The software tools I use can be purchased at most computer stores.

The main workstation where the majority of editing is done at Lee Editorial.

The receiving room at Lee Editorial

The Tools Used to Create a Broadcast-Level Digital Video Editing Suite:

SOFTWARE
• in:sync Speed Razor 3.5
• Inscriber StudioPak 3.2
• Boris FX Pro 3.0
• Adobe After Effects 3.1
• Sonic Foundry
   Sound Forge 4.0
• Killer Tracks/
   NJJ Music Library
• Canary Sound Effects
   Library

HARDWARE
• 200MHz
   Pentium/WindowsNT
• Maxtech monitor
• Micropolis 1991AV
   ext drive
•  Seagate ST1917N
    ext drive
• External Iomega
   Jaz drive
• JVC BM-H1900SU
   monitor
• Sony UVW-1800
   BetaSP rec.
• Sony CDP-XE500
   CD player
• Panasonic RAMSA
   WS-A80
• Samson Servo 240 amp
• Mackie Micro
   1202-VLZ mixer
• DPS Perception
   PVR-2500, AD-2500
DPS FX-2500
   accelerator card
• Antex StudioCard

Lee Editorial Clients

DNA Productions
DNA is a full-service animation company that has operated in Dallas, TX, since 1987. DNA serves the entertainment, commercial and corporate markets by providing 2D and 3D character designs, animation, computer graphics, and other types of animated visuals.
Co-owner Keith Alcorn on working with Lee Editorial: “I have just recently experienced the wonders of Speed Razor. We were commissioned to produce five animated episodes of CBS Saturday morning’s ‘Weird Al Show.’ The speed and flexibility of Razor made the posting process the most stress-free portion of production. It allowed us to make numerous changes and gave us an incredible amount of creative freedom. Being able to use this affordable technology as opposed to work-ing in linear environments is fantastic.”

DNA animator and creator of RadioActive Crotch Man and Fast Driver, Nick Gibbons, says, “Working with Razor has dramatically cut down the time involved in the editing process. Watching Phil zip through what used to take hours in just minutes has been a great relief on my wallet and my time. The difference between traditional editing and editing with Speed Razor is like the difference between pushing a car and driving it.

F Five Films
F Five Films is a Dallas, TX-based script-to-screen film and digital video production company that produces commercials for the local market.
Says writer/director William Kaufman: “Working with Speed Razor has given us a tremendous edge for a variety of projects. Budgeting for post has been a great cost savings, especially for projects that are going direct to video.
“The cost savings of this system have enabled us to stay competitive by keeping most of our expense up front in the production end. We’ve finished everything from 16mm films, fashion videos, and corporate projects with Lee Editorial. Our confidence in this non-linear solution is such that we have a feature project, The Prodigy, scheduled for posting in Summer/Fall 98.”

Picture

F Five Films; “Absolut Initiative Fashion Promo” Seagrams/
Dallas Design Initiative.

Top: Nick Gibbons/DNA; “RadioActive Crotch Man” (Spike & Mike Animation Festival 98).
Above: Nick Gibbons/DNA; “Fast Driver” (Spike & Mike Animation Festival 97) appeared on MTV’s Cartoon Sushi in March.

PC Graphics & Video Magazine
Past Issues Archive— May 1998

Techniques

The Story of a Video Editor Turned Computer Nerd
Build a DV Edit Suite
by Phil Lee

Several years ago after reading about the upcoming release of the Avid system, I remember excitedly telling a friend about this new incredible non-linear computer concept, and he responded with a smirk, “What, will computer nerds now become editors?” Well, in the years that have followed, many editors have indeed become computer nerds. Let me preface everything that follows by this simple confession: I am computer illiterate. I know that sounds odd since this happens to be a computer graphics magazine, but there it is, I admit it. By sheer necessity I have managed to boldly embrace technology, but without actually knowing what I was getting into. I think the time has finally arrived where technically challenged people like myself can actually navigate through the muck and create art.

After spending several years as an on-line editor in a linear digital suite, I felt that the time was right to branch out on my own. My first intention was to buy a used low-res Avid for off-lines, and to continue on-lining on the Grass Valley systems I had grown so accustomed to. However, that plan took a dramatic turn when I discovered that the “third wave” of non-linear technology that I had been anticipating for so long had actually arrived.

The first wave consisted of the expensive, pioneering systems used primarily in feature and high-end post production, while the second wave was made up of less expensive turnkey systems such as Avid, EMC, Media 100, Video Cube, Postbox, and a myriad of others. The third wave arrived when it became possible to assemble a reasonably priced, high-quality, non-linear system with a minimum of professional features using off-the-shelf components. Although the reliability, track record, and tech support of a turnkey system is attractive, the negatives far outweigh the positives in my opinion when compared with an editing system built from several different manufacturers.

