Test Bench:MacroSystem Casablanca Kron Editing Appliance

$5,495

MacroSystem US

5485 Conestoga Court

Boulder, CO 80301

(303) 440-5311

www.casablanca.tv

In the continuum of video editing solutions, if a do-it-yourself, built-from-scratch system represents one end, the Casablanca Kron lies at the other. The Kron, and the very small number of video appliances like it, do one thing and they do it well edit video. They don’t send e-mail, play games or browse the Internet. In a fast turn around, professional production environment, the Kron may be just what is required.

Installation

With the Kron, there is nothing to install. Instead, you hook it up much like a VCR. Once the power button was pushed, our review machine booted up and loaded the proprietary operating system. And since the OS was single-minded, it was a fast, 23-second process. Using the included SmartMedia card, we immediately updated the Kron OS to Kron 1.5e. We then installed a couple of software extras, including some new effects and the Arabesk DVD authoring software.

Capture

The simplicity of the Kron is its true strength. Your options are so clearly presented that it is impossible to get lost. There is no need to pick a disk drive or folder location when you start a project, just enter a name and you are ready to go. We immediately had device control of our Panasonic PV-DV951 camcorder. We clicked the Record button and left the Kron to capture the entire tape to disc.

Unfortunately, our test unit seemed to have problems with extended captures. It crashed, once at 39 minutes and once at 18 minutes, both of which were suspiciously close to 4GB file-size limits. In talking with the extremely helpful folks at MacroSystem, we learned that the Kron OS has a 2 terabyte file-size limit, so it may have just been a coincidence. We updated the OS (to a version that will be shipping with the unit by the time you read this) and did not experience any more problems of this sort, although MacroSystem did not suggest that the OS update would specifically address this unreproducible crash.

Shorter captures were never a problem. Once we had our video captured, each clip was automatically broken up into a number of scenes by clicking the Split button. Optical scene detection was extremely fast and accurate, taking about 30 seconds to process a single 10-minute video file.

Editing

Editing with the Kron takes place in a storyboard-type environment. Manually splitting and trimming clips was easy and we enjoyed the trackball controller that is used to scrub and jog/shuttle through clips.

Transitions between clips did not require rendering and were performed in real time. Special effects (such as color enhancement), on the other hand, were not real time, so the process was to add an effect to a clip in the bin, render it and then insert it into the storyboard. Kron has a small range of special effects that includes slow motion and color correction. Titling was also simple and effective, but required rendering time. The font choices, colors, outline and shadow options were sufficient to generate quality titles and the animation controls for scrolling, flying and fading were simple and effective.

The ability to hook up an external NTSC monitor to the S-video port on the Kron made editing quite enjoyable. With the editing interface on the SVGA (at 1024×768) monitor used as the primary workspace and a separate NTSC monitor for output, the Kron allowed us to monitor colors and spacing issues on a television while we worked. You’ll need to provide your own monitors, though. None are included with the Kron.

To edit audio clips, Kron uses a separate audio timeline below the storyboard area. The storyboard represents each scene (clip) as a single thumbnail regardless of its length, but the audio timeline allowed us to see the waveform in the split and trim windows which in turn let us synchronize audio events, such as sound effects, with video quite accurately. In addition, the audio can optionally be scrubbed along with the video.

Rendering and Print to Tape

When you’re ready to transfer your movie to tape, whether via the IEEE 1394 port to a DV camcorder or out the S-video or composite to a VCR, the process is very straightforward and no additional rendering is required. DV recording is automatic with device control and analog recording merely requires you to cue up your recording device and then click a button on the Kron to start playback.

DVD Authoring

Disc-minded shoppers will be pleased to learn that Kron ships with a built-in Pioneer DVR-AO3 DVD-R/RW drive and Arabesk DVD authoring software. Before you can burn a DVD, you must encode the video to the proper MPEG-2 format. We encoded an hour of DV at the highest quality video and audio settings. Rendering took a little more than seven hours. Burning to a blank Pioneer DVD-R media took about 35 minutes.

The DVDs we burned were not recognized as valid by an Aiwa DVD player, and subsequent tests on Toshiba, Samsung and Philips DVD players were only marginally successful. It seems the data rate of the MPEG-2 video on the disc was too high for the players, resulting in failure. A safer data rate might be recommended for greater compatibility, but newer DVD players should handle these discs better.

Conclusion

The Kron is one of the most solid, reliable and elegant editing solutions available to the consumer. While the workspace is simple enough for middle school children to operate, the Kron has many tools that high-end users demand and many function in real time. It is an appropriate solution for professionals who don’t need (nor want) a complex compositing environment and are on tight time budgets.

TECH SPECS

Platform: proprietary appliance

Operation System: proprietary Kron OS 1.5d

Processor: AMD-K6-IIIE+ 500MHz

RAM: 64MB RAM

Hard Disk: 40GB IDE hard drive

Other Hardware:

IEEE 1394 (i.LINK, FireWire)

External SCSI interface

Video and VGA monitor ports with 800×600 or 1024×768 resolution

STRENGTHS

  • Easy hookup
  • Simple to use
  • Real-time transitions

    WEAKNESSES

  • Expensive
  • Limited options
  • Occasional capture crashes

    SUMMARY

  • The Kron offers amazingly simple editing, basic DVD authoring and top-notch quality.
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