Square Box Systems CatDV Pro 5.1 Media Management Software Review

There is a school of video asset organization that is comprised of a series of shoeboxes in the closet filled with random tapes. Hopefully, each tape has a label, probably hastily scribbled upon in the field. It doesn’t take long before such a system becomes unwieldy, reaching the point where locating clips takes up more time than editing.

Square Box Systems has come to the rescue with CatDV Pro. CatDV Pro creates and manages a searchable database of every clip that’s ever been digitized into your system. It can capture the clip’s metadata and thumbnail images, as well as a highly compressed preview movie. This allows you to view and store your assets, once your original footage has been taken offline.


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Bringing It In

The first step in organizing your footage is digitizing it into your computer. There are two ways of doing this with CatDV Pro. The first and most intuitive is to capture the entire tape in your editing software, then import that file into CatDV Pro. The second is to capture from within CatDV Pro itself. (This will require a third party VDIG driver if you’re on a PC, or the optional Live Capture Plus if you’re on a Mac.)

Bringing in a full length clip from Final Cut Pro was a snap, and the file imported easily into CatDV. The clips automatically separate into scenes using DV time stamp detection, or using CatDV’s own visual frame referencing algorithms. The DV detection was spot on, and the visual detection was remarkably close, requiring a tweaking of a few frames to get just right. However, it’s a huge help if you’re cataloging footage from analog sources. CatDV Pro can import and manipulate any QuickTime media codec, including QuickTime flavors of HDV and DVCPRO HD.

We also tested Live Capture Plus, Square Box System’s stand alone capture software. When I want to really test a capture utility, I reach out under my desk and bring out “Old Scratchy,” a Mini DV tape full of dropouts, timecode breaks, and even PAL and NTSC footage. I was impressed by Live Capture Plus’s ability to wade through the mess, and not simply give up with an error message. It managed to capture everything. problems and all, breaking the tape into sub-reels when necessary. Live Capture Plus is for Mac OS X only, and currently works only with DV tapes.

Building the Database

Once the clip is captured and analyzed into individual clips, CatDV Pro then does some heavy crunching, creating both thumbnail images and small preview quality movies for each. These preview movies are small enough to remain on your hard drive for archiving purposes, and stay there once you finish a project and delete your original movie files. Any QuickTime codec can be specified for the preview movies, including Offline RT, and iPod video. You then present these clips together in a catalog, which is comprised of many clips, each having its own customizable metadata. Most of the data entry is done in this Clip Details window. Aside from the basic clip name, tape, and notes fields, there are six user definable fields, as well as data about the format and the clip’s camera settings.

Using the Database

Once you’ve digitized and cataloged your tapes, the real power of CatDV Pro can be harnessed to find any clip from any tape in your library. You can search across bins, clip names and user descriptions, and that’s only scratching the surface. You can make advanced inquiries, e. g., “Show me all the close-ups, with the word elephant in the description, from this location, between July 2006 and August 2006.” Using these powerful search tools you can then refine your selections and mark the individual clips you want to use.

The real value of CatDV Pro becomes apparent in browsing preview movies. It allows you to see the clip in its entirety, so you know exactly what you’re looking for. The interface is nicely laid out, using the standard JKL playback controls for shuttling. Once you’ve found and marked all the clips you want to use, CatDV Pro can export that list to many different NLE’s, including Final Cut Pro, Avid, Premiere, Canopus, Velocity, Cinestream, Media 100, and even the venerable CMX3600 format. From there, it’s a simple task to batch digitize your selected footage.

Depth and Breadth

CatDV Pro is a very deep and customizable program, and it will take some work to settle on the preferences and fields that work for your needs. Once set up however, CatDV Pro will be a huge time-saver in organizing your video assets.


OS: Macintosh (Power PC or Intel) Mac OS X 10.3 or later; Windows 2000 or later

Minimum RAM: 512MB

Other Software: QuickTime 6.0 or later, including QuickTime for Java 1.4.2 or later


  • Powerful database options
  • QuickTime previews
  • Intuitive


  • None


CatDV Pro is great tool for professionals looking to make some sense of media management.

John Burkhart is Videomaker‘s Editor-in-Chief


Square Box Systems, Ltd.

The Ten House, Hampton-on-the-Hill, Warwick CV35 8HB

United Kingdom


The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.