PCI Express 16x is now the de facto standard for graphics cards, but little has arrived to take advantage of the lesser-speed slots. For most peripherals other than bandwidth-hungry 3D graphics accelerators, regular PCI is still just fine. However, real-time video editing is one activity where you can use every bit of bandwidth available, particularly now that HD editing is coming of age.
For this reason, the original Canopus EDIUS NX board was a 64-bit PCI-X device. But with only dual-processor workstations offering 64-bit slots, this pushed up the overall cost of an EDIUS NX system, even if the card itself was reasonably priced. Some popular boards had compatibility issues too. And although the NX base board worked in 32-bit slots, some of its power when editing HDV was lost. So Canopus has taken the lead and released a PCI Express alternative. As the first PCI Express 1x video-editing card, the new version of the NX hardware opens up the full capabilities of the system to a wider
range of mainstream hardware – most notably dual-core desktops.
Once the hardware is plugged in, the software setup copies across all the main apps and drivers in one go. A second disc houses the Power Up Kit, which includes BIAS’s SoundSoap and proDAD’s Adorage. SoundSoap comes in the form of a VST plug-in, and offers a simple way to reduce hiss, clicks and crackles in your audio track, whereas Adorage is a collection of customisable transitions. However, what you don’t get in the basic bundle is DVD-authoring software. The supplied ProCoder Express can burn to DVD, but only from a pre-prepared DVD file structure, and EDIUS can only output the raw VOB video files without menus. It’s also worth noting that you get only the basic Quick Titler with NX. The $1227 HD Expansion Kit is required to get Inscriber TitleMotion Pro titling, and also bundles Ulead DVD Workshop.
The main software component of the EDIUS NX is the EDIUS Pro editing application. The 3.61 version includes a new white-balance filter interface with friendly circular colour picking and secondary correction. Split-screen previews have been added as well. Canopus is particularly proud that EDIUS Pro is one of the few applications that can capture and edit from JVC’s ProHD range of camcorders, and the Canon XLH1’s 1080i at 24 frames a second.
EDIUS Pro’s interface hasn’t changed dramatically since version 2, and has the odd quirk. For example, you add filters to the clip, but a second strip below is used for picture-in-picture and chroma keying, and you can’t add both of the latter at the same time. There’s no support for surround audio either, and the range of plug-ins is more limited than Premiere Pro. Worst of all, although you can keyframe the picture-in-picture effects, regular filters are static and must have the same parameters throughout the duration of a clip. Filter keyframing is purportedly coming with the much-anticipated version 4, along with nested timelines – another feature for which Premiere Pro remains the champ.
Where EDIUS NX wins out as a package is in its real-time effects-rendering performance. The NX adaptor has hardware DV output onboard, but still relies primarily on the power of the host system, as virtually all effects are rendered in software by the CPU. Only the 3D Explode transitions take advantage of 3D graphics hardware acceleration, unlike Avid Liquid 7 (see A-List), which makes extensive use of GPU power. We also found that a multiprocessor system was extremely advantageous. On our Athlon 64 FX-57 single-processor test PC, EDIUS NX struggled with more than two streams of HDV, but our dual-3GHz Xeon workstation could mix three streams for greater lengths. With DV, our FX-57 could sustain four streams of DV simultaneously
in real-time for about 20 seconds, whereas our Xeon could manage five. All of these are well beyond what Avid Liquid 7 or Adobe Premiere Pro 2 are capable of, and the HD Expansion Kit can help here too, as it takes away overlay duties from the CPU.
While EDIUS NX’s MPEG Capture utility can capture HDV as an MPEG2 transport stream, editing is smoother when Canopus’ own HQ format is used. However, at around 8MB/s with the standard online setting, HQ is more than twice the data rate of DV, meaning that playing back more than a couple of streams at the same time will tax a single disk. On the plus side, EDIUS itself is optimised for editing this format, so real-time performance is noticeably improved. Colour is also sampled at 4:2:2, rather than the 4:2:0 of HDV, so adding effects should maintain a more faithful hue than with the latter. Annoyingly, you can’t use the NX board’s FireWire connectivity for capturing HDV, as this is DV only. Instead, you need another OHCI controller, or the extra 32-bit card included with the HD Expansion Kit.
Canopus’ recent acquisition by Thomson can only be good for its development as a viable competitor to Matrox, Avid, and Adobe. However, the ink is still fresh on the deal and its benefits yet to be felt. The new PCI Express EDIUS NX is close to being a great editing package, but the EDIUS software’s lack of key features limits its editing range. Although EDIUS Pro 4 could change that, until it arrives, this real-time champion is best suited to less composition-heavy editing.
This Review appeared in the July, 2006 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing