Price When Reviewed: £695 (standard), £695 (Production pack)
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This product is the first software-only release from Fast. The box does come with an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) card, but this is just a standard card and can be ignored if your current machine has one. The three in the name comes from the fact that it’s the same software found on Fast’s expensive Purple and Silver systems (currently version 3.0), stripped of its hardware ties and offered up to
DV-only Premiere users that wish to move up the market without blowing five grand on a full system with workstation.
If you’ve never used Purple or Silver before, you face a shock the first time you use studio.DV. It takes over Windows 2000, hides everything that’s not necessary, and gives everything else a purple sheen. The Start Menu and Taskbar are still there, but are assimilated to offer only relevant options and information. For example, the Start Menu’s Programs tab only shows studio.DV tools such as the Logger and an audio meter – while the Control Panel tab opens studio.DV’s control panels for sorting out your audio and video preferences.
The rest of the interface is just as different. It requires a dual-display set up but makes the most of this. The left part of the screen is your administration area for managing your clips. As well as a bin management area, there’s plenty of blank background space that you can use as a storyboarding area, dragging thumbnails of clips on and off of it with the ability to play them directly from the back of the screen.
The right screen is your meat-&-potatoes area. Here you’ve got two monitors and your timeline – and a heck of a lot of buttons. But no menus. This is the studio.DV workflow. Menus are out. Buttons and keyboard shortcuts are in. It also has that trick, seen recently in Discreet’s Combustion, of flipping out control panels automatically when you open the effects editors or colour correction tools – hiding what’s not necessary (such as the trim window).
The interface may look strange, but the learning curve is shallow and when you get to grips with it, it’s just so easy to use. It also lets you make your mind up about how you use it – with the pop-up tools windows giving you a choice between dialog box-style menus/ numbers/graphs and drawing directing on the video a la Commotion.
The effects are of excellent quality, too. They aren’t real-time, but at least they render in the background. Rendering of 2D effects is quick, but the 3D ones seem to take forever. The standard version of studio.DV only does 2D effects – for 3D you have to upgrade to the Production Pack.
The Production Pack also adds more advanced tools such as Track SyncLock, much more in-depth audio controls (such as auto fade, dB tooltip and voiceover recording), and fullscreen video preview. It lets you work with QuickTime (the standard version is AVI only) and through this gives you a function called XSend that allows a smart link between studio.DV and any QuickTime-compliant tool (such as After Effects or Commotion). There’s a Fuse function for joining multiple files of different types to export as one, and containers for keeping segments together in long edits. You also get a bunch of extra effects and free tools for DVD authoring, MPEG encoding and audio editing.
The application does have its faults – sometimes the Windows taskbar comes back and won’t go away and you can’t get back to Windows if you’re logging (so print your shooting sheets out first) – but its main problem is that it’s made by a hardware manufacturer. This means that it will never be able to tie to the top capture and acceleration boards in the way unaffiliated Premiere or Speed Razor can, and can’t even run on the same machine as Matrox’s boards due to hardware conflicts with studio.DV’s dongle. This means it misses out on cutting-edge features such as real-time effects.