Grass Valley Edius Pro 7 Review
Published: Friday, 20 September 2013 02:41
The good news is Edius 7 should benefit from a more open platform going forward. The bad news is anyone upgrading from recent versions such as 6 or 6.5 will have to get new plug-ins for Edius 7 or wait for current plug-ins to be upgraded to 64-bit. You quickly realize how handy a plug-in like Colorfast or Titler Pro is when you no longer can use it. Plug-in vendor, NewBlue has said an update to Titler Pro is in the works while proDAD has already released service packs for some of its plug-ins. So it appears the 3rd party plug-in support will be there for Edius 7 going forward although we’d like to see more at launch.
Edius 7 is 4k ready. Grass Valley has done a good job of keeping up with codecs and formats over the years. We're starting to see interest in 4k pick up especially with the new found love affair with the Sony FS700. We're seeing this camera more and more on reality shoots. You'll be seenig a lot more slow motion in reality TV as a directy result of this camera. Sure, we're not there yet in terms of 4k playback but it's coming. What HD did to SD 4K will do to HD. In the meantime the ability to have multiple framings and play with the extra pixels in 4k while delivering in 1080p is a real luxury. The layouter in Edius makes this super easy.
Today, the majority of our work is shot using the C300, 5D Mark III and various P2 cams. All of these formats edit like butter in Edius and the Canon XF codec and multi-folder creation of the MXF wrapper is not a problem. Edius is smart enough to scan all folders once you point it to the root. It's fast too. We like seeing that green progress bar float across the screen. Sometimes other NLEs choke on the Canon XF codec resulting in a slower workflow. Cutting C300 footage in Edius 7 is easy.
Edius 7 will take advantage of multiple CPU cores, memory and GPU power. Our roughly two year old test system with dual hex core XEONs, SSDs, 24GB of memory and Quadro K4000 provided excellent real time performance. We also tested Edius 7 on a quad core i7 laptop with 8GBs or memory and it performed very well cutting in the field. Render times were longer of course but Edius 7 does a good job of maximizing the use of available resources. On both systems we only experienced 1 crash and none since updating version 7.2 of Edius. By the way, we were able to install Edius 7 on both our field production PC and our studio workstation using the same serial number without any problems. GPU accelerated transitions and effects look really good and preview in real time.
We expected Edius 7 to have an updated UI mainly for aesthetic reasons but it looks the same as Edius 6-6.5 and the only way we could tell the difference at first glance was an updated splash screen when Edius 7 launches. We're fine with that. Once we get used to using an editor we'd rather not have the controls and UI change too much. What we care most about is performance and stability. Edius continues to deliver on that front. We also no longer have a problem running avast! antivirus in the background. So, that's nice. It's rare that we have an NLE that's not online so the abiilty to run antivirus in the background is important.
The improvements to Edius 7 are mainly under the hood. Filters now support 10-bit color depth and with the right hardware real time 10-bit video output. A key-frameable Gaussian blur filter is also new, cool for rack focus effects. The GPU accelerated transitions and effects built into Edius 7 are very good and work seamlessly. Combined with the 3D Layouter, title effects and color tools you’ve got a very powerful NLE before you even add any plug-ins. The more we get familiar with Edius the more we appreciate how much is built-in to the NLE from the get go. We'd like to see some of the 3D GPU accelerated effects that come standard in Edius be offered in other NLEs.
Edius is still one of our favorite NLEs to cut with. It’s easy to see why Edius has been so popular with news organizations for this reason. When you need to bang out a story quickly Edius is hard to beat. It’s also very good for event and corporate work. It’s easy to learn, and now Edius runs well on Win 7. You can pimp it out with extra hardware if you need to but can easily get by in the field with a reasonably powered laptop. In terms of A-rolling a story and adding transitions, titles and sweetening a basic audio mix it competes well with any NLE and is certainly one of the fastest.
However, when we’re doing more sophisticated compositing with lots of layers, text, media and especially audio we love Edius 7 less. We simply cannot master our audio in Edius and have to round trip the audio to our favorite DAW to make it work. Not a killer but we’d love it if Edius had a stronger audio workflow. The built in effects are actually pretty good and the ability to record fader movements in real time is nice. However, we're more likely to work in Saw Studio and bring the audio back in for critical work.
Edius 7 offers a wide range of options when it comes time to render your project. The HQX codec looks every bit as good as other intermediary codecs such as QuickTime ProRes or AVID DNxHD at similar bit rates and settings. There’s also lots of other pro options such as P2 AVC-Intra 100, XDCAM, MPEG2, H.264 and more. In most cases we’re either delivering a master quality file or uploading to YouTube and Vimeo so the rendering options available in Edius 7 are plenty. If you have the need to regularly provide a wide variety of playback formats you may need a third party program in addition to Edius 7.
So, if you're running Edius 6 or 6.5 should you upgrade now? Maybe. If you're happy with the performance and 8-bit color depth is working for you and you have a variety of 32-bit plug-ins, you may want to hold off for a bit. However, if you've embraced a 64-bit workflow and you want the best possible performance going forward than the upgrade to Edius 7 is a worthwhile investment. If you're committed to Edius as your future NLE then we see no need to wait.
We like the Edius has evolved over the years. We're happy the USB key authorization got abandoned with 6.5 and now Grass Valley is moving forward with 64bit development with the release of Edius 7. We hope the next steps are a subtle UI update and improved audio tools.
Visit Grass Valley for more information and all the specs on Edius 7.
And check out the recently launched Edius World micro site.
The Akai MPX8 Portable Sample Player Review
Published: Thursday, 29 August 2013 19:13
Again, keep in mind the price point. We would not use the MPX8 for recording critical tracks. Instead, it would be handy in a live performance or broadcast situation where having a batch of samples, musical or otherwise, ready to go can come in handy.