First and foremost is the obvious: cost. When you buy a complete system, you also are paying for all the R&D that went into that product. The concept that a product would only work with hard drives and cards that were available through that same company drove me crazy. Once you “bought into” that mentality, you really didn’t have many options as new upgrades and additions for the system became available. You either paid the new price for the add on/upgrade, or you continued using the older version, only to be informed that the company would no longer support that version.

Instead, the idea that you can research the marketplace, decide which hardware/software solution is right for your specific needs, and make individual choices based on cost and compatibility is a tremendous plus. Even now, one year into my leap, I love the fact that if a new editing package or FX card is suddenly available I have the instantaneous option of plugging it right into my current system and off I go!

What Am I getting Into?
Before finalizing equipment decisions, I consulted with several friends in the industry, and received many warnings and horror stories regarding every possible malaise: audio falling out of sync with video; system crashes; incompatibility of cards, hard drives, and software; not having a single company to call up and scream at for tech support when your “do-it-yourself system” is emitting smoke while your producer is crying softly and banging his or her head in the corner. I believed all the stories, but I also felt that most of the pieces of the puzzle, up until now, were not available on a truly professional level.

My lack of computer dexterity had its limitations, however. I was able to follow the basic installation instructions for cards and hard drives, but it became clear very early on that I needed professional help to properly configure the system. I’m sorry, but interrupts, port addresses, and virtual memory hold absolutely no interest for me. After some initial panic, I located a Dallas, TX-based company, Community Video Services, that knew about such things, and they were able to finish the configuration for a reasonable fee.

Hardware
Okay, let’s get down to basics and begin with hardware. Be advised that most of what I’ll be talking about is about one-year-old technology, and as you know, anything you buy related to computers becomes outdated about the time you get it home and plug it in.

The story all begins with Windows NT. My only non-linear experience was Avid/Mac-based, and being a computer neophyte, my comfort zone was understandably with Macintosh. However, once I started researching, everywhere I turned, all I could see was NT. Animation, graphics, compositing, editing—you name it—anything new coming out seemed to be on this platform. Simply put, the NT decision was actually no decision at all.

I started with a 200MHz Pentium clone with 64MB RAM. (I have since upgraded to 128MB.) Part of what gave me confidence in building this “piecemeal” system was the fact that several components made by different manufacturers were designed to work together. So, regardless of which equipment selections you make, do your homework and make sure everything is compatible.

To get video into and out of my system, I opted for Digital Processing Systems’ PVR-2500 Perception system, including the AD- 2500 capture card, and the FX-2500 effects accelerator card. The Perception system offers composite, S-Video, and component in/out. The FX card drastically reduces render times on specific transitions; for example, bringing a 30-frame dissolve home in about eight
seconds.

The Antex StudioCard was my choice for audio, offering crystal XLR  in/out connections. Although I had heard and read about several people in the past experiencing audio sync problems when assembling systems, the DPS and Antex combination has been a surprise, performing flawlessly.
Media storage is probably the most volatile area of any non-linear system; prices and performances seem to be in constant motion. A year ago, I started with a Micropolis 1991AV 9GB drive and soon after added a 9GB Seagate Barracuda ST1917N. Both drives have performed consistently well, delivering high-quality compression and picture quality that rivals systems costing considerably more.
This is one area where you should do your homework to ensure you are getting the best solutions available. Make sure you get a list of approved, compatible drives from your capture card manufacturer.

I considered buying a used/rebuilt BetaSP deck to save money, but instead discovered that a very reasonably priced Sony UVW-1800 is available new for less money. In addition, I use two JVC consumer level VHS machines (for client approval dubs), along with a Sony CD player.

Additional Considerations
The following equipment is not essential, but I highly recommend it if you are trying to present post service at a professional level. Most non-linear systems, regardless of make or model, use silly miniature speakers that, regardless of sound quality, don’t quite pack enough testosterone, either aurally or aesthetically. Instead, I went with Panasonic’s cool-looking RAMSA WS-A80 160-watt two-way speakers, powered by a Samson Servo 240 studio amplifier. (And no, I don’t “rock the house” on every edit, but it’s nice to know that I’ve got the firepower when the need arises.) Depending on your software, chances are you will have some sort of internal mixer/equalizer, but I suggest you get a small, inexpensive external mixer such as a Mackie 1202-VLZ for a couple of reasons. I come from a traditional environment where one reached out and turned knobs as opposed to opening windows and clicking and dragging. And, just as important, it’s nice to have a separate box that can route everything quickly: CD, various video decks, and room monitor level.

Last but not least is the video monitor. Some systems allow you to get away with using a computer monitor to watch playback, but don’t make this mistake if you plan on actually having clients sit in during edits. I have seen some systems where people are using inexpensive monitors or even TVs, but I firmly believe that the presentation of the image in your room should not be an area where you cut corners.

