Here are a few pics taken on the Leica D-Lux 6. The Leica D-Lux 6 is set to hit the market later this fall. We got a sneak peak at Photokina in Germany and recently spent more time with the D-Lux 6. It's a great little camera with excellent low light capabilities but we'd like better battery life. It's basically the D-Lux 5 with all the improvements we were hoping for. This includes a faster lens, a new 1.7" CMOS image sensor, ND filter, a new aperture setting feature on the lens barrel and improved HD video codec.

The Leica D-Lux 6 is fast. Very fast. It still requires the addition of the bottom hand grip to give it that little extra heft and make shooting more comfortable. The D-Lux 5 had some banding issues we experienced while shooting video. The D-Lux 6 solves this problem and should offer even better overall results with the combination of the new lens and sensor.

If you've been looking for the perfect point and shoot camera in a compact format that offers brilliant image quality be sure to have a very close look at the Leica D-Lux 6. It's easy and fun to use, the Panasonic build quality is first rate and it's absolutely packed with performance to make it a true pocket sized wonder.

Based on our experience with the D-Lux 5, we imagine the D-Lux 6 will become the preferred camera for travel and casual use among the professional set as well as consumers that seek pro results in a point and shoot.

Visit Leica for all the specs and more on the new D-Lux 6.

Camtasia Studio 8 really impressed us. It now includes full editing capabilities, unlimited tracks, a very nice UI, intuitive workflow and the ability to render 720p H.264 HTML5 videos that look pretty darn good. This means you can create a tutorial for nearly any screen from laptops and PCs to smart phones and tablets.

Prior to the Studio 8 release we would only use Camtasia for screen capture and use one of our favorite NLEs for the final edit. TechSmith has really improved the integration from capture to edit and made it seamless to the point where using another program to edit the screen capture is no longer necessary.

The capture codec is improved and provides a full 30 frames/second at 720p. This makes all the difference in the world and provides for very clean renders for YouTube or other platforms.

Here's a list of the formats available in Camtasia Studio 8 when rendering your finished project.

We instantly put Camtasia Studio 8 to use by capturing a few screens for a SSD firmware upgrade video we produced recently for SanDisk.

Using Camtasia Studio 8 is dead simple for experienced content creators and anyone with the willingness to play and experiment should quickly catch on. TechSmith makes very good use of the right-mouse-click which presents intuitive options in Camtasia Studio 8. This is a mature product that's hitting its stride and it shows in both the feature set and overall usability.

It's now possible to add interactivity in the form of a quiz in Camtasia Studio 8. Again, just a couple of clicks and you're adding questions and gates to your content. Even without using the interactive features the visual callouts and a plethora of transitions help to keep the content interesting and engaging.

TechSmith has already established Camtasia as the leading screen capture software. Now with the Studio 8 version it's on its way to becoming a very good editing program as well. The improvements in quality, workflow and interactivity all add up to a compelling release for both new and experienced Camtasia users.

Visit TechSmith for more information about Camtasia and to download a free trial.

Adobe's Creative Suite 6 Production Premium includes a wealth of updates to Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, Audition and the rest of the suite. This review will focus on the updates to Premiere Pro CS6, our main area of interest.

Premiere Pro CS6 has enough power under the hood to attract the Final Cut community that feels abandoned by Apple and perhaps a few AVID editors that are curious about what's on the other side of the wall. Long time Premiere users should be very happy with this new release.

For starters we love the new "adjustment layer". Basically you throw an adjustment layer of any length on top of your timeline, tweak the settings and effects and all layers underneath the adjustment layer will respond to the changes as if they were made individually to each layer in the timeline. This is extremely useful and a real time saver. We will use this a lot.

Next up is "Hover Scrub". It works just like it sounds. Move the mouse right and left over the thumbnails in the media browser and you can quickly find what you're looking for without formally dropping the media in the trimmer or timeline. Again, handy and practical. We also like the project view which adds small icons to media thumbnails so you know if a particular asset is already being used in the project. These little touches show that Adobe is paying attention to how editors really work.

Other nice features of Premiere Pro CS6 include the "Warp Stabilizer", "Rolling Shutter Repair" (handy for cameras like the HPX250), an improved effects paradigm, better color correction, multi-cam support and a customizable GUI which we like for a cleaner layout and elimination of buttons we rarely use.

Adobe also went crazy with the render presets in Premiere Pro CS6. The full gamut is included from smart phones and tablets to large screens and everything in between. All the right codec support and a huge selection of starting points for your renders. Setting up watch folders to encode multiple formats is real easy too. The folks at Sorenson should be a little nervous. 

We primarily worked with AVC-Intra 100 files in our test of Premiere Pro CS6. Our favorite P2 format is one of the best on the planet but it's processor intensive.  On our HP, Dell and Supermicro SSD equipped test systems with NVIDIA Quadro, 2000 and 4000 cards the experience was real time. Content loaded fast. We could easily jump around the timeline and the software felt connected to the media.  The GPU support and mercury playback engine makes for improved real-time performance and renders.  Again, when software starts feeling more like hardware that's a good thing.  

Solid, predictable performance is important for us.  CS6 is really the first version of Premiere Pro we've truly enjoyed using. Sure it was functional before but now it feels better. The tweaks to the GUI make it easier to find content and start editing right away without arbitrary steps that seemed to get in the way in previous versions of Premiere. The same can be said for adding effects and overall workflow.  In other words, the software is now getting out of the way of the work.

Audio is still a weak link for us in Premiere Pro. We liked Audition back in the Cool Edit Pro days but have since moved on to other audio editors that we simply like better.

This year could be a very pivotal one for Adobe, especially as it relates to Premiere Pro CS6. For years the post community has embraced AVID and Final Cut as the leading platforms for editing with Premiere, Vegas and Edius providing a supporting role.  That's changing.  We felt it at NAB and we feel it even more now.  Adobe is playin' for keeps. 

So what's Adobe been doing to whip CS6 into shape? Well it seems the product team is listening to its users.  Crazy, we know.  Maybe there really is something to this whole social enterprise thing that Marc Benioff touts every year at Dreamforce. But really, this is the version of Premiere Pro we think a lot of editors have been waiting for and longtime Premiere users will greet with an exultant, "Finally!"

