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ALPHA BETTER

 

INTRO

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?

 

COPY

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.

 

OPERATION

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.

 

PERFORMANCE

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 cuts.  

 

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.

 

THE VERDICT

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 waiting for.

 

  

SPECIFICATION

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

 

PERFORMANCE

Cut accuracy                 +/-1 frames (RC-timecode), +/- 8 frame (non-timecode)

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money            9

Ease of use                 7

Performance              9

Features                     7

 

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R Maybury 1998 2704

 

 

 


 

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