Test Bench:MacroSystem Prestige Editing Appliance

$3,495

MacroSystem US

5485 Conestoga Court

Boulder, CO 80301

(303) 440-5311

www.casablanca.tv

Buying a video-editing computer can be a complex task. What CPU should you get? How much RAM will you need? Should you buy a Mac or a PC? Which editing software is best? You could study an entire year’s worth of Videomaker buyer’s guides to help you answer these questions. Don’t you wish there were an easier solution? There is: a video-editing appliance. An editing appliance is a closed system in a box that does just one thing – it edits video. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, easy-to-set up system, the newest addition to the Casablanca family, the Prestige, may be just what you need.

Smart Editing

Hook up your video camera and a TV and/or computer monitor, plug in the electricity and push the power button and the Prestige is ready to edit. We connected the VGA out on the Prestige to a computer monitor for editing and then connected the S-video out port to a television for previews, but all you really need is a television. In fact, many people prefer the single-screen television interface for editing. The Prestige sports convenient front mounted video (FireWire, S-video and RCA) and audio inputs (RCA), as well as a microphone jack.

The new look of the Smart Edit 2.0 user interface is very attractive, yet it maintains the same workflow and style of the earlier MacroSystem US machines. Each editing screen presents you with less than a dozen options, so you rarely feel lost about what to do next. The trackball edit controller is the primary editing input device and, while it isn’t the fastest, it is easy to use. The Prestige also comes with a keyboard, ostensibly for entering titles, but the Power Key Option software adds extensive editing shortcuts. They are well worth learning and very rapidly become second nature, such as pressing "I" and "O" for "In" and Out trimming.

With 80GB of disc space, we captured a couple of DV tapes (about 13GB each) into the Prestige and let the software break it up into scenes based on the time/date stamp. Scene detection took only a few seconds. Analog capture via the S-video jack was as easy as clicking the Record button. Trimming clips by setting in and out points is especially enjoyable using the trackball. The storyboard arrangement of the movie really couldn’t be simpler, although we frequently found ourselves wishing we could drag and drop clips as we do using other graphical operating systems.

Effects

The Prestige includes a host of attractive transition effects. Many transitions require no rendering at all, such as a crossfade, but there are a couple dozen complex effects that do require rendering at the time of their creation. For example, a vertical title scroll with a drop shadow rendered at about 5.1 frames per second (where 30 fps is real time), while an interesting and attractive particle effect (bubbles) rendered at 2.5 fps. The quantity and quality of the effects are quite impressive. The aforementioned particle effects were particularly fun, but the image correction filters are also well done.

The titler uses 117 fonts and offers options, such as font style, color and position, in addition to outline and drop shadow. Vertical scrolls, crawls and fades nicely animate the text.

Audio

Prestige uses a storyboard metaphor for video editing, with each scene, regardless of duration (although MacroSystem reports an update), represented by a single thumbnail. The advantage is that it is easy to arrange clips in a sequence. The disadvantage is that it is somewhat difficult to synchronize audio events. The Prestige uses a pseudo-timeline interface with six tracks for audio. Positioning the audio precisely is not drag-and-drop easy, but the graphic waveform of the audio helps. Every change, even volume adjustment, needs rendering. This only takes a few seconds for every minute of audio, but it is not instantaneous. Each time you reposition the audio or add a new video clip you need to render before you’ll hear (and see) your changes.

We recorded a narration using the 1/8-inch microphone jack on the front of the unit, but could not preview the video during recording (note: MacroSystem reports that this is possible with a recent update). The on-screen audio meters made critical monitoring of audio recording levels simple. We added a music bed that we imported (ripped) from an audio CD through the built-in DVD drive. We ducked the volume of the music bed under a narration with the fade options, but could not easily vary the level through the duration of the clip. Volume changes were graphically represented on the audio clips on the timeline.

DVD Arabesk

If you are interested in creating DVDs with a minimum of hassle, the Prestige is the way to go. DVD Arabesk doesn’t offer fancy motion backgrounds or flashy first play screens, but it does create attractive menus with simple navigation. The Prestige created DVD-ready video files very quickly (22.8 fps, including audio) as a result of the DVD DICON MPEG-2 encoding (using C-Cube DVXpress hardware). We found the quality at the normal setting to be very good (there are also High and Maximum settings) and all of the Verbatim DVD-R discs we burned were compatible with the newer standalone DVD players on our test bench.

Prestige

There is no question that video appliances are limited when compared with a full editing suite on a PC or Mac. Editors who are already used to the complexities of a multi-track timeline editing environment will find the Prestige to be too basic, especially when it comes to compositing. This box can do a lot, however, and is much easier and more reliable than a general-purpose computer. The new Smart Edit 2.0 software, the improved audio tools and the solid DVD authoring make the Prestige an attractive package.

TECH SPECS

Platform: proprietary

Operating System: proprietary

Hard Disk: 80GB (removable)

Other Hardware: Pioneer DVR-104 DVD-R burner, Analog connection cables, FireWire cable, External SCSI interface (and adaptor), Trackball, Keyboard

Video In: FireWire (2x), RCA (2x), S-video (2x), SCART

Video Out: FireWire (2x), RCA, S-video, VGA, SCART

Audio In: RCA (2x), 1/8-inch microphone jack

Audio Out: RCA

Editing Modes: storyboard

Audio Tracks: 6

STRENGTHS

  • Simple editing and DVD tools
  • Front-mounted inputs
  • Improved audio tools

    WEAKNESSES

  • Audio requires rendering

    SUMMARY

  • More features and rock-solid stability make the Prestige the editor of choice for the computer-phobic.
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