Visit Adobe for more information about Premiere Pro and the entire CS6 lineup.

We really like the Panasonic AG-HPX250. It’s a professional level product in an ergonomic, efficient and easy to use package. In many ways it’s the ideal hand-held camcorder in the 5k price range that can be used for everything from corporate video to reality TV to documentaries.

When we first got our hands on the Panasonic AG-HPX250 we thought it felt a little cheap, almost too light for a professional grade camera. However, after using it for several months we’re very pleased with the performance and grateful for the run-n-gun friendly body especially compared to its chunky ancestor, the HVX200. The HPX250 (and recently updated HPX250PJ announced at NAB earlier this year) is  better balanced and provides a variety of improvements to the buttons, i/o connections and overall speed of access to controls. The flip out LCD looks really good.  The battery pops in and out easier.  The P2 card slots are vertical.  The product team did a nice job making lots of subtle improvements compared to previous designs without losing any of the Panasonic camcorder product family mojo. It's a better product that's easier to use.

When it comes to handheld camcorders, the HPX250 and updated HPX250PJ are like the younger siblings in the family that get everything the older siblings never had. The HPX250 is the camera the HVX200 always wanted to be. Don’t be fooled by the abundant use of plastic in the design. The HPX250 packs a punch with a versatile lens, excellent low light performance and a plethora of format, codec and frame rate options. Even the built-in sound is a little better.

One of the most important features of the HPX250 is the AVC-Intra 100/50 codec support. The AVC-Intra 100 codec is arguably one of the best available on any camcorder. The full raster 1920x1080 progressive frames in a 10 bit 4.2.2 color space offers more flexibility to push the boundaries in post and makes getting clean keys much easier.

We recently tested the HPX250 using the AVC-Intra 100 codec while working on a simple “how to” video. We tested the footage on three separate workstations (HP, Dell, Supermicro) using three separate NLE packages (CS6.5, Edius 6.5, Vegas Pro 11) all running Xeons, plenty of memory and either Quadro 2000 or 4000 card. The AVC-Intra 100 codec does require a modern workstation to run smoothly and we noticed better performance on our faster systems.

On shoots that require faster turns in remote locations where the laptop is the edit suite we might opt for the DVCPRO HD codec as it’s much lighter on resources. We also like the option of using the AVC-Intra 50 codec if we think we may have a long day without the luxury of enough P2 storage. The HPX250 has plenty of options to balance quality, capacity and editing requirements.

At NAB this year Panasonic announced the microP2 card, essentially a robust storage card in the SD form factor. In spite of the antiquated PCMCIA form factor the P2 card has a large stable of “believers” that have gotten comfortable using the cards. In years of shooting with the HVX200 and now the HPX250 we’ve never had one fail. We also don’t know anyone in our creative circle that has had a P2 card fail. Flash memory has forever changed the way we capture and share our stories.

The microP2 card or some other “micro” format will have a profound impact on the professional handheld camcorder market. The lighter, better, faster, and (we hope), cheaper mantra will continue. We’re looking forward to meeting the HPX250’s younger brother.

Visit Panasonic for more information and all the specs on the AG-HPX250 and updated AG-HPX250PJ.

Boris Continuum Complete 8 is an extremely useful plug-in suite of visual effects available for major NLE platforms offered by Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Avid and Sony. Depending on your NLE of choice, Continuum Complete 8 provides anywhere from 145-200+ effects. But more importantly the effects are useful and inspiring if not a bit intimidating with comprehensive controls that allow truly infinite possibilities.

Boris FX has been around since 1995 and this is the first time we've immersed ourselves in their plug-ins. At first, it's a bit overwhelming. There's a lot to digest in this suite and every plug-in has lots of sliders and settings to tweak. We highly recommend checking out some of the tutorials by John Rofrano on YouTube, especially the Beat Reactor tutorial which we found extremely helpful.

The lineup of effects includes motion tracking, image restoration, cartoon, film effects, 3D particles, HD "UpRez", lighting effects and a lot more. Each plug-in includes a variety of presets. For example, if you want the "Charles Schwab" cartoon look, you can quickly dial that in.

We were able to figure out most of the effects by playing with the controls until we started to see something we liked on screen. The online tutorials are very helpful to jumpstart this process. If you're the type of editor that prefers presets and a few knobs to play with Continuum Complete may frustrate you but if you prefer maximum control you'll appreciate the option to tweak every setting. There are lots of presets but we'd like to see even more practical staring points.

This first example combines two lighting effects triggered by the Beat Reactor. The Beat Reactor only works with AIF files which was a minor inconvenience. This is one of our favorite new tools and we'll be spending a lot of time perfecting its use. This sample shows what you can do with very little effort.

This next example is from a mini-DV shoot several years back that we wanted to repurpose in HD. The UpRez filter was very helpful and the results are convincing. We have hundreds of episodes of a technology show we produced on Beta back in the day and we'll see if UpRez can help us archive it in "HD."

In this next video we used both screen capture software and the camera to grab screen shots.  We noticed an additional flicker in the video we didn't see on the monitor while shooting.  The Boris "Flicker Fixer" plug-in was super handy to help clean this up.

As with any effects package, the best approach is to simply download it and start experimenting. Boris Continuum 8 will keep you busy for days just getting familiar with this powerful suite of plug-ins. The value of the package will become apparent once you start to identify your "Go-to" plug-ins that help clean up, add sizzle and generally bring your visuals to life.  We found the performance and preview capabiiity of Continumm Complete 8 to be good on a test Superrmicro workstation with dual xeons, 12 cores, 24GBs, a quadro 2000, running Win 7 Pro 64bit. We had a frozen screen here and there but found the experience mostly stable and predictable.

We're just getting started and we'll share more as we peel back the layers of this suite. Certainly put this on your list of plug-in suites to consider for your NLE of choice.

To compare the complete lineup of plug-ins across NLE platforms go here.

To learn more about Boris Continuum Complete 8 go here.

