Video editing on a PC takes another tentative
step forward with the imminent arrival of Maze’s Video Workshop For Windows.
We’ve been looking at an early production sample for this exclusive preview in
advance of a full review
Video Workshop for Windows from Maze
Technology could be a turning point for PC editing, bridging the gap between
comparatively simple packages, like Video Director or Camlink’s Edit Mate, and
high-end systems such as Video Machine and Video Pilot. As the ‘Windows’ tag
implies this product is intended for the IBM PC and compatibles, Maze say they have
no immediate plans to produce versions for other platforms, recognising the
significant support the PC now has at all levels of video post production.
Workshop is a modular system, based around a
pair of plug-in cards and operating software. The main board contains its own
microprocessor, which goes a long way towards explaining the fairly high price.
The dedicated processor speeds up graphic and image handling operations and
allows true mutitasking operations, enabling the computer to do other jobs,
such as word-processing or titling, at the same time. However, many features of
Video Workshop can only be used in conjunction with a video capture board; Maze bundle a Rombo Media Pro board in with
Video Workshop and both packages together with operating software and
connecting leads comes to £1,000 (£1175 with VAT).
Before we get around to explaining what it
all does, a few words about system requirements, in other words what sort of
computer you’re going to need, to use Video Workshop. It will run on any
moderately fast 386 (25MHz or above) though it’s more at home on a 486; it
needs at least 4Mb of RAM memory, 10Mb of free hard disc space and most
importantly, a 1Mb display card and SVGA monitor. The PC will also need at
least two spare ISA expansion slots; three if you add a genlock card at a later
stage, to fully use the system’s titling and special effects facilities.
Installation is straightforward enough and it
should be possible for most PC owners to do it themselves, though the
instructions don’t really cater for absolute novices, and some prior knowledge
of the innards of a computer and loading programs is assumed. Providing you get
that right the only other hurdle is the nightmare lead from hell... All of
Video Workshop’s inputs, outputs and control connections are routed via a
single RS232 connector which branches out into 16 separate plugs, sockets and
connectors. Maze say they’re thinking about a dedicated external
switch/connector box -- like Fast have with the equally horrible Video Machine
Lite lead -- the sooner the better we say! Even a simple two-deck set-up soon
develops into a nasty tangle that can take ages to sort out if a problem
develops. It’s a surprisingly amateurish and cheapskate aspect to a product
that hopes to gain professional acceptance.
BUT WHAT IS IT?
Yes, yes, but what is it? Essentially Video Workshop is a
sophisticated three-machine edit controller. It can operate all of the primary
transport functions of two playback machines, and one record deck, the Windows
based software it is very easy to use with all operations controlled by
pointing and clicking at on-screen icons, via the PC’s mouse. It employs the
most common edit control systems, used on domestic camcorders and VCRs (LANC
(Control L), Panasonic 5/11 pin), plus the RS232 and RS422 protocols used on professional
editing equipment. It also has a learning infra-red control system for machines
that do not have editing terminals. Video Director can read most commonly used timecodes (VITC, RCTC, LTC etc.), so
with the right decks edit accuracy can be close to professional standards (+/-
2 frames). It can also control a range of external devices via a GPI (general
purpose interface) or RS232 port.
So far none of that is particularly unusual
but where Video Workshop differs from other PC based edit controllers is in its
use of visuals and graphics, to help speed up and simplify the editing process.
The Desktop is divided into five distinct areas; there’s a familiar-looking VCR
control panel, and an edit control panel, for designating in and out points.
However, what you won’t have seen
before are a scaleable (you can alter it’s shape, size and position) video input window, showing
the currently selected video image, and two extra windows called ‘preview’ and
‘storyboard’. The storyboard is an alternative to an edit decision list, but
it’s not compulsory, a conventional text based EDL can be called up instead.
However, in the storyboard mode it will display a series of small frozen images
or picons (picture icons) of the edit in points (and edit out points as well if
desired), along with tape counter or timecode readouts, and a short description,
it almost, but not quite a time-line editing. Having this kind of visual prompt
can be an enormous help in long or complicated productions. The ‘preview’ window
works like a kind of electronic ‘flick-book’ skimming through the picons so you
can get a very quick overview of the production.
Flexibility and upgradability are the most
important features. The desktop can be easily rearranged and windows
modified to suit the user’s needs and
working patterns, and all of the key functions can be configured to work with a
wide range of hardware, including AV mixers, like the Panasonic MX30 or MX50,
Video X and Coriovision, as well as genlocks and other devices. In short that
means Video Workshop can be tailored to work with just a camcorder and VCR in a
simple domestic editing system, or as part of a full blown professional edit
suite. There’s a range of special effects including synchronised playback of
computer generated or stored ‘WAV’ audio files, and automated playback of
sound-effects from an internal or external CD deck. Naturally Workshop will
work in conjunction with other Maze video packages, including the highly
acclaimed PC-Titler, and it can call up graphics, title or animation sequences
during edits. It will also work with other graphic packages, including Autodesk
Animator, 3D Studio and Animator Pro.
At this point it is customary to tell you how
well it worked. Unfortunately our very early hand-built sample was not up to a
full evaluation. It worked satisfactorily for us on Maze’s own testbed PC but
the hardware and software proved to be rather unstable on our own 386 and 486 machines,
crashing several times, so rather than go ahead with a full review we’ve decided
to wait to see a production version, hopefully within the next couple of
months, though Maze have told us they are changing chip suppliers, so we can’t
be certain. We can tell you that on the Maze PC all the storyboard functions
worked very well indeed and it successfully read our timecoded test tapes.
As we’ve said we’ll reserve the final
judgement until we see the finished product but the signs are encouraging,
providing it works as well as the demo system suggests. Video Workshop could
turn out to be the new standard in affordable PC editing, watch this space.
Video Workshop For Windows
Guide price £1000
System requirements IBM PC or
compatible, 386/486 4Mb RAM, SVGA monitor, 1Mb graphics card (see text), two
free ISA slots, MS DOS 3.3 or higher, Windows 3.1
Video input/output Composite or S-Video
Camcorder/VCR Control LANC, Panasonic 5/11-pin, RS232, RS422,
learning infra red
TECHNOLOGY, Zenith House, 210 Church Road, Leyton E10 7JQ Telephone 081-556
Ó R. Maybury 1994 1009