Price: £1,200 plus VAT
Previously, Avid’s Xpress DV non-linear editing system has only been available on workstations from IBM and Dell, but version 2.0 is basically available for any branded or white box you want to stick it on – even laptops. There’s a list of ‘qualified workstations’ – four high-end desktops and two mid-range laptops. You can just buy the software and run it on any box you choose, as long as it’s running Windows 2000 and has a standard IEEE 1394 (FireWire) card. This loses you direct support from Avid, but you can still access the company’s excellent online ProNet community – the experienced users of which can often offer better support than Avid itself. Users of earlier versions of the software will be fine with an upgrade – though possibly not in the future. According to Avid’s own release notes, the Canopus DV Raptor card that the company shipped with these stations will not be supported with future releases of Xpress DV – and only works with upgraded versions of 2.0. We can only hope that upgraded systems will still work when Xpress DV 3.0 appears. Upgraders will not find the huge host of new features that we’ve come to expect from new releases of software-only editing software. Avid has instead worked on making the software’s already impressive spec easier to use. The most major changes have been in making the tool more flexible and configurable. The interface now supports dual-display set-ups, though obviously not for laptops. The keyboard and command palette have been made fully mappable. Customization has also been carried through to most of the rest of the package – from being able to resize the source monitor to configuring the timeline buttons. The one major newcomer in Xpress DV 2.0 is a one-step CreateDVD command using Sonic’s AuthorScript for MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 encoding. Although the functionality is not quite up to the standard of a standalone encoding tool such as Cleaner, the output quality is more than good enough for most tasks. Other new features include improved effects and improved interoperability with other Avid systems such as the full Xpress, Media Composer and Symphony. If you want to turn an Xpress DV system into a full compositing and output suite, you can add the new PowerPack for another £900. This includes a full version of the Commotion DV 3.1 compositing suite, Knoll LightFactory for lighting and lens flare effects, DVDit SE for basic DVD authoring, and the excellent Stabilize effect for removing camera shake. Also included is Avid’s own ePublisher, a poor tool for creating video-driven sites, and the DV Filmmaker’s Toolkit. The latter adds useful movie creation-based features such as offline film editing, script-based editing and auto-sync of video/audio. With the exception of ePublisher, these are good tools worth the extra cost. The customization facilities make moving from other tools such as Premiere and Final Cut Pro much easier – but the feature set doesn’t have much on these, and there’s no allowance for modern developments such as real-time effects. Also, the interface lacks the ease of use of these desktop tools. Experienced Avid editors wanting to move into the world of DV will be more than happy – and Xpress DV fits well into an Avid-based production workflow for RFE, or the preparation of DVD or Web video. This is its true niche, and where it excels – editors can move seamlessly from high-end suites onto the DV version.