It’s taken a lot longer than originally promised, but the Mac is finally back in the video-editing sphere. Announced with a grand fanfare at April’s NAB show along with Matrox’s RTMac (an Apple-friendly version of its popular RT2000), Pinnacle’s CinéWave uncompressed video suite for the Apple PowerMac G4 has finally arrived. And, it’s been well worth the wait.
CinéWave is based around Pinnacle’s Ciné Engine digital/analog capture card. Central to this is the HUB3 video processor, which offers 8- or 16-bit YUV or RGB native processing of up to 100 megapixel in real-time. Or to put it another way, it’s a kick-ass chip that can capture just about anything you throw at it – without dropping frames.
Installing the card is a dead easy. Install Final Cut Pro (CinéWave’s choice of NLE), open the G4 box and slap in the board in a single motion without any fiddling. Just install the card drivers and a few other creative tools, configure Final Cut with a few clicks and you’re away.
Next you add your choice of breakout box. The options are wide and include everything from basic analog inputs/outputs (S-Video, BNC, composite – plus XLR and RCA audio) to an SDI box to an digital/audio combination slab that even makes a G4 seem petite. Anyone with their eyes on the future can even buy an HD SDI box. This choice lets you both tailor CinéWave to your needs and expand when your budget allows or commissions demand.
Capture footage using the card and breakout box and you encounter the pivot of CinéWave’s software technology: TARGA-based uncompressed video wrapped up in the QuickTime format. Although encased in QuickTime, in order to make it instantly accessible to the Mac and, more specifically Final Cut Pro, the video is totally uncompressed. This lets you work at a quality level that’s just not available in comparable DV- or MPEG-2-based systems.
The downside is that it requires the same high quality throughout the production workflow. If you capture DV then you’re not going to gain anything by working uncompressed except a lot of wasted hard disk space. However, with the cost of hiring high-end video cameras coming down, getting the footage to work with may be cheaper than you think – and the results are instantly noticeable.
Where you may come a cropper is when you start editing. Potential users of CinéWave are likely to fit into one of two categories: current users of Final Cut Pro who want to move to a better grade of footage and Wintel users looking for more power. The former will have a whale of a time, as you just edit as before, but the latter are likely to need a little time to acclimatize to Final Cut’s rather cramped style – even with a dual-monitor display. Windows editors are also going to have to get used to the Mac OS.
It’s hard to compare Windows and Mac systems (especially as there’s no Windows version of Final Cut) but editing on CinéWave just flies on a multi-processor G4. Single-chip machines may suffer the occasional glitch though.
The rest of the software rounds CinéWave off to create a full editing-&-effects solution. Commotion 3.0 fully deserves the 4.5 Digit gave it back in September, and Hollywood FX Bronze offers a variety of professional 2D filters. However, Pinnacle should have included at least the Silver version to give users an equivalent set of 3D tools as well.
This aside, CinéWave is an excellent solution of video editors who want to create a higher-grade for visuals. It also proves that, with the right solution, the Mac can be taken seriously again as a video-editing environment – and may even bring Wintel users across with it.