Price: £149 plus VAT
Company: Siggraph 2009
In the quest to be the first with groundbreaking technologies and areas of content creation, it is easy for companies to leave their old users behind. In the world of video editing, the push into the new area of Web video and DVD may cause those still working in supposed out-of-date formats like tape-based video feel a little left out. Many users believe that all of the R&D work put into creating new-media tools has been at the expense of upgrades for old media creatives. In-sync seems, if not to be totally ignoring this side of things, to be placing it on the back burner and getting on with the business of making the editing of everything from wedding videos to broadcast programmes as efficient as possible. And, while it is possible to create Windows Media streaming video files on the company’s flagship editing software Speed Razor and it should be possible soon to compress files into RealVideo and QuickTime 4, this is only a secondary goal. The latest version is 4.5 for Pinnacle’s DC30 single-stream video capture card. The card has a large installed user base and usually ships with Adobe Premiere, so the purchasing decision for this product will be based on a single question – is it worth £149 to upgrade from Premiere to Speed Razor? It is because of this that the £149 limited offer price, which is only supposed to last until June when it reverts to £550, is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. And while £550 may not seem like much for a full-on editing product – it is if you already happen to have a good one that came with your card. A few bundles shipping the DC30 with Speed Razor have also started to appear, such as the one from Visual Technologies listed above, so this software needs to be judged as both a competitive upgrade and as a product in its own right. To the long-term Premiere user there’s little reason to move to Speed Razor. It runs a little faster and looks a little tidier – but there’s not enough to it to throw away all of the tips and techniques you’ve built up over the years. However, anyone who started using Adobe Premiere 5.0 or above will gain two crucial advantages from moving – overcoming the lack of interleaving of captured audio and video, and simpler timeline layout (and simpler layout in general) that makes the structure of an edit easy to understand. By capturing video and audio into separate files (which should be on separate drives), rather than as a single file, Speed Razor makes its realtime preview rendering and playback of video files with effects and transitions run smoother. Razor uses the computer’s hardware to render these effects, and pixelates and drops frames to make this happen in realtime (with the former happening well before the latter). The separation of the files makes this happen at higher quality – and speeds up the final rendering as well. What this also does is make Razor a good investment for the future – as buying a faster computer will make it preview better. The timeline structure is also appealing. Video and audio tracks can contain any element – clip, transition or effect – giving an uncluttered space to line up materials in a way that can be understood at a glance. This is also true for the Library, which combines all of the elements for a project into a single window. A refreshing alternative to Premiere’s rather messy display and timeline – and particularly appealing if you don’t have the luxury of a dual-monitor set-up. But how does the package hold up on its own? The DC30 has won enough fans since its release to prove its worth, and Speed Razor uses it well. The card captures at a respectable 7MBps, but with Razor this drops a bit. This is because of the video/audio split, but the drop is very rarely noticeable and the quality of preview playback this allows is more than worth it. Another of Razor’s notable features is its ability to cheat well and save time. For example, its Fast Blur effect is indistinguishable from a full Gaussian Blur (which it also offers if you want it) nine times out of ten – and offers a huge productivity boost. Speed Razor SE is not perfect, though a lot of problems come from the Windows 98 OS it runs in. Its use of DirectDraw to smooth playback previewing further disappears if you use a dual-monitor configuration – as no dual monitor-capable card currently supports that technology. There are also lots of irritating small details – like the limitations placed upon project naming by making them stick exactly to file folders on the drives (and their conventions). When Microsoft gets round to combining its OS into a single version – hopefully this should all go away, leaving Speed Razor as an effective and eminently usable product.