It’s been handbags at dawn between Canopus and Matrox over the last six months. The DVStorm2 was announced in September 2002, shortly after Matrox had released its much-lauded RT.X100 real-time editing solution – which uses Adobe Premiere as its main editing application. Neither product stands head-and-shoulders above the other – though the DVStorm2 does have a slight edge.
The main difference between the DVStorm2 and the RT.X100 is that while the latter is a completely new solution, the DVStorm2 is an upgrade to the original DVStorm. It consists of software updates and the StormEncoder MPEG-encoding board – previously available as an option for the DVStorm. Most importantly, it uses the same basic capture board as the DVStorm, so current users can upgrade for £215.
Off the starting blocks, though, the DVStorm2 is more expensive. The basic system costs £790, but this uses Canopus’s own rather-weak StormEdit tool for editing, and doesn’t include a breakout box. Adding Premiere 6.5 will set you back a further £125, with the front-bay-based StormBay breakout box adding another £100 to the price – totalling just over a grand for a full system. This is way above the RT.X100’s £765, but in the long run, an editor who bought the DVStorm and upgraded will have spent less (£1,210) than one who bought the RT2500 and then upgraded to the RT.X100 (£1,489).
If this pricing pattern continues, then the DVStorm would offer a better investment for the future as well.
The update increases the maximum number of real-time video tracks from three to five, and adds filters and transitions; a new capture tool; plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop and NewTek LightWave (After Effects was already supported); and software and drivers for the StormEncoder MPEG-encoding board. However, five real-time video tracks will only be available to users
of powerful PCs and, as the DVStorm2 has a single, theoretical buffer for all real-time features, effects and graphics can reduce this further. On our top-spec dual Xeon 2.8GHz/2GB RAM/SCSI drive system workstation, we could add only a few effects and graphics to a four simultaneous video clips before we ran out of real-time power. Even so, this is still much more than the RT.X100 can handle, and we prefer the DVStorm2’s mix-&-match approach to real-time power over the RT.X100’s limits.
The new real-time 2D filters are: mirror, raster scroll, tunnel vision, loop slide, strobe, and white balance. Most do exactly what you expect, and help to flesh out the DVStorm’s already impressive line-up – though there are a few great touches, such as the vectorscope in the white balance filter. The DVStorm2 gains real-time 3D effects and transitions – version 1 was 2D-only in real-time – but bizarrely, they can be applied only as transitions, which limits their usefulness. Another downside is that the DVStorm2’s real-time effects don’t play as well with Premiere’s own real-time previews as
the Matrox systems do (where they are accelerated by the card), though the DVStorm2 is less picky about which order effects are applied than the RT.X100. More annoying is the inability to see video when positioning effects such as picture-in-picture – you have to work against a grey background.
The DV Capture tool can capture from up to three inputs simultaneously – assuming you have extra OHCI FireWire cards in your computer – though we’re not quite sure why you’d want to do this. More useful is the single-pass scan-and-capture button, which can be turned on and off as you capture.
The StormEncoder card is fast, and the bundled plug-ins for Premiere and StormEdit offer lots of control over the type and quality of MPEG to be encoded. The card can encode directly from input using the bundled Mediacruise tool, which has a DVD player-style interface that we found rather too clunky. Other good tools include a few for cutting, splitting and re-encoding MPEG files, plus the basic-as-you’d-expect DVD Workshop SE.
DVStorm2, though not perfect, has edged ahead of the RT.X100. It needs a few more fixes, but in the end, its sheer power wins through.