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2010: The Year We Make Contact

Back in 1985, when the above titled movie was released, I excitedly asked to be taken to see it. Although I barely understood 2001, it was science fiction starring the star of Blue Thunder and Jaws.

Well here we are in the actual 2010, there are no deep space missions afoot, and the Soviet Union is long gone (or is it?). So reality is not quite as exciting as the movie (or is it?).

So while the HAL 9000 does not make any day to day decisions for us, it seemed like a good time to start upgrading some of our editing gear. First step is the addition of the much-hyped Matrox MXO2-mini. I should say that most of the hype surrounds using the mini with Final Cut, but little has been described about using it on a PC with Premiere. After getting a few snippets of information on the COW Premiere and Matrox forums, I decided to go for it. The price point is right. Concurrent with this new piece of hardware, we upgraded my machine to Windows 7 and an i7 processor. Here are the results so far:

First off, Roy Scheider would be happy because my desk is starting to look like the inside of the Leonov:

The new deep space transport's central computer is an i7 processor with 8 gigs of RAM, Windows 7 Professional, a new NVIDIA graphics card and for good measure the new Matrox MXO2-mini. We went with the non-MAX version. The i7 chip does a nice job rendering h264, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our shooting habit includes both HDV, standard DV, standard DVCPRO, and now AVCHD Canon camcorder for the odd pickup shot or reference shot) and h.264 (EOS 7D DSLR). Granted, one can import all of these formats natively into CS4 for somewhat real time playback on the same sequence. But you are limited to monitoring on the LCD computer monitor. Monitoring HDV this way actually looks good, but you lose a monitor for your editing interface.

The Matrox unit gives you simultaneous HDMI and Component or S-Video analog output.

So now one can see what the edited sequence will look like on an actual HD monitor, or analog monitor as the case may be. Not pictured above is the existing Sony 13" Analog CRT (Component or S-Video inputs). So we can account for viewers of any format.

So I thought I'd test playback in a testing situation, not an actual edit, just for the sake of, er, testing.

First off, the MXO2-mini, like the full MXO, is meant to capture into the native MXO format - in the case of CS4 on a PC that is the Matrox I-Frame codec, or the Matrox uncompressed format. However I wanted to see how my legacy formats would perform, using the MXO2-mini as a monitoring interface. Granted it is no Kona card, so I was not expecting a miracle, but here are the results (all playback from internal drive, not RAID - not yet):

EOS 7d files

Playback in the preview viewer is real time, little stuttering. This is probably a combination of the i7 and the Nvidia card.

Playback on a sequence in full HD, out the HDMI is sharp, crisp and near real time - some stuttering. Rendering the sequence results in a more perfect result. My boss walked by and said "that looks nice."

h.264 files

I had immediately available a previously created h.264 file, made for the web (Vimeo perhaps) so it was 720p. Playing at its native size on the 1080i sequence, as expected, it was its native size.

Scaled to frame size, playback remained smooth, and the scaled image did not look too bad, taking into account the existing compression data rate.

DV files

The MXO2-mini on a PC does not yet offer upscaling upon capture, so the only options for DV material are to scale to frame size on the sequence. Again, native:


Results are as expected, but at least you can see in real time what the end result will look like on an actual video monitor.

A full render of the sequence will give a proper preview. And you can turn off the HDMI monitoring and edit as usual on the LCD computer monitor, and then activate the HDMI when you want to check something. Workflow may vary by project.

The other advantages of the MXO2 are the ability to monitor After Effects, Photoshop and Encore, also over the HDMI output. Although those tests will be in the next entry, 2061: Odyssey Three.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to investigate reports of a black spot on Jupiter. Open the pod bay door, HAL.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 6, 2010 at 5:08:47 amComments (3) mxo2mini cs4 windows 7 hd 7d

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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