Matrox Electronic Systems Ltd.
1055 Saint Regis Blvd.
Dorval, Quebec, Canada H9P 2T4
With digital camcorders shooting off the techno conveyer belt and new editing software versions chugging into the fray at a steady pace, hardware companies producing mid-range digitizer/capture solutions are diligently keeping pace.
Wielding more hardware processing power, more software and a lower price, the Matrox RT2000 MEGA Pack 3.0 with Premiere 6.0 is in the box. For the video enthusiasts and budget-minded professionals who do not have anxiety attacks at the thought of installing hardware and software, the RT2000 MEGA Pack may be an essential player in their video production solution.
In The Box
The Matrox RT2000 MEGA Pack 3.0 is a two-board set, and cables and a breakout box are provided. The RT2000 codec card has two FireWire connects and a breakout box serial port connect. The video codec card captures in native DV via the FireWire port. The RT2000 MEGA Pack 3.0 also will digitize analog video using the DV codec, MPEG-2 I-frame (intra-frame compression for editing MPEG-2 on a timeline) or MPEG-2 IBP (inter-frame compression for DVD authoring applications) through S-video or composite inputs.
The second board in the set, the Millennium Flex 3D Edition, performs effects rendering and real-time playback. The Flex 3D also allows the use of two separate displays at once, which in most cases would be VGA and NTSC monitors.
With the hardware comes a generous software bundle. Adobe Premiere 6.0 is present and stable, and Sonic Solutions DVDit! LE gives you a place to work with your MPEG-2 files. Inscriber TitleExpress (which comes with Premiere 6.0) adds a bit of graphic class to the mix, as does the simple 3D titling program Ulead COOL 3D. Sonic Foundry ACID Music, which provides custom loop-based tunes, rounds out the bunch.
Codec, Control and Render Packin’
There are additional, useful workflow features in the MEGA Pack 3.0 upgrade. Capture of MPEG-2 in either I-frame or IBP is scalable for quality. As with DV, the maximum bit rate is 25MB/sec for MPEG-2 but you can digitize low-resolution files to save on disk space while editing. The implication is if you want to bring in footage using DV device control (creating a batch capture list) you still have the option of digitizing the footage through the analog ports. In this manner, you can use low-bit-rate MPEG-2 I-frame to edit on the timeline. When you are ready for the final version, you can re-capture the batch list in native DV through the FireWire port. This feature, although a slightly different approach, is one that more expensive systems have offered for some time. The RT2000 MEGA Pack also supports third party software Pipeline Pro VTR, which allows RS-422 and RS-232 communication to analog decks through the standard computer serial port. When the complexity of video layers, graphics and effects keeps it out of the realm of real time, hardware accelerated compositing lets you render multiple layers of video and graphics at the same time.
Was It Good For You?
As with all video capture card solutions, we recommend installation by trained technician or purchase of pre-configured turnkey systems. We tested a Matrox- assembled RT2000 MEGA Pack 3.0 in a Gateway 750MHz Athlon with 256MB of RAM. We chose a Panasonic PV-DV950 camera as our DV device and began logging a batch list of shots for capture. The first thing we noticed was that this incarnation of the RT2000 seemed to meld very well with the new Premiere version 6.0 from Adobe. The DV device support from Matrox communicated with the three-chip Panasonic flawlessly and we had our list in the bin from a stock footage tape. Although the RT2000 MEGA Pack came with some impressive demo sequences and footage that surpassed our expectations, we went straight to our own sequence. Armed with a few cuts from a CD music library, we began placing shots and transitions onto the timeline.
Again, in our evaluation unit, Premiere 6.0 and the Matrox RT2000 MEGA Pack version 3.0 worked well together. We put a sequence of shots, transitions and graphic titles together that would actually be used for practical purposes. Using 20 shots ranging from one to five seconds, we did applied native Adobe transitions (over 50 are supported for real-time playback). We also added motion titles with animated shadows. All played back in real time. The RT2000 is dying to show off its handling of real-time 3D effects, and we give it that, it performs great, but we did not find practical use for them in our test production. When color filters were added to the sequence, which are software driven, we began to run into "not rendered" prompts. When the RT2000 must render, it gobbles up frames in packs, not one at a time. Groups of frames rendered at a surprising rate in our tests. Asking the Matrox to render two five-second shots with color effects, slow motion and titles over transitions between the two took just a few seconds to complete, and it displayed the preview on our NTSC monitor while it rendered. The RT2000 MEGA Pack 3.0 upgrade also supports Adobe Premiere 6.0’s Audio Mix Window. The one notable encumbrance we experienced was that when we engaged play with the spacebar Premiere did not always respond even with repeated commands to do so. After moving the cursor into the middle of a clip and back to the head of the sequence the program would play back normally. There was no set pattern to this occurrence and it was only slightly annoying.
Overall, our experience with the RT2000 MEGA Pack 3.0 was a good one. RT’s marriage with the new version of Premiere is one of its best assets. The current craze of real-time 3D effects, that hardware manufacturers seem so enamored with, drives much of the RT2000 MEGA Pack’s focus. Many of the factors that allow the 3D tricks help to achieve a solid solution in the render and real-time playback departments. MPEG-2 file support and conversion turn a system with the RT2000 MEGA Pack 3.0 into a multi-media workstation ready to go to tape, Web or disc. The whole industry is beginning to catch up with itself and Matrox seems to be in step with its reasonably- priced RT2000 MEGA Pack 3.0.
Minimum Processor: Pentium II 350MHz with 100MHz Front-side Bus or AMD Athlon
Operating System: Win 98 SE, Me
Video Capture Card: Matrox RT 2000 codec card
Graphics Card: Matrox Millennium Flex 3D Edition
Breakout box includes:
Video I/O: FireWire, S-video, Composite
Audio I/O: FireWire, RCA (unbalanced)
Bundled software: Matrox Video Tools, Adobe Premiere 6.0, Adobe Photoshop LE, Sonic Foundry Acid Music, Sonic Solutions DVDit, Inscriber Title Express, Ulead Cool 3D
With Premiere 6.0, the RT2000 MEGA Pack 3.0 is a stable performer and an excellent hardware and software editing value.