Our first professional sound card was the original Digital Audio Labs Card-D running in a Win 3.1 486 box with Sound Forge and we were simply blown away. For the first time we experienced what professional quality audio on a PC was all about. Goodbye and good riddance Creative Labs.

Over the years, we’ve used cards from a variety of vendors including: Aardvark, Echo Digital Audio, Digidesign, Digigram, Digital Audio Labs, EMU Systems, Lynx Studio, M-AUDIO, RME Audio, Turtle Beach and more. These cards have been installed on both Mac and PC systems, desktops, workstations, laptops and various operating system. Some of these vendors have gone out of business but many still offer quality solutions to meet just about any budget.

In our testing and real world use we’ve settled on three primary suppliers of audio solutions for our PC based NLE systems that we use to get actual work done. Our preferred vendors include Digital Audio Labs, Lynx Studio and RME Audio. We’ve found that all three have consistently delivered quality performance at a reasonable price.

Among our preferred three vendors, the best sounding PCI audio card we’ve tested and abused for 5 years is the Lynx Studio Two B. It’s simply transparent with an incredible signal to noise ratio and beefy, natural analog sound. The Lynx Studio Two B is our preferred card for laying down tracks, voice over, mixing and pretty much any audio task. Our ears have not heard a better sounding PCI audio card. It also has some of the best shielding technology and does not pick up noise and interference inside the PC.

Coming in second is the Digital Audio labs CardDeluxe. It’s got the same beefy analog, full frequency sound as the Lynx Studio, but is not quite as quiet and transparent. Depending on the PC or workstation you may pick up more noise with the CardDeluxe than the Lynx Studio. Our biggest concern with Digital Audio Labs and the CardDeluxe is it seems the company may be winding things down and the web site is completely out of date and there is very little activity.

Coming in third is the RME 9632. While this card still sounds good it does not have the transparency of the Lynx Studio or CardDeluxe. We would rather spend a little more money and get the Lynx Studio Two B for superior sound. RME is likely to keep improving and has a solid user base that raves about its products. Good value for the money but to our ears not the best sound.

Visit Lynx Studio Technologies for more information.
Visit RME Audio for more information.
Visit Digital Audio Labs for more information.

Testing platforms:  HARDWARE: HP xw8400 workstation, Dell T7500 workstation, Supermicro 7046A-3 workstation. Intel Xeon CPUs. OS: Windows 7 Pro, Windows XP, Windows 98.  SOFTWARE: SawStudio, Universal Audio Plug-ins, Sound Forge, Sony ACID, Sony Vegas, Adobe Audition, Adobe CS5, Edius 6.5 and varous windows apps and utilities.

The Edius dedicated keyboard from Editors Keys is a smallish USB keyboard that helps reduce the amount of menu navigation necessary while editing. It's quiet and the color coding is attractive and practical when learning categories of activities and placement on the keyboard. The keyboard has non-slip pads on the bottom and stays in place even when pounded on a bit. This is one of the first keyboards we've reviewed from Editors Keys so we'll report back after extended use on how it holds up.

The keyboard was instantly recognized by our Windows 7 workstation. There's no setup or drivers that need to be installed. Plug it in and start editing. After mousing around in an editing program like Edius it's an adjustment to start using a dedicated keyboard. Yes, all the main menu items are there but you have to learn the location on the keyboard. That takes some time. However, the keys are well labeled, if not a little small, and it's generally a pretty seamless transition.

Editors Keys makes dedicate keyboards for several of the major video and audio editing programs. We tested the Edius version but our comments on the quality of the keyboard should apply to the rest of the lineup as well.

The keyboard is compact in size. it's about 3/4 the size of our trusty Key Tronic keyboard which is still our favorite for writing and office work etc. This is a key point (no pun intended) with limited individual key travel it's less than ideal for writing and daily office tasks on the PC.

For dedicated NLE workstations this is not a concern but for some editors working out of a home studio this keyboard may be connected to a workstation that is also used for invoicing, emails, web....etc., so it will likely either share desk space with another keyboard or replace it all together. The good news is the compact size does make it easy to store the keyboard when it's not needed if it is used in a non-dedicated environment.

If you're looking for a way to speed up your edits and give your suite a more professional feel, dedicated keyboards like this are worth exploring. Eliminating mouse clicks can lead to faster turnaround times which ultimately means happier clients not to mention the ergonomic benefits of a more efficient work flow.

At first glance, you may think Editors Keys is doing ridiculous margins on these keyboards but they tell us because of the colored keys and design these keyboards are actually priced quite aggressively. So, if you find that a dedicated keyboard helps you work smarter and faster, it's money well spent.

Visit Editor Keys for more information and to see the rest of the product lineup.

We were impressed with the Zacuto scorpion right out of the box. It’s incredibly well made and designed for professional use. Assembly is easy and intuitive. The entire rig can be easily popped on and off sticks in the field in just seconds. Perfect for dynamic shooting situations and run and gun reality TV. Danny, pictured here, says simply, “combined with the Z-Finder EVF Pro I can shoot all day with this”.

The Scorpion is a game changer for anyone using smaller form factor video camera and professional DSLRs. Anyone using cameras such as the Panasonic HPX250 or AF100, Sony EX3, Canon C300 and 5D Mark III will absolutely love this rig.

We played with the rig using the HPX250. We were able to make jib lke moves with this elegant rig. Really cool moves that just would not be possible in tight quarters are now made easy. All of a sudden limited budget shoots look bigger with better production value because of the addition of the Scorpion to the day's shoot.

We saw a lot of activity at the Zacuto booth at NAB this year and with good reason. This is another great product from Zacuto that is simply expertly designed. You’ll get every bit of your $2k worth out of this rig. Yeah, we're pretty excited about this gear and we'll share more from the field. If you see some really cool moves on the next Restaurant Impossble that's probably Danny using the Zacuto Scorpion.

Visit Zacuto for more information.

What editing package do you use? What should I buy? Do I have to be an Avid editor to work on films? Is Premiere replacing Final Cut? I hear good things about Vegas. Should I try it? We hear these questions over and over.

