By Neil Bennett | on May 29, 2003
Price When Reviewed: £425 plus VAT; Pro £535 plus VAT
Edition 5 is different. In an arena of increasingly homogenized video-editing tools, it’s great that someone is walking an entirely different path to its competition – though not always with complete success. It looks like no other desktop editing tool on the market, which has always been its greatest asset – and its downfall. One of the areas that always held back Edition DV (aka Edition 4) was its lack of real-time functionality. Edition 5, however, is as real-time as it gets – and then some. Edition 5 uses a system built upon the type of software base that we’ve seen in tools such as Apple Final Cut Pro 3, Avid Xpress DV 3.5, and Adobe Premiere 6.5. But this is just the beginning – it can also use the host graphics card to add more power to 2D and 3D filters, as well as effects – and has background rendering to deal with anything the host cannot. The use of the graphics card to bolster real-time functionality works well: we’ve cranked more concurrent video streams and effects out of Edition 5 than out of any other editing tool so far. We decided to push it to its limits on a dual 2.8GHz Xeon workstation with 2GB of RAM and an NVidia Quadro FX 2000 graphics card, where the software has no trouble with four concurrent picture-in-pictures – each with edge smoothing and motion – over another stream. Push the limits of your hardware, and you encounter what Pinnacle calls ‘graceful degradation’ – as the frame-rate and picture quality drops automatically. This is essentially the same as the system used by all real-time editing software. It works well, but is hardly groundbreaking. More impressive is the background rendering system, which is unique. Not only does this deal rapidly with anything outside the reach of the software engine, it improves the whole editing experience, and widens the scope of what a user can work with. Gracefully degraded areas don’t stay degraded for very long, as they are automatically rendered without bothering the user. Partially rendered clips are also available for playback. The rendering system is also well integrated with the real-time system, so re-rendering of effects when changes are made is kept to an unprecedented minimum. Our base track under four PiPs (below) was a 3D animation rendered as a series of PNG files. All of Edition’s own effects and transitions are real-time, including 2D and 3D DVEs, colour correction and keying. Pinnacle’s real-time Hollywood FX is also included. While Edition’s 2D and 3D DVEs are powerful, many will appreciate the boost of using Hollywood FX’s presets. The application also includes DVD authoring from the timeline (above). Most of the features that should be in a high-end DVD-authoring tool are here, including motion menus, video transitions between menus, animated picons, and subpictures. However, more-obvious items such as subtitles and multiple audio streams are missing, and there’s no layout map, which is a must for organizing complex DVDs. Menus can be created in the bundled DVD Menu Editor, which is based on Edition’s titling tool, Pinnacle’s TitleDeko. Like that product, it does most of what a user wants, but lacks finer tools such as the text tools we’re used to from titlers such as Premiere’s Title Designer. The other new additions are less groundbreaking, but help to fill out the application. Automatic scene detection makes logging DV tapes quicker, and the inclusion of it in the clip viewer means that you aren’t just limited to having to use this process at the capture stage. XReceive allows clips stored on hard- disk recorders to be imported and used immediately. A Consolidate command allows media to be backed up with a minimum of effort. Pro performance Edition is also available in a Pro version, which adds an ATI-designed AGP board that combines graphics and analog/DV IO, though this wasn’t available for our review. The card doesn’t provide real-time performance in the same way that Matrox’s RT.X100 or Canopus’s DVStorm do, but is designed to up graphics performance, bolstering Edition’s software-driven performance, while adding PAL monitor output. This application’s new features build on a tool that divides editors (and often reviewers). The application has an interface that is about as far from the Microsoft Office-styling of tools such as Premiere as you can get – ditching menus in favour of buttons, and allowing many tools to be used by scrubbing the mouse. A good jog/shuttle control such as Contour Design’s ShuttlePRO is pretty much mandatory to use the interface to the best of its potential. The interface is extremely focussed, rearranging itself when you open tools and effects to let you see as much info as possible on the task in hand. I love it. Working in Edition 5 is more efficient than any other editing software so far, and I’m enamoured with just how hands-on it feels to use. However, Edition 5 is by no means perfect. It’s a complete resource hog, even when it isn’t doing anything – you have to shut it down if you want to move over to a compositing tool or Adobe Photoshop. There’s no vectorscope or waveform monitor, which is annoying in a tool this professional, as Pinnacle wants to keep them for the £5,000 Purple DV editor for broadcasters. It’s also missing the automated white/black balance and colour-correction tools that are such timesavers in many of its competitors. There are also a few bugs. As you’d expect from its broadcast heritage, Edition is robust and solid. It’s testament to this that there’s no overall flakiness – just a few bugs that can be learned. If you do certain things – attempting to manipulate certain functions on the timeline while still in an effect editor, for example – it crashes, requiring a restart. Edition 5 is a vectorscope, some automated tools and a decent titler away from being the best video-editing software on the planet. If you’re currently using version 4, this is a must-have upgrade. If you aren’t, it’s probably best to wait to see how the exciting-sounding Final Cut Pro 4 and Avid Xpress Pro turn out (which should be reviewed in the next issue of d), but remember – there’s a great alternative in Edition.