HD Lite

“Offline HD,” or whatever we’re going to call the process of editing with compressed HD materials, looks like it might be the biggest thing to hit Hollywood in many years. I doubt that there are many editors (or directors) who wouldn’t prefer to look at HD images, even if the tradeoff is less realtime performance and slower renders.

Right now, you can get into offline HD less expensively with Final Cut than with Media Composer. But there are two ways to do it and the economics are quite different.

Method 1: Hardware
This is the standard approach. It allows you to digitize from HD tape, output to tape in SD or HD and run a full time client monitor (ie. a big HD TV). Unfortunately, it costs a lot more to do this with Media Composer.

  Apple   Avid
  Final Cut Studio $1,300   Media Comp. Adrenaline
w/ DNxcel HD board
  HD Card or AJA I/O $3,000    
  Mac Pro $3,000     $3,000
  Two LCD Monitors $2,000     $2,000
  HD TV $2,000     $2,000
  Amp & Speakers $1,000     $1,000
  Total $12,300     $28,000

Method 2: Software only
Here the playing field is a little more level. You won’t have a way to plug in a deck, except via Firewire (DVCPRO) so you have to assume that film dailies will be digitized in telecine. You can run your material full screen but you lose a monitor to do it. (You may be able to hook up a third monitor via a second video card.) And you can’t output to tape, again except via Firewire. Downrezing your work to SD for DVD output has to be done via Quicktime, which is slow.

  Apple   Avid
  Final Cut Studio $1,300   Media Composer software $5,000
  Mac Pro $3,000     $3,000
  Two LCD Monitors 2,000     $2,000
  HD TV $2,000     $2,000
  Amp & Speakers $1,000     $1,000
  Total $9,300     $13,000

And you can also combine these two approaches. On a small feature film or TV show you can give the assistant editor the hardware system so he or she can do the I/O and let the editor work software-only.

What do you all think? Am I missing anything? Does this represent an important competitive advantage for either side?

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Explore posts in the same categories: Avid vs. Final Cut, Laptop Editing, Workflow

10 Comments on “HD Lite”

  1. AndrewK Says:

    Something missing from “Method 2” is a way to get a signal to the HDTV. One way is the Blackmagic Intensity ($249, HDMI I/O only) or Intensity Pro ($349, HDMI I/O, analog HD and SD Output too).

    Another is to use the Matrox MXO ($999).
    The MXO is much more expensive, but you get broadcast quality HD-SDI and SDI signals out of the thing and Shane Ross (http://lfhd.blogspot.com/2007/03/matrox-mxo-part-2.html) was able to get his MXO+23″ Apple display combination very close to the Sony HD CRT he normally uses.


  2. targ8ter Says:

    Well, if it’s a simple HD-capable workstation you’re after, it doesn’t have to be a Mac Pro. A similarly equiped PC with 2gb RAM and 2.4ghz dual core can easily be had for much less than $1k, and it can be upgraded to a quad for around $250. Plus, most PC tower cases have room for 6-8 internal hard drives and with on-board RAID you could also be saved the expence of an external drive array.

  3. Liam Says:

    Dont forget about the RAID for HD systems if u want to do a feature in HD u are going to need around 7TBs at around $7-8000… Smaller jobs like trailer or TVCs u probably could get away with a 3.5TB RAID for around $3-4000. thats going on Caldigit RAIDs or Maxxdigital no name version… Also i thought MC was around $4000, 3000 just for software version…

  4. Steve Says:

    Andrew —
    I checked your links. Looks like the Blackmagic device is Quicktime only. And it doesn’t mention the Media Composer in its list of compatible applications.

    On the other hand, it seems like the Matrox might work with the MC. But it simply says “universal compatibility” and doesn’t mention anything specific. Do you know anybody who is using it with Avid systems?

    The price difference isn’t all that significant. If you’re in for 12K or so, the difference between $350 and $1000 isn’t all that big.


  5. Steve Says:

    Liam —

    DNX36 changes some of this equation. I gather that you can use low-cost Firewire or internal SATA storage. For a typical, smallish feature film (40 hours or 200,000 feet), you need less than a terabyte.

    Check out the comments on this post:


  6. Liam Says:

    Yeah for sure, sorry I am thinking the next step in HD which is i think pretty much available to most independent editors and small production companies. Doing the online yourself! It seems to me for an extra $10000 u can online yourself instead of dropping a boat load of money for another company to do it…

  7. AndrewK Says:

    I didn’t even think to check to see if the Intensity is Avid compatible, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Having devices like that work w/Avid software wouldn’t be very good for Avid hardware. ;)

    I don’t think the MXO works w/Avid either, but I can’t find a definite answer on the sight or the MXO forums. The best I found is that it’s not “supported.”

  8. Steve Says:

    Andrew —
    Where did you see that it’s not supported?


  9. AndrewK Says:

    I did a search in the Matrox MXO user forums and found a couple of posts in “noncommittal marketing speak” that say Avid isn’t officially supported, if it is we’ll say it on the site, be we’ve heard from some people that it works. Of course they never say whether or not they are actively testing w/Avid or not.
    Here’s an example from this thread I found:
    “Hi Chris,

    Although, we have yet to try the MXO with Avid software, what I heard from current clients of the MXO, is that in fact the MXO works with Avid software that support the QT V-out component, as you we’re informed.

    Once the MXO has been certified with other 3rd party software, Matrox will officially announce and support those products.

    The thread is from late last year, but nothing seems to have changed. A couple of newer threads simply get referred back to the thread I linked to here.


  10. L.R. Pebler Says:

    I just want to put a plug in for the Intensity card. If you cut in FCP and have an HDMI compatible monitor (a la my 720p front proejctor), $250 is dirt cheapl to add a 3rd monitor.

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