Windows NT Video Editing Solution

Non-linear digital video editing is to video production what desktop publishing is to the printed word. When Aldus PageMaker 1.0 came out for the Macintosh, it revolutionized publishing. No longer did designers have to deal with typesetting, cut-and-paste, and other prepress nightmares at an expensive print shop: They could instead work with a simple program on their economical desktops.

Video-editing applications have had a similar effect on video production. You no longer have work with a many-thousand-dollar commercial tape deck and countless other pieces of equipment to produce professional-looking video footage. Except for cameras and final output devices, all the tools are included within the computer as a single package. Auxiliary applications for morphing, 3D animation and rendering, and special-effects enhance what you can do and bring a level of quality to the corporate enterprise or home user that was formerly reserved for million-dollar studios.

Windows NT offers a stable and powerful environment for video editing, and Avid and other companies have specifically targeted the NT audience. Avid's product, Real Impact, is an NT-native 32-bit application that can take full advantage of NT's inherent scalability and reliability. Real Impact offers a video-editing solution that rivals $100,000 UNIX-based solutions, as well as lower-end desktop solutions based on Macintosh or Amiga systems. And you can't beat Real Impact's list price at $13,000 for a turnkey system. (The price is derived by combining $3000 for a basic Dell 120-MHz Pentium box with 32MB of RAM and 1GB of disk space, $3000 for the Real Impact software, $5000 for a Targa 2000 video-capture card, and $1500 for a Seagate 4GB audio/video drive). Companies that produce information kiosks, CD-ROMs, video tapes, and other video-based products can save a significant amount of money by keeping their production process in-house instead of out-sourcing their work.

Features
Real Impact's tool set covers most producers' needs, and any experienced video editor can recognize the interface, which includes buttons and controls that mimic those you find on commercial tape decks. When you combine that interface with Windows NT's drag-and-drop capabilities, file standards, and multiple-windows interface, Real Impact is a formidable competitor to traditional manual-editing systems (see screen 1).

The Real Impact/NT environment offers CD-quality sound and 24-bit color video. It also supports instant playbacks, automatic audio/video synchronization, 32 levels of undo/redo, and access to existing audio and video clips at any point in a video sequence. Furthermore, you can import and export file types in almost any format to use in many different applications: AVI, WAV, FLC, BMP, JPEG, TIFF, PCX, TGA, and Open Media Framework Interchange (OMF), which is a cross-platform industry-standard file format.

Digitizing audio and video is as simple as plugging your source into the capture card and using the digitizing tool. Real Impact supports up to 30 frames per second--dual field--with automatic audio synchronization. Image and audio quality are adjustable, so you can tune them to your system or storage needs. The program also provides controls so that you can manipulate a commercial tape deck via a serial interface to record from and print to tape.

Using the media library and database, you can create a storyboard by locating and arranging your video and audio clips into a sequence. You can then experiment with the sequence in the Timeline window. Once you have your basic story, you can add visual effects (such as picture-in-picture), transitions (wipe, dissolve), title sequences (rendered fonts with backgrounds, rolling or static), special graphics, or new audio to give your story your personal flare. Real Impact has four independent audio tracks and two video tracks for mixing audio and video feeds, and the plug-in architecture allows you to use programs such as TransJammer or Elastic Reality for additional effects (see "Elastic Reality" on page 72).

Performance
I tested Real Impact on a turnkey system provided by Avid (a Dell Dimension XPS P120c, as described above). Although Avid does not directly sell this configuration, you can order it from US dealers. Avid does sell the audio/video drives.

I ran into a few problems with the video drivers for the Truevision Targa 2000 board, which is currently Avid's only supported capture device under NT. The problems, which came from incompatibilities with existing Truevision NT drivers, caused screen-redraw errors and occasional failures when I tried to reactivate windows. Avid personnel said these problems will be fixed by the next release of Real Impact and existing users will be able to get upgrades.

Avid offers ample documentation, both in a comprehensive printed manual and via extensive on-line Help. There is also a complete tutorial that steps you through the program's features and capabilities.

The only place this turnkey solution is lacking is in overall system performance. The P120 is probably the bare minimum you would need for this work, and you might consider a 150-MHz or 200-MHz Pentium Pro, with 64MB of RAM or more for speedier results. I'd like to see some more advanced audio-editing features, as well. Real Impact came up short when I compared its meager audio-editing capabilities with the application's excellent video-editing suite. Avid representatives say that these enhancements will come in future releases. The next version of Real Impact will encompass support for third-party Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG)-encoding tools to allow for network file distribution.

Real Impact
System Requirements: Pentium or higher, 24MB of RAM, audio/video-certified Fast SCSI-2 disk, Windows NT 3.51, Video capture card
Contact:Avid Technology * 800-949-2843
Price: $2995