Kick Your Workflow into High Gear
Every now and then, a really cool tool shows up that performs an assortment of useful functions and really kicks your workflow into high gear. The Matrox MXO is that tool.
This tiny standalone box intercepts the DVI output feed from your secondary monitor and converts it into many different formats of broadcast-quality HD or SD video, suitable for output to videotape, or even direct encoding into MPEG-2 (if you have a real-time hardware encoder).
MXO can solve annoying formatting issues that have long bugged desktop video editors; for example, MXO can reformat widescreen (HD) content into SD formats (letterboxed, anamorphic or center crop) in real time, as playout occurs from the editorial timeline.
There are some other interesting solutions, as well. For instance, MXO "presentation" mode displays the secondary computer desktop on an external video monitor, making it a perfect solution for DVD and broadcast graphics designers who are looking for a way to "proof" their work in real time on a video monitor. In addition, the installation of MXO is a snap! The hardware plugs into your Mac setup in a few minutes; the software installs quickly from the supplied CD. Once I was all set up, I gave MXO the run-through using three of my favorite apps- Final Cut Studio, DVD Studio Pro and Adobe Photoshop.
Final Cut Test Drive
In Final Cut Pro, MXO instantly added a ton of new output options to the "view external video" settings. I loaded up Final Cut with an HD 720 project I’m currently using as HD DVD demo content, and I was instantly rewarded with gorgeous external video! My Final Cut system has two 1920 x 1200 flat panel displays, and it was a kick to see a full-screen HD 720 display on the second flat panel and a letterboxed version of the same video playing in real time on my NTSC monitor. Switching from letterbox to anamorphic or center crop was simple. The variety of settings available to use with MXO should accommodate every conceivable combination of aspect ratio and codec.
DVD Studio Pro
Switching to DVD Studio Pro, the MXO again shows its versatility. By selecting External Video for Simulation, DVD Studio Pro will route the simulator display through the secondary desktop where MXO will display it in real time on an NTSC monitor. The MXO video output is smooth, flickerless and beautiful. NTSC/PAL video preview has been missing from DVD Studio Pro for a while- adding the MXO into the Mac DVD authoring workflow restores this missing link and does so easily, neatly and without installing any cumbersome PCI (or -X, -e) cards.
Adobe Photoshop and After Effects
Using MXO "presentation" mode, documents placed on the secondary display screen can be viewed simultaneously on video, which works fine for Photoshop. MXO also works for the video preview in After Effects. In each case, it’s a wonderful addition to have video preview for still or motion graphics that are destined for broadcast or DVD.