Test Bench:Canopus DVStation portable Turnkey
$2,999

Canopus Corporation

711 Charcot Ave.

San Jose, CA 95131

(888) 868-2533

www.canopuscorp.com

Among Canopus Corporation’s latest video editing products is the DVStation, a portable turnkey editing computer that puts DV editing power in a small footprint. It consists of a 550MHz Pentium III computer running Windows 98SE with a pre-installed DVRaptor FireWire card and a 15-inch LCD monitor that’s mounted directly to the computer’s case on a swivel stand. For intermediate editors who need portability from room to room the DVStation may fit the bill. However, the unit that we tested had a few bugs.

Though its modular design and carrying handle signify that the DVStation was designed for portability, its lack of battery power and its weight put it in a different class than a laptop computer. While it is most certainly a portable device, you will need access to an available electrical outlet to power the unit and you must have a DV camcorder connected to the computer to edit.


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Simple Setup

Setting up the DVStation was relatively simple. All we had to do was plug it in, turn it on, cable up a FireWire-equipped camcorder and run the software. For those who may have never set up a computer before, Canopus included a simple graphical diagram that walks the user through the process. The most time-consuming part of our setup was locating the registration key for the bundled Adobe Premiere 5.1c editing software, which comes pre-configured with the bundled SoftXplode and Adorage-I effects already installed. In our opinion, setting up an impromptu editing suite this easily is a plus. All you need is a grounded plug, a flat surface and a digital camcorder, and you can edit video.

Other software titles that come pre-installed on the DVStation include CrystalGraphics’ 3D Impact software (for creating fancy 3D titles and graphics) and SmartSound for Multimedia (a cool music-creation application that tailors songs to the exact required length). Finally, the RaptorEdit application rounds out the software offerings, providing a simple interface for quick edits and the system’s excellent batch capture/seamless capture feature.

To access the inputs for the DVRaptor FireWire card (reviewed in the August 1999 issue of Videomaker), we had to pry off a plastic dust cover that, on our test unit, gave quite a bit of resistance to coming loose. A similar dust cover protects the inputs and outputs on the back of the unit.


Portly Ability

At first glance, the DVStation appears to be aimed at the video editor who is on the road. However, in our opinion, it isn’t quite suited for lugging around airports or packing into your car for city to city trips. Canopus does not offer a carrying case for the editing computer, something we think users would need to keep the loose full-sized keyboard and mouse together and to protect the vulnerable LCD screen when toting it from place to place. While it does have a handle, the weighty 19-pound (approximate) unit would have most travelers whimpering by gate 10. The DVStation’s portability seems more suited for the editor who has equipment setup in multiple rooms or areas and needs to transport an editing system limited distances.

Even so, we put the unit to the ultimate test, and took it along on a trade show junket to edit some video in our hotel room. While carrying the unit was a chore, the DVStation set up easily on a typical hotel room desk, where its small footprint was a big advantage. The fact that the DVStation only requires one grounded outlet was a significant boon (a standard desktop system requires three for CPU, monitor and speakers). The minimum number of cables allowed for a quick, easy setup in our on-the-road setting.

In short, the experiment was a success. In just over an hour, we managed to rough out a five-minute documentary of the trade show, complete with titles, 3D transition effects and an original royalty-free music bed, all with the software that shipped with the DVStation.


Performance

Though it is far from the fastest or most powerful editing computer available at its price point, the DVStation is more than adequate for most video editing projects. Its 30GB video-capture drive is capable of handling over an hour of DV footage, including room for completing the final edit. Render times were fast. A simple, two-second two-dimensional transition took around 15 seconds to render, whereas a more powerful two-second 3D effect (provided by SoftXplode’s plug-in transitions) took 40 seconds to render. The included RexEdit software incorporates a fancy batch-capture system that is much simpler and works much better than Adobe Premiere’s included batch capture system. Also, the seamless capture feature, which glues together a series of clips as a single file as you capture them, is a great timesaver for those who need a quick cuts-only edit of selected footage.


One Problem

While we think the units small footprint and ease of setup is useful and were pleased with its overall performance, we experienced a problem with the system we received. Occasionally, the DVRaptor’s on-screen video overlay (which requires a complex analog loop back through your DV camcorder) stopped working altogether on our test unit. This forced us to use the flip-out 3.5-inch LCD monitor on our DV camcorder (we were glad it had one) to preview our edits. By the way, with the DVRaptor card you need to have a DV camcorder hooked up to the unit while you edit. The analog output of the camera is the only way to get a video preview onto the unit’s monitor. Also note that the analog I/Os on the Raptor are for preview overlay only and do not digitize analog footage.


Final Thoughts

While the Canopus DVStation has a certain amount of style and panache, the omission of a battery option keeps it out of the truly portable-editor category. That being said, the Canopus DVStation is a pretty cool little computer with enough processing power to cover some graphics chores as well as filling the editorial bill.

In our final analysis, the DVStation is a great conversation piece with plenty of bells and whistles. If you want something you can move easily from room to room or equipment station to equipment station, the DVStation may be the editing solution you’re looking for.

TECH SPECS

Processor: Pentium III 550 MHz

Memory: 128MB

Operating System: Windows 98

second edition

Hard Drive: 30GB UDMA

Editing Software: Adobe Premiere 5.1c

Capture Card: Canopus DV Raptor

A/V Inputs/Outputs: FireWire (IEEE 1394),

Monitor: Display 15" Integrated LCD

Weight: Approx. 19lbs.

STRENGTHS

  • Easy setup
  • Portability
  • Small footprint

    WEAKNESSES

  • No battery option
  • Buggy on-screen video overlay

    SUMMARY

  • The Canopus DVStation is a fast, stylish and easily portable editing machine, but our test unit had some bugs.
  • The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.