Well, it’s finally here. The announcement of the RTMac was the lynchpin to Apple’s apparent renaissance at last year’s NAB show in Las Vegas. It’s been delayed nearly a whole year – waiting for Apple to finish Final Cut Pro 2 – but it’s definitely worth the wait.
RTMac is the first product to make Final Cut Pro a usable solution without the need to spend over five grand, as with Pinnacle’s CineWave. RTMac is made of three main components – an analog breakout box, a selection of effects for Final Cut Pro, and a combination hardware board that slots easily into a G4 Mac. The board includes both a video-capture card and a graphics card (allowing you to turn your Mac into a dual-display suite by just connecting another monitor to the RTMac card) – as well as powering 2D and 3D DVEs within Final Cut.
Unlike its Windows brother RT2000, RTMac doesn’t come with an editing application. It currently only works with Apple’s £700 Final Cut Pro, although drivers that permit it to work with Adobe Premiere should become available in the near future.
RTMac sorts out Final Cut’s two main problems for conventional Mac video editors – the need for a dual-display set-up for the interface to work properly and the interminable wait that happens every time you change something while Final Cut renders. The card outputs an excellent VGA picture, which could put your original card to shame.
The plug-ins that ship with the RTMac are what you’re really buying it for. Using Final Cut Pro in real-time shows just how powerful it is. Both 2D and 3D transitions and effects can now be handled in real-time – as can opacity and alpha keying. RTMac can work with two streams of native DV or analog video in real-time, plus a single graphics layer (which can include Photoshop documents with layers as long as there aren’t more than two). It can handle an effect and a transition at the same time without motion blur – or a single effect with motion blur.
The real-time system works very well as long as you remember the constraints. The effects include most of the common standard and the output quality is as good as you’re going to get in this price bracket. My only gripe is that there aren’t as many as with RT2000.
The final part of the RTMac, the breakout box, is the same as RT2000’s – although it shares the same translucent grey as your G4. It has both composite and component video inputs and outputs (for both export and connecting to an external PAL monitor). Analog video-capture quality is good for a sub-£1,000 product.
DV is still captured through the standard Mac FireWire ports as if the RTMac wasn’t there. This is what defines RTMac. It’s less of a capture solution, as most users will capture using Apple’s own DV system, and more of an editing accelerator. At this it does an excellent job.
If you’re a committed Mac or Final Cut Pro user, you can’t go wrong with this. If you’re more platform agnostic, check out the RT2000 as well – which includes software a couple of generations beyond RTMac.