Get into editing the easy way with a pre-configured editing system. Discover which outfit fits your needs and budget
So you want to edit your videos. Today that means buying or building some sort of video editing computer. There are tons of different digitizing and capture cards you could install in your home computer to turn it into a box of video editing magic. Of course, the process isn't as easy as it might sound. Retrofitting an existing computer to edit video is a daunting task for the uninitiated. At the very least, you're going to have to know exactly what kind of computer you have and how to deal with an IRQ conflict. And youll probably have to partition your hard drive and set up application FDISK on your system drives to put them into a more logical organizational system. Then youll want to add a capture drive or two. You can see where this is going. Turning your old computer into a video editing box is not easy.
There is another way though. A wide variety of manufacturers now sell pre-configured video editing systems. These turnkey systems already have the necessary hardware and software installed and configured, so that all you have to do is turn the key and start editing. Some of these turnkey systems aren't really computer-based at all, they are actually video editing appliances.
When Easy is Key
The easiest way to get into editing is to buy an editing appliance. These boxes look a lot like VCRs in size and shape, but instead of recording video onto tape, they store it on a built-in hard drive for editing. Simply plug the output of the appliance directly to your television set for monitoring, connect your camcorder to off-load footage and you're ready to edit. These boxes are easy to cable up and easy to operate. You often don't even need to read the instruction book. Editing appliances range in price from around $1,500 to over $6,000. Most are fully loaded with titlers, transition effects, and filter effects and many offer an optional FireWire input/output jack for those shooters who own Mini DV or Digital8 camcorders. On the downside, editing appliances can't quite do everything that their computer-based counterparts can do. Editing appliances are designed for doing one thing: editing video. Don't expect to play video games, do word processing, surf the Web or send e-mail from your editing appliance. In addition, appliances don't allow the user to install third party software, like special effects or animation packages. Of course, you won't have to worry about picking up a computer virus from a dancing frog or gerbil email attachment.
Draco's Casablanca introduced the category of editing appliance. The original Cassie, the Casablanca 040, sells for $3,995. This editing box runs on a Motorola 40MHz chip. It has 32MB of RAM and a 9GB SCSI hard drive. For inputs, there are S-video and composite. An optional FireWire port is also available. The Casablanca is a full-featured editing system in a box. It can do it all: cuts, transition effects, filter effects and titles. It will make your home videos fun and easy to edit.
The Avio from Draco is a low-priced box that has a lot to offer. It uses the same MPEG-2 compression scheme as DVD video. The Avio ST has a 20GB hard drive, which, according to Draco, can store up to 3.5 hours of video at DV-quality setting or 12 hours at VHS quality. Because it uses off-the-shelf parts like a Pentium MMX chip, IDE hard drives and SDRAM, the Avio ST sells for only $1,795. It has composite and S-video connections. FireWire is optional. Now here's the kicker: the Avio can perform many of its transitions in real-time. This box will edit your videos, and won't leave you waiting to render - at least not too often.
Applied Magic's Screenplay is an appliance based on the wavelet compression scheme. This $3,995 unit comes with composite, component and S-video connections. FireWire is an optional upgrade. It has a 9GB hard drive, 16MB RAM and like all appliances, runs on proprietary software. The Screenplay is a real-time editing appliance.
Applied Magic recently introduced the new Sequel editing appliances for less than $3,000. The Applied Magic Sequel, a full blown editing appliance with titler, real-time transition effects and 4-channel audio mixer, is available with a 14GB hard drive and FireWire in/out for $2,995.
The big boys have also caught onto the editing appliance idea. Panasonic recently introduced their $2,000 PV-DS1000 Digital Media Editor. This editor doesn't quite have the power of the Avio or Sequel though. The Panasonic box is a cuts-only system, targeted at users who want to slice and dice their footage without adding effects or titles. It doesn't allow you to do either. On the up side, it has a big 17GB hard drive to hold lots of footage, and comes standard with a FireWire port.
