rapid and dynamic evolution of the digital video desktop has produced
new categories of NLE (non-linear editing) systems that the marketplace
is yet to define. Contemplation of the Matrox
RTMac with Adobe Premiere bundle led me to create my own definition
of an “entry level, professional system.” These requirements
include real time, full screen NTSC previews, analog inputs and
dual monitor support. By bundling with Adobe Premiere, the good
news is that this system is surprisingly inexpensive.
reality is that we live in a world that is often confusing because
along with innovation comes an avalanche of choices. Mix this together
with an over abundance of marketing hype which often (intentionally
or not) clouds distinctions by randomly defining and redefining
terms (including ones like “real time effects”), and
it’s no wonder that even professional buyers can easily get
lost in the storm of options.
And then, of
course, at the user’s end, there are also a variety of requirements
to be considered including differing types of programs, program
lengths, production values (how much layering do you really need?),
and (one of my favorite subjects) various distribution destinations
and avenues including DVD and the Web, just to name two relatively
While broadcast post-production pros would never be interested in
entry level NLEs, there are also a very broad array of professional
videographers for whom access to a competent editing system, especially
at a reasonable cost, offers an alternative that might not have
been viable with earlier versions of these same technologies. This
is especially true because of Firewire (IEEE 1394) and DV-based
editing software like Adobe
Premiere 6 (among others.)
I sit on that very fence myself. I typically operate more as a writer/director/producer,
than I as an editor — although I’ve cut my share of
shows myself. The question I’m bringing up here is something
that Videography focused on for several years by calling it the
“Project Studio.” The economic concept seems to me to
be that, at some point, as systems continue to become more powerful
while also becoming less expensive (paralleling the astounding evolution
of personal computers), there has to come a point where it just
makes more sense to own your own editing system, rather than to
rent one on a project basis.
course, when you factor in the learning curve and the maintenance
and other time requirements, that decision has more to it than just
a simple price/performance analysis — but the trend is still
a very significant one.
RTMac & Premiere
What intrigued me about the RTMac-Premiere bundle (officially known
as Matrox RTMac with Adobe Premiere) was the fact that it seemed
to integrate a lot of what I consider “bottom line”
requirements for a professional system at an impressively low cost
(or “financial entry point.”) Also, because I like to
be the champion of over-looked products (although I can’t
really call Adobe an “underdog”), I was also interested
to sort out the reasons that the RTMac (because it is a Mac product)
is much better known for its support for Apple’s Final Cut
Pro. And, I guess I was especially interested because you could
buy this whole hardware/software system (software and hardware)
for about $200 less than the Final Cut Pro software costs by itself.
are those details: the “stand alone” Matrox RTMac board
and breakout box for either Final Cut Pro owners or current Premiere
owners costs $599. But if you don’t own either, and you want
to buy the bundle, you can get the RTMac with Adobe Premiere for
$799. A new version of Final Cut Pro costs $999. (no discounts available),
while the street price of Adobe Premiere is about $550.
not going to get into the phenomenon that has become Final Cut Pro.
It has deservedly received impressive buzz and popularity. It’s
an excellent product and I’m a Mac user, so I’m naturally
drawn to it.
on the other hand, in today’s climate, a savings of a few
dollars is generally greatly appreciated. In fact, if you add $999
(FCP) and $599 (RTMac stand alone), that’s almost $1,600 which
makes the RTMac-Premiere bundle about half the price. Given that
the differences (and I’m not going to take the space here
to debate them) are relatively minor (at least in my opinion), I
I think that this product bundle creates an entry point that some
video pros will certainly want to consider.
As I mentioned in defining this “entry point,” there’s
more to a hardware solution like the RTMac than just real time effects,
even though that’s what this product is named for (RT).
the fact that I find
Adobe Premiere 6 to be a quite capable, easy-to-use NLE software
package that still suffers from the painful memories caused
by the shortcomings of it’s earlier versions (forget what
you remember about Premiere 4)… and beyond the fact that there
is another, newer version of Premiere on the near term horizon (version
6.5), the features of which I was not at liberty to disclose
at press time — what the Matrox RTMac hardware brings to this
editing party that is at least as important as real time effects
— is features that no professional editing system should be
example, since the earliest days of digital video on the desktop,
I’ve been talking and teaching about the importance of previewing
on an NTSC monitor (assuming you are in North America or another
NTSC country. Those of you who are elsewhere please make the appropriate
conversion by replacing “NTSC” with “PAL”
because that video format is also supported by the RTMac I/O.)
is a DV-based system, so we’re not talking about support for
those of you who are shooting in HD or digi-Beta, but for those
of you who are shooting DVCAM, DVC-Pro or mini-DV, the RTMac is
DV native. But, rather than taking the rather clunky approach of
using your camcorder as the DV device to support an NTSC monitor,
RTMac has that built-in. When you use this kind of set up, the result
is just like a higher end system. You get your program preview in
an NTSC monitor at all times, in real time, full screen, full DV
resolution. In other words, in my opinion, you need to add the cost
of a good NTSC monitor to your system, no matter what kind of software
and hardware you buy.
a certain point, the decision really comes down to your professional
needs, including both your post production “style” as well as
your clientele and/or the types of productions that you undertake.
& Monitor Options
The other thing that RTMac provides is analog input. Once again,
if you require component inputs and/or outputs, this is not going
to be your system; but if composite and S-Video in and out are acceptable
in order to integrate footage which may have been acquired on BetacamSP
or for which (God forbid) there is only a VHS copy available, you
can digitize that footage right into this DV-native system using
the RTMac. Certainly, this level of basic flexibility is another
feature that even a modest professional must require.
yes, RTMac does do some real time effects, minimizing the need for
time-consuming rendering; and they certainly do it as well as anyone
at this price point. But, again, the purpose of this article is
not to labor over differences between the RTMac and competitive
products from Pinnacle
and others. My purpose is to point out to those of you who may be
looking for a cost effective way to get your own NLE system, both
what I think you need — bottom line — and what I think
is the most cost effective entry point, at the moment, on the Mac.
What’s Right for You
Obviously, I am assuming that price is an issue. For some of you,
it is not, or certainly not at this level, and probably very few
of you with those kinds of needs are still reading. If you are still
here, there are a couple of questions that you might want to ask
yourself: What are my most common output scenarios? If you are outputting
more to the Web or to CD, for example, the absence of component
output is not going to be as important. You might also ask how important
very specific software features are to you that might be different
in one package over another. One thing I certainly like about Adobe
Premiere is the “Adobe” part. For some users, Premiere’s
excellent integration and user interface similarities with After
Effects are important considerations.
could go on, but at a certain point, the decision really comes down
to your professional needs, including both your post production
“style” as well as your clientele and/or the types of
productions that you undertake.
then there’s the future. We all know that all of these changes
and increasing new options are going to continue, rapidly and dynamically.
And, for sure, DV is here to stay; and its popularity will continue
to make more cost effective solutions available.
and stay tuned.