Although it has been talked about for several years, video on the desktop has just now become a feasible technology that allows you to deliver information-packed content to your employees, customers, and partners. The advent of fast and cheap processors coupled with reliable broadband connections means you can actually deploy exceptional training, marketing, and other video-based materials across your networks for a fraction of what it would cost to have them professionally produced.
And the better news is that for less than $15,000 and a few days of training for a single employee, you can have your own video production studio based on the Pinnacle Systems Inc. DV500. Capable of consistently producing high-quality video media in-house, the product includes a Pinnacle capture board and Adobe Systems Inc.’s Premiere 5.1 video-editing software. The board and software were installed on a Compaq Professional Workstation, but could have just as easily been installed in any workstation.
We found the DV500/Premiere system comparable to the best systems available, including the Avid Xpress DV on IBM’s IntelliStation. We were surprised how easy it was to create commercial-quality video from clips we recorded on a Mini DV camera (we used the compact Canon Elura Mini DV). Overall the system handily earned a score of Very Good.
Adobe Premiere’s biggest advantage over competitive products is its ability to incorporate compelling graphics into the video product. Titles, animations, filters, and effects were not only stunning, but also remarkably easy to add and manage. For example, from a simple static graphic file, you can have your company logo roll into the frame from left to right, grow larger and smaller, rotate and have a transparent background — all with a few simple mouse clicks. And, not surprisingly, integration with Photoshop for both pre-and post-production is built-in.
Likewise, filters and effects are not only plentiful, but they are also astonishingly simple to apply and to tweak. Most exceptional is the sheer flexibility available for most of these extras that can help make a video stand out. For example, volume and fading can be controlled on both left and right channels with incredible precision.
Unfortunately, not all of the controls are presented in a consistent fashion. Whereas some effects such as blurring are controlled by sliders and percentages, other effects such as sound tracks and video dissolves are controlled by an X,Y-type bar that either goes up or down depending on the desired effect, and out depending on time. All of these different controls in different situations mean there is a lot to learn and just as much to forget. So we look forward to a standard control in future versions that could be used for virtually all of the effects.
Another area where the DV500/Premiere combination falls short is in output options. Although the basics are covered, including MPEG and QuickTime, this package can’t touch the output options available with Avid Xpress.
Like comparable packages, DV500/Premiere comes with a slew of software to handle many of the aspects of video production. It’s great to get such a comprehensive package, but it would be much more desirable to have them all work in a common interface with a common set of rules.
In all, we could make an argument for both Avid Xpress on IBM IntelliStation — a complete system ready to produce video — or a bundled application/capture card package ready to install in any capable machine such as the DV500/Premiere. In either case, you can’t lose.
The more important decision you have to make when considering which package to buy is the hardware options. Video editing software, the capture card, and the system they reside in are all separate components that must work together in order for any solution to be effective. Picking a capture board and an application that work together is not as simple as it sounds. Make sure you do your homework first, keeping in mind what system you want to install them on.
The flexibility of being able to install it in virtually any workstation, the array of its great graphics tools, and its solid video editing capabilities make the DV500/Premiere a Very Good choice for any corporation. In no time, you’ll be able to produce high-end video materials for relatively little investment.
Steve Jefferson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior editor in InfoWorld’s Test Center.
THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD
Pinnacle Systems DV500
Business Case: The DV500 package makes creating your own in-house video production studio not only affordable, but also a smart business decision. Compelling, high-end video can be produced at a fraction of the cost compared to outsourcing.
Technology Case: Pinnacle’s DV500 was designed to run with Adobe Premiere. By keeping the process strictly digital, you no longer have to fiddle with expensive and temperamental analog-based video decks and equipment.
+ Great graphics capabilities
+ Compatible with a wide range of workstations
+ Includes easy support for analog input/output
– Inconsistent controls for effects mean there’s a lot to learn
Cost: list price $1,510 to 1,550; workstation and DV camera are required to complete the package
Platform(s): Windows NT, Mac OS
Pinnacle Systems Inc., Mountain View, Calif.; (650) 526-1600; http://www.pinnaclesys.com.
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