a lot going for it. You never have to save your work and will soon forget about rendering. Edition is fast, responsive, customizable and loaded with effects. The full, no-render ATI AGP card package with the BoB is fabulous, especially if you need analog capture. If you are not comfortable installing hardware or aren’t sure if your current computer even has an AGP slot, then a DVS Direct turnkey is a great way to go. A big bonus is the personal attention you’ll get. Operations like DVS Direct offer personalized service that you just won’t get from larger companies.

TECH SPECS

DVS Direct Turnkey

Platform: PC

OS: Windows XP Pro

CPU: Pentium 4 3.06GHz

Motherboard Chipset: Intel 845GE

RAM: 1GB (2 x 512MB DDR400)

Hard Drive: 80GB System (7,200 rpm, ATA133), 120GB Video (7,200 rpm, ATA133)

Sound Card: integrated AC97

Display Card: Pinnacle/ ATI

Disc Writer: Sony DRU-500A

Additional Hardware: FireWire, 10/100 Ethernet, Edition Pro BoB, Keyboard and mouse (optical)

Editing Software: Pinnacle Edition 5

Additional Software: Pinnacle Hollywood FX, TitleDeko RT, Veritas RecordNow DX, Cyberlink PowerDVD, Alpha Magic Gradients

Inputs: analog (composite, S-video and RCA audio) and digital (FireWire)

Outputs: analog (composite, S-video and RCA audio) and digital (FireWire)

MPEG-2 Render Speed: 22fps

Pinnacle Liquid Edition Pro

Version: 5.5 (Edition 5.10 build 1749)

Platform: PC

Operating System: Windows 2000/XP

Processor: 1.8GHz

RAM: 256MB

Additional Requirements: AGP slot, DVD-ROM drive

Printed Manual: 900 pages

Demo Version: none

Upgrade (software only): $400

STRENGTHS

  • Solid real time performance
  • Quality printed documentation
  • Great BoB

WEAKNESSES

  • No dual monitor support
  • Edition UI over-rides Windows

SUMMARY

Liquid Edition Pro is a professional real-time hardware editor in an affordable and reliable turnkey from DVS Direct.

$2,995

DVS Direct

69 Beaver Dr.

DuBois, PA 15801(800) 379-7267

www.dvsdirect.com

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