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Reviewtorial: Discreet Edit 6
New Version of Edit Adds Lots of New Features. Same High Price, Though

Discreet Edit box shotNow that the nonlinear editing application called Edit has been under Discreet's wing for a few years, the benefits of this association are becoming more apparent with each upgrade. Come along for a tour around this powerful software, based on a choice of either Matrox DigiSuite or Targa 2000 capturing hardware. Not only will you get a feel for what it's like to use Edit 6, I'll give you my impressions of this now-mature software package that Discreet says is the biggest upgrade of Edit yet.

The good news is, if you like Edit 5, you can still do almost everything exactly the same way you've done before. Full-featured as it is, though, it's too bad that Discreet prices the software at $8000, and a whopping $12,000 for Edit Plus. It's a great software package, but I wouldn't dare say it's $11,000 better than Final Cut Pro! Where these companies dream up these stratospheric prices is beyond me. Some consolation is the bundling of Titlemotion and Boris Effects 5.0, as well as Slipstream for FTP publishing of streaming media.

[click for larger image] Discreet Edit 6's time line
[Click for larger image] Here's the timeline of Edit 6. In this example, it's set up so that Video 1 (V1) is in the background, with additional video tracks stacked above it.

Edit is in a state of transition right now. Discreet officials have already announced the upcoming version 6.5, set to debut this September at IBC in Amsterdam. And, as is the case with all Autodesk releases (you did know that Discreet is a part of Autodesk, Inc. didn't you?), the company refuses to demonstrate a product that it can't ship three months later -- an honorable trait, in my opinion. So, expect to see Edit 6.5 around January of 2002. With it comes support for Windows 2000 and Pinnacle's new Targa 3000 capture card, which promises lots of new real time features down the road. Even though Discreet wouldn't confirm this, I got the distinct impression that the Targa 3000 board represents the future path for Edit 6. I also have a feeling that Discreet and its users are getting tired of the confusing name, "edit." Finally, Discreet's coolness factor will bow to practicality, naming this software anything other than something that reminds me of that Abbott and Costello "Who's On First" routine every time its workflow issues are discussed. I vote to name it "FireBug Pro." By the way, I realize I'm not playing along with Discreet's lower-case naming convention, but then, this isn't an ad for Discreet's products, and i'm just not cool enough to go all-lower-case. at least not yet.

For now, Edit 6 runs on Windows NT, and can handle just about anything you choose to throw its way. A major strength of Edit 6 is the functionality of its timeline, with its ability to nest clips and composites in a unique way. Built around a new concept for version 6 called vertical editing, Edit is fast. For example, if you're editing an interview and need a cutaway, just turn off the audio on the track you're adding, place the shot over the master shot on the time line, and then Edit lays down a perfect cutaway ready for trimming with a simple drag.

Vertical Compositing
Vertical editing means vertical compositing, too. For example, lay your background on V1, put your first shot over it on V2. As soon as you do that, it's keyed. This is the easiest way to perform compositing I've seen yet. But it's not in real time. For that, you'll have to wait until the Targa 3000 arrives -- the thing will eventually be able to create three or four streams of real time video with three to five graphics keyed on top. Rest assured, though, anything that could be done in real time in version 5.0 is still real time with version 6. In fact, most of the new features in 6.0 are not executable in real time, but that again points to the imminent arrival of the new Targa 3000.

As I clicked and dragged my way around the software, I was impressed by the smooth ability to scrub previews. Both the Pinnacle Targa and Matrox DigiSuite options let you put alpha keyed files directly on the timeline with auto-keying. It's when you need to adjust that layer that the Targa card allows changes directly to the clip via Compositing and DigiSuite requires you to put this clip into a subtimeline container, break down the alpha source into its two elements (Matte & Fill), and apply a Matte Key to the CF track allowing you to adjust Fade, Scale, and Position. Even so, it's a pretty fast process. To DigiSuite's credit, its rendering is greatly accelerated over the Targa and although some extra steps are required, there are situations where the same timeline can be finished on DigiSuite before the Targa because of rendering speed. So with Targa, less steps, longer renders, and with Matrox; a few more steps, but much faster rendering. So, with the current choice of cards, it's about a wash, but when the upcoming Targa 3000 comes into play, I'd say the advantage will be clearly with it because of its ability to do even more layers in real time.

The icon that looks like a railroad track places your current timeline into a bin, where it can be used just like any other clip.

