Price When Reviewed: £339 plus VAT; £399 with IEEE 1394 card for Windows
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CineStream may sound like a new product – but it’s not. It’s the third release of EditDV, previously by Digital Origin and now under the mantle of streaming pioneer Media 100. EditDV was a worthy but not outstanding editing application that had two main things going for it – it was a lot cheaper than its competitors and the Windows version has the option of shipping with an IEEE 1394 card that made turning a PC into an editing system a doddle.
Coming into the Media 100 fold, it’s no surprise that the product has been overhauled and rebranded for streaming-media creation. It’s been placed as a much lower-end, software-only companion to the Media 100 i board-&-software solution. It works with DV footage, and can output directly to streaming formats using the bundled Cleaner 5 EZ.
The largest addition to CineStream is, as you’d expect, creative tools for creating streaming media with interactive elements. As well as including Cleaner 5 EZ for the actual process of encoding, CineStream also includes the ability to add events into the stream, called EventStreams by Media 100.
EventStreams are triggers within the video that launch external events on Web sites. These events can either control the video itself, for example moving to a different point in the timeline, or elements of the site itself, for example loading a Web page in a different frame with information on a particular point in the video. The events can be triggered by points in the video or by the user clicking on hotspots.
CineStream’s handling of the creation of EventStreams is both excellent and irritating. The level of control is the excellent part. You’ve got access to all eight of the events currently supported by the three main media players. QuickTime supports them all – while RealPlayer and Windows Media Player support four each. Even the recent Web-chummy release of Premiere can’t write all of these.
Another excellent feature is something that Premiere and even Media 100 i can’t do, and that’s keyframe hotspots. If you had a pop video, for example, where you wanted to allow viewers to click on the members of the band and bring up information on them in another window. It sounds easy… but neither of those products allows you to move the hotspot as the members strut around – unless you want to go into every frame. CineStream can do this automatically using the monitor window.
The irritating thing about EventStreams is that they’re built into the effects system, and you apply them like filters. Sometimes this works, as for extended events such as hotspots, but single events like chapter points are much better serviced by being on the scrub bar as in Premiere. One of EditDV’s strengths was that it was one of the few editing tools that could be run comfortably on a single display. As each event, including chapter points, needs to be a separate FX track – the timeline can soon stretch down into infinity with even a simple interactive stream. As interactive streaming is CineStream’s raison d’être, it would have been better handled with its own track – especially as having more than one EventStream happening at any one time is likely to confuse the end user’s player.
The rest of the additions included in this upgrade are less impressive. Some of them are much needed, bringing EditDV up-to-date with the majority of its competitors. These include support for multiple timelines in the same project and files sizes over 2GB. Full pan-&-scan facilities are also included, with decent focus controls for zooming in and out on ‘interesting’ parts of video. Alongside this support for background images larger than PAL has also been added.
Other new features include the ability to spot scene changes during capture, automatically storing them as separate files and bin items, and the addition of a black-&-yellow line for areas that need to be re-rendered. There’s also a timecode filter, as well as the ability to link filters to clips and unlink audio from its video.
Most of these features should have been in EditDV 2.0, which was also a little light on new features. Where CineStream does sit very well is as a tool for Web designers to add interactivity after editing.
A designer can sit at his usual station, capture the entirety of a clip using the included IEEE 1394 card (for Windows) or a Mac’s built-in FireWire port, and tie-in interactivity to fit with the Web site.
CineStream fills all of the criteria for this niche. It’s cheap, it’s easy for non-editors to use, it renders quickly and cleanly and it does things no other package can. It just needs to tidy up how events are viewed on the timeline.