We reckoned the GSE MPE2000 PRO was one of
the best A-B edit controllers on the market. The MPE2000 Alpha is it's new
cheaper and simpler stable mate so how does it stack up?
Generally speaking, when a manufacturer takes
an expensive and well-specified piece of kit, strips out some features, and
sells it at a lower price, the end result can be an unsatisfactory compromise.
That was our initial reaction when we heard about the GSE MPE2000 Alpha. It's a
derivative of the MPE2000, which was -- and still is -- one of the finest A-B
edit controllers/mixers on the market. The original Pro package cost £2000,
which is a lot of money, but we felt it was worth it when we reviewed it last spring.
There was little that could be done to improve it, removing features definitely
wasn't one of them…
From the outside the GSE MPE2000 Alpha looks
pretty much the same as the Pro but it is selling for £500 less, a significant
sum that suggests some fairly radical surgery has taken place somewhere down
the line! The good news is that none of the core facilities have been touched.
They are, in no particular order: two-channel video mixing, video processing
and timebase correction, 2-machine A/B roll edit controller, video effects, title
generator and three-channel stereo audio mixer.
The principle differences between the Alpha
and the Pro are lower down the features list and it's worth pointing out that
an Alpha can be upgraded to the Pro specification at any time, using a plug-in
ROM card. For the record the Pro can additionally do insert edits, it has extra
digital effects (chroma and luma keying, turn page, rectangular wipe, title
backgrounds), it also generates a storyboard display, has CD player control, PC
backup facilities and gamma correction adjustment.
Alpha also lacks the plug-in keyboard, used
for composing titles but this is not a great hardship. Otherwise the basic
package is the same. It includes the main console with all of the controls and
the 'workstation' a separate module containing much of the processing circuitry
and all of the input and output sockets. It also comes with a mains power
supply module plus a set of connecting leads; the whole outfit is packed in a
neat carry case. On the front of the workstation there's a space for a set of
DV input and output sockets. Last year, when we first reviewed the MPE2000 Pro,
we said that GSE had a FireWire interface in the pipeline. We're still waiting…
The latest news is that it will be with us in the autumn, and cost the
thick-end of £2000. We'll keep you posted.
As it stands the Alpha can handle two
free-running analogue inputs, (composite or S-Video), from two source machines,
which it can independently control. The video inputs can be mixed together,
using a variety of fades, wipes and transition effects; single inputs can be
mixed or faded with a background colour. Titles may be superimposed on the
output and the audio mixer can handle three stereo audio inputs. VCR edit
control is via pre-programmed IR commands, or -- for maximum accuracy --
hard-wire edit terminal interfaces using Control L/LANC or Panasonic 5/11-pin
protocols. The same control systems are used to operate the recording VCR.
The on-screen display has been tarted up, the
main windows have a more PC-like feel to them. Operation is mostly intuitive
with selections made using a moving arrow, controlled from a set of cursor
buttons. It's easy enough to navigate, once you've got used to it, but it would
be so much better if a mouse could control the arrow. Even so, the controls and
screen displays look and feel as though someone who has actually done a spot of
video editing before has designed them.
Editing accuracy is dependent on the time and
care taken to configure the system. The initial settings for pre-and post roll are
selected automatically but we found they could usually be improved upon. It's
not difficult, the unusually clear -- but rather thick -- instruction manual
explains this, and most other tasks, in something approaching English.
The console has dual VCR controls and edit
details are shown on an easy to read edit decision list (EDL). Cut in and out
points are set using a single button, they can be entered on the fly, with the
tape in motion, or, by stepping through the recording a frame at a time (if
supported by the playback VCR) using a jog/shuttle control. Cut information --
in the form of counter data or timecode (RCTC, VITC or GSE Rapid) can be easily
amended. Scene timings on the EDL can be fine-tuned, deleted, copied and moved
with a few simple clicks.
Separate window displays are used to add
effects and transitions. The key parameters on most effects are adjustable and
the end result can be previewed before it is committed to the EDL.
Incidentally, the edit list can be backed up on a video tape, (on the Pro it
can be downloaded onto a PC; the work station has an RS-232 serial interface
that can be connected to a printer.
Timebase correction is applied to both video
inputs before they're fed to the video mixer. This ensures maximum stability
if, for example, one of the sources is noisy or a jittery second-generation
copy. The video channels can be mixed with a nominated background colour or the
second channel, using a huge selection of transitions. The missing functions
available on the Pro spec model are greyed out, probably to remind you that the
Alpha can be upgraded. Fortunately there's plenty on the Alpha to play around
with, including all of the most useful video adjustments, levels are set using
the right-hand jog/shuttle dial. A split screen shows the before and after
effects of any adjustment to RGB levels, contrast, brightness and saturation.
It is theoretically possible to make use of
the title generator without a keyboard, the unit comes with a number of
pre-programmed titles, but the ones on our sample were all in German. It makes
sense to get hold of a keyboard, they're not expensive. A standard PC AT keyboard will set you back around
£10, if you shop around, which makes it seem a bit mean of GSE to leave it out.
Audio mixing is also very straightforward. Levels are set using a bank of
sliders on the top panel; there is a separate headphone monitor facility, with
variable volume output.
Whatever else they've done to it, GSE have retained
all of the Pro's editing functions and performance. With a bit of fiddling
around on the timings it is possible to get cut accuracy down to plus or minus
one frame. In ideal conditions, with hard-wired source and record decks and on
a short sequence of timecoded tape, it is possible to achieve frame accurate
Transitions, effects and mixes are all very clean,
even when one of the sources looks a bit below par. There are no visible
digital artefacts, and no additional noise, though there does seem to be a small
reduction in colour contrast, highly saturated colours can also look a bit more
intense on the output, compared with how they started out. Even though some of
the more elaborate effects are not available, there are still more than enough
to whet the appetite of most movie-makers, and very good they are too.
Our early misgivings about the Alpha quickly
disappeared. It might lack a few of the fancier bells and whistles of the MPE
2000 Pro, but its abilities as a high-performance A-B edit controller and video/audio
mixer are unaffected. In any case, as we've pointed out several times, it can
be easily upgraded if you cross Holdan's palm with the requisite amount of silver
(currently around £500). Moreover, if you're serious about DV editing then
there's the prospect of a FireWire interface to look forward to, though we're
duty bound to point out that their solution is going to work out quite expensive.
If you like the look of the GSE MPE2000 Pro but
it was a bit out of your reach then the Alpha could be just what you've been
Make/Model GSE MPE-2000 ALPHA
What is it? A/B editor, video processor/mixer, effects
generator, AV mixer and titler
Guide price £1500
Scene memory 400
Control Systems Source & record decks: LANC/Control L, Panasonic
5-pin, programmed IR, programmed IR commands
Timecode systems RCTC, VITC, GSE-Rapid
Edit features modify edit points, copy move and
delete scenes, change scene and tape number, EDL management
Sockets composite video and line audio
(phono), S-Video (mini DIN), control bus, remotes and GPI trigger (DIN), RS-232
serial bus (9-pin D socket)
Power supply 6
volts DC (adapter supplied)
Dimensions workstation: 335 x 65 x 145, console: 410 x 55 x 270
Cut accuracy +/-1 frames (RC-timecode), +/- 8
Value for money 9
Ease of use 7
R Maybury 1998 2704