Usually you’ll get these questions answered in a very biased way with very little context on how the software package is actually used or what its particular strength and weaknesses actually are. Part of the reason is that it’s difficult for 1 person to have a profound understanding of all the major NLEs and give an objective review. You tend to get a bit biased toward platforms you master. There’s a huge difference between simply getting a project out the door and making something really come to life using a particular NLE.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time with all the major NLEs either as a producer or editor. Sometimes we’ve had the luxury of weeks to work on a project but more often than not it’s about speed and the ability to turn projects very quickly.

In the end, the ability to quickly turn around a quality visual asset has less to do with the tool than the producer’s clear direction and the editor’s mastery of the platform to bring that vision to reality.

Sure, some things are easier in one NLE versus another but aside from high end finishing and post work amazing story telling can be accomplished using tools from Adobe, Avid, Grass Valley, Sony or Apple.

The real decision when choosing an NLE boils down to workflow and the markets you serve, the number of people in the facility and the IT infrastructure. Avid and Final Cut tend to dominate in the larger shared drive model because of established work flows and expertise in dealing with large amounts of data and longer more complex projects.

Premiere is playing a much larger role, especially in design and post houses that likely use a suite of Adobe products already. The Mercury engine and optimization for CUDA cores has made a huge difference. We never would have considered Premiere a few years ago and now it’s gaining serious momentum.

News organizations love Edius. It’s fast, runs on modest systems, is rock solid and easy to use. The USB key is getting long in the tooth and the GUI could use a refresh but we love using Edius. The stability really makes it attractive for in the field, laptop jobs where computing horsepower might be somewhat limited.

Vegas has outstanding audio tools and is another great tool for assembling cuts but has gotten less stable in recent years. Sony has kept pace on features and codec support but needs to make the software more stable.

So again, any of these tools can get the work done but it ultimately depends on the type of job, the turnaround required, and the level of production quality expected. For example, we recently cut several videos in a hotel room during a conference because the videos had to be turned around in 24 hours. The production quality was expected to be broadcast ENG with some titles and minor effects to sex it up a bit. The work could have easily been done on Final Cut, Premiere, Vegas, Edius…etc. However, in this case the editor showed up with Media Composer 6 on his Dell laptop workstation because that’s the software he did his “best and fastest work”. We had another workstation running Edius, Premiere and Vegas.

We worked simultaneously on the project, exchanging work using P2, ProRes and the DNxHD codec. In the end, when looking at the final output it was seamless and it didn’t matter what was cut on which machine and who rendered what. The project got done. The quality was excellent. The client was happy.

Whether we cranked it out in some state of the art facility or holed up in our hotel room didn’t matter. In fact, what was more important than any software we used was our ability to quickly move lots and lots of data from machine to machine, render, FTP, approve, iterations…etc. It’s becoming less about that actual tools being used to make things and more about the IT infrastructure, either fixed or mobile which allows the work to get approved and posted online as fast as possible.

What adobe is doing with the coming rev of Premiere 6 is just a taste of what’s to come. Having access to an army of artists that can crank out amazing product using a temporary cloud model could have a profound impact on the business. Based on the huge crowds last week at NAB Adobe has the community to help it power this new model. And in the end, the platform with the largest community of talented artists will secure more business.

The most relevant platforms today are still Avid, Final Cut and Premiere in terms of user base across industries. But things are shifting. Both Avid and Adobe have gained users and some momentum as a result of the polorazing effect of Final Cut X. Apple may even drop it's desktop business altogether. Who knows? Meanwhile Edius and Vegas are chugging along with a solid and enthusiastic base of users. We love both and are looking forward to both Edius and Vegas bulding an even stronger user base going forward. Our advice to editors would be to familiarize yourself with all platforms and master at least 1 of them and a motion graphics tool such as After Effects. That should keep you plenty busy with projects.

Visit Avid for more information.

Visit Adobe for more information.

Visit Grass Valley for more information.

Visit Sony for more information.

Visit Apple for more information.

Our review of Sorenson Squeeze 8 is similar to our previous review of Squeeze 7 and much of what we wrote still applies to Squeeze 8.   The latest rev of Sorenson Squeeze looks and feels the same and is an evolution of the professional compression suite with robust support for the most widely used codecs for broadcast, web and mobile platforms as well as physical media.  We'll focus on the new features versus the nuts and bults which you can read in our previous review.

There are a few new items in Squeeze 8. Sorenson says the H.264 CUDA GPU acceleration has been improved but we didn't notice any real speed difference in our tests. Squeeze 8 also offers the new x264 open source coded variation of the H.264 codec but we encountered some problems running it when doing batch renders. We're working with Sorenson's technical support to try and solve the problem.  We mostly encountered errors when encoding to 1080p with the built in YouTube presets using the x264 codec.  No other codecs gave us problems. 

Other new features include new PC adaptive bit-rate formats to complement the Apple presets and direct publishing to YouTube including the ability to set privacy options, keywords, categories, and comment options.   This offers some convenience but YouTube now makes it easy to upload multiple files and since it's own backend will do the encoding in the cloud you only need 1 HiRes master to upload per video.

In spite of a few hiccups Squeeze 8 still has the same elegant design with a simple workflow that produces excellent results. Import the source files, pick the codecs, FTP sites, do your tweaks and let it work.

Our test system this time around was a Supermicro 12 core workstation with a Quadro 2000. We were able to run renders with and without CUDA acceleration. You can check out a batch of renders in some common formats here. Since we didn't notice much a difference in speed using the GPU we tended to simply encode using the CPU only.  This approach also aleviated any concerns we had about the quality of the GPU acceleration being as good as the multipass encodes using the CPU only.   GPU only allows 2 pass encoding while CPU only allows 4 passes. 

New output formats can be added on the fly to a job in progress as well. That’s been a handy feature we use quite a bit. On a tight schedule we may get a request to have multiple copies of the same video in various formats for the approval process. We might stage the videos on YouTube in a high res H.264 while simultaneously having the legal team review a low quality WMV that’s email friendly and the web team prepage Web M versions for the new HTML corporate web site. Squeeze 8 makes this type of workflow easy, especially when it’s multiple videos and FTP sites involved. Render and upload time is always a good time to grab some food versus babysitting a computer.

