Editing performance with HDV remains sluggish, but DV-editing ability is formidable.Liquid 7 doesn’t look particularly different to 6.1. The most obvious interface distinction is the series of stages added along the top right, which give access to wizards and utilities revolving around Input, Edit and Output.
Most of the utilities existed in previous versions, with the notable exception of EZ Capture. This is a simplified video acquisition utility with FireWire device control, capable of bringing in footage from DV and HDV sources. You can even convert DV directly to MPEG2 or 1 on-the-fly, but not HDV. With the Professional version, you can also capture DivX 5. Although EZ Capture allegedly includes content-based scene detection, we didn’t find this worked, and the utility is certainly nowhere near as streamlined as the scan/capture applets available with many consumer-grade options. But EZ Capture is a lot less opaque than Liquid’s logging tool and at least allows you to name your files yourself rather than be forced into a preset naming convention.
The range of formats Liquid can edit natively has been extended too. As well as DV and MPEG, you can now place WMV9 directly onto the timeline and, with the Professional version, DivX 5 as well. Existing users will be relieved to hear that Liquid no longer insists on de-muxing audio and video into separate files, so you don’t have to wait when you import footage any more.
Real-time editing has been one of Liquid’s key strengths since GPU-accelerated effects arrived with version 5, and a number of new real-time filters have been added. The pick of the bunch is the White Balance filter, which gives you a colour picker to choose an object in the frame that’s meant to be white. The Linear Time Warp is also now real-time, although only with DV footage: applying this to HDV managed to bring our dual-Opteron test system to its knees. The Linear Time Warp also loses its real-time ability with DV if you use the dynamic controls to vary the speed of the clip across its duration. The image stabiliser is potentially handy, but it doesn’t have any user-customisable parameters, and isn’t up to the standard of the lite version of 2d3’s SteadyMove that comes with Adobe’s Premiere Pro.
In general, we found real-time performance had marginally improved with HDV, but it still can’t match Canopus EDIUS. Where the latter is able to mix as many as three streams of 1080i HDV in real-time, Liquid can barely manage two, and not every filter can be applied even to a single stream.
However, this is hardly a killer blow: DV performance will be sufficient on a 3GHz Pentium 4 or better to give you four or five layers in real-time with the odd filter applied – more than enough for most editing jobs. Over 60 new filters have been added. Of these, 56 come from the Commotion compositing software and include a plethora of blurs, colour-balancing tools, distortions, numerous keying facilities, particle effects and stylised special effects. On top of this, the Lighting filter gives real-time access to foreground and background light controls, which adds yet another way of tweaking brightness and contrast. Liquid already had a healthy complement of filters, so while they won’t all be of everyday use, you’re bound to find a few useful on occasion.
As well as the DivX support, the premium you pay for Liquid 7 Pro adds the ability to output HDV to an analog SD monitor, which is potentially useful while true HD monitors remain so expensive. However, you’ll also need the box to output to any analogue monitor. And herein lies Liquid’s continued problem. Despite all the editing power you get with the standard version, you really need the Pro box for some essential advanced features, particularly the ability to preview your real-time editing as it would look on a TV screen.
You can use one screen from a dual-monitor setup for a full-screen view, but this won’t help you ensure the action fits properly inside the TV bezel, or safe area, as it’s known.
Liquid 7 will appeal mostly to its existing core audience, who appreciate its ability to take footage from tape to optical disc all in one interface. The wedding and corporate video crowd will also find the inclusion of SmartSound handy. By simply specifying a few parameters, this system gives you music that will fill any space you like – great for adding a quick bit of muzak to your video. Considering the upgrade price of $365, existing users should find enough here to make the new version a worthwhile update. However, new users will find the slightly increased cost more pause for thought than with version 6. Anyone with less to spend should consider Ulead’s MediaStudio Pro 8 as a budget alternative. Nevertheless, for an all-round semi-professional video editing package, Liquid 7 can’t be beaten. Despite our criticisms, it deserves a place on the A-List.
Editing performance with HDV remains sluggish, but DV-editing ability is formidable. Liquid is still the most comprehensive video editing software for semi-professionals.