By Neil Bennett | on January 29, 2004
Price When Reviewed: 2095 . 4140
Occasionally an upgrade ditches the ‘ooh’, ‘aah’ new features for an expansive list of seemingly minor updates that combine to leave a wide smile on your face. One such release is Video Toaster 3, the latest version of NewTek’s live production system that the company now calls VT, but which UK reseller Onevideo calls Video Toaster 3. There’s nothing here that you’re going to be ranting about to your mates in the pub, but VT is a much more powerful beast that its predecessor – and that version was an impressive enough product.
Video Toaster 3 is a boards-&-software bundle that’s based around the Video Toaster real-time uncompressed editing board. The software combines a live-production switching system for broadcast, corporate, or Web output
with an NLE, plus associated hangers-on including the Character Generator titling tool, Aura 2.5 for compositing, and a full version of LightWave 7.5c.
The base hardware is a dual-stream board that hasn’t changed since the original Toaster 1.0, which has kept the price of upgrading down. The board has always been accompanied by an optional daughter, which allows the connection of the SX-8 breakout box. The SX-8 is big – but it has to be as it allows you to connect up to eight component inputs, eight Y/C inputs, a huge bank of 24 composite inputs, or a mixture of the three. It offers four rows of video outputs, more than enough audio inputs and outputs, and RS-422 deck controls.
There’s an optional RS-8 hardware switcher. With VT, NewTek has added support for other controls such as Contour Design’s ShuttlePro – but you still may need the RS-8, with its switcher buttons and a T-bar. Both the SX-8 and the RS-8 are available separately, which alone Onevideo calls the Post! version. The Live! Version includes VT, the RS-8, and the SX-8.
The SX-8 used to be a requirement for live Web- or broadcasting, and realistically it still is, though VT can work with streams from DV cameras. However, the lag inherent in the computer-to-camera DV architecture means that you’re still better off using composite or Y/C outputs from DV cameras into the SX-8 and controlling them as you would any other analog source. Other DV improvements include the ability to capture analog video into DV in real-time, and the overall performance boost of bringing the DV engine into the main Toaster architecture. The choice of capturing to Type-1 DV – most applications use Type-2 – means you’ll never lose audio sync, but the decoding strain on your computer is higher.
Using DV makes more sense within the vastly improved internal NLE VT-Edit (previously Toaster Edit). This has gained real-time 3D DVEs (including 3D picture-in-picture), a sophisticated spline editor with beziér controls, speed ramping, improved colour correction tools, and a noise filter. VT-Edit is much more usable as a traditional NLE than Toaster Edit was, but it lacks features such as high-grade colour correction that would allow it to compete with the likes of a Final Cut Pro. However, it’s good enough to work within VT’s live production structure. You can use the Toaster board with In-sync’s Speed Razor software, but there hasn’t been official UK support for that product for years. However, drivers to allow the board to be used with Premiere Pro should be available soon from Bob Tasa’s Toaster Garage (www.toastergarage.com).
There are too many other improvements within VT to go into depth with here, but here are few of the best. The VT-Vision on-screen monitor now boasts a zebra function that instantly shows areas with too much luminance – great if you’re working with a live feed with changeable lighting conditions, as you don’t have to keep one eye on a scope. Both the keyer and proc amp boast four saveable settings, with the keyer improved greatly by a matte choker. Even more minor updates such as the ability to rename a series of clips and mouse wheel support are more useful than they first seem.
The interface has been given a titanium sheen, but it would be better if NewTek had made it easier to get from VT’s Windows-hiding, Edition-style front end to other applications. The bumping up of LightWave Express to the full 7.5c release is a welcome bonus – though most editors won’t get past the FX_Monkey wizards for instant creation
of spinning logos and the like. Aura is good as a freebie, though it’s a dead product, and we hope to see a version
of its Mirage successor (reviewed on page 72) with VT.
While we still wouldn’t recommend Video Toaster as a traditional board-&-NLE solution, at least until the Premiere Pro plug-ins ship, for live Web and broadcast production this is a truly unique product that creates its own market.