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First Look: Matrox Axio 1.5Exclusive sneak peek; HDV and DVCPro HD acquisition added
Building on the early success of Matrox Axio 1.0, the company is announcing a new version 1.5 of Axio HD and SD at IBC. Digital Media Net had a chance to visit Matroxs Montréal headquarters for an early look at the update, which adds new capabilities to Axios already-potent feature set. This new upgrade contains features that were sorely missed in version 1.0 such as HDV and DVCPro HD native acquisition and real-time downscaling from HD to SD. These new additions further improve Axio, which is already an excellent hardware and software acceleration package for Adobe Premiere Pro.
When we observed Matrox Axio 1.5 on a test bench at Matrox headquarters in Montréal, it looked like a product that was ready to ship that day. However, Matrox officials told Digital Media Net they wanted to be sure it was as reliable as version 1.0, a tall order since weve thoroughly tested that now-shipping product and can vouch for its rock-solid stability. Matrox said the 1.5 upgrade will be available by the end of the year (2005), and perhaps as early as this November, and will be offered free of charge to current Axio owners.
Heading the list of new capabilities for Axio 1.5 is codec support for DVCPro HD and HDV, two of the hottest high definition acquisition and editing formats on the market today. Of course, plenty of CPU power will be necessary in order to facilitate smooth playback of the DVCPro HD footage without dropping frames. In the test unit that we saw in operation in Montréal, there was an occasional dropped frame, which engineers attributed to a machine that wasnt quite fast enough to handle DVCPro HD footage.
Engineers explained to Digital Media Net that rather than working at native resolution such as HDVs 1440 pixels or DVCPro HDs 1280 or 960 pixels, these incompatible resolutions are transcoded to 1920 in Axio, where all of these formats are digitally manipulated at full resolution. Matrox claims that in other DVCPro HD and HDV editing systems, such as Final Cut Pro, these incompatible resolutions must be scaled in software which turns out to be slower compared to the speed thats possible with the hardware-assisted Axio.
The major advantage of Matrox Axios DVCPro HD and HDV implementation is the sheer power that can be brought to bear when editing these formats. While testing Axio version 1.0 for our review (read that review here), we were impressed with Axios ability to play back five layers of uncompressed high definition footage, with color correction, chromakeys and one 3D DVE effect added, in addition to four layers of graphics piled on top of that, all in real time. Another advantage of this new 1.5 upgrade is the ability to output DVCPro HD or HDV in real time, as long as the HDV isnt sent back into the HDV format via 1394.
Heres where Final Cut Pro still holds an advantage over the HDV implementation in Axio 1.5. Like Final Cut Pro, HDV footage is brought into Axio in real time. The difference between the two begins when HDVs long-GOP transport stream is transferred into an .avi wrapper in Axio. This is not a disadvantage?it simply means that the video data is brought into a computer in exactly the same form as it was in the camera except for a small data stream that identifies what type of file it is, otherwise known as an .avi (audio video interleaved) wrapper, a common Windows video format with which digital video aficionados are intimately familiar. The video is then edited within Axio, where all of the transitions and effects can be previewed in real time. Next, however, is where things work differently from Final Cut Pros native HDV editing. In Axio, if you want to output your HDV back to HDV tape via 1394, the entire transport stream must be re-rendered, where in Final Cut Pro, only the parts that youve changed, such as effects, transitions, or frames on each side of cut points must be rendered. So, it will take you a bit longer if you want to get your footage out to HDV after editing in Axio.
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