Benchmark:Applied Magic Screenplay Version 1.1 Turnkey NLE Appliance

Magic Box

Screenplay Version 1.1

Turnkey NLE Appliance

($3995; $4995 with DV option)

Applied Magic, Inc.

6078 Corte del Cedro

Carlsbad, CA 92009

(760) 931-6417

Now that Applied Magic has finally shipped its long-anticipated Screenplay, Dracos Casablanca (see the November 1998 issue of Videomaker for a Benchmark review) no longer stands alone in the field of nonlinear video editing appliances. This is good news for home video editors; a little bit of competitive spirit usually goes a long way towards providing lower prices, better features and all-around better products for consumers.

Screenplay offers many useful and easy-to-use features for wedding and event videographers, educators, church groups and anyone else who wants the power of nonlinear video without the hassle of setting up and maintaining a computer. It has a well-designed user interface and real-time operation with no rendering time necessary for graphics and transitions, but professional videographers may have some problems with the units output quality (more on this later).

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Screenplays 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 (if the model includes the available DV option), stereo audio, 1/4-inch microphone and headphones also make it suitable for operation from a typical home entertainment center.

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 keyboards tactile response is excellent, and the wireless option further accommodates those who intend to edit in the living room.

Cool Interface

Editing video with the Screenplay is fairly simple. The main screen has three windows: the upper left holds libraries of clips, transitions, graphics and effects, while the upper right holds the Preview window. The Storyboard window sits below these two and has video, graphics and two extra stereo audio tracks. The Clips window gives you the ability to organize your clips in folders; similar to the way you might store files on a home computer.

Clicking on the red-dot Record button brings up the Screenplays video capture interface. From here, you can control audio levels, brightness, contrast and hue as you record video to the hard drive. There are two ways to capture video: you can just let the source video run, then hit Record and Stop to capture the clips you want, or you can hit the Split button to automatically stop the current capture and start a new clip where the previous one left off.

After capturing your clips, a click on the Edit button brings you back into the main editing screen, where the clips that you just captured await your orders in the Clips window. Right-clicking the top of the Storyboard window lets you create a new project. Screenplay can store up to six storyboards – a nice feature that lets you work on multiple projects simultaneously.

Editing with Screenplay is very simple and intuitive. First, drag your clips into the order in which you want them to appear, from the Clips bin to the storyboard. Then trim them to your liking using the Details tab on the Storyboard window. Drag and drop a few transitions from the Transitions window, add some effects and titles, and youre ready to output to videotape – with no rendering time necessary.

A note about the titler: our version of Screenplays operating software (1.1) had some very nice-looking fonts and a wide range of options for drop shadows, extrusions and outlines but no motion available. Applied Magic announced its intent to fix this in a future upgrade of the software, but at press time, we were unable to perform even a simple end-credits roll with Screenplay.

One rather impressive feature of Screenplay is its ability to color-correct shots with white balance problems. Clicking on 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.

Alas, Artifacts

The Screenplays most serious flaw is the considerable amount of artifacting that probably results from use of the Wavelet-based codec. Some shots with lateral motion (such as a truck or camera movement from side to side) showed visible motion artifacts, and shots with busy, high-frequency patterns looked blotchy and blurred.

Even so, Applied Magics Screenplay is a serious contender in the nonlinear editing appliance marketplace. Its price is a little steep, but its ease of use and real-time functionality make it worth a look. — JM

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