Matrox is by no means a new name in the industry. With many top-notch products that meet today’s industry standards, the company usually helps set the standard as well. I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days with the Matrox team, headquartered in Montreal, to see first hand how they design world-class editing systems.
Matrox’s headline video editing system is Axio. More recently, the company released Axio LE, a nearly-as-powerful system that’s available for less dough. The system is based on the Axio design, but it has a different breakout box and lacks some of the full, real-time HD-editing features of the main system.
The Axio Platform
Available in several configurations- Axio HD, SD and LE- Axio’s major features are the same among the three platforms. The difference is connectivity through the three different professional breakout boxes, the bit rate for editing HD or SD footage and the real-time performance- the higher-end systems have more features and abilities.
The AXIO architecture uses high-performance, full-length PCI-X cards and also benefits from the CPU power of the workstation. Dual-core processors are capable of handling many of the real-time features, such as color correction, while the graphics processors on the Matrox cards handle the other tasks.
Thanks to a powerful workstation, fast RAM and the Matrox cards, the AXIO will out-perform systems from competitors that cost far more.
The HD and SD versions use the same card-set inside a specific workstation type, while the LE version has a single full-length card that can be installed in a number of towers or workstations ("white boxes") if they meet the performance requirements. Recommended aftermarket graphics cards provide additional graphics acceleration.
The Axio line is designed around the Adobe Premiere Pro editing platform, which has come a long way in the last few years. The software rivals that of the best editing platforms out there, and does it for well under a grand. It fries my brain! Other high-end graphics and animation programs are also WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) on AXIO, including After Effects, Autodesk Combustion, 3ds Max, eyeon Fusion and NewTek LightWave 3D.
By the way, the slow- and fast-motion editing from AXIO is the best I’ve seen to date from any nonlinear editing system. The software uses frame- or field-based blending to provide smooth slow motion that is just about as close as using footage from an "over-cranked," slow-mo film camera.
The Axio platform allows Premiere Pro’s best toolsets to perform in real time. This includes primary and secondary color correction, chroma and luma keying, wipes, transitions and 2D or 3D DVE moves, plus an amazingly effective pan and scan filter that lets you effectively convert footage from any aspect ratio to another while tracking the on-screen subjects or action. This worked really well and will let producers who have tons of legacy footage shot in 4:3 mix it with newer, wide-screen footage.
The AXIO platforms support most current video formats, including 8-bit HD on all platforms, (10-bit on the AXIO HD system), DVCPRO HD, compressed HD and SD, HDV 1080i, uncompressed SD video, 25 and 50 MB DV, MPEG-2 SD I-frame (and a number of other formats and video or "film" frame rates), XDCAM and MPEG HD and legacy footage from the Digisuite and RT platforms.
Premiere Pro also has some nice audio editing features, including graphical EQ effects, with keyframe waveforms, sweetening with VST plug-in support, filters and sub-frame trimming and editing. The system has a simple but powerful 5.1 surround sound mixing and monitoring toolset, as well.
Performance Test
I tried to kill AXIO HD, but I failed. I went through a shopping list of tasks to overlap at the same time to try to tax the processors. I mixed HD and SD video on the timeline, added several tracks of video (no HDV), color corrected a track of video, added two speed changes, added an aspect change with the pan and scan filter, added some titles, added a transition wipe, added audio sweetening and filters and tried to make audio changes with the waveforms and onscreen "mixing board" while the video played back. Not a single frame was dropped. The "live" audio changes did tend to be a third of a second behind. The system, however, did not have a dedicated audio drive, so that could contribute to the lag in performance.
I tried the same kind of stress test on the AXIO LE, and the box passed the test easily, although it could not run as many layers at the same time because it uses system GPU rather than a dedicated GPU.
In the end, I was pleased with how the systems performed. As with all computer hardware, the more dough you spend, the faster you will go. AXIO performs exceptionally well for the price, adding speed and punch to the nicely evolved Premiere Pro.
Capture/Editing Formats: HDV 1080i, HDV 720p, DVCPRO HD, DV, DVCPRO, DVCAM, DVCPRO50, P2 MXF (DVCPRO50, DVCPRO HD), XDCAM MXF (DVCAM, IMX), more.
Realtime Video Effects: Three-way primary color correction, three-way secondary color correction, advanced 3D DVE, chroma/luma keying, dissolve/wipes, shadow, transitions, page curls, more.
Video Editing: High performance with Adobe Premiere Pro, realtime mixed-format time lines, EDL import and export, AAF export for interoperability with other systems, waveform and vectorscope monitors for color correction and broadcast safe output, more.
Audio Editing: Support for multi-channel 5.1 surround sound mixing and monitoring, sub-frame audio editing, audio sweetening with VST plug-in support, voiceover recording in the timeline, VU meters on capture
Video Inputs/Outputs: Simultaneous HD and SD output, realtime high quality downscaling from HD to SD, SD (1394, composite, Y/C/, analog component, SDI-SMPTE 259M, analog and digital genlock), HD (1394, SDI HD-SMPTE 292M, analog RGB compoe3nt, analog YPbPr component, tri-level genlock.