Avid Insider Seminar (Part 3 – Video Satellite)

The last item described at Avid’s Tuesday night seminar was a new Digidesign product called “Avid Satellite.” It’s a stripped-down Media Composer designed as a video player to be used in conjunction with Pro Tools.

Digi has been encouraging sound editors to buy Mojo boxes in order to play picture. Not only is this expensive, but it restricts your track count to 48, which, for many editors, is a non-starter.

This new system puts the picture on its own machine, which is a software-based Media Composer with most editing functions disabled. So sound editors will have to buy the Satellite software along with a computer and monitor to run it on. The system can play anything a Media Composer can play. And track level editing is possible, so a sound editor can create a mix and attach it to picture and send it back to the picture editing room.

The advantage for the picture department is time — you don’t have to make Quicktimes. With a simple menu pick, you create an aaf file and consolidated media to match. You then send it to the sound department any way you like. If you make changes and need to send the sequence again, the system is smart enough to only send the extra media needed for the changes — it knows what you’ve already sent, though I wasn’t quite sure how this works.

For sound, this approach is a mixed bag. The good news is that since video is running on its own machine, the sound system can devote all its resources to audio — no slowdowns or track limitations due to video overhead. Quality is very good, of course. Sound editors see the same image that the picture editors do and can play it full screen, if desired. They can also see all picture cuts and jump to them as needed. The bad news is that editors will have to buy new computers just to play picture, along with the Satellite software. And they’ll have to make sure they have space for the new hardware. Satellite software pricing isn’t set, but it will probably be somewhere around $3500.

Interlock between the two systems runs over an Ethernet connection and seemed very tight in the demo, with near instantaneous back and forth play via JKL — much better than a typical Media Composer alone. Scrubbing wasn’t demonstrated.

I’ll have some thoughts about what all this means in the next post.

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