It’s easy to load sounds and different kits but the performance is slow. Turn the dial and wait. Turn the dial and wait. We updated the firmware which is supposed to improve performance but still found the MPX8 too slow to respond. So this would inhibit live performance beyond pre-configured kits.
Akai includes a batch of loops and sounds for download that are a good starting point. There’s nothing special or new about the sounds but the quality and variety is pretty good and of course you can make your own samples. All sounds can be tuned and enhanced with the built-in reverb. It’s enough to make a batch of sounds more versatile but limited in scope. Turn it up or turn it down.
Akai doesn’t include much in the way of built-in memory so an SD card is required to load samples. The included software to edit kits is straightforward. We recommend using the software instead of trying to edit kids using the slow responding dial and wobbly buttons on the MPX8.
For $99 the Akai MPX8 is actually a fun portable sample player to have on hand. It’s a good entry level device for anyone new to sampling. Keep in mind, you still need to create and manage your samples on a computer. But, once you load them on the MPX8 you're good to go. Just power up and play or trigger via MIDI. Because of its size and decent sound don’t be surprised if you see these popping up in the studio and on stage.
Visit Akai for more information and all the specs.
The Akai MPX8 is a portable sample player with decent playability and sound for a hundred bucks. The eight velocity sensitive pads have a decent feel given the MPX8 only weighs about a pound. Akai includes a USB cable for data and power connectivity and a 3.5mm MIDI in and out cable.
The sound out of the MPX8 is about what you would expect for $99. For Sound Test 1 We plugged it into the Mackie and direct to our DAW without any processing and here’s a sample of a basic urban kit that gives you some feeling for the oomph. For Sound Test 2 we sweeted the mix with a little reverb and external processsing. This is a box that definitely needs a little help to make it shine.
Atomos Samurai Blade Review
Published: Wednesday, 28 August 2013 00:50
The Atomos Samurai Blade is an excellent addition to a DSLR video workflow. We recently used the Blade on a shoot recording 4:2:2 ProRes from a Canon 5D Mark III. This codec eats up about 43% more storage compared to native files created by the 5D. So, for example, if you're used to using 128GB worth of CF cards on a shoot, a 128GB SSD won't cut it. You'll need a 256GB SSD to account for the increased data rate that the Blade requires.
So is it worth it to have another box hanging off your DSLR rig? For the most part yes. One of the reasons we like shooting with the C300 is the audio is captured directly which saves us a step in post. The 5D of course has the mini jack for audio but in most cases benefits from using recordings made to external audio recorders.
Now with the Samurai Blade we capture in ProRes or DNxHD and we have the audio in synch with an edit friendly codec ready for post. Best of all, we capture to SSD which is more rugged and plenty fast to plug right into our workstation. We would never advise using HDDs in the Blade. It's just silly to risk a hard disk failure when SSDs are available at $99 for 128GB.
Atomos really pimps the Blade as a multifunction devices, especially the quality of the monitor. Our DPs agree. The Blade is sharp, crisp and has beautiful color. The screen on the Blade is 5 inches in size, runs at a native resolution of 1280 × 720, and also works as a Waveform monitor/vectorscope and includes other functions such as peaking, zebras, blue only, false color, it's all pretty much here.
The screen is bright and is good for shooting in most conditions. Atomos has a sunshade option which should significantly improve shooting in bright conditions but we didn't use it.
We're liking the waveform/vectorscope. Simply switch it on and choose full-screen, bottom right as an overlay, or show the scopes as a horizontal strip down the bottom of screen.
When we shoot with the Canon 5D Mark III we like to capture DNxHD or ProRes to the Blade and a backup copy in the native Canon MP4 format direct to Compact Flash. Capturing the audio in synch with the video can be done by adjusting the settings on the Blade. In our tests we were able to synch the audio by adjusting the Blade +5. Of course we also capture audio to the Sound Devices 664. This way we have multiple copies of both audio and video. Capturing the audio with the DNxHD and ProRes video saves us the task of synching it in post. Depending on your geat you may have to experiement a little before you get everything synched up.
The BNC connectors are full-size, industry standard. This device is built to connect to anything in a post production or broadcast environment. The unit feels light and solid. The recorder will trigger over SDI from camera giving you seamless start/stop recording. We used the dual recording feature to capture to CF and SSD simultaneously. The ProRes footage is cleaner. It doesn't have that darkening effect of the MP4 codec inside the 5D. Yes, it's subtle difference and without having side by side footage to compare they both look great. But, if you want the cleanest footage and better performance in post ProRes 4.2.2 or DNxHD are both excellent choices.
So how do you know you're getting the good stuff? The Blade is a great unit for reviewing and pre-editing your footage. You can quickly review footage, marking clips as Favorites or Rejects; you can also mark "in" and "out" points for each of the clips you select this information can then be exported as an XML file readable by your NLE. We didn't use this much but nice for organization.
One of our DPs said, "My view on the Blade is that it is so good as a monitor I would use it for this reason alone. ProRes recording is something I don’t always have to have but good monitoring is essential."
The Blade is light and portable and runs off light-weight Sony batteries or compatible batteries. You can use the Blade on-camera, off-camera, or attached to an arm and position wherever you wish. We used it with our Zacuto rig.
The accessories that come with the Blade seem a little unrefined. We have the external box the SSD slides into and the external connector that the SSD just snaps onto. The box could use some refinement, such as softer rounded edges. You could easily cut open a cardboard box with the sharp corners on this thing.
Other than the accessories the overall Samurai Blade package is dynamite and is a good addition to most any video acquisition and post workflow, especially with cameras such as the Canon 5D Mark III or similar.
Visit Atomos for more information and all the specs.