Another new feature of version 6 is a little icon that looks like a railroad track. Drag that into a bin, and the timeline you're working on is sitting there in a bin, looking as if it were a clip. To seasoned on-line linear editors, this process will seem vaguely familiar -- it's like building submasters in the edit bay, and there's no generational loss. So you can now insert your submasters together for a composite. This could be useful for a show open that remains the same every week -- just place this on the network for all to use. I noticed immediately that this nested timeline (called a container) dynamically updates when you make changes to it in your main timeline. To alleviate confusion, you can tell by the color that a clip is a container -- it's lighter gray in our example. Right-click and select Open Timeline, and you're able to make modifications to that nested timeline. You also are able to create a container on the timeline, too. Called Create Sub-Timeline, these highly configurable choices allow you to place effects and other layering information into the container while it sits on the timeline. Discreet's expert demo artists recommend that you create a bin in every project called "timelines," and then put composited items in a container, so it's easier to keep everything straight. As you probably know if you've edited gigantic projects, breaking shows up into acts or scenes gives you a little extra productivity, and keeping things straight becomes a major priority.

One more comment on the interface: It would be nice have labels on the icons, which are somewhat cryptic for those just starting with the software. But I noticed that as I got more accustomed to the interface, I simply turned off the icons, and if I needed anything on the toolbar, it was easy to just right click and all the toolbar functions were available right there where I needed them. Adding to the convenience, there are so many keyboard shortcuts that speed things up so much, who needs icons? The interface lets you configure colors of anything on the desktop, but alas, you can't move or change icons. An appreciated feature, however, is the ability to select whether V1 is on top with V2, V3, etc, under it, or vice versa. If you're used to working with a switcher, for example, it'll make more sense for you to have V1 at the bottom and the others above that, as they are in ME/1, ME/2, etc., on production switchers. It's also nice to have V1 right next to the audio tracks. To make changes in the foreground and background designation, it's a matter of clicking on the icon that's an exclamation point, where a dialog box opens offering you a choice of V1 as foreground or background.

Click for larger image -- Discreet edit 6 multicam example
[Click for larger image] Multicam: Enter up to nine cameras on video tracks, put these in the C/F track and you have what appears to be one clip -- it's a Multicam source.

As with Edit 5, you still have the ability to gang clips together, so you can time them all in unison, for example. Included in the Plus version of Edit 6 is Multicam, which takes this ganging concept a step further. Enter up to nine cameras on video tracks, put these in the C/F track and you have what appears to be one clip -- it's a Multicam source (see graphic at right). Then you make a separate timeline out of that. But it doesn't support audio follows video, so you have to preselect the audio track you want to use as your masters. This is no big deal, though, because if you've done multicam before, you realize that two tracks are usually where most of the audio lives. So, you play back the source and use the function keys to cut between cameras. You're able to see what all the other cameras are doing in real time. Then when you drag a shot from your source viewer and drop it wherever you timeline is, it will synch automatically. Use up to nine sources, and even if they're uncompressed they'll still play back in real time at about 15fps. If you want full frame rate, just render that effect, and you'll see every frame in every camera. Its functionality is great -- while you're viewing your shot, hit the backspace key, then you're able to see what the other cameras were doing at that point.

Here's another new feature that will be welcomed by compositors: In-context previews. This feature lets you see all layers in a composite together so you can determine how it looks with everything else. There's also an easier way to begin rendering. Click the icon that looks like horizontal lines with a down-arrow (or just hit Alt-s) and a dialog box appears that gives you lots of choices for how and what you'll render -- draft mode or full render. After the rendering happens, you'll get a gray area on the top of the timeline. Further popups tell you when it was rendered. Rendering is even faster with the Matrox configuration, thanks to a software codec that significantly accelerates the festivities (advantage Matrox on this feature, for now). By far the nicest part of this timeline rendering in that it's nondestructive -- only the part that's been changed needs to render. So, say you add a graphic on top of a composite you've already rendered. If you render this, you still haven't lost the part you rendered before. Remove that graphic, and the first rendered segment doesn't need to be rendered again. The only way a render goes away is if you say disable it or delete it. I could get used to this.

And finally, Discreet's version of the "workflow solutions" we've been hearing so much about lately is called Jobnet. It's a big time-saver, and lets Edit 6 users collaborate in ways that are sure to save larger production facilities time and money. This network-centric capability lets producers or assistant editors work in conjunction with the full-blown Edit workstation. Jobnet allows jobs and bins to be created on a stand-alone computer, including a notebook. Users of those other computers can view clips either on their computer or on the network, set in/out points and play back the bin in Storyboard mode just like a cuts-only timeline. Then, that bin can be saved back to Edit as a new timeline.

Edit 6 improves significantly on an application that was already easy to use and highly efficient. Its nested compositing features, along with tight integration with a choice of hardware, makes this a great member of the Discreet family of editing and compositing applications. That, coupled with smooth interoperability with other Discreet applications like Combustion, Smoke, Flame and Fire make Edit 6 an editing software package worth your serious consideration.

Charlie White, your humble storytellerCharlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist for the past eight years, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor and shot-calling PBS TV director. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at [email protected].

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