Less Than $5,000
The editing appliances may be easy to use, but computer-based systems offer the potential for greater power and flexibility. Getting a computer editing workstation makes a lot of sense if you plan to use your investment for anything but video editing. Of course, if you will use your editing workstation to pay your bills, you'll want to make sure that you don't overuse this added flexibility, lest you give your computer hiccups by optimizing it for a game, or pick up a computer virus from some shady email attachment.
Another benefit of computer-based editing systems is the ability to upload streaming video files to the Internet for global distribution. If you want to put your video on the Web, you'll need to use a computer with a modem and an Internet connection. None of these appliances can get your video on the Internet.
One of the most inexpensive editing workstations is the Sony VAIO PCV-R536DS. This $1,199 Pentium III 450MHz comes with standard i.LINK (IEEE 1394 or FireWire) ports, but no analog audio or video inputs. It runs a variety of software, and can be used for word processing and checking email, as well as playing games and editing video. For video editing, it comes with Sony's DVGate Motion capture utility, and Adobe Premiere LE. If you want the added power that the full version of Adobe Premiere gives you, you'll have to install it yourself.
ProMax systems bundles Apple Macintoshes with editing software, computer monitors, video monitors, speakers and their own drivers. You can even buy packages that come with camcorders. The ProMax FireMax Studio Core/Pro system comes with a G4 450MHz has 192MB RAM, a 16GB EIDE hard drive and comes with a FireWire connection, but no analog inputs. It comes bundled with Final Cut Pro software, a 19-inch VGA monitor and a 13-inch NTSC monitor. You get all of this for $5,945.
Another Apple Macintosh system is the Apple PowerMac G4 Final Cut Pro Bundle. For $4,997, you get a PowerMac G4 400MHz, 128MB RAM, built-in DVD-ROM with DVD-Video playback, a 20GB hard drive, a 19.8-inch monitor and Apple's Final Cut Pro editing software. The G4, like all G4s, comes with FireWire ports, but no analog inputs. With either of these Apple-based Final Cut Pro systems, you work in video that uses QuickTime. These systems are well rounded and can run a lot of editing applications. However, if you want to get into a more powerful system, one that sometimes doesn't need rendering, you have to set your sights a little higher.
When you spend more than $5,000 for a video editing computer, you're going to get a enough video editing power to process video fast. These systems will often have dual-processor arrangements that will split the tasks of running the computer and rendering video between the two chips. They usually come with a lot of RAM, and enough hard drive space to do projects that run a little longer.
Canopus makes the DVRex-R3, which costs $9,995. This system uses Canopus' popular DVRex-M1 capture card, and has another card to accelerate many of the transitions. It has FireWire, composite and S-video in- and outputs and a component output for making high quality masters. If you use Canopus' Rex Edit software, you can even take advantage of a series of real-time effects and transitions with the R3. It runs dual Intel Pentium III 550MHz chips, has 256MB RAM and has a 15.5GB hard drive.
Ocean Systems makes The Rackmount, an $18,995 Pentium III 600MHz with 256MB RAM. This system uses Avid MCXpress software. One thing though, this system only has analog inputs. FireWire is not an option. It comes standard with composite and S-video in/out, and there is an option for component video.
$15,000 and Up
If you make money using your video equipment, you might think about buying a top-of-the-line editing system.
Digital Processing Systems makes the dpsVelocity-3D Deluxe V3X-4500DXI. This system has a Pentium III 550MHz, and it's on a dual-processor board, so you can add a second chip later. It has a huge breakout box with composite, S-video and component video inputs and outputs. It accepts XLR audio, which is pretty rare in consumer systems. The Velocity system will do real-time effects and transitions if you run DPS Velocity software.
FAST Multimedia makes the silver. This $17,495 dual Pentium III 500MHz system comes with 256MB of RAM. It has a 9GB system drive, but you'll have to add your own capture drives to the price of this real-time system. It has composite and FireWire inputs, and can do DVD authoring too. To get its real-time effects and transitions, you have to run FAST's Studio XL software.
Take Your Pick
Whether you prefer the simplicity of an editing appliance, or the flexibility of a computer-based system, there is a turnkey system to fit your needs. So study our accompanying buyer's guide and take your pick. When it comes to editing with a turnkey system, the hardest part is choosing which to buy.