We're not sure Squeeze 8 offers enough to make the move from Squeeze 7, however if you're new to programs like Squeeze or simply out of date, Squeeze 8 certainly is one of the best solutions in multiformat encoding and distribution management.  

Visit Sorenson Media for more information.

IK is killin' it with this app. With DJ Rig we can literally DJ a gig with one iPad, a power supply and the JBLs. Yes, you can rock the party out of the back of a Prius if you have to. We're pretty sure it's happening somewhere right now at SXSW.

Savvy DJs will quickly feel at home with DJ Rig with the ability to toggle through screens and settings quickly. Effects and loops are easy to engage and tweak in real time. The included effects are quite good.  Combine it all with several banks of samples and virtual pads to trigger and you've got everything you need to make great mixes and perform live.

Plus, if you have enough flash memory in your iOS device you can record your performances in real time. Super easy. Super fun.

The UI is very nicely done. It's intuitive and looks good. The textures and shading are nice. The turntable strobe is nice touch. It all makes for a very good experience, especially on a larger device like the iPad.  Smaller devices don't really do this software justice.

Probably our only complaint is after we got comfortable toggling between the various screens we wanted even faster access and more screens available simultaneously. Yes, it's addicting that way.

Visit IK Multimedia for more information.

Or better yet just head over to the app store and grab it so you can check it out for yourself.

Edius 6 is a very solid NLE for assembling footage very quickly. Our first experience with Edius was several years ago with an early version of the software cutting news for a broadcast station. Since that time we've worked on all the major NLEs such as AVID, FCP, Vegas and Premiere. Upon revisiting Edius we were pleasantly surprised to see how this software has matured.

Without glancing at any documentation we were able to quickly assemble the rough cut of a "how to" video we needed to get out the door. This brought back memories of why we enjoyed using Edius to carve out sound bites. It's fast and friendly and handles a wide variety of formats with robust codec support including XDCAM, AVC-Intra and DVCPRO.

We installed Edius 6 on three different systems. An older HP xw8400 workstation, a new Dell M6600 portable workstation and a custom Supermicro workstation. It ran well on all three running both XP and Windows 7. We did get it to lock up now and then but it did not crash. It was more like a temporary freeze.

Edius ships with a USB dongle that is required for use after the initial 30 days. We're not fans of this type of authorization scheme simply because USB dongles are just too easy to lose. We do like being able to run the software on the laptop in the field and on the workstation in the studio using the same dongle but the possibility of losing the dongle in the field or misplacing it prior to a crtical edit under a time crunch makes us nervous and is a near deal breaker.

Activation and authorization is an issue for the industry as a whole as software piracy runs rampant but legitimate customers deserve a better scheme. We asked Edius about the this but were told no decision has been made about future releases and dongle support.

Dongle woes aside, we enjoyed using Edius 6. We think it's ideal for cutting news, corporate video, sports reels, pretty much anything where time is of the essence. It really works the way you expect it to when quickly assembling an edit. The way the handles on the video in the timeline allow for gross movements and fine tuning and how easy it is to move clips around the timeline is ideal for news.

The real time editing is very clean and does not require constant rendering to preview. For long form story-telling, we like being able to have quick access to  multiple sequences. Again, with some experimentation we were able to figure out how to do the same work we might do in other NLEs we're currently more familiar with.

Grass Valley includes a bonus CD of software in the package but it was a little unclear how some of it worked. The NewBlue plug-ins worked fine but the others did not install properly and gave us errors. So while it's nice to see the plug-in support it's a bit disheartening that we experienced some problems with the bundle.

After spending more time with Edius 6 we realized it has quite a bit of power under the hood with the ability to do key frame effects, titles and transitions all natively without any plug-ins. The multicam editing is drop dead simple, batch rendering is super handy and in general it comes with all the necessary capabilities to do quality work and output myriad formats for physical media, broadcast and streaming.

We also appreciate when an update to the software we're reviewing appears as it did during our review of Edius 6.  It's affirmation that Grass Valley is actively working to stabilize and improve this release which was already mostly problem free in our tests.

Now, all we need is a dongle free, 64-bit version.

Visit Grass Valley for more information.

The Dell Mobile Precision M6600 workstation with 17.3” UltraSharp 1920x1080 display is an excellent portable platform for video editing. It’s powerful, quiet, runs cool and has a big enough screen to allow for a pretty solid work flow without constantly resizing elements on the display. The built-in speakers provide enough volume but may fool you a bit on the EQ so pack a trusted portable monitor or pair headphones to help with the audio mix.

Our review unit featured an Intel Core i7-2640M Dual Core 2.80GHz processor, 8GB of DDR3-1333 memory, the NVIDIA Quadro 3000M with 2GB GDDR5, a 512GB SSD for OS/programs and a 750GB, 7200RPM data drive. We had to get an oversized bag from Targa to accommodate the thing. It’s heavy, it’s bulky, but it’s necessary for remote editing work.

We received the M6600 just before leaving for CES to shoot a series of videos for SanDisk. Our software package included Sony Vegas Pro 11, Adobe CS5, Sorenson Squeeze, Edius 6 and a variety of music creating and sound editing tools. Also on the trip was a Mac Pro with Final Cut Studio. We had 24 hours to create several videos so redundant systems were a necessity.

After a full day of shooting we had to edit through the night to get the finished videos on the web the next day. The M6600 was a true workhorse. We had edit timelines open while rendering MP4s, WMVs and uploading to FTP for approval. The i7 combined with the CUDA cores of the Quadro helped keep everything running smoothly. The bottle neck was not render speed but rather the upload connection governed by the hotel. Our personal hot spot was less than effective in Vegas and the connectivity issue was exasperated by the CES crowd that tends to bring the network to its knees every year. Send a text and wait 4 hours for a return message.

The M6600 is a pretty decent machine, however we did encounter a minor annoyance with the power management and sleep state feature of the M6600. We normally turn off power management on our PCs in general and manually turn things on and off avoid going into a sleep state at the wrong time. We attempted to do this with the M6600 but the system still managed to put itself in a sleep state on its own form time to time. Not a big deal except that it sometimes got hung up when waking and once kicked an external drive off line and had to be rebooted.

