Traditionally, video editing workstations fall into two camps: expensive real-time systems and inexpensive non-real-time systems. Lately, this distinction has become downright fuzzy, reflecting dramatic speed increases in processor and memory architectures, as well as new standards in hard drive interfaces. Now you don’t need a high-end proprietary system to preview multiple video tracks instantaneously (or nearly instantaneously).
The Tsunami A-Wave RT.X2 from Safe Harbor Computers is one of the first video workstations to use the Matrox RT.X2. The RT.X2 is designed for real-time HDV and DV editing with Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 (included) or Adobe Production Studio. If you currently use Premiere Pro, and you’ve been reluctant to switch to another NLE, this could be a logical upgrade path. You could purchase a Matrox RT.X2 on its own (list price $1,995) and install it in your current PC-based workstation- assuming it meets the system requirements. Because the RT.X2 takes advantage of the latest hardware, however, you should strongly consider buying a new dual-core and multiple processor system to wrap around it. Buying an already-configured system, such as the Tsunami A-Wave RT.X2, offers the advantage of unified support. You could avoid the blame shifting that often occurs when you contact one vendor after adding another vendor’s hardware or software.
Four Core and More
The review system Safe Harbor configured was well equipped for the RT.X2. It had two 2.0 GHz Opteron dual-core processors. That’s the equivalent of four single-core processors. Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 supports dual-core processors, which is especially beneficial if you preview multiple video tracks simultaneously. At press time, this was the least expensive processor for the Tsunami A-Wave RT.X2. You could also choose 2.2 GHz, 2.4 GHz or 2.6 GHz Opteron dual-core processors. In addition, the review system included an ATI Radeon X1900 XT graphics card with 512 MB of onboard memory. (Though that’s a highly capable graphics card, ATI discontinued Radeon X1900 XT in late 2006; all Tsunamis now ship with the Radeon X1950 XTX.) Again, you have the option to reconfigure the graphics card for a more powerful system.
Matrox is being cautious with the system requirements for the RT.X2. At press time, there were only a limited number of computers and motherboards that had received validation. That’s a smart move, both for Matrox and system vendors such as Safe Harbor. You wouldn’t want to buy a workstation that promises real-time HD performance, but doesn’t deliver. With this configuration of the review system, which Safe Harbor recommends for the majority of buyers, you’ll be able to handle an acceptable amount of HD media in real time. This system is certified for one HDV video layer with color correction (in background), one HDV video layer with move and scale, two static titles, and one title with move and scale. Alternatively, it can handle one HDV video layer with color correction (in background), one HDV video layer with color correction and a move and scale, one static title, and one title with move and scale. Of course, there’s nothing preventing you from loading up Premiere with additional tracks, effects and titles. Just don’t expect to preview the results without a visible lag.
Give Us a Break
Along with a full-length expansion card, the RT.X2 supplies a breakout box that provides a composite, S-Video or HD/SD analog component input and output; stereo audio input and output; and 1394 port. It provides for real-time hardware-assisted downscaling for SD output from an HD timeline. And you can freely mix HD and SD codecs with either type of timeline. Matrox supplies a collection of broadcast-quality real-time effects that should cover most of your needs. Having native support for HDV and MPEG-2 4:2:2 I-frame HD editing, as well as DV, DVCAM, DVCPRO and MPEG-2 4:2:2 I-frame SD editing, should provide a good foundation for a variety of projects.
The Tsunami A-Wave RT.X2 looks and feels like a server, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Even with its pre-installed DVD burner and three hard drives, the oversized chassis had room for two additional optical drives and two additional internal hard drives. On the downside, this computer sounds like a server. With its two processor fans, ATI graphics card-mounted fan and large back-mounted fan, it isn’t a quiet system. It’s not horribly loud, but it could be distracting if you work extensively with audio. It’s also too large to fit on most desktops; plan on positioning it under your desk or, preferably, further away.
This is a solidly constructed, relatively inexpensive real-time HD workstation. You can freely mix SD and HD material, monitor your HD on a separate monitor via the second built-in DVI connector, and do all this in Premiere Pro, which could help you avoid having to learn a new interface. With quad-core processors expected by the beginning of next year, this kind of system could take another leap in the workload it can handle in real time. The Tsunami A-Wave RT.X2, and similar workstations, promises to make HD editing a more manageable and affordable experience.
Heavy-Duty Power Supply
You should have plenty of electrical juice for future expansion. The standard configuration provides a 550-watt power supply.
Two 2.0 GHz Dual-Core Opteron Processors
Run multithreaded applications up to four times faster with two dual-core processors. If you need even more speed, you can configure this system with 2.2 GHz, 2.4 GHz or 2.6 GHz dual-core Opteron processors.
This high-performance PCI Express expansion card lets you edit native HDV and DV files in real time. It also provides hardware-assisted HD downscaling for SD output.
Radeon X1900 XT
Though this is a highly capable graphics card, ATI discontinued Radeon X1900 XT in late 2006; all Tsunamis now ship with the Radeon X1950 XTX, an equally good match for the Matrox RT.X2. Other options include the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 and Quadro FX 4500 SDI.
Two dual-core 2.0 GHz Opteron processors (model 270)
1 GB DDR-333 RAM, Radeon X1950 XTX with 512 MB RAM
200 GB 7200 RPM IDE drive
two 500 GB 7200 PRM 3Gb/s SATA drives
Plextor 18x DVD/RW DL DVD burner
Matrox RT.X2 (includes Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0)
550-watt power supply
Windows XP Professional