This year’s Web buzz phrase is likely to be interactive streaming. This involves video pieces that contain chapter points for easy navigation of long programmes and triggers for other events on the Web page. These can include explanatory text and graphics, Java applications and even Flash animations – anything that can be launched by HTML hotspots.
All that has been missing until now were the professional tools to build these interactive streams. Media 100’s streaming processing suite Cleaner 5 offers the functionality, but it’s fiddly to get events precisely where you want them, and Avid’s ePublisher can only deliver corporate-level materials.
What is needed is the ability to create events directly in the NLE. Media 100 i is the first NLE that can place interactive streaming triggers – EventStreams – within video: although the actual encoding takes place within the bundled Cleaner 5.
Setting up an EventStream is extremely easy. It requires some forward planning, however, as the encoding process means a long time between making a change and seeing how the end results look on a Web page. Much-needed add-on number one: the ability to preview in a Web browser with the EventStream intact so you can tweak your media in Media 100 i or Dreamweaver concurrently.
This is not the only obvious omission. You can’t keyframe hotspots, and there’s no preview of the display text event. Annoying, but hardly surprising for a first-generation product.
The ability to work with EventStreams will make Media 100 i appeal to a wide variety of users, from Web designers who want better quality video to post people who want to expand into interactivity.
Media 100 i is available in four ‘flavours’ from the DV-only i/leDV (£2,745) to the powerful i/xr (£13,745), which even includes true online editing and an SDI port with two channels AES/EBU – audio input and output. There’s also the option of adding almost any feature from the higher flavours to the lower three.
The four options allow you tailor the system to your needs. The i/leDV will appeal to the Web community, but professional editors will want at least the second rung i/lx (£6,045 without DV option) for a breakout box, analog component I/O, 360KB/frame field data rate, EDL import/export, batch digitizing and proper audio tools (waveform, vectorscope and proc-amp). And the i/xr wouldn’t look out-of-place in a broadcast studio or Soho post house.
The main problem with using Media 100 i for streaming-media creation, apart from the lengthy workflow process of using Cleaner, is that it’s a Mac product. If you’re encoding QuickTime this isn’t a problem, but the codecs for Windows Media and RealVideo always lag behind the Windows versions. It’s possible to output projects to Windows PCs and encode them with Cleaner there, but this requires buying a separate version of Cleaner and fiddling around with the Media 100 transcoder – something else that needs to be addressed in the next version.
The EventStreams are not the only addition to Media 100 i. Some changes are minor, such as the movement of the monitor to a floating pane. More useful changes include the ability to export projects to After Effects with their layers intact, and real-time YUV colour correction (in the top two versions only), which even those from a Web background will easily get to grips with as it offers both levels- and curves-based correction tools as well as the basics.
Another useful addition is the replacement of Media 100’s rather lame built-in titling tools with Boris FX’s excellent Graffiti. These include a full set of titling features, including unlimited text and graphics layers along with professional style sheets and templates. All but the i/leDV version also include 3D extruded animated text and 3D DVE for text and graphics with preview – and the top two models add real-time static graphics and titles with fades. Media 100 i also ships with the Boris FX collection of excellent effects and transitions (except the i/leDV version).
The last cool new feature is AppleScript automation. Creating scripts does mean getting into the programming language, and Media 100 i only ships with nine scripts – but it has created an area on its Web site that allows users to post others. This is the latest in a long line of extremely useful extras from the company, which previously included the wonderful Video Previewer – a tool that allows users to display part of the screen in any application to the video monitor – great for seeing how graphics designed in Photoshop will look as part of your programme.
Good though these features are, they’re not going to be enough to keep happy long-term Media 100 i users with no interest in Web video. The company has bet the farm on Web streaming – so more traditional users are likely to be go elsewhere.
If you want to get into interactive Web streaming however, this is the best place to start. Although obviously a first-generation product, there’s nothing on the market that can challenge Media 100 i. Roll on version two.