Even though the final product may be viewed on VHS tape on a less than state-of-the-art deck, your client deserves to see his or her work in pristine component video. The most reasonably priced, high-quality monitor with component/S-Video/two-composite in-puts is the JVC BM-H1900SU.

Software
All right, enough with the hardware issues, now on to the fun stuff: software. I don’t want to offend Premiere users, because I know there is a loyal base out there doing fine work with that product, but for me, I couldn’t bring myself to seriously consider it as a viable option. This was based simply on the fact that over a period of years as an editor, my knowledge of the product was limited to bits and pieces I heard from friends and from articles that presented Premiere as a lower-cost product that was not blessed with a very intuitive interface. And for me, above all else, an editing software package had to be available with at least a minimum amount of professional features. Hopefully Premiere 5.0 will offer more professional features.

After researching in:sync’s Speed Razor 3.5, by reading reviews about how specific companies were using the product, and learning about its integration with the DPS Perception, it was an easy decision. Razor features real-time audio layers, unlimited video layers that allow endless combinations of rendered effects, batch capturing, and many other features—all in a user-friendly environment. Understand, this is not a $5,000 program, so don’t expect the world.
My opinion one year into this journey is that for the money, you can’t touch it! Because of its reasonable cost, I have been able to enhance it with additional products that more than make up for the areas it doesn’t cover. (in:sync’s latest version, 4.0, should be available by the time you read this.)
For example, one of the finest character generator’s available is Inscriber Technology’s Inscriber. I have worked with this package for six or seven years and was delighted when a scaled-down version was introduced for NT/ Speed Razor, the Inscriber Feature Pak.

The internal CG in Razor is very limited, and again, I don’t fault in:sync because it is not trying to be all things to all people. (If that were the case, Razor would carry a higher price tag.) Feature Pak offers fully changeable soft shadows, outlines, beveled edged draw objects, gradients, background patterns, and a host of other features.

Another area where I have seen a great improvement is in 3D DVE-style effects. I purchased a package that had a nice-sounding name, but actually turned out to be quite limited, and not professional-level. However, I have since discovered Artel Software’s Boris FX 3.0 Pro. Okay, as with any other product at this level, we’re not talking real-time here yet, but for the money it is great to be able to add clean, professional effects such as ripples and cubes, all for a price that only a short time ago a client would have spent in an hour or two in a high-end room. Bottom line here is that Boris FX, with its vast library of time-saving pre-existing effects, timeline style interface, and ability for user-defined ef-fects, is in a class by itself. (At press time, Artel is releasing version 3.1, which promises to be even bigger and better.)

I recently Adobe After Effects for NT and was blown away with its seemingly endless array of compositing features. This package offers rendered layering capabilities that are similar to the pre-read layering I used to do with a digital Betacam and a digital switcher with one difference: You have the capability to edit any of the layers at any point in the creative process. (In the pre-read world of layering, each pass is done in a linear fashion, and once it is recorded to tape, your options regarding revisions are very limited. (For example, if your client decided he didn’t like layer six of an eight-layer effect.)

And finally, let’s talk audio. Often overlooked, audio ad-vances within the framework of computer technology are nothing short of amazing. The best package I have worked with has be-come a standard of the industry —Sonic Foundry’s Sound Forge, and its array of support plug-ins. I can think back a couple of years to edit sessions, where, after endlessly dialing EQs around on a board, trying to eliminate background hiss or hum from an air conditioner, etc., a point was finally reached where neither I nor the producer was happy with how the results affected the sound of the talent’s voice. We agreed to move on out of necessity. Sound Forge offers noise reduction that can literally lift unwanted background noise away from a track. It also has extensive equalization and effects, including a wonderful acoustics modeler plug-in that alters audio to sound as if it was recorded in a vast variety of environments. I am sure this technology has been around for a long time at a higher level, but like everything else we are discussing, it has finally trickled down to the masses.

Final Thoughts
When dealing with computer technology, there is always the fear of when and what to buy, since everything seems to be outdated so quickly. However, if you opt to put together a system made from various components, you have a built-in open architecture safety net, simply because of your ability to react to new advances on an individual basis. In conclusion, my advice is to do as much research as you can, talk to others who are currently working with various systems, and attend NAB and other trade shows whenever possible. Depending on your level of expertise, locate an individual or company that can help with configuration of your system. Don’t be afraid of the less-than- ideal results lower end pioneering systems once delivered; the future is definitely now.

Computer illiterates unite! We can rule the world!

Phil Lee is the owner/editor of Lee Editorial. You can reach him at (972) 401-8206 or at leedit@flash.net.


PC Graphics and Video Magazine featured this article on April 28, 1998.


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