With a retail price in the 3-4k range for a decent configuration the M6600 offers very good performance in a bulky yet portable package. We’re looking forward to more advanced designs that reduce the weight and footprint yet maintain and improve the performance with advanced chip sets and flash memory.

Visit Dell for more information.

The 12 TB ForteRAID from Glyph Production Technologies makes a very good first impression right out of the box. The aluminum housing is well designed and provides easy access to the 3TB Hitachi Deskstar drives inside. The aluminum case, vertical orientation of the drives and 80mm fan kept everything running smoothly during a 3 week test of the ForteRAID where it was in constant use.

The ForteRAID includes eSATA, the various flavors of Firewire and USB 2.0 for easy connectivity to both Mac and PC platforms. We expect USB 3.0 in the very near future but for now the fastest option is eSATA. Glyph includes a basic eSATA card but recommends the Sonnet E4P card and we agree. The Sonnet E4P played nice with the Dell T7500 and provided 4 external ports with the performance to realize the speeds benefits of the ForteRAID. The Lacie Quadra external backup drive worked well with this card as well.

The ForteRAID comes preformatted for Mac as a RAID 0 array for maximum performance. We often have to access Mac formatted drives using MacDrive from Mediafour so our system was ready.

The ForteRAID 80mm fan runs full tilt at startup and makes more noise than the T7500 blowing all that air but after 30 seconds it slows down enough to become barely audible. In fact, other than the initial startup it doesn’t make much noise at all. We love that. We also like that Glyph chose to design the unit with 1 large fan versus two smaller ones. Anything to minimize noise in the studio is a good thing. Placed 6 meters or so away from our condenser mic we could get away with doing a voice over in the same space if we had to.

At first, we kept the ForteRAID in RAID 0 to maximize speed as our “online” drive and were satisfied with the performance while editing a wide range of formats such as P2, Intra 100, 50, XDCAM and HDSLR, or any combination thereof. All the typical RAID options for mirroring and striping are available but we opted for performance while backing up data to another drive.

Later we decided to test the unit in RAID 10. The Glyph utility makes it very easy to create a new RAID. THe hardest part is simply backing up all the data before making the switch. We were happy with the performance in RAID 10 which also gave us a little more piece of mind with some built in redundacy.

We look forward to the day when these units are populated with SSDs, too expensive today but likely to hit $1 per GB in 2012 which many industry analysts see as the tipping point for market acceptance and things could accelerate rapidly after that. For now, a backup strategy is critical especially in RAID 0. By the way, SSD solutions should still be backed up as both spinning and solid state media can fail. However, SSDs are clearly far more robust because of the lack of moving parts.

We really like the case and the power supply of the ForteRAID. It’s well designed and made of quality parts. The internal power supply eliminates the need for a wall wart which makes us very happy.

Glyph also has very progressive warranty as well. The ForteRAID has a 3-year warranty that includes a free 2-year basic data recovery. It shows Glyph has confidence in the product and that if something does go wrong they’ll do what they can to help the customer.

If you’re in the market for a robust and well-designed RAID array we highly recommend you consider the ForteRAID line of products from Glyph.

UPDATE:  After a few months of use the ForteRAID failed.  The software utility was unable to "see" the RAID and could not be used to troubleshoot the problem.  The unit was sent back to Glyph.  The circuit board was replaced and it was discovered that one of the Hitachi drvies had failed.  The unit was operating in RAID 10, so 1 drive failing should have allowed us to replace the drive and rebuid the array locally without sending it back to Glyph.  We think this failure indicates the importance of using enterprise class drives in these products.  Also, regardless of what type of RAID scheme is used, a second on-site backup is required or serious downtime can occur.

Visit Glyph Production Technologies for more information.

Sony Vegas Pro 11 is the latest release and now only runs on Vista and Windows 7. So for professional use let’s just say your only real option with Vegas 11 is Windows 7 as our experience with Vista hasn’t been all sweetness and light.

We installed Vegas Pro 11 on two workstations, an aging HP xw8400 and a factory fresh Dell T7500, basically the difference between a previous generation 2Ghz Xeon dual core and current generation 2.93GHz quad core. It’s clear that the latest version of Vegas Pro running on Windows 7 needs all the horsepower you can throw at it. While Vegas 10 running on XP didn’t have all the latest features it still ran pretty good with very few hiccups on the older xw8400, even with a handful of Universal Audio plug-ins running. We imagine there are a lot of folks still working on these systems, especially in a tight econonomy trying to squeeze out every last rendor before pulling the trigger on a system. If that sounds like you, stick with Vegas 10 running on XP. Windows 7 runs well on the xw8400 but Vegas 11 starts to choke a bit. On the newer system it runs beautifully, smooth like butter.

While Vegas Pro 10 claimed to have GPU support for accelerating H.264 renders we were hard pressed to notice the difference. Vegas Pro 11 is a different story. The GPU acceleration really works and it’s noticeable, especially on older systems. We tested the Quadro 600, Quadro 2000 and Quadro 4000 on both the older xw8400 and the new T7500 workstations. The xw8400 got a welcome boost in render performance and the quality of the output was very good, no real discernible difference with CUDA cores turned on and off. The T7500 is a pleasure to use with or without GPU acceleration so the acceleration was less noticeable here because the system is screaming fast already. By the way, the Dell T7500 is a very quiet box by the way, a bit ugly but really nice acoustic design and quiet airflow.

Vegas Pro 11 comes with NewBlue Titler Pro from NewBlueFX. NewBlue has been ramping up its product profile and has released a plethora of really useful and friendly to use video effects plug-ins for all major NLE platforms. Getting it for free with Vegas Pro 11 is a nice bonus and comes in handy for text heavy style video when you’re light on proper assets to work with. Titler Pro could not be easier to use and we'd like to see Sony mimic this ease of use with its "Pro Type Titler" which has a very quirky workflow and UI which I know frustrates some users. We look forward to more vendors embracing the open FX platform in Vegas. It's great for Vegas users.

