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wants to lug heavy racks of expensive video equipment into the field.
Serious Magic's DV Rack software is designed to replace all of it for
a fraction of the price, weight and power consumption. We put it through
its paces to see how good it really is
One of the main
concerns for TV broadcasters and filmmakers venturing into the field
is what equipment to take. Nobody wants the responsibility and burden
of carrying heavy and very expensive equipment into, say, a hostile
environment such as a war zone - it's just not practical.
In a newsgathering situation, footage must often be edited and sent
back to the newsroom as soon as possible to meet the deadline. Such
footage is sent back via satellite using a dedicated satellite truck
manned by an engineer. It's this person's job to monitor the incoming
and outgoing content, and make sure the video and audio quality is the
best possible. This is currently done using thousands of pounds worth
of hardware monitoring and processing equipment in the truck.
USA-based Serious Magic may have come up with an attractive software
alternative - DV Rack, pitched at £375 (inc VAT). This is a Windows
program for DV video monitoring, production and evaluation, and reckoned
to replace such monitoring hardware. It also boasts a 'Best of NAB 2004'
award from the National Association of Broadcasters.
The software offers ten tools within a professional-looking virtual
19in equipment rack. There's a broadcast video monitor, plus a waveform,
vectorscope and video analyser for checking a live or recorded video
signal's levels; an audio spectrum analyser; a digital video recorder
(DVR); a still-image capture tool (DV Grabber); the Shot Clock timer;
a DV video and audio quality monitor; and the SureShot camera-calibration
wizard with camera setup charts and informative and entertaining guides
In-pack, there's also a field guide and installation manual with camera
setup and operation tutorials, along with a quick reference guide and
industry-standard camera setup cards for focusing, framing, exposing
and white balancing. These cards can be hung from the supplied neck
Currently, there doesn't seem to be another program like DV Rack, although
TV broadcast test, measurement and monitoring devices maker Hamlet is
soon to release its own video and audio monitoring software called VidScope
Pro (www.hamlet.co.uk/products/vidscope/pro/menu/frame.htm) - price
tba - but at first glance, this appears to lack some of the tools in
DV Rack, notably the DVR.
We were interested to see if DV Rack really does do what's claimed,
and whether it could change the way footage is collected and delivered
in the field.
Serious Magic's DV Rack does a good job of replacing its hardware counterparts,
offering some easy-to-use and useful tools as well as a DVR that can
be slaved to the camera. This cuts out the importing step before editing,
saving valuable time.
We feel Serious Magic needs to find a way to increase resolution of
the video Waveform monitor and Vectorscope. Also, on the audio spectrum
analyser, we would like to see better response and bandwidth as well
as level and frequency markings.
Apart from the few bugs - and bugs are not uncommon in new software
- we liked DV Rack. It was easy to install and very stable, never crashing
once during our rigorous testing. DV Rack is also very keenly priced,
as the only thing it can be compared to is its costly hardware equivalent.
Just a single waveform monitor costs much more than this entire rack
of tools, and the software wins hands down on portability.
We hope that in future upgrades, Serious Magic irons out the issues
we have found. If it does so, there can be little doubt that DV Rack
is poised to fully replace the hardware it mimics for video monitoring,
production and evaluation of DV content.
Reviewed in this issue:
Red Giant Magic Bullet Editors
Serious Magic DV Rack
Serious Magic Ultra
In December's news:
Ulead CD & DVD PictureShow