13458 S.W. 131 Street
Miami, FL. 33186
The people at Alienware (of award winning ultra-game system fame) have put their talents toward a turnkey video editing workstation, or more correctly, have added video capture and editing to its family of gaming machines.
Housed in a slick, silver mid-tower with a screaming fast 1GHz processor and two 19-inch black Viewsonic monitors, the Roswell oozes speed from every port it’s flat-out fast. This offering uses the Canopus DVRaptor for video capture and Adobe RT 5.1 for editing, and targets the intermediate DV enthusiast with a fastest-kid-on-the-block complex.
When our Roswell arrived, the first thing we noticed was how well Alienware packaged the system. The manuals, software and set up guide are well organized and filed in a single user-friendly folder. Alienware puts their systems through exhaustive tests and burns-in their boards to assure solid integration of components. As we unpacked the contents, we found more cables than we expected. You get FireWire, S-video, RCA male and female pairs to mini Tip Ring Sleeve (TRS), TRS to TRS and a headphone adapter. Although you do not need most of this cabling to get underway, Alienware includes an overkill of cable options.
The system runs on Windows ME, and includes Adobe Premiere RT 5.1 and Canopus Raptor capture software for capturing and editing your footage.
Preparing for Liftoff
The setup of the system went well and was made easy by following the included instructions. Alienware completely installed the Roswell’s software, with a shortcut to Adobe Premiere handy on the desktop. The only configuration problem we encountered was when we hooked up the two Viewsonic monitors. After connecting our monitors, we found that the proper connection was not clearly laid-out in the setup schematic and we had them reversed. By going into the display control panel and choosing settings, we found that the monitor order is user definable. A quick mention by Alienware might have saved us a little searching and frustration in this case.
For those who have not seen or used a system with two VGA monitors, the advantage is that you can use both screen surfaces as your desktop. You can stretch out your timeline, or place the various other windows anywhere on the two screens making your work area less cluttered. We also found that when the computer went to sleep that we could not get both monitors to respond when we woke it back up. We had to reboot the system a couple of times to get both monitors working again. From first opening the box to finally hearing the whir of the Canon Elura 2MC (our video input source) set-up took about 25 minutes. Not bad.
The Roswell comes with an Altec Lansing five speaker surround-sound system with a sub-woofer that is not really as useful in the video editing world as it is in the game realm, but it sounds really good.
With all the umbilical cords hooked to the Raptor, we were ready to go. For those who are not familiar with the Canopus Raptor, there are a few important things to note. Although it has analog inputs, the Raptor is only useful for DV capture and editing via FireWire. The analog inputs merely provide an overlaid preview of your video while you edit. Your DV cam does the job of digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital conversion. The implications of this are that you must loop the video and audio signals through a digital camcorder to monitor either. So, you can’t edit without having a FireWire-equipped DV camcorder attached to the system.
The Canopus Web site has a list of "in-house tested" compatible cameras and those that are known to work but have not been tested by Canopus. The Canon Elura 2MC we used was not on the list of tested cameras, but we had no trouble controlling the Elura 2MC and batch capturing a list of shots to the huge 100GB storage drive. You get approximately 30 minutes of storage for every 9GB of storage at 4:1 compression, so having 100GB is a healthy storage allotment especially at this price.
We had to go in and out of the program video settings in Premiere get the right combination to allow monitoring of video on both the VGA and our NTSC monitors. Video monitoring is a little buggy and is not clearly addressed or referenced in the documentation.
The "X" Factor
We placed several clips in the timeline and used varied transitions of 30-frame duration to create a short sequence. Because the system comes with Adobe Premiere RT, users might assume that it can perform real-time transitions. This is not the case. The hardware included with the Roswell does not allow real-time playback of transition effects or titles. We always received a red X in the upper left-hand corner of the monitor window indicating that the effect needed rendering before playback. With the Roswell’s 1GHz processor though, two minutes of video with 20 transition effects of various types rendered in one minute five seconds. While rendering individual effects is so fast that it is almost real time, they still require rendering before playback.
We output our sequence from the Roswell via FireWire to the Elura 2MC. Then from the S-video output of the Elura 2MC to a Panasonic AG 5700 S-video deck and found that the resulting footage was very good. To record audio to the S-video deck you have to take the analog outs from your camcorder (the Raptor does not convert a digital signal into analog) and put them into the S-video deck.
Out of this World
The Roswell from Alienware is a powerful computer package that the company has integrated with care. It gives the intermediate to advanced DV video enthusiast a powerful tool to journey into video editing. The price of this workstation alone makes it a good choice. Adobe Premiere RT 5.1 is a welcome addition and with Alienware’s chosen chipset, processor and ample storage drives, but this is not a real-time system: transition effects and titles had to be rendered. The dual monitors are a nice touch, giving editors ample elbow room to shuffle multiple windows.
Except for a few monitoring bugs, this system performed quite well. This Alien will definitely satisfy the needs of many video enthusiasts.
Main Board: Intel 815e Motherboard
Processor: Intel Pentium III 1GHz FC-PGA
Hard Disk Capacity: 10.2GB system drive / 100GB A/V drive
CD-RW: HP 9300I 10X/4X/32X
DVD-ROM: Pioneer 16X
Memory: 256MB SDRAM PC-133
Monitors: Two Viewsonic E790B 19"
Operating System: Windows ME
Case: Hydraulic Mid-Tower/Saucer Silver w/6x 5.25" drive bays, 1x 3.5"drive bay/ 300 watt power supply
Expansion Slots: 6x PCI
Speakers: Altec Lansing ACS-54
Video Capture Card: Canopus DVRaptor
Sound Card: SB Live
Video I/O: IEEE 1394
Audio I/O: IEEE 1394