Test Bench:GlacierDVS Matrox RT2500 Turnkey Editing Computer

$2,549

GlacierDVS Inc.

5636 Quartz Court

Helena, MT 59602

(800) 321-7631

www.glacierdvs.com

We’re tech-heads here at Videomaker and really enjoy mucking about inside computers now and again, upgrading hardware and improving performance. A few years ago you could save a few dollars by building your own editing system, but the newest turnkeys are so affordable that you can’t really save money building your own editing PC, especially if you factor in the man-hours of labor. This is particularly true when building a highly integrated real-time turnkey system around the Matrox RT2500 card, which has a long list of system requirements. For our money and time we recommend getting the RT2500 in a turnkey system. With an integrated dual-head display card, the GlacierDVS Matrox RT2500 turnkey system is a reasonably priced and competently executed example.

Aqua Ice

The first thing everyone noticed when we took the tower out of the box was the stylish aqua- and silver-accented case and the matching silver mouse and keyboard. Although the lightweight keyboard and non-optical mouse were rather inferior, the case itself was solid metal and well made, with distinctly quiet power supply and case fans.

Hooking everything up was not unduly difficult and we liked the integrated Matrox G550 dual-head display card. Once you’ve edited on two monitors (with a third NTSC monitor for previews), you’ll wonder how you ever managed with only one. GlacierDVS included a somewhat helpful setup pamphlet and a short VHS System Introduction video that we really appreciated. Even so, we did not initially connect the RT2500 audio cable correctly to the Sound Blaster Audigy card. The audio output from the card also exhibited a quiet but very high-pitched squealing noise from some type of interference within the box. We suspect that moving the card to another PCI slot would have fixed this (it was adjacent to the RT2500 card).

Capture

IEEE 1394 DV capturing via Premiere, both in Movie and Batch Capture modes, worked well. The audio was significantly out of sync with the video when displayed on the computer and television monitor during capture, but this was merely a minor annoyance and did not adversely affect the captured footage. DV footage was captured to Windows AVI files using a Matrox DV codec. A corresponding WAV file was also captured, since the RT2500 does not support interleaved audio. This was transparent to the user, however, and when we inserted AVI files onto the timeline, the audio accompanied it, just as if the audio had been included within the AVI file.

The RT2500’s analog capture options were fantastic and gave us a huge range of possibilities. By default, S-video or composite video is automatically transcoded to DV footage when it is digitized. You can, however, choose to capture to MPEG-2, which we usually recommend against, since it is so highly compressed. But the RT2500 allows you to capture analog to MPEG-2 a data rate as high as 25Mbps (equivalent to Mini DV) and a 4:2:2 color space, making this a very useful feature.

RT Editing

The purpose of buying an RT2500 system is for its real-time preview capabilities. As long as you stick to one effect at any particular moment, Matrox RT effects and transitions need no rendering. Drag a crossfade between two clips and then, without so much as a pause, do an Export to Tape and you are finished. This would likely cover 90 percent of your editing needs. As soon as you want to do anything more complex, like a picture-in-picture, color effect or speed filter to one of the clips involved in the transition, Premiere will need to render the transition section. When using Premiere 6.0, hardware solutions are the only way to get real-time previews.

We used this computer on a project that involved a dozen hours of intensive editing. While we had only three random crashes that we could not duplicate, two minor problems repeatedly cropped up. The first was that the external television monitor (connected via the S-video connection on the Matrox breakout box) would not display the Alt+Scrub preview for need-to-render effects. The Preview window in Premiere often displayed the preview we needed, even if the television did not, but about 25 percent of the time we only saw the Matrox "not yet rendered" message on the screen. The second issue was Premiere’s sluggish response to the Space bar preview-project command. This may seem trivial, but this became increasingly frustrating as we worked, with each three-second delay eventually adding up to many tens of minutes of lost time.

The Inscriber TitleExpress RT (real time) titler was adequate and it was nice to be able to preview titles right away, but we still preferred using Premiere’s native titler. Rendering a project to a file was not usually necessary due to the RT2500’s real-time features, but a 1.7GHz CPU meant that rendering was very fast when needed. A 10-second scrolling title (using Premiere’s titler) over a DV video background took 49 seconds to complete. Export to Timeline was flawless and worked exactly as expected, which is no small compliment.

The Personal Touch

For a modest price, the GlacierDVS RT2500 system represents a major step above systems based on generic IEEE 1394 cards. It offers digital and analog input and output, as well as external television monitor previewing without having to go through a DV camcorder. The true appeal of the card is the real-time previewing in Premiere (although many other editing software applications support real-time previews without special hardware) and the ability to export the timeline (in many everyday situations) without rendering. While the hardware was often sluggish on previews, the net time savings for Premiere users will be substantial. As a package, the GlacierDVS RT2500 system was well conceived and very reasonably priced.

TECH SPECS

Platform: PC

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 2000

Processor: P4 1.7GHz

RAM: 512MB

Hard Disk(s): 40GB system, 75GB 7200RPM ATA/100 video

Capture Hardware: Matrox RT2500

Other Hardware:

Matrox G550 32MB DDR Dual-Head

SoundBlaster Audigy with FireWire/i.LINK Port

Promise Ultra100TX2 IDE Controller

Silver keyboard and mouse

CD-R/DVD-ROM drive

Integrated 10/100 Ethernet

Sceptre P98VB 19-inch CRT monitor

Altec Lansing ATP3W Speakers

STRENGTHS

  • RT Export to Tape
  • Analog in/out options
  • Integrated dual-monitor support

    WEAKNESSES

  • Sluggish timeline previewing
  • Sporadic Alt+Scrub failures
  • Cheap keyboard and mouse

    SUMMARY

  • A fine RT2500 turnkey value.
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