We got Vegas Pro 11 up and running just in time to edit this holiday gift guide for SanDisk. We easily combined the Sony EX and Canon 7D material in post while sweetening audio on the UAD cards. As we mentioned above, you need the proper horsepower to make it worthwhile. Having HDSLR support is great as we love using these cameras. Of course, Vegas Pro `11 stil supports just about any kind of video format available. We primarily work with P2, Intra 100, 50, XDCAM, HDSLR..etc. We encountered no strange behavior mixing and matching a variety of codecs on the timeline. Red and 3D support is great to have as well.

Sony has created a new menu structure for rendering files in Vegas. It jarred us a bit at first but we quickly caught on and found it useful in the way presets can be saved and “starred” so you can toggle your favorites on and off when it comes time to render. We’d like to see batch processing and automated FTP added similar to what Sorenson Media does in Squeeze. For now, we’re happy to have the GPU support and will continue to kick out a master files and do subsequent renders in Soreson. But it's great to be able to render most standard formats directly in Vegas Pro 11  for client approval and we're doing more and more of that because of the GPU support and subsequent faster render times.

That’s just a brief review of the things we thought made a different in our day to day work. If you’re looking to squeeze a few more renders out of an older system hold off on Vegas Pro 11. If you’ve got a new system with plenty of power running Windows 7 we’d say it’s worth making the move.

Visit Sony Creative Software for more information.
This may be one of our shortest reviews ever. The proof is in the pictures. The GoPro is light and you can mount it just about anywhere to capture footage like this. What's not to like about the GoPro camera?

Well for starters, if you get hooked on this method of shooting you can quickly spend a lot of money on all the mounts and accessories. Shooting with this little sucker is addictive. Technique, luck and experience all play a part in what your final footage will look like.

The quality is pretty darn good. To think you can get this kind of quality out of such a small little box is amazing. However, we're looking forward to even better CCDs and codecs in the next batch of cameras that GoPro will eventually release.

For now X-Gamers and pretty much anyone that enjoys doing any kind of activity can have a blast experimenting with this camera. For professionals it's becoming a requirement on everything from sports to home improvement shoots. Two or more cameras, 32MB SD cards, all the mounts and accessories make for more interesting and creative shoots for any kind of content.

Visit GoPro for more information and all the specs on the camera.

Sorenson Media’s Squeeze 7 is a professional compression suite with robust support for the most widely used codecs for broadcast, web and mobile platforms as well as physical media. Squeeze 7 has an elegant design with a simple workflow that produces excellent results.

Squeeze 7 includes a plethora of handy presets, batch processing and FTP capability. This makes it easy to load multiple jobs with multiple encodes to multiple FTP sites. This means you can render your master video in the wee hours, run a batch of encodes and deliver the various files to your client(s) first thing the next morning while you lay in bed recovering from your all night editing session. New output formats can be added on the fly to a job in progress as well.

One improvement Sorenson could make here would be the ability to color code the jobs and all assets and outputs related to a specific job. It can get a little squirrely looking at endless shades of white and grey. The background of the video in the main preview window can be customized so why not something more practical like the multiple jobs I’m trying to keep in order? It’s no different than keeping track of multiple tracks of audio and video in a typical non linear editor.

Squeeze 7 takes advantage of CUDA cores in NVIDIA video cards. The software reported 128 CUDA cores in our card available to accelerate the Mainconcept H.264 codec. A message pops up warning that the quality may not be the same when using CUDA cores so trial and error is required to make sure it meets your requirements. In general, we were happy with the output with and without using the GPU. Although, this message does not give us a lot of confidence in using CUDA to accelerate our encodes.

Squeeze 7 has crazy file format support.


OUTPUT: AAC, AC3, AIFF, AVI, DV, DVD, FLV, M4A, MOV, MP3, MP4 (H.264), MPG, SWF, VC1, WAV, WMV and more.

The ability to work with FLVs came in very handy because we needed to turn around a project very quickly for a client that could only provide FLV files. The original masters were not available. We Transcoded the file in Squeeze 7 to something are NLE could handle and spit the master back out to Squeeze encode the fixed FLV. There was a bit of a quality hit but it worked great as a temporary fix until we were able to work with the master video.

The presets that ship with Squeeze 7 are very good. Sorenson also has an active user community that is constantly uploading tweaks and new presets. Need a preset for playback on a specific Blackberry or Android phone? Chances are someone’s already made one. Not happy with a specific aspect of a paticular preset, teak away until you get what you like.

One of the ways we like to use batch processing is to tweak the setting of a particular set of codecs to shrink the file size as much as possible while maintaining the quality. We’re able to build our own stable of presets and know exactly what to expect in terms of file size and quality. Without the batch capabilities this type of experimentation would be cumbersome at best.

We haven’t even touched on the filters and a bunch of other stuff you can do with Squeeze 7. Rest assured there is plenty to play with in Squeeze 7 that goes way beyond the encoding capabilities and helps justify the cost. For example, if you just want to make some minor fixes without a full blown online session Squeeze 7 includes settings and filters such as Black Restore, brightness, contrast, crop, deinterlace, hue, saturation, inverse Telecine and 2:3 pulldown, image orientation, video noise reduction, watermark and more.

Sorenson’s Squeeze 7 has actually made the black art of compression easy and dare we say fun. The company has undergone a major brand refresh recently that’s reflected in a more accessible and down to earth approach in its products and on the web. Squeeze 7 is a really nice effort right out of the gate and with some minor tweaks can be made even better. If you work with video for a living definitely check out Squeeze 7.

Prices start at $499 for the flash only version up to $899 for the entire suite plus Dolby Pro encoders. We’d like to see those price points ratcheted down to $299 for flash only and up to $599 for Dolby Pro but let’s see how the market reacts.

Check out a 30 second encode of some fast moving and challenging video using a variety of Squeeze 7 presets here. We like the look of the latest ON2/Google VP8 codec in the WebM format.

Visit Sorenson Media for more information.

At funkyfresh we've had a variety of drum machines and grooveboxes over the years. Maschine, with the 1.6 software upgrade this past week, is an even more powerful sampler/groovebox/drum machine and it looks like Native Instruments is just getting started.

The best thing about the cotroller/PC software combination is the ability to expand and update the product as needed.  It also takes advantage of the sound card in the PC.  With a high end sound card in your editing system the results are dynamic and pristine.   Of course, with lower end card your audio will suffer.     We were very happy with the performance on an XP system with a Lynx sound card.

The worst thing about Maschine is the controller/PC software combination. Yes, it's great having over 6GBs of samples that ship with the thing plus whatever else you create on your workstation but we still love firing up a Roland Groovebox with nothing more than a power outlet and set of headphones. The software updates using the "service center" aren't as seamless as they could be.  The 1.6 upgrade temporarily broke Maschine until we figured out it was not compatible with the 2CAudio Aether reverb plugin.

Maschine is deep and powerful and requires RTFM to get cooking. Standalone groove boxes are much easier to get up and running. Playing out live? You better QA your performance multiple times to make sure you got hand dance on the pads and dialed cold and your PC or Mac can handle the cycles.

The pads on Maschine feel great and are very responsive. It's easy to play drum parts very accurately and the dynamics are very good. The quality of the samples are very good and current. With myriad effects and countless ways to manipulate the sounds you can lose yourself in Maschine for hours.

Aesthetically we love Maschine. Funkyfresh is all about the orange and Maschine has plenty. But most importantly it's a very powerful instrument that is very reasonably priced at under $600.

We'll be adding Maschine compositions to our funkyfresh download section so check back for that.

In the meantime, for more information about Maschine visit Native Instruments to get all the specs and more.
Sometimes when you’re editing video you just need a little inspiration to create something new and a little different. Judicious use of video effects is one way to jumpstart your creativity.

NewBlue makes a wide variety of video effects plug-ins for popular video editing programs. Video Essentials IV is a bundle of several effects including Bleach Bypass, Day for Night, Drop Shadow, Fish Eye, Luma Key, Magnifying Glass, Reflection, Skin Touch Up, Slide Show and Time Clock.

The names of the plug-ins are pretty self explanatory and have immediate obvious uses. Depending on your video editing platform and its built-in capabilities some of these plug-ins may not add anything new to your arsenal of effects but rather offer a “preset” to help you get started.

The Video Essentials IV effects showed up along with the rest of our effects after being installed with Vegas Pro. All of the effects include several presets to kick start the experimentation and a few simple controls to play with. Key frames can also be use to animate effects.  The effects couldn't be easier to use.

Vegas Pro now has the ability to use an effect on individual events on a single track in a timeline. This makes it easy to add an effect to as few or as many events as you like without having to duplicate media on multiple tracks.   This makes for a cleaner timeline.

Being able to quickly add reflections, fish eye, slide show and other useful effects is a real time saver and plain fun. Some of the effects offered in Video Essentials IV we’re already able to achieve with the tools that come bundled with Vegas Pro. However, the presets offer a new twist and starting point.  A subtle dose of the Skin Touch Up effect worked suprisingly well.  Reflection was one of our favorites while Day for Night and Luma Key can spice up a music video is quick order.   Again, great jumping off points with endless possibilities.

NewBlue continues to roll out reasonably priced effect packs and is steadily building a following of editors that appreciate the clean design and ease of use. The Video Essentials IV effects packs is reasonably priced at $100.

Stop by and download some effects to check out for yourself. You may find some inspiration for your next video editing project.

Visit NewBlue for more information.
The NVIDIA Quadro 2000 is a mid-range professional graphics solutions and an excellent choice to extend the life of an aging workstation or jumpstart the build of a new one.

We replaced an older Quadro FX 4500 with a new Quadro 2000 in an aging HP xw8400 workstation to see if we could extend the life of the system and make room for an additional audio DSP card. NVIDIA has really made significant progress on a number of fronts with the new Quadro lineup and we love both the performance and aesthetic improvements.

Before, a card with the processing power on par with the Quadro 2000 would have been longer, louder (more cooling) , two slots wide and required external power. After we popped in the Quadro 2000 our workstation was quieter, consumed less power and we now had access to an extra PCIe slot so we could add an additional audio DSP card for mastering. These improvements alone make the Quadro 2000 a compelling upgrade. Add 1GB of GDDR5 memory, 192 CUDA cores, 2560x1600 resolution support, with the 3 display options (2 active) and you have a really solid choice for a video editing system that relies mostly on CPU power but can still benefit from the CUDA cores.

Our test system is one of our workhorse systems which we use for everything from audio mixing and mastering to video editing and compositing. Applications frequently used on this system include Sony Vegas Pro, Combustion, SAW Studio and the Adobe suite. Most of our apps benefit primarily from CPU horsepower and memory. However, Sony and Adobe recently started taking advantage of the GPU CUDA cores inside NVIDIA’s lineup. Combustion of course plays nice with OpenGL.

For example, Vegas Pro now benefits from this acceleration when rendering MP4 video using the advanced video codec (AVC). This is a good place to start since AVC encoded files yield exceptional quality and are the perfect format for uploading files to YouTube in HD. Rendering still takes significant time with or without GPU acceleration and in practical terms we didn’t notice that much difference. We still had to walk away from the machine and grab a cup of coffee while our AVC renders were running.

One area where performance was improved was in jumping around the timeline in Vegas while editing HD video and being able to preview video at higher resolutions. The response was more instant and the video less choppy. However, it’s impossible to attribute this to the Quadro 2000 entirely as we are constantly swapping components, hard drives, software revs…etc., but we can say the Quadro 2000 played very nice with the rest of the system and certainly contributed to improved performance. Again, just the fact that we were able to add another DSP audio card because the Quadro 2000 only takes up one slot helped our work flow tremendously.

At funkyfresh we’re not in the business of running benchmarks and you can find plenty of sources that do. While we do value these benchmarks, in practical terms we don’t make money by running them. We make money by creating great content for our clients in the most efficient manner possible. So the bottom line is does the Quadro 2000 provide the level of performance you’d expect at its given price currently hovering about $450. The answer is yes. There’s also piece of mind in the form of long product life cycles and frequent driver updates. If we can get another year out of an aging workstation while working on building a new system and dealing with road bumps like Intel’s Sandy Bridge issues, we’re happy.

Visit NVIDIA for more information.